Say “Georgia” and “autumn” in the same breath and what comes to mind? Swaths of tawny, knee-high weed dotted with islands of thorny, green-stemmed bramble hold coveys of quail. Bess and Bruno, tails high and eagerness barely controlled, surge ahead left and right through the cover. Following steadily, with double gun across your chest at port arms, you strain to see those fist-sized tufts of brown and white feathers that your pointers so keenly scent.
Trout? Nobody’s thinking of them. Water’s too low and warm. Mountain streams have all but dried up. Forests are capped with browning leaves that curl at the edges. You’re waiting for them to drop, for November to come, for deer and grouse with maybe a bear or boar on the side.
Trout? They’ve been so fished over and fished out that the few that remain burrow deep in pools fed by spring seeps and ignore even the most deftly presented fly.
Or so one would think.
Let’s be frank. That flank of the eastern Blue Ridge that runs across North Georgia isn’t thought of as prime trout country. A pair of tailwaters—the Chattahoochee and the Toccoa—claim the headlines. Of mountain streams one reads little.
Those in the know, however, make their ways to the 1,000-acre Noontootla Creek Farms, where tributaries trickle into the creek by the same name which holds ’bows and browns of truly bragging proportions that will test the mettle of any angler who deigns pursue them with a seven-foot, six-inch four-weight.
Rarely more than 50 feet wide, Noontoola is seldom deep enough to top knee-high waders. Yet hides for trout there are aplenty. Fish a brace of weighted nymphs three feet below a strike indicator. Make the top nymph a #10 bead-head pheasant-tail and the lower the smallest midge you can see. Leave about 15 inches between them. Fish holes and pockets where water looks like black coffee. Move slowly, working each run as carefully as you would approach a setter locked up on a covey of quail.
If patience tries your mettle, adopt tactics favored by international fly fishing competitors. Use a Czech rig—a #10 or so unweighted nymph followed a foot below by a #20 or #22 midge nymph. With no more than 20 feet of line out, probe every sluice that’s deep enough to cover the dorsal fin of a 12-inch trout. Seldom will your flies be in the water for more than 30 seconds.
Wade oh-so-slowly but with purpose. Try not to create any waves. Each step will position you to reach new water.
Save deep cuts here and there beneath wads of sycamore roots and a few weedy banks where the creek turns—the Noontootla offers hundreds of pockets behind boulders twice the size of soccer balls.
Fish like an osprey. Cast to the left and right of each big rock. You’ll be amazed at the number of fish you’ll turn up.
Anglers opting for traditional nymphing will want to use an eight-foot four-weight. You’ll have more fun fishing a soft rod of fiberglass or bamboo. Czech-rig aficionados will do well with a stiffish nine-foot graphite rod.
The Noontootla is ideal for Tenkara fans.
When you fish Noontootla, don’t ask your guide to show you the “Aquarium,” where trout, some pushing 24 inches, laze back and forth in the shade. These bruisers weren’t stocked yesterday. Many are wild and stream bred; others have been planted in NCF’s run. They’re fed trout chow, just like the big ’bows in private sections of Pennsylvania’s famed Spruce and Penns Creeks. One look at them will make you change your tippet from 6X to 5X.
Breaking out of the foothills, NCF’s section of the creek ambles for two miles beneath a canopy of mixed hardwoods. Here the valley begins, narrow at first and broadening to half a mile wide. Fields are planted with corn, millet, and soybeans that, come November 1, welcome hunters intent on quail and pheasants. Raised in flight pens, these birds flush readily.
Bring your own bird dog or hunt over a guide’s setter, spaniel, or pointer. Warm up on the 12-station sporting clays course that winds up a valley above the creek, or on the five-stand wobble trap.
Frosts may glisten North Georgia’s grasses in early November, but by noon temperatures hover in the mid-60s. Rain is usually scant. I know of no finer fall weather in which to be afield. Shoot birds, have a lazy lunch, and then wrestle with leviathan trout all afternoon. Cast-and-blast outings are easily arranged. But call early; booking is strictly on a first-come, first-served basis.
Groups may want to put up in NCF’s farmhouse, with its four bedrooms, three baths, screened porch, and a cook-it-yourself kitchen. Nearby, the funky mountain town of Blue Ridge, Georgia, offers a wealth of lodging and dining. When it comes to hotels in the area, none can compare with Brasstown Valley Resort and Spa and its splendid golf course in Young Harris, Georgia, about 30 minutes away.
If You Want to Go
Noontootla Creek Farms
- 3668 Newport Rd., Blue Ridge, GA 30513
Brasstown Resort and Spa
- 6321 U.S. 76, Young Harris, GA 30582
- (706) 379-9900