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Fall fishing season is here and opportunities abound

POSTED: September 2, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Clear nights and bright autumn colors lift trout anglers’ expectations each year as the fall fishing season spreads across the rivers and streams of the southern Appalachian Mountains of North Georgia.

From wading a favorite river to hiking into remote high-elevation areas to cast small flies on spring creeks, or perhaps to drift-boat fishing on large tailwater riverways in the shadow of high dams, trout fishermen find exactly what they’re looking for during the cool weather months of October, November and December.

Yet despite having more than 4,000 miles of trout streams and rivers running through our mountainlands (as claimed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources), many anglers don’t realize that many of these waters fall under seasonal fishing regulations are located on private land or aren’t stocked with trout between July 4 and the following spring. As a result, trout fishing in Georgia in fall and winter, centers on relatively few, albeit exciting, and productive opportunities.

Wade-fishing and
drift-boat trips on the lower Toccoa River

As summer wanes, October trout fishing in the mountains of North Georgia clearly "comes home" on the lower Toccoa River just outside the scenic tourist town of Blue Ridge in Fannin County. For almost 15 miles, the Toccoa flows cold from beneath Blue Ridge Dam north to McCaysville on the Georgia-Tennessee border.

Traditionally fished by wading trout anglers, the lower Toccoa River is seen more and more as Georgia’s top site for drift-boat trips on one of two six-mile floats along the scenic riverway.

Because the Tennessee Valley Authority regulates river flows from Blue Ridge Dam, drift boats are the only safe and practical means for floating the river’s length where it is flanked by private property beyond the public-access sites. Fly-fishing is especially popular on these float trips where anglers find deep pools, boulder gardens, threaded shoals and fish traps that hold both wild and stocked trout.

Chances for taking rainbow and brown trout longer than 15 inches, and still more that weigh more than five pounds, improve dramatically on a drift-boat trip, as fishing pressure is considerably lighter away from the public-access sites.

Put-in sites for float trips include the TVA’s dam sites and parking area at Curtis Switch Road. Take-outs include the Curtis Switch Road parking area and Horseshoe Bend Park in McCaysville. Without access to private-property sites to enter or exit the river, both sections require a full day (8 to 10 hours depending on river flows) to complete the float.

Wade-fishing at four public-access sites also can lead both fly-fishermen and spin-tackle anglers to catches that include stocked rainbow, brown and brook trout. The TVA maintains and operates two parking areas just beneath Blue Ridge Dam. Several hundred yards downstream from the dam, Tammen Park is located on APD Highway 515, where it is maintained and operated by the city of Blue Ridge, as both a community recreation area and for riverside access.

Five miles downstream, the TVA maintains a riverside parking area just downstream (on the river’s east side) from the Curtis Switch Road bridge along a dirt road located on the east side of the river. And Horseshoe Bend Park, located on River Road just inside McCaysville’s eastern city, features several hundred yards of riverside access to both deep- and shallow-water areas where trout thrive among large boulders and swift shoals.

Two ancient Cherokee Indian fish traps along the riverway here also lure both trout and anglers to these interesting structures that once provided the region’s Native Americans with means for harvesting the river’s fishes.

At all public-access sites, trout anglers do best by wading out among the rocks and grass beds, and casting a variety of flies, small spinners and small spoons find aggressive trout in the river’s 58-degree water. It’s cold, for sure, and will get colder as fall gives way to wintertime. Smart anglers wear waders and proper wading footwear (felt-soled boots) for both comfort and safety.

For more information about river flows and power generation schedules at Blue Ridge Dam, visit www.TVA.org or call the TVA’s recorded information line at 800-238-2264.

Georgia’s delayed
harvest — trout fishing

Beyond the year-round trout-fishing opportunities supported by the Toccoa River, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources also defines exceptional seasonal fishing opportunities for rainbow, brown and brook trout on the so-called "delayed harvest" fishing areas. These include Amicalola Creek in Dawson County, the Chattooga River in Rabun County, Smith Creek in Habersham County and the upper Toccoa River in Fannin County.

Easily reached and set in some of the most scenic areas of the state, these waters each offer several miles of trout fishing with unique opportunities to share the catch-and-release fishing ethic with fellow anglers during a period of the year when cool (even cold) temperatures keep many anglers at home.

Basically, the "delayed harvest" designation of these streams applies annually from Nov. 1 through May 14.

During this period, anglers are restricted to fishing with single-hook artificial lures or flies and all trout must be immediately released.

The GDNR stocks the delayed-harvest trout streams with rainbow, brown and brook trout. Thousands of trout, some longer than 20 inches, are released in these waters during the five and a half months of the special regulation period. Fly-fishing and lure fishing arguably is equally productive during this period when anglers may not fish with bait.

To learn more about Georgia’s "Delayed Harvest Streams" and for a map that pinpoints their locations, visit www.gofishgeorgia.com.

High adventure for trout

Last but not least, adventurous trout fishermen find excitement, natural beauty and brilliant wild trout on the high-elevation, remote streams of the North Georgia mountains. In fact, popularity is growing for fly-fishing for trout in the backcountry of the southern Appalachian Mountains, as anglers look beyond the sometimes-crowded conditions found on more easily accessed trout waters.

Typically located north of a line from Helen to Dahlonega to Blue Ridge, these are the streams considered by many anglers as the gems of Georgia’s trout fishing opportunities. Scribed as small blue lines on state and county maps, these are hundreds of streams — some named, others standing anonymously — included in the more than 4,000 miles of trout waters claimed by the GDNR.

Access to these remote waters is often tricky and not for the out-of-shape angler.

A day, a week, a month, maybe even a lifetime of exploring is required to discover these remarkable fishing sites. Fly-fishermen thrill with their expectations for taking wild rainbow, brown or brook trout from these clear mountain streams that tumble over waterfalls and through deep rocky gorges.

Still more trout-fishing opportunities abound in Georgia, especially during the fall and wintertime. Consult local sporting goods retailers and outdoors specialty shops across the North Georgia Mountains for more information on Georgia trout fishing. Outfitters also offer unique insights, information, fly-fishing instruction, trout-fishing outings and venues all across Georgia’s mountainlands.

The Wildlife Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources regulates trout fishing in Georgia.

Many opportunities for trout fishing are restricted by these regulations, including locations, fishing methods, hours of the day and season dates. For more information about these regulations, consult the Georgia 2008-2009 Sport Fishing Regulations digest, visit www.gofishgeorgia.com, or call the GDNR Wildlife Division Headquarters in Social Circle at 770-918-6406.

Bob Borgwat is a fishing guide with Reel Angling Adventures in Suches, which offers tours in the Appalachian Mountains of North Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. For more, contact him at 866-899-5259 or www.ReelAnglingAdventures.com.



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