It has been 60 years since the last stocking truck visited this North Georgia stream
On The Fly Freshwater
Article and featured photo by Jimmy Jacobs
Noontootla Creek is one of the more storied trout waters flowing through North Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest. From its headwaters in Winding Stair Gap near Springer Mountain, the creek flows to the northwest to empty into the Toccoa River near the village of Dial. Along that 11-mile stretch, it offers just about anything an angler could ask for in terms of mountain trout action in the Peach State.
On Public Land
Noontootla officially begins at Three Forks on the Appalachian Trail. The main branch above there is Chester Creek which is joined by Long Creek from the west and Stover Creek from the east. All three of these branches are excellent, though tiny wild trout streams. Stover, in particular, even harbors a population of native brook trout.
Once combined, the flows create what is a medium-sized free-stone stream by Georgia standards. Measuring from 10-to 20-feet in width, it plunges around and over boulders, carving out holding water in which rainbow and brown trout hide.
On this upper portion of the creek in the Blue Ridge Wildlife Management Area all of these trout are wild and stream bred. In fact, the last stocking of Noontootla through here was by the old Georgia Game and Fish Commission in 1962. That ended a process of reclaiming the trout waters of the area that began with fish shipped in at the behest of the legendary Barefoot Ranger Arthur Woody in the 1930s and ‘40s.
For more than 50 years, the creek and its tributaries on the WMA land have been managed under virtual catch-and-release regulations. Additionally, only artificial lures have been allowed on the stream. Anglers are only allowed to harvest one fish per day, and it must be 16 inches or longer. These regulations allowed the trout to age and grow wary. Very few keeper fish are ever taken from the creek.
Back in the 1990s, some local anglers complained to the Georgia Wildlife Resource Division that the creek had too few trout and requested new stockings. When shocking crews sampled the stream in response, they found a good population of 13- to 14-inch rainbows. The size of the stream and its nutrient base simply precluded most trout from growing larger. And the fish in the creek were just harder to catch than the stockers many anglers were used to pursuing.
Noontootla is a place for using fine leaders, small flies and a healthy dose of stealth. Combine those properly and the effort can be rewarded with some 9- to 12-inch rainbows dressed in hues that can dazzle.
As with any mountain stream where brown trout are found, there are some larger members of that species in the creek. One early April day a few years back I spent an entire morning watching and trying to fool a brown pushing 20 inches that I discovered in a Noontootla tributary. Just two seasons ago, a similar episode played out with an 18-inch class rainbow on another of the feeder streams. In both instances, the fish provedthe more adept at the battle of wits.
Making all this even better is the fact that the special regulations mean Noontootla Creek is rarely crowded with anglers. Most fishermen seem more inclined to go looking for easier fish on other nearby waters. And, that is despite having easy access to the water from gravel Forest Service Road 58 that parallels its entire length through the Blue Ridge WMA.
Blue Ribbon Private Water
As the stream exits the WMA, it takes on a different character. It course, it is through the flat valley on the 1,500-acre Noontootla Creek Farms that the Owenby family calls home. The deep bend pools separated by riffle water are idyllic and hold the promise of bigger trout. It’s a bargain the creek more than fulfills.
For a rod fee, anglers can challenge the fish on the farm, but must have a guide along and are restricted to fly-fishing only. The payback for the effort is the opportunity to do battle with multiple fish in a day that stretch to 20 inches or longer. Most of these fish were privately stocked in the creek and are fed, but there are some wild browns mixed in that take advantage of the largess of free food. The most surprising facet of the angling is how natural the fish act. They will take dry flies, they jump when hooked and there are even days when they can be as persnickety as their wildest cousins.
Getting In On The Action
For details on fishing Noontootla Creek Farms click here.