Toccoa River Fly Fishing
Fly Fishing the Toccoa River in Georgia
The headwaters of the Toccoa River begin in the small creeks around the small town of Suches, GA. The Toccoa River is the most popular trout fishing and fly fishing destination in the North Georgia Mountains. Whether you are looking to do some wade fishing, or a float trip on the Toccoa, you are certain to be in front of one of the Georgia’s healthiest trout populations. The Toccoa River and its smaller tributary streams possess all three species of trout found in Georgia, the brook trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout. The river winds through public and private lands, offering several public access areas to shore-bound anglers as well as float access for smaller watercraft. Just about all of the public access points in the designated trout waters of the river are stocked with trout throughout the year. Lake Blue Ridge splits the Toccoa River into upper and lower sections. The upper section of the Toccoa contains a majority of the public land access via Forest Service land for anglers to wade and explore the Toccoa and its tributaries. As the river reaches Lake Blue Ridge the Toccoa begins to warm from late July through September for a few miles above the lake. Trout in this section will often make their way back upstream in search of the cooler tributaries during the summer months and into fall. Other species of fish found in Lake Blue Ridge will migrate up into this section of the Toccoa periodically throughout the year, which presents new opportunities for conventional and fly anglers. The lower section of the Toccoa, below Lake Blue Ridge, is referred to as the tailwater section of the river. This section is very limited on public access keeping shore-bound and wading fly anglers around either Tammen Park, Curtis Switch Park, or Horseshoe Bend Park. These three parks between the town of Blue Ridge and McCayesville are stocked heavily throughout the year. Due to the lack of public access along the river and heavy density of angling pressure, fishing this Tailwater section of the Toccoa River may not always be the best option for visiting anglers. A short trip upstream, above Lake Blue Ridge, will provide more opportunities and solitude for fly fisherman looking to avoid a crowd.
Upper Toccoa River Fly Fishing
The main stem of the Toccoa River flows eastward from its main feeder creeks near Suches, joining with several of its larger tributary streams along the way. These smaller creeks include Coopers Creek, Canada Creek, Suches Creek, Noontootla Creek, and Rock Creek, which also support populations of stocked and wild trout. Many of these wild trout will migrate in and out of the main stem of the Toccoa River and into the tributaries at different times of the year depending on river conditions. Spring and Fall are touted as the best times to visit the Upper Toccoa as trout and insect activity will peak during the mild weather. During the dead of winter is when larger trout will be on the move and hunting for easy meals around their pre and post spawn periods. The Summer months can be up and down, especially into August and September. Warming water temperatures cause trout to become lethargic while insect activity transitions into the low light hours. While stocked trout are typically found throughout the public access areas in the main stem of the Toccoa, and in the popular
tributaries such as Rock Creek and Coopers Creek, all three of the trout species that can be found in Georgia reside in the higher elevation tributaries. These trout species comprise the Appalachian Slam. Targeting all three species in the same day is a worthy challenge for any fly fisherman in Georgia.
Rainbow Trout Fishing the Toccoa River
Rainbow Trout are the most abundant trout species found in the Toccoa River. Throughout the lower elevation sections of the Toccoa, the Rainbow Trout are most likely stocked trout, and easier to catch than their wild counterparts. Junk fly patterns work best as they are the most “eye-catching” fly pattern. Moving higher into the Toccoa River tributary streams, such as Rock Creek, Canada Creek, Skeenah Creek, Coopers Creek, Noontootla Creek, or Stanley Creek, you will find more wild Rainbow Trout. These trout are much more colorful and aesthetically pleasing with their much longer lasting parr marks and will typically measure in the four to eight inch range. The best dry fly fishing in the state is to be had around these wild trout. They will be looking toward the surface for a majority of the year.
Brook Trout Fishing the Toccoa River
Brook Trout are the only native trout to Georgia. They can only be found in the smallest headwater streams of North Georgia. These Appalachian beauties are found in several of the upper tributary streams of the Toccoa River. A safe bet is to begin your search above 2,000ft in elevation. During the Spring, the U.S. forestry service will stock some of the popular streams with a few dozen brook trout, if you’re wanting to see bigger brookies. More stealth is helpful when looking for brook trout as they are more skittish than the wild rainbow trout.
Brown Trout Fishing the Toccoa River
Brown Trout are the most elusive species of trout on the Toccoa River and across North Georgia. All Browns are wild on the Toccoa and not stocked by any wildlife agency. Being a wily species by nature, these heavily pressured wild trout are incredibly smart. Nearly always on the move, brown trout are tough to locate in the same stretches for long periods of time. Following the first rains of late summer and early fall, brown trout can become more predictable, and seeing them stage in similar areas to seasons prior is typical. The brown trout begin their migrations following the heavy rains in order to find cool water temperatures and gradually move towards their spawning creeks and streams. By late December and into January they disappear again and require a bit more luck to come across.
Floating the Upper Toccoa River
Float Trips for Fly Fishing the Toccoa start at the Deep Hole public access. From the Deep Hole Campground it is a 13.8 mile float to Sandy Bottoms Recreation Area which means you will spend a full day on the water. Floating the river offers anglers a chance at the private water trout that wading anglers don't encounter from the public forestry land. Trophy sized trout, reside in several stretches found along the private land on the Upper Toccoa River. Once again the “eye catchy” flies will produce the best results if you can keep them riding along the bottom. Heavier flies on indicator rigs are a great way to get down deep in troughs and buckets to target the bigger trout. During spring and mid-Autumn, dry flies have their time in the sun as sulphurs, caddis, blue wing olives, and midges will hatch for a week or two during their usual seasons causing trout to approach the surface more often. Hatches may be short lived, so be prepared prior to getting on the river during the active times of year.
