Photo: Pictured above, Rainbow City Fly Fishing Club members Jim Dawson (left) and Terry Lester (right) release rainbow trout into Black Creek at Noccalula Falls.
By Katie Bohannon, Staff Writer
In November 2019, the Rainbow City Fly Fishing Club stocked 1,000 rainbow trout into Black Creek at Noccalula Falls. On the chilly morning of Feb. 17, the club returned to the falls to release 850 more fish into Black Creek, promoting a greater initiative to boost tourism and better the Gadsden community.
While locals once traveled to northern Georgia, Tennessee or North Carolina to fish, Gadsden now provides the same opportunities with the comforts of home. Likewise, the trout stocked at Black Creek attract residents outside of Etowah County to Gadsden, drawing avid fishermen and women from neighboring states to the Falls. An influx of tourists affects local hotels, shops and restaurants, establishing Gadsden as a travel destination and enlightening individuals to the cultural, historic and recreational activities that Etowah County offers.
Rainbow City Auction and Fly Fishing Shop owner and RBC Fly Fishing Club member Frank Roden attested to the stocking’s success, recalling a man from Hattiesburg, Miss. who traveled to Gadsden to fish for a few days. He later returned to Gadsden with his wife and four children to stay for a week.
“That’s amazing that someone would come to focus on this for a week,” said Roden.
Etowah County Tourism Board Executive Director Hugh Stump attended the trout stocking and encourages the RBC Fly Fishing Club’s efforts to support local businesses. The Etowah County Tourism Board works to develop economic prosperity through the promotion of tourism, which coincides with the mission of RBC Fly Fishing Club’s trout stocking: to attract visitors to the community.
“You need to have a city trout fishing permit which you can get through the campground office [to fish at Black Creek],” said Stump. “[The campground office] has sold several hundred of those. We are getting visitors from several states who are staying in town for one or two or three (in some cases) days to fish. They are spending money on lodging, hotels, restaurants.”
Roden commended Stump’s involvement with the RBC Fly Fishing Club and attested to his participation in the event. Stump secures permits for the trout stocking and promotes the new opportunities Black Creek’s trout create for local tourism.
“The guys in tourism do more than sit and answer phone calls,” said Roden. “They’re actually helping make things happen.”
Gadsden’s Parks & Recreation Department Director Jen Weathington represented the department at the trout release. The Department partners with the RBC Fly Fishing Club and Greater Gadsden Area Tourism to ensure that all regulations and rules are followed for Gadsden and Black Creek, establishing that the environment is protected during the stocking process.
“We’ve been planning [for the trout stocking] probably a little over a year,” said Weathington. “[Planning consisted of] making sure we can do the permits, do our diligence to the state of Alabama, fishery and conservation, while getting the trout stocked in safely.”
The RBC Fly Fishing Club began years ago when Roden decided to offer fly fishing supplies, guides and instructions in his shop. Member Jim Dawson, who began fly fishing as a child with his father, serves on the committee that advises State Representative and RBC Fly Fishing Club member Craig Lipscomb and stocks the trout into Black Creek, recalls joking that the only two people he knew in Gadsden that fly fished were himself and Roden. After creating a sign-up sheet that Roden anticipated would feature 25 names, but ended up with 165 interested people, the RBC Fly Fishing Club was born.
Club members recognize Gadsden’s value and want others to witness the natural beauty, vast outdoor activities, events and people that transform Etowah County from merely a place to live into unique location worth visiting time and time again. Through RBC Fly Fishing Club’s partnership with the Parks & Rec Department and Greater Gadsden Area Tourism, the club proves that diligence and determination turn ideas into realities, and solidifies the principle that when people come together, unified with a shared vision, prosperity is possible.
A state of Alabama fishing license and City of Gadsden trout permit are required to fish for trout in Black Creek within the park boundary. State of Alabama fishing licenses may be purchased online or locally at Academy Sports and Outdoors and the Coosa Landing Bait Shop. Trout permits are available for purchase at Noccalula Falls Campground office for $9 per day or $11 for a three-day consecutive pass. A seasonal permit (which expires June 1 2020) is $30. Though catch-and-release was mandatory until Feb. 1, due to warmer water temperatures in May and June, fly fishermen and women are encouraged to enjoy the trout caught at home.
For more information, visit www.flyfishgadsdenal.com.