What I love about fly fishing is that it is the perfect “Add On” to any trip. Im planning on passing through Kentucky this year, and I have a day available to toss a fly. Being a northern boy, I thought it might be tough to find some cold-water to hunt trout in Kentucky. From my research, that isn’t the case.
Best Places to Fly Fish in Kentucky
1. Cumberland River
Wow, the Cumberland watershed is on fire! The Wolf Creek Dam rehabilitation project is far enough in the past to let the fishery bounce back with a vengeance. It’s great to see how a little bit of discomfort (during renovations) can yield a success.
Read more about the Project at the US Corp of Engineers article here Wolf Creek Rehabilitation. https://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/Missions/Current-Projects/Construction/Wolf-Creek-Dam-Safety-Rehabilitation-Project/
Down river from the dam you can expect a cold-water tailwater fishery.
Where to Fly Fish on the Cumberland
You get the best of both worlds on the Cumberland River. Above and below Wolf Creek Dam is best fished with a boat. Below I’ve detailed two launches with access, below the dam you can wade, but streamer fishing is recommended. On might even think about taking a two handed spey fly rod to really get a stream out into the river.
Below Wolf Creek Dam
I’d recommend checking out the Riverside Inn Motel (A link to read more about Riverside Inn)
Above Wolf Creek Dam in Lake Cumberland
In this impoundment, you really need a boat. Lake Cumberland is a fishing paradise. It’s a little tougher to fly fish because this is a lake, but it can be done. Sinking lines with streams stripped in to imitate bait fish is the best way to hook into game fish.
The best sport fish to target are largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, sunfish and striped bass. Look for bait fish breaking the surface if your targeting stripers on a fly rod. Bring some streamer flies that imitate gizzard shad.
Recommended Flies for above and below Wolf Dam.
- Clousers, size 2 tied heavy for Stripers. Great colors are white and bright green.
- Brown Sculpins and Crayfish patterns below the dam. Size 4 to 6 in brown and reddish colors.
2. Green River
Looking for some smallmouth action on a fly? The Green River is your chance to feel the tug of a true trophy. If you’ve ever caught smallmouth in a river you know what I’m talking about. Combine a 16 inch smallie with a current and you’ll know why I’m excited about this water.
Best fished with a small boat, canoe or kayak the Green river is what I call a stop and go fishing trip. Stop at the likely spots and go when you see some slack water.
Where to Fly Fish on the Green River
Pack a canoe and a lunch and float from Roachville Ford Rd down to Russel take out.
Recommended Flies for the Green River
- Bass Poppers in a size 6. The best colors seem to be yellow and black. Spun deer hair is a little softer and allow smallmouth to hang on a little longer.
- Clousers are a mainstay for smallmouth. Size 4 is a great representation, because smallies tend to be territorial a flies that are white/red/silver are good.
3. Elkhorn Creek
This might be one of the best rivers in the state for tossing flies to smallmouth bass. Wading is easy and it’s all ways easier to cast a fly with your feet firmly planted on the ground.
The Elkhorn is another river that’s best fished from a canoe or even a small pontoon boat. Most of the shore is private so access is limited. To avoid the problems of spotting a vehicle I would recommend a using a livery. Having a ride back to your vehicle is nice after a day on the water.
For the fly fisherman the Elkhorn is a perfect river. Wear saddles to wet wade and be careful some of the bend pools are deep. The best fishing is in those fishy deep water runs that smallmouth favor and just below the rapids.
Where to Fly Fish on Elkhorn Creek
Recommended Flies for Elkhorn Creek
- Wooly Buggers in crayfish colors are a good pick Size 6 to 8.
- For top water action, deer hair poppers
4. Hatchery Creek
Years ago the state of Kentucky commissioned the creation of Hatchery Creek. This is a man-made creek is over a mile long and is designated a catch and release fishery. Starting at the cold-water discharge of the trout hatchery at Wolf Creek Dam.