Fly Fishing the Toccoa River Delayed Harvest
The Toccoa River Delayed Harvest Section runs from just upstream of Lake Blue Ridge at the Shallowford Bridge. This stretch of the Toccoa River will fish very well after stocking occurs the first week in November. Fall is usually the only time this section of river can be waded safely. Low water levels will mean better fishing that lasts until we get the first winter rains in December. The Delayed Harvest season ends in May, and this section of the Toccoa River warms quickly allowing for more transitory fish species to begin coming up from Lake Blue Ridge. This transition presents different opportunities for fly fisherman and gear anglers from late spring and into the fall.
Fly Fishing the Toccoa River Tailwater
The Tailwater trout fishery below Lake Blue Ridge begins just North of the town of Blue Ridge, Georgia and flows Northeast toward McCayesville on the border of Tennessee. Water temperatures on this section of the Toccoa River remain consistent year-round with the occasional highwater period caused by heavy rains in the Spring. The TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) will also sluice from time to time while performing any repairs/maintenance which can be harmful or inhibit the trout fishery below. These consistent conditions have allowed the Toccoa Tailwater to produce healthy trout, and one of very few trout fisheries in North Georgia with consistent insect hatches of caddis and mayflies. Rainbow trout are the most commonly stocked trout in the Toccoa with some brook trout being stocked in the spring. Brown trout haven’t been stocked in the river in recent decades, but wild populations of browns can be found in the tailwaters and some of the tributaries downstream of the dam such as Hemptown Creek, Boardtown Creek, and Fightingtown Creek.
Wading the Toccoa River Tailwaters
The public access to the Lower Toccoa River is found on the fore-mentioned Tammen Park, Curtis Switch Park, or Horseshoe Bend Park. This is also where all the stocking from the state occurs in the Toccoa, though many of the private land owners stock trout as well. While there is some room for wading, the Toccoa river can get crowded, especially during warmer times of the year from late April through September. Along with the heavy angling pressure in these sections of the river, leisure floaters, kayakers, tubers, and those escaping the summer heat frequent these parks making the mornings and late evenings the only optimal times for a wade.
Float Trip Fly Fishing on the Toccoa River Tailwater
A float trip down the Toccoa Tailwater is the best way to cross paths with better quality and quantity of trout. Curtis Switch Park is almost equidistant from Tammen Park (located near Downtown Blue Ridge and the Dam) and Horseshoe Bend Park (just south of McCayesville). The float from the Blue Ridge Dam to Curtis Switch Park takes anywhere from 3 to 6 hours, depending on water generation, flow, and how badly you want to catch trout. From Curtis Switch to Horseshoe Bend Park the float is a hair longer at 4 to 6 hours. Floating this section of the Toccoa offers many opportunities and water types to fish to your strengths. Whether deep/slow pools, long runs, tailouts, or riffles are your favorite, trout will be holding in all types of water. Stocked trout here grow to much larger sizes with the natural insect forage compared to the rest of North Georgia. Local cabin owners do tend to supplement some of these trout’s diets with shoreline fish feeders in order to domesticate some of the trout into pets. You will be able to recognize these trout as will be on the heavy set side and rarely leave the small stretch of water below the feeders. Hooking into these trout can either be easy to near impossible as they swing from extremely lethargic to binge feeding, but if your timing is right a good bend in your rod is guaranteed.
Best Fly Patterns for the Toccoa River Tailwater
The best strategy to start off with while fishing the Toccoa River Tailwaters are again junk flies (eggs, mop jigs, squirmy worms,etc…) in the mornings if there is no bug activity occurring on the water. You can quickly gauge the presence and activity level of the stocked trout with this method. If the trout seem pressured and aren’t moving to the higher calorie offerings, switching to smaller and more natural patterns such as a pheasant tail nymph, hares ear nymph, or zebra midge, in the size 16-20 range will land plenty of trout. Brighter copper johns, rainbow warriors, or flashback pheasant tails are perfect for the odd days when the previously mentioned patterns are struggling. For the anglers not into catching dozens of stocked trout on nymphs, reach for the big rods and big streamers for a different experience on the Toccoa River.
Streamer Fishing on the Toccoa River
Streamer fishing isn’t for the anglers looking for an easy day on the water. For the gamblers who are willing to work hard and fight through the sore shoulder and forearms all for a likely butt whooping just for the shot at a mammoth brown trout, the opportunity is there on the Toccoa River Tailwater. Perfect conditions are overcast days and/or higher water with maybe a light stain. A sinking line paired with a streamer designed for heavy action is perfect for targeting the undercut banks, shoreline cover, and tailouts. The D&D (Drunk and Disorderly), Double Deceiver, Zoo Cougar, or Circus Peanut are great fly choices. A floating line matched with a longer leader, and a densely weighted fly can be perfect for dredging and hopping dense streamers along the bottom of troughs, buckets, and deeper eddies. Flies such as the Headbanger Sculpin or Fish Skull variants are great at getting down to where the big brown trout are holding and allow the angler to stay in contact with their fly. Downsizing these patterns will allow you to reach depths quicker and produce bites from holdover stockers and the occasional pellet fed rainbow that will also put a nice bend to a 7 or 8wt rod set up.
For more information about America's best trout streams and others in Georgia, our Fly Fishing North Georgia, Fly Fishing the Chattahoochee River, and Fly Fishing the Chattooga River articles will give you other ideas for places to visit in the area. For more help contact a North Georgia Fly Fishing Guide for up to date information on the local fly fishing opportunities.