Ah, there is nothing like the changing of Fall in the North Georgia Appalachians. I wake up in my tent to the birds singing with emphasis and the warm spring sun piercing through lush Rhododendron. I can luckily hear Noontootla Creek running past my campsite over the snoring bear I call my brother. You can smell the wood fires burning from those preparing breakfast along U.S. Forest Service road 58 to where it meets the Three Forks Appalachian Trail junction. These are just some of the things that make up the solitude of this beautiful area.
Each year my brother and I make the pilgrimage for a weekend to this amazing stretch of water to fly fish for the wild Rainbow, Brown and Brook trout. It is blue line fishing at its finest since it sits at 3000 ft just below the Appalachian Trail’s Springer Mountain. Unfortunately, this year my brother and I don’t get to visit our favorite holes due to UFSR/ Appalachian Trail closures due to COVID-19. That isn’t going to stop me from sharing our trip from last year with you though!
These fish are very smart and spook easily. You must have a stealth approach to fishing the water. During the early spring mornings, you are going to want to fish subsurface while tightlining your flies with small Stonefly and Midge patterns. Then, in the afternoon, the real excitement comes about. The springtime Blue Winged Olive and Mayfly hatch hit the water. My brother and I will approach the long smooth runs taking turns casting small BWO’s to the hungry rising trout. Let me tell you, there is nothing quite like an aggressive wild rainbow going full Air Jaws on your fly. It gets your heart racing and leaves everlasting memories for my brother and me.
The creek is surprisingly daunting and humbling. The fish make you work for them by having you bushwhack through thick rhododendron, scale steep embankments and then butt slide down them while taking a few briars with you. Many times you will work hard to get to spots only to get skunked with zero fish moving on your flies. Other times you will be rewarded with a stunning 6-12 inch Rainbow trout or Brook Trout. These moments of rigorous adventure make you appreciate the surroundings, nobody in sight, the slow down, and the glory of out fishing your big brother.
Once the day is over and the sun is going down the Master Chef, my brother Tommy, comes out to cook. My favorite part of these trips on Noontootla Creek is fishing. For him, it’s the cooking and being the music DJ. He’s a professional fireside Jalapeño Popper and Ribeye griller while playing some Grateful Dead Europe 72’. I think we can all agree nothing beats a campfire cooked meal with good drinks and good music!
For me, camping and fishing is the best way to connect yourself to the outdoors. We all miss these types of experiences with our friends, family, and loved ones. Soon enough we'll be back out there doing the things that ignite our souls. Edward Abbey said it best, “This is the most beautiful place on Earth. There are many such places. Every man, every woman, carries in their heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary.”
Noontootla Creek and North Georgia is that ideal place for me. When this is all over I hope you get to see what I’ve seen!