My apologies for the lack of a recent fishing report. I’m in one of those seasons where trying to balance work, family life, and guiding has been crazy lately. There’s been a lot going on with Lake Cumberland as well as the Cumberland river. As a result, I’m really not sure where to start with this report. I could go on and on about how recent extended high temperatures, short term drought, high lake temperatures, and low dissolved oxygen have Lake Cumberland on alert and how these factors are effecting the Cumberland river also. However, that would take too lengthy of an explanation for this report.
Casey connecting with a Cumberland River brownie.
Let’s start with the current status of the Cumberland river. The first thing I want to say is that if you fish the river on your own and don’t know how to read the generation preschedule and project 84 reports, you need to learn how. This is public information and it’s imperative that interpreting this information is second nature. As a guide, I check this every day. The value obtained from interpreting these reports is invaluable. I'll try and write a report on how to glean tons of information from these two pages in the future.
Current water conditions on the river are very low. In fact, water levels have been lower than I’ve seen in 10-11 years. It’s been odd going from record breaking high lake and river levels to extreme low lake and river levels all within the span of almost a year. Drift boats are not having any issues with navigating and fishing the river, but if you have a motor boat and are thinking of heading to the river to fish you’ll need to be vigilant in your plans to avoid the pitfalls of trying to navigate an extremely low river with a vessel that is not equipped to do so.
The COE / TVA have recently been scheduling generation during the middle of the day for 4-5 hours during the week and weekends. In conjunction with generation, there's been various combinations of sluicing (3) and orifice gates in operation. The combination of power producing generation units along with sluice gates has so far been able to meet required water temperatures and dissolved oxygen levels within the river to keep trout and anglers happy. On the weekends, the generation has been even less than during the week. My main point is that water flows are extremely low. If you’re not very familiar with the river, please do your research before heading out. Hire a guide and remove unknowns from the equation.
What’s been working to put fish in the net? I'll tell you first that I’ve guided with nothing larger than 6x fluorocarbon tippet for several weeks now. Occasionally I’ll use 7x. As far as flies are concerned, all of them work as long as they are presented correctly. My clients have had success with standard and beadhead pheasant tails, rainbow warriors, zebra midges, and shop vacs, etc.
As stated earlier, presentation and stealth are key. With the low water, false casting is not recommended. Make one accurate cast, drift it and be ready. Some bigger fish are cruising, so be ready for a monster on each cast. Another key is to find moving water. If you can find any flow, fish it. Even if it’s a tiny bit of water movement, fish it. Use the leaves in the water to guide you where to fish. Often there might be 100-200 foot section of water to obtain a short drift and then it ends. Concentrate on those areas. Clients that have mastered rod tip control have caught plenty of fish everywhere in all types of water conditions. I can show you how to perform this method of fishing that is very successful on the Cumberland, but there is a right way and a wrong way. Also, early starts are an absolute must. By noon the bite slows, but fish can still be had if you know where and how to fish for them.
Kaitie was a quick learner and went from beginner to very proficient in one day!
With rain in the forecast and cooler temperatures on the way, a magical time of year to be fishing the Cumberland is right upon us. I’ve seen many trophy brown trout over the past two weeks in all type of areas from shoals to wooded structure and back eddies. I’ve had two clients recently tangle with fish of a lifetime. One threw a barbless pheasant tail after a 6 minute battle and the other simply used his bulk to bring the rod horizontal and break off. The point is that being alert with every cast pays off, especially when you hook a big boy. With the lower lake levels, I expect that there will be plenty of opportunity to chase trophy fish well into the fall and early winter months.
As colder temperatures approach, most anglers hang up their fly rod when in all actuality it’s the best time of the year to fish.
The rain and colder temps forecast for this week couldn’t be coming at a more needed time. We desperately need cooler temps to aid in stratification and dissolved oxygen content within the lake which directly effects the river. I’m anticipating this fall on being a great time to be on the river.
Thanks again to those of you that have called, e-mailed, texted, and used Facebook messenger to ask questions about fishing conditions. I hope I’ve answered all your questions.
If you want to get out and catch some trout on the Cumberland, call, shoot a text, or e-mail and I’ll get you on the schedule.
Lastly, I wanted to make a request that if you read this report, I would like to ask that you pray for a dear friend of mine (that I will leave unnamed) who is currently going through an intense battle with a health issue and needs all the uplifting he can get. As one of the kindest and compassionate men I know in fly fishing he deserves our prayers.