By Bill Vanderford
Picture deep, clear, blue-green waters encircled by majestic mountains near a thriving community with an abundance of things to do, and you have Lake Blue Ridge. This beautiful impoundment is also the best place in Georgia to still target smallmouth bass and walleye.
The lake was created from the waters of the Toccoa River by the construction of the Blue Ridge Dam near the edge of the town of Blue Ridge in 1930. The dam was originally constructed by the Toccoa Electric Power Company and was later purchased by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in 1939 for hydroelectric power production.
Boasting 3,290 acres of surface water at full pool, Lake Blue Ridge is one of the most significant bodies of water in the North Georgia mountains. The Chattahoochee National Forest comprises about 80 percent of the shoreline with the remaining 20 to 25 percent privately owned. More than 90 National Forest campsites, several boat ramps for public access, public swimming and numerous picnic areas are found around the lake.
Lake Blue Ridge Marina offers everything one needs to “get away from it all” and enjoy this picturesque lake. At the marina you can rent a pontoon boat, launch your own boat, gas up at the dock, obtain supplies or browse the showroom to purchase a new boat. They also offer a great fishing guide service. For more information, go to their web site at: http://lakeblueridgemarina.com.
Incorporated in 1886, the city of Blue Ridge is the county seat of Fannin County and was named for the southern part of the Appalachian Mountain Range. Lake Blue Ridge and the Toccoa River have made Blue Ridge the trout fishing capital of Georgia. As well as being surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains and near the southern tip of the Appalachian Trail, the area draws tourists and outdoorsmen from everywhere.
The downtown area has quaint shops and eclectic restaurants along with plenty of activities for residents and tourists. Tracks for the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway bisect the downtown area, with the Scenic Railway itself operating out of the town’s historic 100 year old Depot. The downtown area also serves as host for multiple festivals, and the city is home to one of the few drive-ins in North Georgia, the Swan Drive-In Theatre.
“Give me a rod of the split bamboo, a rainy day and a fly or two, a mountain stream where the eddies play and mists hang low o’er the winding way.” This is an excerpt from a lovely poem written by Mrs. Eunice B. Lamberton about trout fishing that seems to have been taken to heart in pure artistry by Bill Oyster of Blue Ridge.
Following a bad bike racing accident that ended that career, Oyster combined and mastered the arts of fine engraving, rod building and classic fly fishing into an extremely lucrative business in downtown Blue Ridge. His unique business draws clients from all over the world to buy his products and attend his rod building classes.
Each of Oyster’s traditional bamboo rods would have to be considered a masterpiece on its own merit, but the engraved artwork that is uniquely different on the butt plates and ferrules of every rod makes them collector’s items. Dignitaries like former President Jimmy Carter and many others often wait as long as 6 months to receive these prize possessions that may take 100 hours to build and can cost from $2000 to nearly $20,000.
Spending six days in the historic village of Blue Ridge and learning fly rod building from Oyster is like having art classes with Pablo Picasso. You also come away with an Oyster bamboo rod worth nearly $2,000 that you made under his watchful eye, and the whole experience costs less than what the rod is worth. Your finished rod will leave in a bag, inside a tube, with an Oyster label, proudly displaying your own signature under three coats of varnish and ready for fly fishing action.
“As the most prolific teacher of this rod making art alive today,” stated the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, “Bill Oyster draws students from as far away as England and Scotland as well as every corner of the U.S. to our quaint little southern mountain town. We feel honored to have him here in Blue Ridge.”
Another must see place in Blue Ridge is Georgia’s largest apple orchard. Mercier’s Orchards offers more than 50 varieties of apples as well as peaches, nectarines, blueberries, cherries, strawberries, blackberries and more. They also have children’s bakery classes and tractor rides. For more information, visit their website at: www.mercier-orchards.com.
The small town of Blue Ridge has all the amenities that visitors seek and is located close to Lake Blue Ridge that boasts water recreation of all types, including swimming and excellent fishing opportunities. The city of Blue Ridge and the lake have their own unique personality and hospitality, which makes them a favorite North Georgia destination any time of the year!
Bill Vanderford has won numerous awards for his writing and photography, and has been inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as a Legendary Guide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at his web site: www.georgiafishing.com.