Rainbows In Bama

Third time is the charm on Gadsden’s Black Creek!

On The Fly Freshwater

Featured photo by Polly Dean

October 2022

By Jimmy Jacobs

As the old saying goes, the third time is the charm. In this case, we are talking about the On The Fly South crew’s attempts to experience the trout fishing at Gadsden, Alabama.

On two earlier visits we had the opportunity to walk the trails in Noccalula Falls Park and talk with the folks involved with the establishment of its fishery. Unfortunately, Mother Nature intervened both times with windy, rainy weather and we had yet to experience anything like a good day on the water.

Back in 2020, the City of Gadsden Parks and Recreation Department, Rainbow Fly Fishing Club, Greater Gadsden Area Tourism and State Representative B. Craig Lipscomb combined to bring the idea of a trout fishery in northeast Alabama to fruition. The water chosen was Black Creek downstream of Noccalula Falls in its namesake city park.

The resulting fishery consists of roughly a mile of water below the impressive waterfall. The waterfall is named for an Indian princess that legend says plunged into the cascade over a lost lover.

More importantly to anglers, the water in the park is open on a delayed harvest basis from November to June (opening day can vary, so check ahead).  Angling is limited to fly fishing only, using artificial lures with barbless hooks. All fish must be released from opening day to the end of April. In May and June, trout can be harvested with a five-fish daily limit per angler.

Several thousand rainbow trout are stocked in early November. These fish are mostly in the 12- to 15-inch size range. They also receive some supplemental feeding to keep them healthy and growing through the fishing season.

A Black Creek rainbow. Photo by Polly Dean.

Along the portion of the creek open to angling there are seven areas where fishman can reach the water. These are important, since wading is not allowed in the gorge through which the creek flows. There are two official trails into the canyon, with a third access located at an area known as Flat Rock at the foot of the gorge. A stairway is in the planning stage to add another easier way to reach the foot of the waterfall.

Fishing is not allowed at the immediate foot of the cascade. There is a large sandbar on the north side of the creek just below the waterfall that provides fishing access to the fall’s plunge pool.  Anytime the water is running high, anglers can get in the water as long as they stay on the flooded portion of the bar. That basically was the condition we experienced on this venture, but at least there was no wind or rain this time.

Our access point was at the site where the stairway is planned. It was quickly apparent why it is being built there. The descent was rugged and strenuous, but put us on the stream just down the creek from the waterfall. Besides being a bit high, the flow also had a bit of color to it.

Polly Dean and I began covering the water at the downstream portion of the plunge pool. After a number of casts with No. 12 Prince Nymphs and working our way up the pool, we still had not had a strike.

Polly with that first rainbow leaping. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.
And after the trout was landed. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.

Finally, where the flow was passing a sloping rock entering the water on the north shore, Polly got the first hit. After the fish provided a couple of jumps, she brought the 16-inch rainbow to the net. It was just the first of a dozen or more trout the pool gave up, all of which were crowded along that north bank.

The sloping rock in the lower left corner was where the trout were holding. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.

Eventually, we began moving downstream through the gorge to sample some other stretches of water. We quickly surmised that one needs to be in good physical condition to pass through this portion of the canyon.

Once we got to the junction where small Cascade Creek entered from the north, access was easier. Another such place was a bit farther down the creek, just upstream of the suspension bridge that carries a hiking trail across the stream.

Finally, we reached the Flat Rock site, where we, indeed, found a large flat stone that constricted the flow around it and into a large pool below. In effect this marks the end of the portion of Black Creek where trout show up regularly.

The Flat Rock Access. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.

Our overall impression of Black Creek and its fishery was a positive one. Though it is not easily accessed, the quality of the fish was very good. For its location, practically in an urban area, it provides a wild feel, with the gorge’s rock walls and stone formations providing a scenic surrounding.

Before You Fish

In order to fish Black Creek in the park, you must have a Trout Permit from the City of Gadsden Parks and Recreation Department. Those can be purchased onsite at the Noccalula Falls Campground office or online. The cost is $9 per day, $11 for three consecutive days and $30 for the season.

Also, in order to buy the permit, you must show a valid Alabama fishing license. Those are not sold at the park. The nearest locations to get the state licenses is in Gadsden at Academy Sports and Outdoors, or at the Coosa Landing Bait Shop.

For fly fishing gear and supplies, the Rainbow City Auction and Fly Shop is your option. They are located in the Gadsden suburb of Rainbow City.

Photo courtesy of Rainbow City Auction and Fly Shop.
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