Updated: Dec 2, 2022
The Toccoa River begins its journey through the North Georgia Mountains around the small town of Suches, GA. The Toccoa is one of the most popular trout fishing and fly fishing destinations in Georgia. Whether you are looking at wade fishing, or floating the Toccoa, there are plenty of options that will put you directly in front of one of the Georgia’s healthiest trout populations. The Toccoa and its tributaries possess all three species of trout found in Georgia, the brook trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout. The river dips in and out of public and private lands, offering fairly easy access to shore-bound anglers and float access for small watercraft. Most of the public access points along the river are stocked with wild trout throughout the year. Depending on your location on the river, some are stocked year-round, while others are stocked exclusively in the winter. Lake Blue Ridge divides the Toccoa into upper and lower sections. The upper section contains a majority of the public access points and Forest Service land for anglers to wade and explore the Toccoa and its upper tributaries. As it reaches Lake Blue Ridge the Toccoa begins to warm during the summer months for a few miles above the lake. Trout in this section will often make their way back upstream or into the cooler tributaries during the summer months. Other species of fish found in Lake Blue Ridge will periodically move up into this section of the Toccoa periodically throughout the year opening up different opportunities for conventional and fly anglers. The section of the Toccoa below Lake Blue Ridge is referred to as the lower or tailwater section of the river. This section is limited on public land as shore-bound and wading fly anglers must access the Toccoa River Tailwaters from either Tammen Park, Curtis Switch Park, or Horseshoe Bend Park. These three parks are stocked heavily throughout the year but due to the lack of public area along the river and the heavy density of anglers, fishing this Tailwater section of the Toccoa River may not always be your best bet. A short car ride upstream, above Lake Blue Ridge will be rewarded with more opportunity and solitude for fly fisherman looking to avoid the crowds.
Trout Fishing the Toccoa River (Upper Section)
The Toccoa flows eastward from its headwaters near Suches, joining with several of its larger tributary streams. These tributaries include Coopers Creek, Canada Creek, Suches Creek, Noontootla Creek, and Rock Creek, which also possess healthy populations of stocked and wild trout. Many individuals in these wild trout populations will make their way in and out of the main stem of the Toccoa and into the tributaries at different times of the year. Spring and Fall are typically the best times to get out on the Upper Toccoa as trout and insect activity are at their peak. Don’t overlook the cold of winter as this is when trophy sized trout will be on the move and looking for easy meals during their pre and post spawn rituals. Summer can be very hit or miss, especially into August and September, with warming water temperatures causing trout to become lethargic and insect activity transitioning into the evening and nighttime hours. While majority of the stocked trout can be found throughout the public access points along the main stem of the Toccoa, and in the more popular tributaries such as Rock Creek and Coopers Creek, all three of the trout species found in Georgia are found in the higher sections of the tributaries where more wild trout reside. These three trout species comprise the Appalachian Slam. Targeting these three species in the same day is a worthy challenge for any fly fisherman.
Toccoa River Rainbow Trout Fishing
Rainbow trout are the most common trout species found in the Toccoa River, and across North Georgia. In the lower elevation sections of the Toccoa, they will most likely be stocked trout, and much easier to catch. Junk fly patterns work best along with any other “eye-catching” fly pattern. As you move higher into the Toccoa River tributaries, such as Rock Creek, Coopers Creek, Noontootla Creek, or Stanley Creek, you will begin finding more of these wild Rainbow Trout. These trout will be more colorful and aesthetically pleasing than their stocked counterparts but will typically be in the 4”-8” range. These trout make for the best dry fly fishing around. You can be sure they will be looking toward the surface 9-10 months out of the year.
Toccoa River Brook Trout Fishing
Brook Trout are the only true Native trout to Georgia. You can find these little guys in the smallest headwater streams across North Georgia. These Appalachian Gems can be found in several of the upper tributary streams of the Toccoa. Don’t bother beginning your search below 2,000ft in elevation, your odds of finding a stash of these colorful trout will improve as you climb higher up the feeder creeks. During the Spring months, the forestry service will stock the popular streams with a few dozen brook trout if you’re looking to get your hands on some bigger specimens. A bit more stealth is helpful when looking for brookies as they are typically much spookier than their rainbow trout cousins.
