100 Best: Toccoa
Location: Northern Georgia
Type of stream: Freestone,Tailwater
Angling methods: Fly, spin, bait
Species: Browns, rainbows, brookies
Access: Easy to difficult
Season: Year ‘round in delayed harvest
Supporting Services: None
Short take: River of two personalities
Handicapped Access: No
Closest TU Chapter: Blue Ridge Mountain
In late June, 2012, I drove to Gainesville, Ga. to visit brother Sam. Our plan was to scout Georgia streams—the Chattahoochee, Duke’s Creek, the Chattooga, and the Toccoa. I’d visited the first three on earlier assignments but never even heard of the Toccoa. We decided to fish it. On deadline as always, I could give it no more than half of a day. How presumptuous is that!
From its headwaters along the Appalachian Trail in northernmost Georgia, the Toccoa flows about 60 miles or so down to Copperhill in Tennessee where it changes its name to the Ocoee. About three quarters of the way down from its source, the Toccoa is held back by the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Blue Ridge Reservoir. What issues forth from the Blue Ridge Powerhouse is the thinnest tailwater I’ve ever seen. Sam had told me that the tailwater was known for big browns. And he’d arranged for us to float it with Hunter Morris who guides out of Unicoi Outfitters in Helen.
We launched at a wooden ramp that dropped precipitously to the water. I asked Hunter what I should use to hook a big brown. He suggested a 7 ? foot 5x leader, shortened by a foot, tied on a #8 rubber legs and on 5x dropped a #12 or #14 pheasant tail below and added a high floating orange strike indicator. Less than 10 minutes into the trip, the strike indicator stopped, I raised the rod tip (here comes the cliché) fearing I was hung. I was, but to what proved to be a 25-inch brown. Pods of trout, generally about a foot in length prowl the river. Public access to the tailwater is limited to say the least, but it’s easily floated in kayak or canoe.