Georgia Trout At Dicks Creek

Profiling the trout fishing at Dicks Creek on Chestatee WMA in southern Lumpkin County.

Jonathan Thomas | June 1, 2005

If you pay close attention and promise to keep it to yourself, I will let you in on a little known, closely guarded secret in the trout fishing community. Trout anglers are well known for staying tight-lipped about things like this, but here it goes.

Whether you are looking for a good place to spend a day with the family and get a stringer full of rainbows, or just want some peace and quiet and the opportunity to stalk some more elusive wild fish, Dicks Creek just outside of Dahlonega is the place you are looking for. Just don’t tell anyone you heard this from me.

I am not kidding about the lengths that some anglers will go to in order to protect a favorite stream. I have a friend who was talking with another angler about good north Georgia trout streams, and he happened to mention that he was especially interested in finding one of the tiny mountain streams that hold the beautiful but rare wild brook trout. The name of the stream was revealed after much good-natured prodding, but my buddy was threatened with some serious bodily harm if he let the secret out. I think the guy was only halfway kidding about this, because my buddy won’t even tell me the name of this stream.

I have even heard of people tearing down county and Forest Service road signs to deter anglers from finding “their” streams. I have also now seen first-hand the effect that word-of-mouth rumors can have on gaining access to good trout water. I have a theory that some north Georgia streams get a bad reputation simply because people do not want them to become overcrowded… and Dicks Creek on the Chestatee WMA in southern Lumpkin county is one such stream.

If you are like me, you are constantly on the lookout for information about which streams are fishing well and what the trout are hitting, and any other bit of knowledge you can gain from others who share the trout-fishing addiction.

Dicks Creek has some deep, scenic pools that look like they ought to be loaded with rainbow trout — and they usually are.

I had not fished this stream in years, and when I started asking around about Dicks Creek, my buddies indicated that they heard that it was over-crowded, over-fished, and generally trashed out with corn cans and fast-food wrappers. I did come across one acquaintance who confided in me that “Dicks’ reputation is a lot worse than it really should be… it is really a great place to fish.” With that sort of contradiction gnawing at my brain, I had to check it out for myself.

What I found during a recent trip confirmed my theory about anglers and their tendencies to exaggerate in order to downplay the quality of fishing at a favorite stream. Dicks Creek is an excellent place to fish, and it offers everything you could want in a trout-fishing destination: plenty of good trout water, beautiful scenery, and most importantly, plenty of rainbows.

A couple of recent north Georgia trout-fishing trips reminded me of the importance of the old Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared,” so I arrived at Dicks Creek ready for anything. One such trip found me in soaking wet clothes in 20-degree January weather, close to hypothermia, with no extra clothes in the truck. That was one cold ride home, I can assure you. Another trip found me with the wrong fishing gear for the job, and I subsequently spent the entire afternoon casting like a maniac, tangling my nine-foot flyrod into tree limbs while dozens of people caught  rainbows all around me.

For this trip I loaded up every piece of trout-fishing gear that I could conceivably need. I brought my spincasting rods, Power Bait, corn, an arsenal of Rooster Tails and Mepps spinners. In addition to my spin gear, I brought along two fly-rods and all of the associated gear and equipment. I brought all five of my fly-boxes, and I was ready to imitate any sort of life-form that might be found on a trout’s menu. Caddis flies, June bugs, ants, minnows, worms, scuds, nymphs —you name it, and I could have tied it on to the end of my leader.

On the Forest Service road that parallels the creek, I saw only five or six other trucks. “Overcrowded, huh?” I thought to myself. Along the creek banks, I saw only a small spattering of trash, nothing worse than any other public stream in the north Georgia mountains. Trashed-out, huh? I geared up and spent the next five hours catching trout after trout from pools and riffles that I had all to myself.

In all it was an outstanding day of fishing, as I caught plenty of keeper-sized rainbows with my spinning rod in the lower reaches of Dicks, and I was also able to raise a few wild rainbows to some flies in the upper sections of the creek. In this sense, the four-and-a-half miles of trout water in Dicks Creek has a split personality: the lower section is easy to access, it holds plenty of stockers, and it is ideally suited to bait or spin fishing. In the upper reaches the terrain grows a little wilder, and the scramble over downed trees and up slick banks can pose a bit of a challenge. The payoff is well worth the effort if you find yourself casting in solitude to a small pool full of beautifully-colored, aggressive little rainbows.

So, with that being said, what can you expect on Dicks Creek? About two miles after starting on Forest Service Road 34-1, the paved road turns to gravel and you will see a WRD check station on your right. From here upstream for the next 2 1/2 miles there are plenty of turnouts that mark the prime pools and runs holding the rainbows that call Dicks home. While fishing this section, I was able to land a dozen or so keeper-sized rainbows, with two of them being a little over 12 inches. Most of them were caught on corn, but a few of them fell prey to a red-and-silver Rooster Tail. I spoke with a few other anglers as I worked my way upstream, and most indicated that they were having a good day. Danny Warren of Cumming was having a terrific day of fishing with crickets, and he showed me a stringer full of rainbows with one hand while he was releasing another rainbow with the other!

