Spring Break doesn’t mean the same thing it meant to me 15 years ago. In my college days it meant exactly what you think it meant. A beach, waaaay too many people sharing a hotel room, and spending the least amount of cash possible for the most possible rewards. I made it to the Bahamas for $200 and Jamaica for $500 back in the day. I’m pretty proud of that. I’m sad to say I didn’t fish on either of those trips. I was young and very very stupid. Now that I’m older and slightly less stupid I spend my spring breaks much more wisely. It’s possible this is because I have a wife and two daughters and a 38 year old bald guy doesn’t quite fit in at Daytona Beach with his Toyota Sienna mini van and back hair.
So we spent our spring break in the only place middle class Americans living in the southeastern United States would spend it. Gatlinburg Tennessee. It’s very corny, very touristy, and very outdated, but if you get out of the main drag it’s quite beautiful. So that’s where we were. Our rental cabin was nestled quite precariously on the Little Pigeon river where I caught zero fish. I probably could have tried harder but we had a hot tub and I really like hot tubs. When I did fish I was quickly reminded that I was a guide and I do much better when I’m just watching someone else fish instead of fishing myself. The highlight of my fishing over the vacation was watching my six year old daughter Rachel make some very impressive casts at the kids trout park. She said it was her favorite part of the trip and she didn’t land a fish. I think she gets it. It’s not about the catch. It’s the trip.
When we made our way back to Lexington it was go time for the Cumberland. I had one free day to get myself together and get back to business on the river. Luckily a weird generation schedule was on my side and we couldn’t start fishing until late morning. As expected the fishing didn’t get good until the water dropped out. Late afternoon was almost magical. At one point I had two fishermen with 20″ rainbows on at the same time. It was chaos. But it was really really good chaos. I have guided on this river for well over a decade and I’ve never had a double with 20 inchers on both rods. At least I don’t remember it. I’m quite forgetful. My wife can attest to that, but I rarely forget a fishing trip. This one will go down in my memory forever as one of the best afternoons I have experienced. Sunday was more of the same. A very slow morning with a blistering evening. It’s obvious that low water is key to catching fish on this river as it always has been. At least on a fly rod. What’s astonishing is the quality of fish that we’re seeing. How did these things grow this much? Who cares? Want more good news? They just dumped several thousand more fish into the river this week.
The fish are definitely concentrated in specific places right now. Most likely because we’ve had high water all winter and it takes them a while to spread out and get into their normal holding spots. Takes are slow…very slow. With the cold winter we’re seeing water temps in the low 40′s. That’s right….40′s!!! Remember when you were forking out Vegas hotel rates for your heating bill last January? Yeah Lake Cumberland actually froze over in some places. That never happens. As a result that big lake is freakin’ cold. I went in on Sunday without waders and almost lost my toes launching the boat. The fish are lethargic to say the least. I’m pretty sure they were thankful for us taking them out of the water into the 65 degree air to take their picture.
Fly selection….hmmm…what works on the Cumberland? Before you stop reading and tie more princes I might advise you to try a few other things. The old stand by prince was pretty pathetic this past weekend. I’m not sure why and I almost sold my boat as a result. Luckily I had a few other tricks in my bag. The red copper john was great since the fish still think it’s winter and this is one of my favorite winter patterns. We also tagged a few on the rainbow warrior. You might also make note that stoneflies are hatching. Not the big ones…the little guys. They’re black and about a size 12. If you see a big splashy rise during a midge hatch that’s what they’re eating.
Our standard rig this weekend was a #14 red bead head copper john with a #18 zebra midge dropped below. Olive or black worked well for the midge. Wade fishermen reported good catches on soft hackles swinging in the current. Streamer fishing seems to be slow with the cold temps but that should improve soon. Dry fly fishing isn’t really happening right now unless you’re in Tennessee. If you are…call Rocky. www.rockytopanglers.com Make sure you use that web address. It seems like some other folks have tried to buy similar domain names to get in on our friend’s business. Not cool…
White bass are beginning their spring runs as well so make sure to get out and check your local head waters for these hard fighting fish. You’ll need a good supply of white wooly buggers and Clousers if you’re going.
I was just in The Lexington Angler today and they have TONS of cool new stuff for the spring season. Make some time to get in there and see what they have to offer. They have everything you need and a few things you don’t but want anyway.
As always I want to thank you all for checking in, for saying hello on the river, and for supporting this sport. Keep your lines tight and your hands slimy.