Being man-made I wondered if people could create a fishery that is better than what mother nature could offer. To really get the inside scoop I spoke to Brad Redmond who worked on the design of the creek and guides fly fishermen.
How to Fish Hatchery Creek
To fly fish Hatchery Creek effectively you must know how to tight line nymph. Folks might think nymphing is easier than dry fly fishing, but drifting a fly underwater adds another dimension to fly fishing. Read this article about tight line nymphing.
Hatchery Creek holds true trophies, the fish are there catching them is the tough part.
Quoting Brad Redmon (Link to Facebook to contact him) “Slow down take your time and make every cast count. “
Where to fish on Hatchery Creek
Okay, I struggled with providing a map. My conscience is telling me I can’t. The absolute best way to fish this water is with Brad Redmon ( LINK to his contact information). He’s going to teach you the secrets of this amazing cold water resource.
Tight line nymphing is his specialty and Brad has intimate knowledge of this water. He was part of building it!
Recommended Flies for Hatchery Creek
- Tiny midges nymphs like a Zebra Midge in size 18-20. Bead head versions will help get the fly down to where the trout are hiding.
- The other nymph Id recommend is a heavy beadhead size 14 caddis nymph.
5. Laurel Creek
Running through the northeastern Kentucky is a “Put-Grow-Take” trout fishery. Access is difficult because this is a gorge and creek side bushwacking is in order. Often though hard work is a reward when working harder than other fishermen. Fly fish the pocket water with a dry dropper setup.
6. Otter Creek
Otter Creek is actively stocked with trout by the state of Kentucky and the Derby City Fly Fishers. This creek is an easy 25 minute drive from Louisville, KY. It is a recreation area and has limited daylight access so you should check the states website for hours.
In the summer smallmouth bass, spotted bass and sunfish are the sport fish. Winter is a great time to explore Otter Creek with a fly rod. The crowds are down, but the fish are still around. It’s rumored that 20 inch rainbows have been stocked here.
7. Kentucky Lake
Jumping back over to a little bit of a warm water fishery. This maybe one of the best still water lakes for a fly fisherman, bass, panfish and those deeper water stripers. A boat is needed, this lake has little shoreside development so a canoe or kayak is perfect.
For the fly fisher, you’re going to be challenged to work hard for the trophy fish. This lake does get significant fishing pressure so the bass learn quick to avoid poor presentations.
This is the perfect place to try something that spin fishermen and baitcasters can’t. Think about those small nymphs and poppers that you can cast but they can?t.
Recommended Flies for Kentucky Lake
- Small Streamers, I’m going to suggest a Black Nose Dace size 10 or a Micky Finn.
8. Floyd’s Fork
Watch the weather with this recommendation. A little bit of rain can make this water muddy and even crest it’s banks. Look for the best fly fishing access in The Parklands which is a series of five parks the North Beckley Paddling Access is a great bet.
The typical Kentucky species are present for the fly fisher: small and largemouth bass along with spotted bass.
Check the regulations when fishing Floyd’s Fork, slot and creel limits are usually in effect. A good link for this information is with the KDFW.
9. Dix River Tailwater
You’ll need to work for the prime water on the Dix River. The best fly fishing is the tailwater below Dix Dam. Downstream from the dam is surrounded by private land so it isn’t possible to get direct access unless you get a property owners permission.
You can access this area via a shallow draft boat that can handle a small motor. Motoring or paddling upstream is a 4-mile trip, so plan for a full day when power generation is minimal.
The rewards are great though, limited access means the small mouth bass leading up to the dam haven’t seen much fishing pressure and as you get closer to the dam tail-waters the rainbow and brown trout show up. This is a full day along adventure, but knowing the state stocks significant numbers of fish and access is limited, this day of fishing could be memorable.
Recommended Fly Fishing Gear for Kentucky
For fly fishing gear to use in Kentucky, I would seriously recommend looking into bringing the TFO DRIFT Fly Rod (link to Amazon) The more that I fish with this fly rod, the more I appreciate it. You can add sections to increase the rod length without re-stringing the fly rod. Amazing! I’ve also written about this rod in my Recommended Fly Rods (link to article).
