Mountaintown, even in the rain

Windshield wipers struggled feebly against a pounding February rain. It was long after sunrise, but Ed McCoy decided headlights were in order to pierce the fog that shrouded Fort Mountain.

“I watched ‘A River Runs Through It’ last night to get in the mood,” said Ed’s son, Michael. “But I don’t think it ever rained in that movie.”

Michael has a very dry sense of humor, even on a very wet day.

The three of us were en route to Mountaintown Trout between Chatsworth and Ellijay, Ga. Friend, guide and fellow outdoor writer Joe DiPietro wanted to show off what he calls one of the premier private trophy trout streams in North Georgia.

From a weather standpoint, it seemed we couldn’t have picked a worse day than Sunday. Schedules, however, are tough to coordinate, so we all sucked it up, donned our best waders and rain gear and set out to see what Mountaintown is all about.

This fly-fishing excursion was a virgin voyage for Michael, who had never touched a fly rod. DiPietro said that, as a guide, he’s used to that. He spent a few minutes with Michael in an open pasture learning to roll cast, and then they waded into Mountaintown Creek.

Guide Joe DiPietro puts the net beneath a big rainbow trout. Of course the intensively managed stream is strictly catch & release. (Photo: Richard Simms)

These two miles of stream are reserved for a select few. Mountaintown allows only five members each year, plus the owner and DiPietro as guide and manager. Even each member is allowed only a limited number of fishing days per year.

“The biggest difference [at Mountaintown] is that these fish don’t see pressure,” DiPietro said. “They don’t see fishermen 200 days a year like some of the other trophy streams do. We may fish it 60 or 70 days year. What that means, of course, is these fish are more willing to eat.”

The owner, in an effort to protect a 640-acre family farm from developers, created what he describes as “an exclusive experience within a low-volume, high-quality, trophy-managed fishery.” Rainbow trout up to 8 pounds have been caught, but fish between 2 and 4 pounds are the norm.

It didn’t take very long before Michael McCoy was attached to one. Michael is a reserved young man, but his smile spoke volumes.

DiPietro said that there are no more 2012 memberships available but that folks can be put on a waiting list.

Michael McCoy (Photo: Richard Simms)

Although it’s “private,” it doesn’t mean you can’t fish it. DiPietro reserves his allotted number of Mountaintown fishing days for individual guide trips. He says his clientele varies from newcomers to experienced fly-fishermen. Regardless, he provides all the equipment you need.

“Unless somebody tells me they’re bringing their own gear then I assume I need to provide everything for everybody,” DiPietro said. “I’ll have everything from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet … waders, rods, reels, flies, tippets, the works. You really just have to show up in weather-appropriate gear, and I’ll outfit you in everything you need to fish.”

For $350 per person, you’ll experience trout fishing you won’t find many other places.

If you are a fly-fishing purist who prefers working all day to outwit a 7-inch wild trout … Mountaintown is not for you.

If you want the opportunity to learn or refine your fly-fishing skills from a pro and want to stand an excellent chance of catching a trout of a lifetime while you’re doing it, Mountaintown is definitely for you.

DiPietro says if you book a full day you’ll get “a full day.”

“If you want to get here at sunrise and fish until sunset, I’ll be right there with you the whole time and do it with a smile,” he said … with a smile.

Mountaintown isn’t the only place DiPietro guides, however. The mountains around Ellijay are full of trout water, the most well-known of which is the Toccoa River.

The Toccoa is fed by the pristine waters of Blue Ridge Lake. A couple of years ago, the trout fishery took a nosedive as engineers had to do major reconstruction work on Blue Ridge Dam, raising the water temperatures in the Toccoa beyond the threshold most trout could survive. But the work was completed last year, and the Toccoa trout fishery is coming back strong.

“The big thing fishermen need to know is last fall, the Georgia DNR [Department of Natural Resources] stocked 42,000 trout over 14 miles of tail water. The majority were fingerlings, 300 of those were brood stock [especially large fish], but they stocked about 20,000 catchable-size trout,” DiPietro said. “People are catching more fish. They’re spread out beyond the stocking points throughout the river pretty well. It’s really made a resounding bounce back.”

With a few trout under his belt and a few flies still hanging in the trees along Mountaintown Creek, Michael, who is admittedly not a hardcore angler, said he was ready for more.

“It definitely gave me a greater appreciation and a desire to get out, practice and do some more. I really like the trout environment and culture,” he said.

Fog still shrouded Fort Mountain as we made our way back toward Chattanooga, but overhead bits of blue sky began to peak through. We were tired and didn’t talk much, but I’m certain we were all wondering what Mountaintown would look like in the sunshine.

For more information, email Joe DiPietro at fannintrout@gmail.com or call 706-455-5660.

Richard Simms is a contributing writer, focusing on outdoor sports.