Kentucky is an amazing state. If you’re an outdoorsy person we have something for you. If you’re a bourbon person this is your bucket list destination. There are more barrels of the stuff here than there are people. Actually I read that on a T-shirt so it’s probably true but don’t hold me to it. If you like to fish we have more flowing water than any state in the continental US. That’s also probably on a T-shirt somewhere. If you’re a hunter we have just about everything that can’t kill you for your hunting pleasure. There are a few bears and bears most certainly can kill you, but unless you’re an idiot they pretty much keep to themselves. I’d be willing to bet that deer kill more people than any animal in Kentucky simply from folks hitting them with their cars…or driving off of a cliff trying to avoid them. Stay on the road and hit the deer. Hungry Kentuckians will thank you for the fresh road kill. Your insurance company will be glad you didn’t ditch the car.
One thing we don’t have in Kentucky is predictable weather. I often tell people to prepare for at least three seasons when they book a trip. It’ll be cold in the morning even in the heat of summer. It’ll be hot as blue blazes in the middle of the day. It’ll probably come a monsoon in the evening when the humidity in the air reaches the, “OK I’ve had enough” level with atmosphere. We’ve had a lot of that lately.
If any of you were vacationing in the Lake Cumberland area over the past week you enjoyed almost nine inches of rain. That’s enough water to solve California’s problems and we have nowhere to put it. Fortunately for us we’ve been dry for a few weeks so we’re not totally hosed by the latest deluge. What we have dealt with lately is chocolate milk. Not that delicious mix your mom made for you from that giant drum with the rabbit on it, the kind that kills your fishing trip after two inches of rain fell the night before your trip. We’ve had a lot of that recently and we’re ready for the normal summer weather pattern if we ever get it.
We were presented with this problem last weekend when one of our favorite groups came into Kentucky. They drove 10 hours just to fish the Cumberland. I complain about driving 10 hours just to see the ocean. These guys drive 10 hours and are guaranteed not to see one bikini….except that one time they paid me to put one on but that’s neither here nor there. What can I say…I’ll do anything for a tip.
The day they arrived they were greeted with a river that looked like something that costs $8 at Starbucks. We were fishing two days so we played it safe and put in at the dam on day one and made a short float to Helm’s Landing. We caught fish but they were all pretty small. My 83 year old buddy Dave lost a pig early in the day but that was about all we had for excitement. It was rainy, windy, and conditions were not good. The next day we had perfect water and perfect weather. We caught fish like it was our job…which it was.
Conditions change on a daily basis here. If it rains the night before your trip you need to get close to the dam and above the runoff from the many creeks that feed into the Cumberland. It’s not our favorite part of the river because it’s more crowded for obvious reasons but we make these decisions to make sure you catch fish. Nobody wants to spend the day looking at a double mocha half caff soy latte.
The good thing about the Cumby is that it typically clears out in a day. We had that in our favor on the next day. My advise to all of you reading this is to plan a couple of days when you make the trip. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket because this river is basically your crazy ex girlfriend. She’s your best friend one day, making you sandwiches and cleaning your apartment, then next day she hates you, want’s you out of her life, and cancelled your Netflix account. She’s nuts but we still love her. She’ll be back. She always comes back.
Fly selection hasn’t been tough when the water is right. Prince nymphs and zebra midges are working if you’re a nympher. Hare’s ears (natural), and pheasant tails are also taking some fish. Caddis are still popping off here and there but I wouldn’t go out looking for a dry fly day right now. Terrestrials are probably just around the corner so don’t forget to pack some hoppers, flying ants, and beetles. If you see a fish chomping near the bank you better think about what’s falling off of the tree above it and not what’s hatching from the river. Streamers are still working but not as well as earlier in the spring. Honestly I haven’t even tried them in the past few days simply because nymph fishing has been working so well. Streamer Troy has been catching them of course. It’s what he does. Someone approached him at the Lake Cumberland Country Store recently and asked him, “Are you Streamer Troy?”. I can’t begin to tell you how happy I was to see him identified by his internet nickname. Keep it up folks. I’m thinking we need to make some hats and shirts. Who’s with me?
On a side note I did a float with Tim Farmer recently to film another segment of Kentucky Afield. It should air next week. I hope you can tune in. At the end of our trip Tim learned that his wife Nicki was in a bad car accident. I rowed him off the river as fast as I could so that he could get to the hospital. For all the fans of Kentucky Afield and Tim Farmer’s Country Kitchen I know you’ve seen Nicki on the TV. I’m happy to report that she’s doing well after her surgery and will hopefully be back to her old self in a few weeks. She suffered many broken bones but she will heal. Please keep her and the family in your thoughts and prayers.
As always I want to thank you for reading and sharing this. We’re glad you’re fishing. If you’re new to this hopefully you’ll be in one of our boats one of these days to see what the fuss is all about.
Tight lines my friends,