Official References for Fly Fishing in Kentucky
- The Northern Kentucky Fly Fishers has an awesome website and great members. Check out the clubs website at – https://nkff.org/
- Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources – https://fw.ky.gov/Fish/Pages/Find-a-Place-to-Fish.aspx
- Derby City Fly Fisher, https://derbycityflyfishers.com/
Popular Fly Shops in Kentucky
- Orvis Louisville, KY Store https://stores.orvis.com/us/kentucky/louisville
- Backwaters Outfitters Lexington KY https://www.facebook.com/BackwaterOutfitters/
Are you looking for some great How To Fly Fish Articles? Checkout this list:
- How to Fly Fish for Bluegills – These amazing fish are all over the USA. I like to call them the “Gateway Drug to Fly Fishing”
- How to Fly Fish for Brook Trout – Find the cleanest, coldest, most beautiful streams and I’ll bet Brookes are present.
- How to Nymph Fish – Step by Step details for setting up, presenting and catching trout with nymphs.
- How to Fly Fish for Salmon – Image hooking into a +25 pound King Salmon in a river and your Fly Rod breaks! Seriously this happened to me on my first trip.
- Hatchery Creek. Years ago the state of Kentucky commissioned the creation of Hatchery Creek. ...
- Laurel Creek. Running through the northeastern Kentucky is a “Put-Grow-Take” trout fishery. ...
- Otter Creek. ...
- Kentucky Lake. ...
- Floyd's Fork. ...
- Dix River Tailwater.
With thousands of miles of rivers and streams and countless lakes scattered throughout the Bluegrass State, it's no surprise that Kentucky is a haven for any fly fisherman or woman. The state is filled with excellent places to chase trout and other species, both near big cities and in more remote areas.Where is the fly fishing capital of the United States? ›
Scenic Roscoe in upstate New York—also known as “Trout Town, USA”—is widely acclaimed as the nation's fly-fishing capital. Roscoe was named the country's “Ultimate Fishing Town” by the World Fishing Network in 2011, but it has been a prized fishing destination for more than a century.Which US state has the best fly fishing? ›
- Florida. Florida is hands-down the best saltwater flyfishing destination in the States. ...
- New York. I'm biased. ...
- Montana. You just have to include this state. ...
- Pennsylvania. On this list partly for history's sake. ...
- Michigan. ...
- Oregon. ...
- Alaska. ...
- Kentucky Lake/Lake Barkley: These two are arguably the most popular and the best fishing spots in all of Kentucky. ...
- Cave Run Lake: One of the best places for big Muskellunge (muskie) fishing in Kentucky.
- Lake Cumberland: Bass, walleye, and crappie are plentiful here, but it's probably best known for the stripers.
|SPORT FISH SPECIES||Daily Limit||Possession Limit|
|Brook trout**||Catch and release only (except on Cumberland River)|
1. Kamchatka. If you want to catch huge numbers of native trout on skittering mouse imitations, Kamchatka is the undisputed champion. Kamchatka has the best trout fishing on planet Earth, but only if you enjoy watching giant rainbows destroy your mouse pattern in a hundred different ways.Which state has the biggest trout? ›
Alaska. It is only fitting that the country's largest state is also home to a ridiculous amount of water that is home to an even larger amount of massive rainbow trout and wild steelhead.What river has the most trout per mile? ›
Madison River, Montana & Wyoming
The Madison is perhaps the most famous of them all, with prolific hatches and great fly fishing. Flowing out of its headwaters in Yellowstone National Park, the Madison pushes 6,000 trout per mile.
- Try some new waters. Steve and I often feel pressure to make the most of every moment on a trip. ...
- Avoid the Two Worst Seasons. ...
- Fish the Spawning Season. ...
- Stay Long Enough for a Banner Day. ...
- Hire a Guide for One of the Days. ...