Toccoa River Brown Trout Fishing
Brown Trout are the most elusive species of trout on the Toccoa. Browns are completely wild on the Toccoa and not stocked by any of the wildlife agencies. While already a wily species by nature, these heavily pressure wild trout are incredibly smart and transitory. Brown trout on the Toccoa seem to constantly be on the move. It is always exciting running across one throughout the year. Following the first rains of late summer and early fall, they can become more predictable, and you will begin seeing them in similar areas as in seasons past. The browns will begin their migrations following these rains to find cooler water temperatures and move towards their spawning grounds. They will stage in similar areas each year until late October/early November when they move into even smaller tributaries to spawn. It seems by late December to early January they will disappear again and require a bit more luck to come across.
Upper Toccoa River Float Trips
Float Trips for Fly Fishing on the Toccoa begin at the Deep Hole Campground. This is the uppermost access for floating anglers to enter the Toccoa River. From here it is a 13.8 mile float to the Sandy Bottoms Recreation Area which will mark the end of the float and a full day on the water. Float trips offer anglers a chance at trout that wading anglers rarely encounter from the public access areas. Larger, trophy size trout, reside in several stretches of river found along the private sections the Upper Toccoa River. Though not as prevalent as the abundance on the Toccoa Tailwater, fish feeders are becoming a more common occurrence on the river. Fishing downstream of these feeders is a guaranteed way to run into more trout that will give you a run for your money. The “eye catchy” flies will again produce the best so long as you manage to bump them along the bottom. While floating through the more “wild” sections of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, or sections where cabins are more sparse, look for deeper troughs adjacent to faster moving seams. Heavier flies on indicator rigs are a great way to get down deep in these buckets and target the bigger trout. During spring and mid-Autumn, dry flies can have very productive days as sulphurs, caddis, blue wing olives, and midges will hatch for 2-3 week durations causing the trout to look to the surface. Most of this action will occur over long flat runs where trout will position along the banks or tail outs looking for an easy meal. Hatches may be short lived, so being prepared is critical during the active times of year.
Toccoa River Delayed Harvest
The Toccoa River Delayed Harvest Section is located just upstream of Lake Blue Ridge and the Shallowford Bridge. This section will fish very well just after being stocked in early November. Conveniently, this is about the only time this section of river is wadable as well. While water levels are low, and until we get our first winter rains in December, the Toccoa DH fishing will be good or even great. When the season ends in May, this section of the Toccoa will warm quickly and make way for more transitory fish coming up from Lake Blue Ridge presenting different opportunities for fly fisherman and conventional anglers from spring through fall.
Toccoa River Seasonal Fisheries
Beginning in February, Walleye will begin to make their way up the Toccoa River from Lake Blue Ridge. Anglers can target these Walleye into April downstream of the Shallowford bridge. Flashier flies/streamers and baits will get the best results. Find deeper holes and troughs in the river to locate the walleye staging up for their spawn. During the late spring and throughout the summer months, look for some smallmouth bass, spotted bass, and rock bass to make their way up into the section of river around the Shallowford bridge and even more upstream. You can target these fish with streamers, poppers, and crawfish patterns with reasonable success in the early mornings and late evening periods when they are on the move.
Trout Fishing the Toccoa River (Tailwater Section).
The Toccoa River Tailwater below Lake Blue Ridge begin just above the town of Blue Ridge and run to the Northeast toward McCayesville and the Tennessee border. The water temperatures on this section of the Toccoa remain consistent year-round except for the occasional highwater period in the Spring and whether the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) is doing any repairs/maintenance. These static conditions have allowed the Toccoa Tailwater to become a productive trout fishery and one of very few trout fisheries in North Georgia with consistent insect hatches of caddis and mayflies. Rainbow trout are the most common of the stocked trout with some brook trout being stocked each year. Brown trout haven’t been stocked in the river in recent decades, but wild populations of browns do exist in the Toccoa tailwaters and some of the lower tributaries such as Hemptown Creek, Boardtown Creek, and Fightingtown Creek.
