Location: Northern Georgia
Type of stream: Freestone
Angling methods Fly, spin
Species: Browns, rainbows
Season: Year-round Supporting
Short take: A private trout stream everyone can afford
Handicapped access: None
The 4.5 miles of Dukes Creek that runs through Smithgall Woods State Park—about three miles west of Helen, Georgia’s trout town—is intensely managed by the state’s Department of Natural Resources with one thing in mind: Provide private water trout fishing at a price everyone can afford. The park section of Dukes Creek is heavily stocked with rainbows and browns in the 16-inch plus size. To keep those trout happy in a stream that’s seldom wider than 25 feet, park staff scatter fish food every night. Sound too artificial for you? Considering that anglers pay $200 for a half-day session on the nearby Soque, the $5 parking fee to fish Dukes Creek in Smithgall Woods doesn’t seem exorbitant.
The stream divides naturally into three sections. The mile between the cottages at Smithgall Woods and Alternate Route 75 boasts a steep gradient. Chutes sluice into plunge pools which run for a few yards before the stream drops over ledges into more pools below. Use a nine-foot, five weight dabbling dries over likely pools and steering nymphs though pockets.
Downstream from the highway, Dukes Creek flows through bottom land that was once farmed. Gradient lessens and the stream opens up. Pools are floored with gravels and silt. Scores of rocky ledges cross the creek. Current undercuts large trees. There’s good cover for large trout here. Fish it carefully.
You’ll never feel crowded on Duke’s Creek. In addition to guests in the cottages, during non-hunting seasons, only 15 rods per day are allowed on the stream. Five are allocated to the upper most mile, and 10 to the waters. Smithgall Woods State Park also contains Five cottages, from one to five bedrooms and as elegant as any famed western fishing lodge, are clustered above the upper fishing section. All contain fully equipped kitchens, and catering can be arranged upon request.