Updated: May 24
The area around Ellijay, Georgia has grown considerably in recent years. Though it does not receive as much traffic from tourism as Helen or Blue Ridge, the local trout fisheries have seen the same influx of exposure with the rise of visitors. The Coosawatee River is the main artery flowing through town. The Cartecay River, Ellijay River, and Moutaintown Creek being major tributaries of the Coosawatee River in and just outside of town. Majority of the rivers and streams around Ellijay hold trout throughout the year. The Lower elevation sections closer to town tend to become too warm during the summer months for trout to survive. These stretches tend to hold more redeye bass, seasonal striped bass, and other warm water species. Public land access is sporadic at best in the area and mostly found in the headwater streams. Even so, there are plenty of trout to be caught within a short drive from town. Fly fishing in Ellijay can be very productive during certain times of the year with the cooler months yielding the best results. To better understand how to bring these trout to the net, our articles on What Trout Eat and Best Flies for North Georgia will help you get more trout to the net.
Coosawatee River Trout Fishing
The Coosawatee River only has a very small section of water available for trout fishing just below its origins at the confluence of the Cartecay River and Ellijay River. The Coosawatee is stocked throughout the spring near downtown Ellijay. The trout come and go quickly as they are harvested soon after stocking. Warmer water temperatures also negatively affect any remaining trout in the river as the year progresses. Anglers seeking to leave the crowds for better scenery and seclusion should head higher in the hills for better trout fishing opportunities.
Cartecay River Trout Fishing
The trout on the Cartecay River are mostly found above Highway 52 just east of Ellijay. Some trout can be found in the lower sections during the winter and spring months when stocking occurs by the state and private landowners. Finding these trout can often be inconsistent as the trout are heavily pressured during stocking periods and efforts from leisure anglers are better directed higher up in the watershed. Recent rainfalls can leave the lower section of the Cartecay River high and dirty in winter and spring. Above Highway 52, the river runs completely through private land to where the river is formed from the confluence of Tickanetley Creek and Rolston Creek. Trout are stocked along the bridges on the river, but wading access is very limited. Rolston Creek flows completely through private land as does majority of Tickanetley Creek.
Tickanetley Creek Trout Fishing
Tickanetley Creek or “the Tick” is the main tributary of the upper Cartecay River. The creek almost flows completely through private land, hosting several notable private water trout fisheries hosted by North Georgia Fly Fishing Guides. Trout are stocked along a couple of the bridges that cross these private lands. The public sections of the Tick are located in the uppermost sections of creek below Springer Mountain. The creek has a very good population of wild rainbow trout along the old, and nearly abandoned, forestry road. You will have the creek to yourself as the only other users of the road/trail are the occasional off-roading crew.
Mountaintown Creek Trout Fishing
The lower section of Mountaintown Creek meets the Coosawatee River just west of downtown Ellijay. The creek flows through private mostly private land and is stocked around a couple of the lower bridges. Some of the best private water fly fishing in Ellijay can be found on Mountaintown Creek. There are numerous rental cabins on the creek, which are the only access to for visitors. Many of the private landowners stock this section of the creek which makes the cabins desirable for weekend visitors. The southern stretch of the creek close to it's confluence with the Coosawatee river is stocked privately by several landowners on the creek but trout tend not to hang around long. Flooding, overharvesting by vacationers, and warming waters toward the end of the Spring leave this lower stretch of the creek barren for much of the year. The public access on Moutaintown Creek is found in the headwater streams around Blue Ridge. To learn more about this section, check out our Blue Ridge Trout Fishing Guide, where we go into more depth on the public water access of Upper Mountaintown Creek.
Ellijay River Trout Fishing
The Ellijay River sets up very similar to the Cartecay River. The river is stocked along the bridge intersections and flows through private land. Access is limited to these bridge intersections leaving no opportunities for the anglers who like to roam. The small portion of public water around Harrison Park, close to town, may be the best opportunity to land fish and stretch your legs. Winter and spring offer the best opportunity if you can avoid high/dirty water conditions. Like the section of Mountaintown creek near Ellijay, several landowners stock the Ellijay River in the Spring and Fall season each year. This means a stray stocker or holdover trout can be found just about anywhere in the stream.
Owltown Creek Trout Fishing
Owltown Creek is a small tributary of the Cartecay River just east of Ellijay. Trout are stocked regularly throughout the spring and early summer. The small creek leaves the trout little refuge from predators and anglers so stocked trout tend to disappear quickly. The proximity to town does not help the stocked trout either as it gives more anglers easy access to trout. If you’re feeling lucky, a quick walk down the public access along Owltown road will allow you to see if any stockers are present. If you do not spot any trout in the handful of pools or deeper runs, its best to move on to new water and save time.
Turniptown Creek Trout Fishing
Turniptown Creek feeds the Ellijay River just north of downtown Ellijay. Turniptown is stocked throughout the spring and summer months. Though most of the creek is found on private waters, public access is available on the upper reaches. The creek may see some additional stocking than normal as it is the location of former president, Jimmy Carter’s mountain cabin. Private landowners also stock the creek themselves leaving a healthy population of trout in the creek. The public section in the headwaters possesses a fair amount of wild rainbow trout. During the transition months, don’t be surprised to see some larger trout show up on public lands following high water periods.