- Build Flexibility into Your Plan.
Steve Huff & Del Brown. Many of Steve Huff's peers have called him “the best guide who's ever lived.” Del Brown caught 513 permit on a fly, and is objectively the best permit fisherman who ever lived.What state has the most miles of trout streams? ›
Pennsylvania is home more than 86,000 miles of rivers, streams, and creeks - second in the United States only to Alaska. That's three-and-a-half trips around the Earth. Thirty trips from Los Angeles to New York.Where are the biggest trout? ›
Seumas Petrie is the world record holder, with a 44-pound, 5-inch brown trout that measured 38.58 inches long with a 34-inch girth. Petrie caught the trout in Twizel, New Zealand's (South Island) Ohau Canal on Oct. 27, 2020.Where are the largest rainbow trout? ›
The all-time length record was caught in 2019 in Twizel Canal in New Zealand. This 34-inch trout offered over a 20-minute fight. You can read more about this record fish at the International Game Fish Association.What is the clearest lake in Kentucky? ›
If you're a fan of dipping your toes in crystal clear waters, start planning a visit to Laurel River Lake in London, Kentucky. This stunning lake is very likely the clearest in the state, so much so that it is almost too beautiful to be real.Where is the best crappie fishing in KY? ›
The big twins of western Kentucky, Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, along with Green River Lake and Taylorsville Lake all receive oodles of fishing pressure for the crappie that swim in their waters.What kind of fish are in Yatesville lake in Kentucky? ›
Yatesville Lake is a eutrophic lake, of high productivity. The lake supports fair to excellent populations of sunfish (redear sunfish and bluegill) good to excellent populations of catfish (flathead catfish and channel catfish), and good populations of largemouth bass and crappie.How many rods can you fish with in Kentucky? ›
There is no limit on the number of fishing poles (or fishing rods) an angler may use at one time.Do I need a trout permit in Ky? ›
Migratory bird hunters must have a Kentucky Migratory Bird/Waterfowl permit in addition to the hunting license. FISHING LICENSES allow the holder to take sport and rough fish statewide by rod and reel, pole or line, or other specified legal methods. Trout fishermen must also have a trout permit.Can you use live goldfish as bait in Kentucky? ›
It is illegal to take these fish species and utilize them for any purpose including as live bait for fishing. No live fish, live minnow, or live bait organisms not native or established in Kentucky shall be bought, sold, possessed, imported, or in any way used or released into Kentucky waters.
It's also year-round in most areas. Normally, the best months to target trout are July to Early September when the waters are at their warmest and many insects are hatching. Because of this, dry fly fishing becomes incredibly effective.Where is the best fishing in the world? ›
- Tusket River, Nova Scotia, Canada. ...
- River Lochy, Queenstown, New Zealand. ...
- River Lanio, Swedish Lapland. ...
- River Moyola, Northern Ireland. ...
- River Wye, Monsal Head, Derbyshire. ...
- River Teifi, Wales. ...
- The one that got away: Rio Grande, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.
- Colorado River, Colorado. Fish in this legendary river average 16-20 inches in length. ...
- Bristol Bay, Alaska. ...
- Big Horn River, Montana. ...
- Puerto Rico. ...
- Baja California, Mexico. ...
- Green River, Utah. ...
- Florida Keys, Florida. ...
- Bayous and Gulf, Louisiana.
Home to giant catfish and stingrays, feeding over 60 million people, and with the largest abundance of freshwater fish in the world, the Mekong River, and its numerous tributaries, brings food, culture, and life to much of Southeast Asia.What river has the most trout? ›
White River (Arkansas/Missouri)
In the words of John Ross in Trout Unlimited's Guide to America's 100 Best Trout Streams, the White “is perhaps the longest and arguably the best series of tailwater trout fisheries in the United States.” The reach below Bull Shoals Dam is especially well-known for big browns.
