Rabun County, Georgia
On The Fly Freshwater
Article and photos by Jimmy Jacobs
Moccasin Creek is a headwater stream of the Tallulah River in northeast Georgia. This small, freestone stream is situated in the western edge of Rabun County and flows into Lake Burton. Due to the regulations that apply to the creek, it provides a varied fishery that can accommodate everyone from disabled anglers and children to the hardiest back-country fisherman.
Beginning at its mouth on Lake Burton, the first couple of hundred yards upstream run between the campground at Moccasin Creek State Park to the east and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Burton Trout Hatchery to the west. A yellow marker pole on the shore of the stream just above the lake’s high-water mark is the feature that adds the versatility to this fishery.
From that pole upstream and under Georgia Highway 197 to the dam that diverts water into the hatchery, Moccasin Creek is open for fishing to only children under 12, adults over 65 or disabled individuals. Most of the shore through here is clear, with a walking trail on the campground side. Two pools on this portion of the creek also have fishing platforms protruding over the water that are wheelchair accessible.
Outflow pipes from the hatchery empty into the creek at the platforms. At least once per week from spring through fall, brook. brown and rainbow trout are stocked at these locations.
Along the creek from the lake up to the highway are several signs that point out the restrictions on who is allowed to fish, but they are a bit general, not stating it’s only within the state park that the rules apply. Most folks seem to assume all the creek is off limits to other anglers.
However, upstream of the hatchery dam the creek courses down from what was once the Lake Burton Wildlife Management Area. A couple of decades back the Georgia Department of Natural Resources gave up management of the property for budgetary reasons. Today the area is managed by the U.S. Forest Service as part of the Chattahoochee National Forest.
This upper portion of Moccasin Creek is open to fishing under Georgia’s general trout rulesm with no special restrictions. Though the creek receives no stocked fish, it has a healthy population of wild brown and rainbow trout.
Above the hatchery dam the creek is paralleled by the Wildlife Trail on the western shore. Then a bit upstream the eastern side is part of private Camp Winfield. Once past the camp, the creek is totally on public land to its headwaters.
This first part of the creek runs through a relatively flat valley with low gradient. But, it does hold fish and gets very little fishing pressure.
Andersonville Lane is a gravel road that follows the creek upstream from GA 197 past the old DNR checking station, ending at a parking area at the start of the Hemlock Falls Trail. This trail continues to follow Moccasin Creek upstream for several miles. From the parking area, the flow begins to gain altitude, including many small waterfalls, plunge pools and deep runs.
The trail follows the bed of an ancient logging railroad, often 40 feet or more above the creek. The steep access to the water is another deterrent that cuts down on fishing pressure. At 1.2 miles upstream the trail crosses the creek on a footbridge and a half mile farther reaches a large pool at the foot of Hemlock Falls.
The trail becomes less used upstream of the waterfall, as it makes a big bend to the east around Pigpen Ridge, then turns back west with Pigpen to its southwest and York Ridge to the northeast. After passing through the gap between the ridges, the trail reaches the junction of the South and North Forks of Moccasin Creek.
Both forks are formed by feeder branches originating along the Appalachian Trail around Deep Gap. Anglers in good shape and willing to make the hike up to the North Fork have a shot at catching some native Southern Appalachian brook trout.
Though most of the trout in upper Moccasin Creek are going to be rainbows of 6 to 9 inches, bigger fish are definitely possible. The number of deep pools along the creek provide plenty of places for bigger fish to hide. And, regardless of size, the colors on these wild fish are worth the trek to where they live.
While You Are There
Moccasin Creek State Park is ideal as a headquarters for a couple of days of exploring upper Moccasin Creek. The park boasts 53 RV/tent sites in its campground, along with two bathhouses.
Other amenities are a boat ramp on Lake Burton, rental canoes and kayaks, a fish cleaning station, picnic area and shelter, playground and hiking trails. Additionally, you can take a tour of the fish-filled raceways of the Burton Trout Hatchery that is just across Moccasin Creek from the park.