There are a few pools along this section of Dicks Creek that deserve specific mention. One of these sits about half a mile past where the paved portion of FS 34-1 ends. As you travel north on 34-1 you will see a waterfall maybe 15 to 20 feet on your left. The pool at the base of this waterfall is one of the main stocking sites for the WRD trucks. Needless to say, you should concentrate some effort on fishing this pool, being especially sure to use some split-shot to get your bait down to where the larger trout lurk in the deep water. Again, I had a great deal of success with corn, but most of the big rainbows that I caught in this pool were taken on a Rooster Tail spinner.

About 200 yards upstream from this waterfall lies another one that is maybe five feet higher than the first. The pool at the base of this set of falls is also excellent holding water, and it receives a healthy dose of the 50,000-plus rainbows that the WRD puts into the creek each season.

As you continue to work your way upstream, you will also find a good-sized pool formed by two boulders that kink the stream into a dog-leg where the water slows and deepens. I was able to take several keeper-sized ‘bows by dead-drifting corn through the current, letting it pass just to the side of the boulders where the trout were holding.

Perhaps the best pool in the entire public stretch of Dicks Creek lies just north of the parking lot about two miles after the pavement ends. Here, the entire flow of the creek makes a 90-degree turn, and the pool formed by the water as it slows down to make its right turn is literally teeming with trout. This pool is made even better by the presence of a downed tree that offers plenty of cover for the rainbows. This is the pool where Danny Warren took trout after trout on crickets. This is the pool where I got a 14-inch rainbow on a black Panther Martin spinner. This is the pool that I will make a bee-line for on my next trip to Dicks. What made fishing this section of Dicks even more satisfying was a conversation that I had with the WRD conservation ranger who stopped to check my fishing license and trout stamp. He asked me how the fishing was, and I told him that I was having a great day, and I mentioned that I was lucky to have timed my trip so close to one of Dicks weekly stockings, since there were so many rainbows in the creek. I was astonished when he told me that the creek had been stocked exactly one week earlier, and that the creek was due for another stocking run that afternoon. If the fishing was that good a solid week after stocking, I would be very interested to see what the creek would look like and how it would fish with a fresh planting of rainbows! (By the way, if you can promise to keep a secret, the magic day for the stocking trucks is Wednesday during this trout season!)

After a quick lunch break, I stashed the spinning rod in my truck and I rigged up my fly-rod for some dry-fly action. Catching fish on subsurface bait is fun, heck catching fish on any bait is fun, but for me there is no greater thrill than casting a tiny hook with some fur and feathers tied to it and watching it drift downstream, bouncing along on the surface of the water until WHAM! — a wild little rainbow explodes through the surface and hammers the bogus insect. Some people might think that the time and effort that I put into outwitting a fish with a brain the size of a peanut is a little extreme and maybe even a little crazy, but I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon.

Upstream of where the creek makes the 90-degree turn, the stream becomes a little wilder and the fishing becomes a little tougher. The water becomes more shallow and the overhanging canopy of limbs becomes  thicker. The stream narrows, the fish become more easily spooked, and you must use stealth and finesse to stalk these wild trout. The trout I took from these pools were smaller than their downstream brethren, but what they lacked in size they made up for in their beautiful colors and the quality of the fight they put up.

One little rainbow that I got to rise to an Adams dry fly fought harder than any of the larger stockers that I pulled in from the lower section of Dicks. He was no more than six or seven inches, but he fought me like his life depended on it, even leaping from the water, and making several strong runs as he shot downstream. After a hard-fought battle, I was able to bring him to my net and as I revived him I was simply amazed at the vibrant color of this wild rainbow. Most of the wild rainbows that I caught in this section fell prey to a tiny size 20 Adams fly, a generic dull-grey creation that doesn’t really imitate any particular insect, but just has a sort of “buggy” profile the trout can’t resist.

Elk-hair caddis flies and light cahills are also highly effective during the summer. Remember: the smaller the stream, the smaller the pattern you should use as well as the smaller the tippet; and try to eliminate drag on the fly by casting upstream and letting it drift back toward you while you take in the slack. Keep your eye on the fly, and be ready to lift the rod tip to set the hook when one of these little rainbows explodes from the bottom of the pool to hammer your fly.

The existence of this sort of trout in the upper reaches of Dicks Creek is further evidence to support my theory that you shouldn’t believe everything that you hear from other anglers. The wild trout fishing gets better and better the farther upstream you go, and the stream meanders away from FS 34-1, which in turn lessens the fishing pressure. Of course, this also means that the stream is tougher to access, holds smaller fish, and is more challenging than it is downstream.

Getting to Dicks Creek is fairly easy. From downtown Dahlonega, take Hwy 60 north out of town (it is also marked as Hwy 19). Continue on Hwy 60/19 until you reach Stone Pile Gap. Here you will follow Hwy 19 as it turns to the right. After about five miles, you will see Waters Creek Road on your left. The intersection is also marked by a brown WMA check-in station sign and a sign for Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church. Once on Waters Creek Road, continue straight until the pavement ends. Dicks Creek will be on your left, and FS 34-1 parallels most of the stream and offers excellent access to the four-plus miles of trout water that is open to the public.

In all, Dicks Creek has something for everyone, no matter how you like to fish. Forget what you have heard, check it out for yourself, and don’t tell too many of your buddies about our little secret.

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