A decade after a tornado ruined its fishing, this North Georgia stream has recovered.
On The Fly Freshwater
Article and featured photo by Jimmy Jacobs
Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.
There are times when Mother Nature has a way of leaving a very heavy foot print. In a flash she can undo years of a situation we considered permanent. North Georgia’s Boggs Creek is a prime example.
This trout stream rises between Little and Big Ridges in northeast Lumpkin County. From there it flows south to become a major tributary of the Chestatee River. Along that route, all of the creek down to the Boggs Creek Recreation Area lies in the Chattahoochee National Forest, attaining only a medium-sized flow by mountain standards.
The position of that recreation area on the creek’s shores led to the stream for decades being a favorite for campers and anglers alike. Multi generations of some families called it home during summer campouts and trout fishing adventures. During that period, the creek was stocked heavily with rainbow and brown trout, which added a lot of day visitors with fishing gear as well. Besides the stockers the anglers took home for dinner, the creek on occasion produced surprises in the form of big browns of more than 20 inches.
Rainbows have always been the most common catch in the wild and stocked portions of Boggs Creek. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.
That all changed, however, on April 7, 2011, when an EF-3 tornado ripped across the county and directly through the campground on Boggs Creek. Thousands of board feet of timber then lay on the ground and in the creek. Boggs Creek Road that ran through the campground and upstream along the creek was blocked by multiple blowdowns.
The Boggs Creek Road gate. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs
For the next year and half until the fall of 2012 the road and recreation area eere closed to all uses, as a timber salvage operation cleared out the downed timber. Soon after the clean up was completed, the recreation area reopened, but the decision was made to turn it into a day-use area and end all camping. Also, only 1/2 mile of Boggs Creek Road was reopened to vehicle traffic, with a gate now limiting the rest to foot traffic only. Stocking of trout downstream of the gate also was restarted.
Not long after that reopening, I ventured into that upstream area to see what 18 months with no fishing pressure had done to the creek. While there was still a lot of wood debris making some runs and pools unfishable, where the water could be accessed, wild trout dropping down from the upper reaches of the creek were in good numbers. That day I landed both rainbows and browns in excess of 10 inches.
Just after the 4th of July holiday weekend of this year, Associate Editor Polly Dean and I headed back to Boggs Creek to see how it fished now that the tornado damage was a decade in the past. We arrived to find the creek running surprisingly lower than we expected, even by summer standards. Also, the day-use area was virtually empty.
The day-use area has a number of man-made stream structures to create holding water. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.
Parking our vehicle at the gate on Boggs Creek Road, we planned to fish the upper wild section of the creek first. My second surprise was when I opened the door to get our and immediately spotted a copperhead laying where I planned to put my foot. After the initial shock, I realized the snake no longer had a head – I wasn’t the first person to encounter him that day.
The headless copperhead that provided a startling moment. Photo by Polly Dean.
The low water made the fishing a bit tough as we moved upstream. After spooking a few fish and missing a couple of rises, Polly drifted a Royal Wulff through a slower pool that had some depth, shaded beneath a steep rock wall on the far shore. The dry fly disappeared with a splash, taken by a solid and colorful brown trout in the 11-inch range.
Polly Dean’s wild brown trout. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.
After that fish, our luck ran out on the wild portion of Boggs Creek. Thus, we dropped back down to see if there were any stockers present in the day-use area. For this we targeted several bigger pools between the easy access of the along the road and the lower boundary of the Forest Service land.
The lower portion of the stream on Forest Service land has some bigger pools. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.
After clambering down a steep bank to the water, we began leap-frogging each other as we continued to toss dry flies in these deeper runs. My first fish turned out to be a brook trout, which was an obvious product of the recent stocking.
Polly soon topped that catch when she also hooked a brookie. At first glance, its vivid colors, including bright white striping along the edges of the fins, suggested a wild fish. That unlikely scenario was quickly dashed when we saw the right front fin completely missing, marking it as a recent inhabitant of a hatchery raceway.
A Boggs Creek brook trout. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.
After our day on the water, the conclusion was that Boggs Creek has lost its appeal as a camping destination, but for anglers, allure still is there. If you are willing to invest some boot leather to get up steam, wild fish that don’t get hammered await you. Or you can hit the bigger pools downstream for a bit of stocker action.