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Naturalist Takes Us Fly Fishing On The Cumberland River

This article first appeared in issue 39, and was written by John Cox.

Once again I have become smitten with the idea of fishing the Cumberland River for trout. It started this time with an impromptu trip with my brother one spectacular early-December day.

We got to the river too late in the day and left too early, before the fish were feeding in the evening. Neither of us caught a thing, but watching a beautiful rainbow throw a hook inches from the bank was all it took to lure me back to the river. It was a couple weeks before I was able to get free for another Cumberland trip. I came home with only one fish, but the day seemed magical. Even now I can see the Rock House over my right shoulder as I follow my flawed but utilitarian back cast through the pink post-dawn fog.

I can feel the pull of the tea colored water on my neoprene clad legs and the rush of adrenaline as the green plastic line goes tight after that one last cast to the spot where there should be a fish. At the time I felt as if I had been a part of a once-in-a-lifetime interaction with nature.

However, aside from the Rock House looming behind me, there was nothing natural about my experience at all.

Enacted by Congress, the Flood Control Act of 1938 was the direct cause of the construction of Wolf Creek Dam, and the dam has created an unnatural ecosystem that sustains the life of a fish species foreign to Kentucky.

Our very own Department of Fish and Wildlife is single-handedly propagating this fish. They stock some 200,000-plus fingerlings every year in the Cumberland tailwater alone, not to mention contam-

inating unmolested streams throughout the state with this highly engineered fish.

So when I finally came along draped in synthetic waders, flailing a fiberglass fly rod, laden with plastic line and metal hooks, there was not a bit of "nature" to be seen. It was all a ruse, fabricated by innumerable perpetrators dating back at least 60 years.

I almost feel ashamed for

my contribution to this natural resource exploitation. But then I remember the sun rising over the trees and the fog rolling off the river.

I remember how invigorated I felt chipping ice out of the eyelets of my fly rod so I could make another cast. Most of all I remember the rush I got landing that fish, and I believe that even if the whole thing was completely unnatural it certainly was magical.

This story was posted on 2002-02-15 12:01:01
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