On The Fly Freshwater
Featured Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.
by Jimmy Jacobs
Delayed harvest trout fishing comes to the Cotton State
Alabama is not a place ordinarily associated with trout fishing. True, there is the tailwater below Lewis Smith Lake on the Sipsy Fork River near Jasper that offers year-round action for rainbows, and trout are stocked in some public fishing lakes in the fall and winter, plus occasional releases have been done in Mud Creek in Tannehill State Park near Birmingham. Still, the fishery has not stirred a great deal of interest across the state, let alone the region.
Photo courtesy of Allen Hodges/Rainbow Fly Fishing Club
That could all change if the first year of stocking and delayed-harvest fishing on Black Creek at Gadsden lives up to expectation. This stream flows over 90-foot Noccalula Falls and courses for a mile or more through a gorge in the cascade’s namesake park. Located in the boundaries of and owned by the city of Gadsden, the park and Black Creek provide a surprisingly wilderness feel in this urban environment.
The regulations on Black Creek mandate catch-and-release from November 1 to February 1. Only fly-fishing gear is allowed and barbless hooks are required. The first season of the delayed-harvest trout action has just ended. However, the fishing still is going strong and is expected to last at least through March. Though anglers now can keep up to five trout per day, they still must adhere to the fly-fishing-only and barbless hook rules.
According to President Allen Hodges of the Rainbow Fly Fishing Club, which has helped manage the fishery in conjunction with Gadsden’s Parks and Recreation Department, the premier season has gone well. Fly casters have been catching trout from just below the falls, all the way to the end of the gorge and park boundaries. Due to the presence of some springs in the gorge, they hope that some trout may even carry over through the summer.
Photo by Alex Galea. Courtesy of the Rainbow Fly Fishing Club.
The stream, which probably averages 30 to 40 feet in width, was stocked with 1200 rainbows of 12 to 14 inches in early November. An additional 800 trout were planted just after the end of the DH season.
Fishing is not allowed in the large plunge pool at the foot of Noccalula Falls, but the rest of the stream in the park is open to angling. Black Creek Trail runs along the north side of the gorge, paralleling the creek. Two connector trails run down into the gorge to junctions with the Gorge Trail that also follows the creek down in the chasm.
The start of the Black Creek Trail at the top of Noccalula Falls. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.
The upper half of the gorge presents some rugged conditions for anglers, due to the huge boulders and drop of the stream bed. But the fishing is worth the effort, plus it presents the opportunity to see the almost permanent rainbow that spans the foot of the cascade.
Below the junction with the first trail into the gorge, on downstream to where a suspension bridge carries the Gorge Trail across the water, the stream is more easily fished. Once out of the gorge and past an area called Flat Rock (there is, indeed, a huge flat rock on the shore jutting out into the creek), the stream has a quite placid flow.
The suspension bridge over Black Creek. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.
As with most freshly stocked DH fish, expect offerings like San Juan Worms, Wooly Buggers and Y2Ks to be productive. But the local word is that tiny Black Zebra Midges also are a good bet.
To fish in Black Creek within Noccalula Falls Park, anglers must have a regular Alabama fishing license, plus a Trout Permit issued by the city. Those permits are available from the office of the park’s campground. The cost is $9 per day, $11 for three consecutive days, or $30 for a seasonal permit.
With the quality of the scenery and the angling available, Gadsden and Black Creek have the opportunity to become a hot bed of trout fishing in northeast Alabama and surrounding areas.
While You Are There
For anglers wanting an extended stay, the Noccalula Falls Campground offers tent sites, as well as RV spaces with full hook ups. Additionally, the park has a pair of two-bedroom, one-bath log cabins for rentals.
Photo by Jimmy Jacobs
The Black Creek and Gorge Trails offer miles of hiking paths. Other amenities in the park are mini-golf, displays of military equipment in the Veterans Park, botanical gardens, a wedding chapel, petting zoo and mini-train offering a mile-long tour of the facility.
While you are in the park, be sure to walk over to the top of the falls for a view of the cascade and life-size stature of Princess Noccalula. Like so many waterfalls and canyons in the southeast, Noccalula had its native American maiden who jumped to her demise due to a shattered romance.
Thanks to the park’s urban setting, you are just a short drive from a variety of eateries, ranging from fast food to dining room fare.
For more information on the park facilities visit noccalulafallspark.com. A good source for angling information, including a map of the fishery, is flyfishgadsdenal.com. For additional attractions around Gadsden, check out greatergadsden.com