Tight Line Dreaming

In Nashville, Tenn., last night and stopped by Fly South www.flysouth.net on 19th Ave. South. It’s a good, full service fly shop.

They were hosting Justin Hartman, outfitter, guide and owner of Tight Line Adventures www.tightlinemontana.com out of Dillon, Mont., where he said they regularly fish the Big Hole, Beaverhead, Jefferson, Madison and Ruby rivers along with a handful of spring creeks.

Busiest times: Memorial Day to Labor Day. Best times: Depends. But can start as early as March and go as late as mid November.

No, I didn’t book trip. Yes, I wanted to.

Delated Harvest Trout: East Fork Indian Creek

The East and West forks of Indian Creek wind their way through the remote woodlands of Menifee County, Ky., before joining at a pretty spot to form the main stem of Indian Creek, which continues south to its confluence with the Red River.

This area will be of interest to trout fishermen because the East Fork of Indian Creek is managed as one of Kentucky’s 13  delayed harvest trout streams.

The creek is relatively small (photo at right is the pool below the low water bridge) and the banks brushy. But the East Fork cuts an impressive path through the woods and is marked with several deep, trout holding holes. There’s also plenty of woody cover. And while trout are a cold water species and don’t school like some fish they tend to gravitate toward deeper holes during the winter. Trout typically won’t aggressively chase a fly when the weather – and water – are cold but will battle aggressively when hooked.

I fished the East Fork one sunny afternoon in December when the air temperature barely hit 50 following a night when the temperature had dropped to the mid 20s.

I started where the East and West forks join to form the main stem and worked my way upstream, leapfrogging from pool to pool to the low-water concrete bridge, a distance of about three miles.

I as using an 8-foot 4-weight fly rod  with a 7-½ foot tapered leader/5x tippet and a No. 16 weighted gold flecked no name (hand tied) nymph. It was more than enough tackle as most fishing was done at close range using a roll cast or simply dropping the fly into seam water and where it could  be floated through a pool. A 5-foot ultralight spinning rig would have been an equally effective tool.

At five stops I hook six fish and landed four – all rainbow trout, each in the 10 to 12 inch range. The fish in the photo was typical. The creek had been stocked in late fall so these hatchery trout had somewhat acclimated to their surroundings. They were brightly colored and although they struck lightly each fought with spirit. Two came from the pool below the low-water bridge.

Access to East Fork of Indian Creek is via forest service road 9B, which roughly follows the stream.

During the Kentucky’s delayed harvest trout season anglers are restricted to artificial lures and flies. All trout must be returned to the stream.

The delayed harvest season continues through March 31 except at Swift Camp Creek, where the artificial only; catch-and-release season runs through May. 31.

GETTING THERE: East Fork of Indian Creek is located within the Daniel Boone National Forest and is flanked by forest service road 9B. Take the Bert Combs Mountain Parkway to exit 33 (this is also the exit for Natural Bridge State Park). From exit 33, take highway 11/15 north to route 77. Turn right (East) onto road 77. This is a narrow, winding road that passes through the Nada Tunnel. Proceed on road 77 to where it intersects road 23 at the Steel Bridge. Turn left (north) onto 23, which follows the Red River. Proceed on 23 to forest service road 9. Turn right (north) onto 9. Travel about 2 miles to where the road splits to 9A and 9B. Bear right onto 9B.This follows the East Fork of Indian Creek. The delayed harvest trout section of the East Fork extends for about 5 miles upstream from the 9A/9B split. FSR 9B is a well-maintained, two-wheel-drive accessible graveled road. A primitive campground is located off 9B. This is a fairly remote area with spotty cell service.

I lodged at Natural Bridge State Park, which is located about two miles from Combs Parkway exit 33 and is about 30 minutes from East Fork of Indian Creek. The Natural Bridge SP campground is closed until April but the lodge and restaurant are open. The delayed harvest section of the Middle Fork of the Red River also flows through the state park.

Go to http://parks.ky.gov/parks/resortparks/natural-bridge/default.aspx for details or contact the park office at 1-800-325-1710. For more information about Kentucky’s delayed harvest trout program go to www.fw.ky.gov.

Rooming with Mary and Frank

The Doe River Inn Bed & Breakfast www.doeriverinn.com is as quaint as it sounds.

Clean. Simple, Comfortable, Welcoming. Homey without being hokey. You’ll find it at 217 Academy Street about a half block off Broad in Elizabethton, Tenn.

If you’re traveling this way stop by. Mary and Frank will be glad to see you.

Don’t forget your fly rod. The Watauga River is about 5 minutes away and the South Holston is less than 30 miles. Both are TVA tailwaters and loaded with trout.

Or you can walk out the back door. The Doe River (more of a creek, actually) really does flow through the back yard.

On the Norfork

From the Bill Ackerman walk-in access on River Ridge Road just off Highway 5, fishermen were scattered upstream and down river. I expected no less. Aside from the humid weather, conditions were nearly ideal. There is little wind and had been no generation since the previous afternoon.

From the power generating Norfork Dam to where it feeds the mighty White, the Norfork River winds across only 4 1/2 rugged miles of northwestern Arkansas. But it’s loaded with trout and when the water is low it affords a fly fishing paradise.

A long riffle that cuts across the river then pulls sharply toward the opposite bank upstream from the access but just downstream from the catch-and-release area was vacant. The fisherman nearest to it was working a flat stretch of water below the tail out pool. His casting was flawless but strikes were few and far between. I assumed he’d been working his way downstream and had already fished this strip of lively water. I decided to fish it anyway.

I moved through knee-deep water toward the head of the riffle and into a little eddy formed by a boulder about the size of an overnight suitcase. I rifled through the handful of flies I’d purchased that morning from Bob Cooke at the Blue Ribbon Fly Shop www.blueribbonflyshop.com in nearby Mountain Home: a couple of bead head Copper Johns about the size of my pinky fingernail, three mutant looking wooly buggers the color of over fertilized grass, and two No. 16 red ass nymphs, a local pattern. For no specific reason I selected a badly frayed No. 12 bead head crackle back from my dry patch, added about two feet of 5x tippet, and tied on the fly.

I had a strike on the first cast – not always a good sign but this time it was. I lost the fish at the net but netted the next one, a stocking size rainbow but with the color and spunk of a fish that had spent some time in the river. A couple more across and down drifts and the fly stopped then bolted downstream, attached to a fish with authority and where, in the pulsing current, it had every advantage and quickly regaining its freedom.

I was using an Orvis www.orvis.com 8-6, 5-weight Superfine rod, full flex and a delight to cast but it is a much softer rod than I am used to and after more time than my patience could tolerate I tried to horse the fish over the lip of my outstretched net. The hook lost its grip and I lost a heavy, handsome fish. It was the kind of dumb and frustrating mistake prone to producing foul language and the resurfacing of other ill habits. For an instant the fish wallowed in the shallow, calm water provided by the eddy, its flanks the color of a cheap Merlot, then quickly regained its equilibrium and darted downstream toward the safety of the pool.

Twenty inches. Maybe 22.