How can I describe High Shoals Creek? A place that I never thought would have existed here in Georgia. A place that is so incredibly like Virginia, a place that has such great beauty, while is absolutely so frustrating. I guess I can describe it for those that are familiar to the brook trout scene in Virginia with three words: Little Stony Creek. It reminds me soo much of Little Stony Creek that I can not put my head around it at times, it has all of the characteristics and all of the headaches.
For those that are not familiar with Little Stony Creek or the Cascades (as the stream is generally known as), Little Stony is one of Virginia’s premier native brook trout and wild rainbow trout streams. It is one of the few heavily restricted streams in Virginia because of such. However it is also one of Virginia’s most popular hiking destination because of the beautiful water falls at the end of a two mile hike. Honestly it is one of the bane’s of my existence during heavy tourist season.
Just like Little Stony Creek, High Shoals Creek, is a beautiful hike to two amazing water falls, it also has some of the prettiest native brook trout and wild rainbow trout in it, and of course there are a billion tourist that love to frequent High Shoal Creek for the waterfalls. It is maddening!
Forgetting about all of the people that come here, disregarding the no climbing the falls signs that people ignore just to cliff dive right into a monstrous hole, a hole that probably held dozens of native brook trout at one time, lets talk about the stream itself. As far as I know there are no restrictions on this stream, which shocks me, you would think the State of Georgia would have some type of restrictions for this stream because of the native brook trout. However you would be wrong. Also this stream is not as easy of a hike as Little Stony Creek is, even though it .3 miles shorter. Also I really hope you like Laurel bushes, they are everywhere.
First of all you will have to drive straight up a mountain, praying that no tourists are there – that you will not find cars parked all the way up to the mouth of the trail. Then at the mouth of the trail you will have to hike about 1.5 miles straight down the mountain you just drove up. The trail is very steep, I really hope you have brought some type of studded boots or sandals, but it eventually levels off right where an angler should start jumping into the creek to the right of the trail. Unlike Little Stony Creek, you will start fishing the head waters at High Shoals and work your way down stream (that is if you do not care to be as stealthy as you should be in brook trout waters). Each and every hole is roughly the same for the first quarter mile or so, big drop into a big hole, with a very long and shallow pool following it. All of which has some type of Laurels to block easy overhead casts. This is where having a very short rod will come in handy, you will not be able to do many false cast for distance, instead you will need to maximize what little false casts you can make, and rely on precision shots. Also you will need to use roll and tuck casting every chance you can.
As you work your way down the stream you need to use extreme caution and common sense when it comes to some of the holes that you can fish. Remember you are going down a mountain, with very slick and sharp rocks, and it is at least a 1.5 mile hike out – this is not the area that you want to fall and break anything in. Each hole will get a little more difficult as you come up to the first small waterfall with the Laurel bushes getting thicker and thicker. After you get past this section you will come up to the first waterfall called Blue Hole Falls, if you are lucky enough to fish this section without any tourists jumping into the hole from above, make sure you fish this section deep with a heavy nymph, mop, or squirmy. Hopefully you can coerce a fish out hiding. Below this hole are several other holes, again be very cautious because the second waterfall, which is named High Shoals Falls, is very high and is blocked by Laurels. Below the second waterfall fish the small trickle that forms out of the falls, you will be amazed by what is there, also this starts the wild rainbow section of High Shoals Creek. From here you can continue to fish down to where it meets the Hiwassee River, however this is as far as I have ventured to fish. More will come as I try my luck down this stream.
After reading this I hope that I have conveyed some very important information, and I hope it doesn’t dissuade you from fishing this gem. Ultimately you need to plan to come here during the week time when no one is off to fish or hike, be very careful and plan out a trip here. Notify someone of when you are going here and what time to expect you back. I would even suggest telling them a time that you will call them when you get to Helen or back into cell service, this way they can notify the Towns County Sheriff’s office for help if you don’t call back.
One of the main things as an outsider to Georgia is how similar Georgia is to Virginia. In the mountainous sections the weather is usually cool and mild, while the flat lands are hot and humid. Only when it comes to winter can you tell the true difference between Virginia and Georgia, and realistically this change can really only be felt from the Atlanta Metro area south, everything else is relatively the same as Virginia. As with the weather, fly fishing for trout in Georgia is realistically a lot like Virginia. You have your high mountain native brook trout, wild rainbow trout, and occasional wild brown trout. In other places you have your stocked streams, and in several of the river systems (i.e. the Chattahoochee) you have your dam tail water wild trout. Also both the State of Georgia and Virginia have Delayed Harvest Sections during the Fall, Winter, and Spring months. However there are two main differences that an angler will see between Virginia and Georgia; the first is that the stockings month are backwards from Virginia, during the Spring, Summer, and early Fall months the State of Georgia stock their designated stocking streams. The second difference is that instead of stocking by Counties (like they do in Virginia) the state of Georgia have Wildlife Management Areas. At first it was a bit frustrating to find information on where and how to fish – I knew the fish were there, but like when I started fishing in Virginia the information out there is outdated and the only way to figure stuff out was to talk to local Fly Shops and to explore.
The main reason why I wanted to tell you all of this up front is because this will be the first of many posts about the trout waters here in Georgia. It has taken me a little over a year to get used to these waters and feel comfortable enough to actually talk in detail about them. So without further ado, here is my first Georgia stream recommendation and description of said stream.
The Upper Chattahoochee is a section of water in the Chattahoochee WMA area that extends from Little Crumbly Knob Mountain to the town of Helen Georgia. The first thing you must understand is that some of the water is private, obey the no trespassing signs at all costs. Also make sure that you lock up your vehicles and that they are parked in spot so that others can easily get by you. The last and final thing to know about this water way is that it is amazing. Honestly it is better than most of the streams that I have fished in Virginia; knock on wood, I have never been skunked on this stream and have fished it year round. Though the Upper Chatt is only stocked during the Spring, Summer, and Fall months an angler can always find a hold over somewhere through this freestone creek. Also in the extreme back wood sections, if you are able and willing to make the hike, an angler can find wild rainbows, and native brook trout. Also this stream is one of the few streams that I have found Tiger Trout in, yes the State of Georgia does stock tiger trout, however I have yet to find any wild tiger trout in these waters… but the possibly of finding wild tiger existing here is very high.
Now what can I say about the actual stream itself; if you know me then you know that by far my two favorite streams in Virginia are Big Stony and Little Stony Creek in Giles County, well the Upper Chatt is a mixture of these two streams. Very large boulders protrude from the water, that lead into deep long holes, while in other area there are very fast riffles followed by very shallow runs. Because of all of this different types of flows, fish can be found almost anywhere throughout this stream. However aim for the deeper pools, here you can always find trout rather at the drop, the deep middle sections, or at the rear of the hole.
One of my favorite things to do is use a good pair of polarized sunglasses and watch how the fish are eating, if they are constantly hitting top water I will use a dry/dropper rig or if they are constantly looking like they are going after stuff on the bottom I will fish two heavy nymphs and float the nymphs straight through that area.
Also as a member of the local Trout Unlimited, please be mindful of your trash, if you get a chance please bring a trash bag and fill it up as you fish. Keeping this stream beautiful is a very hard chore since it is a major tourist destination for campers during the stocking season.
There are very few pull off points to the stream, and some of these still leave your vehicle very close to a road that has a ton of traffic on it. Be mindful also of trespassing and take precautions when it comes to little to no cell phone service. Also, and I can not stress this enough when it comes to deep mountain streams, be mindful that you are in bear country, be safe.