The Biggest Brown Trout in the World (According to the IGFA)
The biggest brown trout of all time was caught in New Zealand. It was a 42-pound beast caught in the Ohau Canal. The 71-year-old thought the fish was a water rat once it surfaced.
|Orvis Helios 3F||$849||Medium-Fast|
|R.L. Winston Nimbus||$650||Medium|
|G. Loomis NRX Nymph||$785||Very Fast|
Maine supports the most extensive distribution and abundance of wild brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) in their native range within the United States; more than 1,200 lakes and ponds are managed for brook trout, of which approximately 60% are sustained by natural reproduction.How do you make a successful fishing trip? ›
- Know Your Location. ...
- Hire A Fishing Guide. ...
- Pack Good Food (Or have food Plans) ...
- Research The River Conditions And Hatches. ...
- Bring The Right Gear. ...
- Know The Rules & Regulations. ...
- Bring A Camera. ...
- Prepare Your Gear Before You Leave.
|Sepp Fuchs||A casting pool|
|Hywell Morgan in action||Hywell power|
Ranel Kommits of Estonia holds the world record for the longest cast using a one-handed fly rod and regular fly line: 187 feet. Maxine has cast 161 feet, tying Wulff's record. That's like chucking a feather more than half the length of a football field. Casting competitions are only held a few times a year.Does Brad Pitt fly fish? ›
Brad Pitt trained himself to fly-fish for four weeks prior to shooting. Since he was not near any river in Los Angeles, he trained on top of a building. Joseph Gordon-Levitt's film debut. He plays young Norman in the beginning of the film.What depth do trout feed at? ›
With a depth finder, fish your lure/bait between 10 feet and the surface following winter, between 35 and 45 feet deep in mid-spring, between 50 and 65 feet deep in late spring and at the 53 degree thermal layer in the summer.Where is the best bull trout fishing? ›
They are in most river drainages in central and northern Idaho that flow into the Snake and Columbia rivers. They're most common in coldwater rivers, which in summer often means upper-elevation streams. Bull trout need water that's 60 degrees or cooler, and water that's around 54 degrees is ideal habitat for them.What state has the most streams? ›
In the United States, Mississippi spends the most time streaming shows and movies—coming in at five hours and 33 minutes per day.What state has the best brown trout fishing? ›
- Colorado River, Colorado. A sleeper spot for monster browns. Tim Romano. ...
- North Platte River, Wyoming. Hit the town of Casper, Wyo., and be sure to stop by the Ugly Bug. Tim Romano. ...
- Missouri River, Montana. Don't let the crowds dissuade you—there are enough fish to go around.
- Fish At The Right Time. Big trout are big for a reason. ...
- Big Fish Like Big Meals – Fish Streamers. ...
- Fish Where the Big Fish Hang Out. ...
- Focus on Tails of Pools During Heavy Hatches. ...
- Target the Lead Fish. ...
- Wait. ...
- Look for Subtle Rises and Large Shoulders. ...
- Don't Over Look the Skinny Water.
It isn't always brown. Brook, Bull, Dolly Varden, and Lake Trout live farther north and all look very similar. Lake Trout are the biggest.What is considered a big trout? ›
And anything eighteen inches or over is “big.” Trout that have grown to over twenty inches are what we call a Whiskey, and twenty-four-inch wild trout are Namers — following Troutbitten tradition, you have the rights to name that fish.What do you call a big trout? ›
For large trout, he sometimes used the terms sockdollager, jumbo, and buster (perhaps for one that would bust your tackle). Gordon's favorite terms for tiddlers were baby trout, small chaps, and little chaps.