Clear Creek Trout Fishing
Clear Creek flows into the Cartecay River just southeast of Ellijay. Clear creek is stocked with trout in the spring and summer. Clear creek runs through mostly private lands of vineyards and apple orchards. Trout stocking occurs at the Blackberry Mountain Bridge. East of the bridge you can follow a trail which will lead down to the intersection of Clear Creek and the Cartecay River. Trout fishing this stretch of public water can be feast or famine. Stocked trout, the occasional holdover trout, and several wild rainbow trout can be found in this stretch of stream.
Turkey Creek Trout Fishing
Turkey Creek runs adjacent to Clear Creek but flows completely through private land. The creek is stock a couple times each year at the bridge crossings. There is not much opportunity here for public fishing.
Noontootla Creek Trout Fishing
Noontootla Creek, or “The Toot” is certainly one of the most productive and most popular wild trout streams in the state. Alongside the Cohutta streams, and Upper Chattahoochee River watershed, the Noontootla is also one of the most scenic fishing destinations in the state. There are two sections of public water on Noontootla Creek. The first being a smaller piece of land closer to its confluence of the Toccoa River off Newport Road. This section is stocked once a year, but sees many transient trout move up and down the stream from the Toccoa River and adjacent private waters. Though its not known for numbers, some fair-sized trout can be caught in the short stretch. The other section of public water encompasses the entirety of the upper headwaters of the Noontootla Creek Watershed. This piece of land lies completely within the Blue Ridge WMA and Chattahoochee National Forest. There are dozens of miles of trout stream filled with wild trout. This section of Noontootla Creek is artificial lures only with a minimum keeping size of 17”, which make the creek just about completely catch and release as there are few if any wild trout bigger than this. If you are willing to do some rock hopping and bushwhacking, it is not hard to find a long stretch of water to yourself. Because the creek runs shallow throughout the WMA, spin/gear fisherman have a much tougher time fishing, while fly fisherman have a much easier time finding skinny water trout ready to rise to a dry fly. Because the river sees no stocking, most trout run in the 4” to 8” size range with the occasional trout breaking the 10-12” mark. Noontootla creek has populations of all three trout species found in Georgia. Rainbow trout being the most prominent species.
They can be found everywhere below the natural barriers in the tributary arms. Brown trout are mostly found in the main stem of the Toot until they make their spawning run into the smaller creeks during the fall. Brook trout are found in the headwaters of all the tributary streams above the natural barriers. Finding these brookies often takes a good amount of effort of hiking and stealth as they are incredibly spooky. This makes the brook trout a memorable and rewarding catch even though they rarely exceed the 6” mark. During the shoulder months larger trout will move into the lower section of the river. This three-quarter mile section receives exponentially more pressure than the remaining dozen or more miles of trout streams combined. Hunting these trout takes patience and kind lighting as they spook very easily. Know that due to the amount of the pressure in this section the number of bites available on a given outing are much lower than other sections. Sight fishing is possible throughout much of the creek for those with a good pair of polarized glasses. The opportunistic trout are usually very cooperative to take a well drifted fly. The campground community holes being the only exceptions as these trout tend to get pummeled with a myriad of lures. The plethora of fast water seams and crossing currents make the Noontootla and excellent place to sharpen your casting skills and fine tune your drifts.
Big Creek Trout Fishing
Big Creek is another tributary of the Toccoa River which meets just below the confluence of Nootootla Creek and Toccoa. The creek is stocked regularly throughout the year along the lower end by the Toccoa Valley Campground. Weekends are a popular time for visiting campers, so visiting mid-late week provides the best opportunity of running into stocked trout. During the late summer, Big Creek can be a cool water refuge from the warming temperatures on the Toccoa River. This can congregate trout closer to the better oxygenated waters.
Fishing in Ellijay
Other fishing opportunities in Ellijay are seasonal. Carters Lake Striper run upstream on the Coosawatee to the Cartecay each spring on their false spawning run. It is rumored some walleye may make this run in February and March as well. Redeye Bass (a close relative to the largemouth and smallmouth bass) also make spawning runs throughout the Upper Coosa River watershed. Not known for their size, but a valuable target for dedicated anglers looking to catch all of the bass species of Georgia.
If you're looking for the best cabins and lodging for trout fishing in Ellijay or if you are looking for other trout fishing destinations in Georgia, check out our Blue Ridge Fly Fishing Guide, Blairsville Fly Fishing Guide, Helen Fly Fishing Guide, Clayton Fly fishing Guide, and Dahlonega Fly Fishing Guide to learn where you can find more trout this year. If you know where you would like to fish but are just getting into fly fishing or need some help getting over that initial learning curve, take a look at our North Georgia Fly Fishing Trips. We can get you over the hump and ready to explore all North Georgia’s beautiful trout streams. In our Fly Fishing Lessons page, we share our stories from our adventures around the globe on fly fishing lessons we learned the hard way.