The state of Kentucky isn’t really known for trout fishing. But they do have the Cumberland River which flows in the lower east section of the state, not far from the Tennessee line. This river has some massive trout along with torpedo sized stripers cruising the depths.
I’m going to talk a little about access to the creek, and at the end of this post there’s a video that shows footage and a few trout caught on the fly this year!
Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)
If you’re unfamiliar with the TVA, they’re known (at least in KY/TN) for constructing large dams on rivers, and then using flow through the dam to generate electricity. The result is a large, deep lake used for recreation, and a tailwater beneath the dam which is not only a food factory, but an excellent fishery.
Fly fisherman who like to wade tailwaters like the Watauga, Holston or Cumberland are then at the mercy of the TVA for prime fishing conditions.
The TVA has a dam on the Cumberland River up near Jamestown. And here’s where things get interesting: Kentucky brought in biologists and other experts, spent over 2 million dollars, and created a man made trout stream out of a run off from the hatchery.
A Man-Made Trout Stream?
Hold up! I know what you’re thinking: “A man-made trout stream? That goes against everything I love about fly fishing for trout!”
I hear you, but trust me, this is legit.
Once the team in Kentucky had designed the stream’s riffles, pools and wetlands they began hauling in tons of rock and creating the stream. Hatchery Creek starts up by the fish hatchery, runs about a mile and then feeds into the Cumberland River.
When the creek was complete, the fish and game department turned on flow from the dam and let it be. Insect life moved in, and trout moved up from the Cumberland river!
Trout are now spawning in Hatchery Creek. So this man-made stream now has wild trout. Quite the paradox, right? And when you hook into one of these beauties, you can see the difference from stocked fish. They’re simply gorgeous.
Hatchery Creek is a man-made stream with wild trout. Quite the paradox.
The Layout of Hatchery Creek
When you turn off the main road towards the Wolf Creek Dam you’ll take the first right and then the first left. In about 300 yards there will be a parking lot on the right for accessing the creek.
The Upper Reach
At the headwaters of the creek is a very short section where they stock trout. This consists of a couple pools and riffles and then hits a spill way that sort of keeps the stocked trout in a single place. The orange highlighted section below is this area. Any type of bait or lure can be used here, and trout can be kept.
The next section begins lower hatchery creek, but I tend to think of it as upper hatchery creek. For me, lower doesn’t start until you hit the red star above, which is the only time a road crosses over the water.
Each green section above marks a wetlands area. These are a network water ways gently cutting through beautiful forest. It’s a place a little more tricky to navigate, but you will find fish.
Riffles and Pools
The blue areas above are typical rock-bottom riffles and pools. Your classic small trout stream feel. In these you can hook into beautiful small trout and large fish that will break tippet. My personal best to date was a nice rainbow in upper hatchery creek that inhaled a size 12 or 14 green drake nymph.
What Are The Fish Like?
They’re gorgeous. You can always tell a wild fish over one dumped in from a fish hatchery. Trout just look better when they live like God created them to live. The creek is supposed to have rainbow, brown and brook trout. I’ve personally only caught rainbow, but I’ve seen what appeared to be a large brook trout jump from the water – brilliant orange underneath its head.
Hatchery Creek trout are also picky. I’ve been totally skunked before. If you’re not using stealth, or matching what’s in the water, or not presenting the right way, they’re not having it. Remember, this is a catch and release fishery that is fished HARD. And I wouldn’t even consider going on the weekends – too many people.
Video – Fly Fishing Hatchery Creek
I decided to shoot some footage of fishing Hatchery Creek in the winter of 2019. I plan to do more in-depth videos showing specific areas of the creek. Click the image below to view the video on YouTube.
Thanks for reading my post about this cool fishery. For those who wished they lived in the mountains, this offers some of the experience not far from home. Thank you Kentucky for making this happen. I wish more states would do the same. It should be a TVA requirement!