On Sept. 5, Canadian angler Sean Konrad obliterated the IGFA all-tackle world rainbow record with a 48-pound rainbow out of Saskatchewan's Lake Diefenbaker, eclipsing a 2-year-old record held by his twin brother.What is the world record for a bluegill? ›
The current all-tackle bluegill record is held by T. Hudson, who caught a 4-pound 12-ounce fish on April 9, 1950 in Alabama's Ketona Lakes. No other details about the catch are recorded by the IGFA, but subsequent stories say the fish was 15 inches long and had an incredible 18.25-inch girth.What is the biggest rainbow trout caught in the USA? ›
The common rainbow trout certified weight record is 20 pounds. That fish, caught on the Snake River in 2009, measured 34.25 inches. So it might not have been significantly heavier than the 31.25-inch trout released by Jones.Are there trout streams in Kentucky? ›
There are 8.7 miles in two streams that are managed for put-and-take and put-grow-take brown and rainbow trout fisheries at Fort Campbell Military Reservation that lies in both Kentucky and Tennessee. There is also a 3.7-mile section of Otter Creek located on Fort Knox that is managed for brown trout put-grow-take.What lakes in Kentucky have trout? ›
Dale Hollow Lake, Laurel River Lake, Paintsville Lake and Wood Creek Lake are the large lakes in Kentucky with a healthy population of trout.Are there native trout in Kentucky? ›
Brook Trout have been introduced into a few small, high-quality forested streams on the Cumberland Plateau of eastern Kentucky where they persist through limited natural reproduction.What kind of fish are in Otter Creek KY? ›
In the summer, Otter Creek has a nice population of typical Kentucky warm water stream fish including Smallmouth Bass, Spotted Bass, and various sunfish. There is a slot limit on Smallmouth to help develop the fishery.Do I need a trout permit in Ky? ›
Migratory bird hunters must have a Kentucky Migratory Bird/Waterfowl permit in addition to the hunting license. FISHING LICENSES allow the holder to take sport and rough fish statewide by rod and reel, pole or line, or other specified legal methods. Trout fishermen must also have a trout permit.Does Kentucky have rainbow trout? ›
The additional Kentucky waters receive 926,850 rainbow trout each year, starting in April. The brown trout figure is around 35,000, with 30,000 of those being poured into the Cumberland River below Wolf Creek Dam. There are four or five catch-and-release-only brook trout streams that are stocked annually.Where is the best crappie fishing on Kentucky Lake? ›
The top two areas on Kentucky Lake for springtime crappie anglers are the Blood River and Jonathan Creek embayments. Both have oodles of submerged habitat, which can be located with a depthfinder without too much trouble. Fish generally start out on the flats at 10 to 15 feet.
Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery is a cold water facility that produces trout. Approximately one million trout are produced each year. Species include rainbow, brook, brown, and cutthroat trout.Is fishing good in Kentucky? ›
Kentucky is known to have great crappie fishing, and Buckhorn Lake is part of the reason why. While it may fly under the radar at times, the 1,200-acre lake generally produces respectable quantity and size slabs. Bass are also a staple on the lake. Buckhorn is also notable for great muskie fishing.Can you fish in public rivers? ›
Fishing is allowed year-round in most canals and stillwaters, although you should still check the rules for the specific venue you're visiting. If you're fishing in a river, regulations are more strict, and vary with the fish you're targeting. Coarse and game fish have different seasons.Where do you fish in Floyds Fork? ›
- Beckley Creek Park (9)
- Turkey Run Park (7)
- Broad Run Park (6)
- The Strand (6)
- Pope Lick Park (3)
Fishing the Red River requires patience. The middle section offers the best fishing. Clear water and lots of human activity make the smallmouth bass, spotted bass and sunfish jumpy on Red River.Where is Otter Creek Kentucky? ›
The recreation area is located approximately 25 miles southwest of downtown Louisville along the Ohio River in Meade County, Kentucky. It is accessible from Dixie Highway, just 14 miles south of the Gene Snyder Freeway.How do you fish in Otter Creek Reservoir? ›
Try fishing off points on the west side of the reservoir or near the dam and campground. And if you like fishing when the temps are really cool, then wait for the lake to freeze and head here; Otter Creek is regarded as one of the best ice fishing destinations in southern Utah.Are there bass in Otter Creek? ›
About Otter Creek
Otter Creek is a stream near South Burlington. The most popular species caught here are Smallmouth bass, Freshwater drum, and Northern pike.