With apologies to Ernest Hemingway, the Toccoa River could be called the big two-faced river.
From its headwaters in the Chattahoochee National Forest near Suches until it crosses into Tennessee, the Toccoa has two distinct personalities.
Above the Blue Ridge Lake dam, the river behaves like a typical Appalachian trout stream. Below the dam, however, flows 15 miles of some of the best tailwater trout fishing in Georgia. Tailwaters occur when a dam’s flow gates are opened and the coldest water from the bottom of the reservoir flows into the river creating ideal year-round water temperatures, resulting in brown and rainbow trout ranging in size from 13 - to 17-inches with occasional 20+ inch trophies.
Since much of the river flows through private land, float fishing is often the best way to fish, but three public access points — Tammen Park at the base of the dam, Curtis Switch access and Horseshoe Bend Park — offer superb wade fishing.
Unlike many southern trout streams, where nymph fishing rules, the lower river offers outstanding dry fly fishing — caddis, stoneflies, Hendricksons, March Browns, and black or cream midges in winter and early spring; sulfurs and light cahills in late spring and early summer; grey caddis, small sulfurs and cream midges in late summer; tan caddis and midges in the fall; and year round midge and blue-winged olive hatches.
If there is no discernible hatch, go deep. Try working a big dry fly like a #12 stimulator with a soft hackle hare’s ear on a trailer through the fast runs, using the dry as a strike indicator. Cast upstream, allowing the current to pull the nymph downstream. Watch the dry fly on the surface to indicate a strike. As the nymph nears the end of the drift, don’t lift; let the line tighten pulling the nymph in a wide arc. To a trout, it appears to be an emerging insect and it will give chase. Other options are caddis and stonefly nymphs, streamers, and the king of southern fly-fishing, the Wooly Bugger.
While tailwaters create an ideal trout environment, it can be hazardous for wading anglers. Other than a siren at Tammen Park, there is no provision to warn downstream anglers of imminent water releases. You may call 800-238-2264 after 4 p.m. to get the next day’s release schedule but it isn’t always accurate. The best advice is be aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye on a partially submerged rock or stump. When water begins to creep over your marker, get out. The rising water will be on you in minutes.
- To get to Tammen Park from Atlanta: Take I-575/Ga. 515 to Blue Ridge. Signs for Tammen Park will be visible on the right just before crossing the river.
- To get to Curtis Switch: Take I-575/Ga. 515 to Blue Ridge. Turn left on Ga. Hwy 60. Travel 6 miles through the town of Mineral Bluff. Turn left on River Rd. Turn left on Curtis Switch Rd. and follow to the parking area.
- To get to Horseshoe Bend Park: Take I-575/Ga. 515 to Blue Ridge. Turn left on Ga. Hwy 60. Travel 6 miles through town of Mineral Bluff. Turn left on River Rd. Turn left into Horseshoe Bend Park where River Rd. meets the Toccoa River.