Cumberland River 09-01-21 Fishing Report
A quality Cumberland River rainbow
Where to start? First off, the fishing on the Cumberland has been good. Weekday generation schedules are currently a little more challenging than weekend schedules, but that’s the norm. It doesn’t stop fishing by any means.
Since my last report, COVID-19 walked into everyone’s lives as an uninvited guest and has refused to leave. No one seems to have been left untouched by COVID. Because of COVID, if you are going to be riding with me from ramp to ramp, I will be asking you to wear a mask, even if you’ve been vaccinated. I’ve been vaccinated, and I will also be wearing a mask when in a vehicle. Once we are on the river, no mask is required.
Currently, the river is calm and experiencing much less traffic since the school year has started. It’s a great time of year to fish during the week as there is little boat traffic. In fact, I’ve guided several times in the last two weeks and only encountered one other boat or no boats several times. Seems like even the weekends are less busy.
Hopper dropper fishing has been very good lately. I tie my own hoppers and they aren’t fancy by any means, but the fish like them and clients have a lot of fun when blow ups happen on top. I would like to add that while most small fish will slash quickly at the hopper, we've had several larger fish that seemed much slower and intentional about the hopper take. You will know if a larger fish takes your hopper. However, nothing gets the collective sigh of disgust of (insert explicative) than missing a big fish on topwater due to a premature hookset. Speaking of hooks, I’m sure that many of you tie your own flies and have had some difficulty in locating specific hooks. I tie a lot of my nymph patterns on Tiemco C200BL size 16 and 18 hooks and those have been difficult to locate for a while. For most of the season I’ve been using Anrex cz mini jig barbless hooks and I’ve been impressed. Give them a shot if you can’t find your other favorite hook out there.
One of the biggest physical changes I’ve seen this year in the river is that the back side of the island at Renox Creek has gone from being a 50’ opening to a 10’ opening due to sediment deposits. The back side of the island used to be a great run that always held quality fish. Now it’s a thin shallow stream that you can’t even get a drift boat through. The power of water never ceases to amaze. There’s also a super large blow down on the righthand side of the river just below Renox Creek that is right in the middle of one of the best runs on the lower river. It’s pretty impressive as the tree fell about 150’ down a cliff and took everything on the cliff with it.
I've been getting some inquiries of the cutthroat trout that were introduced into the river a few weeks ago. Wish I could offer up some information, but I’ve still not caught one and it seems strange.
Now to the generation schedule. As usual, the Corps of Engineers / TVA has kept everyone on their toes this season. Currently, the generation schedule is much friendlier on the weekends as opposed to the weekdays. However, success can still be had during the week if you know how. Early launch times are the norm if you want to stay ahead of the water generation. There is a little more flexibility with the schedule on the weekends, so you can typically sleep in a little bit longer for weekend trips. The closer you fish to the dam the earlier you need to start. Generally, I’ve been meeting clients close to daylight and fishing until mid-afternoon.
Wolf Creek Dam at dawn
It looks like dissolved oxygen levels are dipping within Lake Cumberland, so starting today (09-01-21) two orifice gates (500 cfs) will be opened for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Dissolved oxygen will likely continue to degrade and I suspect a sluice gate will eventually be opened.
What flies are working? The usual nymphs are still highly successful. Pheasant tails probably top the list, copper johns, hare’s ears, etc are all highly successful. Did I mention pheasant tails nymphs?
I can’t stress enough that fly placement is most important. The fly needs to be in the chow line for the fish to take it. Always be looking forward as your going down river and anticipate where your next drift is going to be. I tell clients to hug root wads and blowdowns as close as possible and to fish each drift like there is a 20”er looking at your fly. Sometimes fish will move only 3” for the fly, other times they might move 3’. If you fish hard, you will be successful. I also wanted to mention drift. If you find moving water (drift) you will find fish, even if it’s micro-drift. Fishing dead water is tough on the Cumberland. Fishing shoals this year has been terrific. Every trip this year has seen high numbers of fish picked off shoals. Just because water might be a little thin around shoals don’t discount these areas. Tailouts at the end of shoal areas can also hold larger fish. Shoal hopping is a super effective way to target trout on the Cumberland.
I mentioned hopper dropper set-ups earlier and terrestrial season has been here for a while. If your fishing with an indicator and get a slash from an interested fish, I want to mention again that you need to think about hoppertunities.
The fly-fishing world was buzzing with cicada craziness all year long in every fly-fishing publication, Instagram, Facebook, fishing groups, everywhere you looked. Well, it never really happened on the Cumberland. We always get the annual cicadas that show up and you can hear them on the river now. Usually by mid-morning when the temperatures start to warm, the cicadas start their chorus. We’ve caught a few on cicada patterns on a solid black version with a small white foam wing case for easy spotting that’s tied on a Gamakatsu size 6 B10S stinger hook. Standard elk hair caddis, stimulators, etc can also be successful under the right conditions. Any topwater action is tons of fun.
A huge factor to keep in mind this time of year is hurricanes. We're in hurricane season and we’ve been lucky with nothing heavy impacting our region so far. Hopefully it will stay that way. I think we got lucky with hurricane Ida, while Louisiana got slammed, again.
Today marks the meteorological beginning of fall. Cooler temperatures and great fishing continue to be in the forecast.
In closing, I wanted to say “thank you” to all of you for your support and smiling faces on the river. Please remember to be kind and fish hard.