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Cumberland River Fishing Report 10-20-20.

12 year old Tyler Roberts having some fun on the Cumberland river.

Fall fishing on the Cumberland river has been good. Peak foliage in the region has passed due to recent rains and winds, but the landscape still holds enough color to appreciate. We’ve entered that time of year where mornings are becoming brisk, but temperatures by lunch time are perfect. The Corps of Engineers / TVA have been utilizing one sluice gate and an orifice gate now for several weeks in addition to water release from generators. Anglers seem to either like the sluice or dislike it. I’m a fan of sluicing as it provides critical dissolved oxygen (DO) and cooler water temps. Without proper DO levels, trout quickly become lethargic and survivability plummets. The generation schedule has not been ideal with generation starting at 6:00 in the mornings and staying constant with 2 generators on until midnight. There are places to catch fish, but you must know where. When Lake Cumberland turns over the generation schedule will change.


Fishing has been good. Lots of big fish have been hitting the net. On a trip last week, every fish caught was in the slot limit along with a couple over. Again, the key to having a successful day is to fish moving water. No drift means no fish. There might be a fish here and there caught in frog water, but the majority of fish are going to be caught in driftable water even if it’s micro drift. If the fish tell me that they are looking up, I’ll fish a hopper dropper set-up. Lately fish haven’t been looking up as much as they were a couple of weeks ago. Nymphing has been the most successful method for catching fish.

Clients have been fishing a lot of mini buggers with a dropper and have been having lots of success. If you try this method, be sure to mend regularly and bring the bugger up in the water column and let it fall again. The falling action often produces strikes. I’m always stating that fishing structure (wood) is productive and that still holds true. Hug that structure edge close and hold on. Sure, you might get hung up from time to time and loose a fly here and there, but it’s worth it. I consistently see clients catch their best quality fish from structure edges. With the quality of recent fish being caught, I’ve almost moved exclusively to 4X tippet from my tippet rings on down, then 5x to the dropper. What flies have been working? Mini buggers in olive, black and white, pheasant tails, copper johns, hares’ ears, etc have all been scooping them up.

River colors

Lots of local schools have re-started in person learning. Combined in person school days, cooler temperatures and the start of deer season has caused river traffic to die down. Weekdays are almost void of boats and weekends are seeing many less fishermen. Please be careful travelling to the river. Fog can be bad in the early mornings. There are some bugs popping usually in the afternoons (Sulphurs and caddis), but nothing to get super excited about. Rainbows are getting fat and takes have varied from subtle to vicious. In all, it still a great time to catch fish and be on the river with fantastic weather conditions.

Plenty of bows still hitting the net.

Lastly, I wanted to say goodbye to my good friend Don Williams who passed away last weekend after a day of fly fishing on the Cumberland. Don was not only a special angler and a great guy, but he was a beloved husband, father, and grandfather who never stopped talking about his family. Don rarely missed a take no matter how subtle and had an unimaginable amount of fly-fishing knowledge. He was not a good angler, he was a great fly fisherman. I’m already missing that laugh, sense of humor, and kid-like anticipation of the next fishing trip. I still can’t believe I’ll never get to row him down the river again. Today I’m celebrating his well lived life. I’m not afraid to say I miss and love you Don.

Don Williams, simply the best.

Fish hard!



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