Wading the Toccoa River Tailwaters
The public water access to the Lower Toccoa River is limited to Tammen Park, Curtis Switch Park, or Horseshoe Bend Park. AS mentioned earlier in the article, this is where all the stocking in the Toccoa occurs. While there is room for wading, the river can get quite crowded, especially during the busier times of year which typically run from late April through September. Along with the numerous anglers on the river, leisure floaters, kayakers, tubers, and those out for a swim in the summer will also use these waters to beat the heat. Angling efforts are best focused in the early morning and late evening during the summer months.
Float Trips on the Toccoa River Tailwater
Fishing a float trip down the Toccoa is sectioned off nicely as Curtis Switch Park is nearly equidistant from Tammen Park (located below the Lake Blue Ridge Dam) and Horseshoe Bend Park (located in McCayesville at the end of the trout waters). The float from the Blue Ridge Dam to Curtis Switch can take anywhere from 3 to 6 hours, depending on water generation/flow and how long you stop and fish. From Curtis Switch to Horseshoe Bend the float takes a bit longer at 4-6 hours. Floating the Toccoa tailwaters gives you plenty of different opportunities and water types to fish to your strengths. Whether you enjoy deep/slow pools, long runs, tailouts, or riffles, trout will be holding in all types of water. Stocked trout can grow to healthy sizes with the natural insect forage in the Toccoa River. Local cabin owners can’t help but supplement some of these trout’s diets with shoreline fish feeders and domesticate their new river pets. You will be able to recognize these trout as they grow to substantial sizes and rarely leave the small stretch of water below these feeders. Hooking into one can either be simple or near impossible as they go from extremely lethargic to binge feeding. You can bet these big trout have made many mistakes before and there are few flies they haven’t seen, but if your timing is right a good bend in your rod is guaranteed.
Best Flies for the Toccoa River Tailwater
The best strategy our North Georgia Fly Fishing Guides at Georgia Wild Trout use are to start off with junk flies (eggs, mop jigs, squirmy worms,etc…) in the mornings if there is no bug activity occurring on the water. If the trout seem pressured and aren’t willing to move to the flashy and higher calorie meals, switching to a smaller natural pattern such as a pheasant tail, hares ear nymph, zebra midge, or walts worm in the size 16-20 range will likely dupe several trout. On the days where neither of these tactics seem to be quite what the trout are looking for, joining the two concepts and throwing small flashy flies can be perfect. Brighter copper johns, rainbow warriors, or flashback pheasant tails are perfect for this role. If you’re like me and catching dozens of stocked trout on nymphs really isn’t your thing, reach for the big rods and big streamer patterns for a different experience on the Toccoa River.
Streamer Fishing the Toccoa River for Trophy Trout
Streamer fishing isn’t for every angler. For the gamblers who are willing to put in the laborious work and fight through the sore shoulder and forearms for the shot at a brown trout of a lifetime, the opportunity is there on the Toccoa River Tailwater. Perfect conditions are overcast days and higher water levels with maybe a tinge of color in the water. Versatility is key in maximizing your opportunity of hooking into a big brute. A sinking line with a streamer that can give you a lot of action is perfect for targeting undercut banks, shoreline cave, and gradual tailouts. Flies such as a D&D (Drunk and Disorderly), Hollow Point, or Boogie Man are great options. Switching to a floating line, longer leader, and a densely weighted fly is a great tactic for dredging and hopping your fly along the bottom of troughs, buckets, and deeper eddies. Flies such as the Headbanger Sculpin or Fish Skull Deceiver are great at getting down to where the big brown trout are holding quickly. Downsizing these patterns will allow you to reach depths even quicker and fish more efficiently.
Hopefully these tips will improve your success on the Toccoa River in the coming months. To learn more about Fly Fishing in Blue Ridge and other trout fishing in North Georgia, check our other articles on the Georgia Wild Trout website. We offer Fly Fishing Trips for beginning anglers and seasoned fly anglers looking to improve their skills while working on approach and efficiency.