Cumberland River Fishing

cumberland river fishing

Cumberland River Fishing Experience

This year the Hoosier Outdoor Writers conference was my second and it was a blast. I reconnected with a few members I met last year and met a couple of new ones. We shared stories and laughs and a great gathering of, if not like minded at least shared interest and passions. That’s the outdoors and writing. It was with one of these acquaintances that a trip was planned. The Cumberland River fishing experience is a product of that trip. With great lodging with a kitchen to cook some delicious meals, we were set for a few days of great fishing on the Cumberland River. 

Many people in my life wondered about my sanity early on when it came to fishing. The best way I can describe it is to recall a fishing show on cable. A man was fighting a giant blue marlin. In the middle of the fight with the marlin jumping and drag screaming the man yelled at the top of his lungs “everyone out there watching please find a passion.” I recite that story anytime someone asks me why I fish so much. Then I add that fishing has provided me an avenue paved with memories and experiences just like this trip to the Cumberland.

HOW President Bob Sawtelle and I enjoyed a great day on Lake Monroe shortly after the conference. The fishing was slow but the experience was great. We shared stories of our days out west, he in Idaho myself in Alaska. We did have a few things in common. The thing that brought us together on Lake Monroe was fishing and the HOW conference. Since I left Alaska to live in the lower 48 I’ve found that time is precious. Making time to meet new people can be a challenge but is important. When Bob texted me and asked if I was interested in a trip to fish the Cumberland River. Without hesitation, I accepted.

cumberland river fishing
Preparing for a day of fishing on the cumberland river. Ken McBroom

I researched the section of the river we were headed. I gathered up my poles and reels and met Bob at his park in Corydon. It felt great finally getting together with a group of anglers and just fishing and hanging out. This was something I did in Alaska. I even had a group of old-timers that I fly fished with every summer. They came from Minnesota, Massachusetts, and South Dakota, and other parts unknown. We all had fun creating memories and experiencing our passion for fishing and that is what the trip to the Cumberland was. You can read about one of those anglers from Alaska  The Lifelong Angler. It ties in well to this story and I didn’t realize it until I read it again myself. I wrote the story around 2005.

The mood was set from the start when Dean Shadley showed up with his home-built custom boat. It was a small boat and obviously meant for fly fishing. It brought back memories of a canoe I fly fished from in Alaska. Those memories of fly fishing with my friends. It left me wishing I would have had time to find all my fly fishing gear. My fly gear has been packed away for several years. The boat was a work of art really and I wanted one myself.

I talked with Dean about how he built it and I knew from looking at that boat that these guys were passionate anglers. I knew it was going to be a good trip. In the end, I was glad to be in Bob’s flats boat because of the size of the river. Dean made it upriver to some skinnier water where they could wade fish and caught a few trout and had a great day. They managed some trout and Bob and I enjoyed the stories and photos that evening at the cabin. 

cumberland river fishing for smallmouth bass
Bob Sawtelle with a nice Cumberland river smallmouth bass. Ken Mcbroom

Everyone caught fish on our trip to the Cumberland River. However, there was far more to the experience than the fish we caught. The cabin we stayed in was awesome. It was right on the river and deserves an article all its own. The road to the cabin was a creek bed meandering through the woods and the rustic decor might just help persuade your wife to take a trip to the Cumberland River, I know mine wants to go.

There was a momma Woodie nervously directing her two ducklings down the river bank where giant stripers lurked beneath. This could be why she only had two ducklings to tend to. There was the King Fishers, my favorite bird, that swooped down to catch minnows. There was one that followed alongside the boat at 5 or 10 MPH. He followed far enough that I mentioned to Bob it must be playing with us. There was the cormorant rookery that marked a good stretch of river where we had caught some fish.

There was one experience that I wish we all could have enjoyed. When two stripers rose to engulf my swimbait. One of them got it and hooked solidly. The second striper was bigger and trying to eat the swimbait off the side of the other’s mouth. This memory was only a few seconds in time. It was one of those that moves in slow motion. The scene forever etched in my mind for as long as I live. That striper was successfully landed. It was the first striper or rockfish since I was a teenager.

Cumberland River Rainbow Trout
Bob Sawtelle with a trophy Cumberland River Rainbow Trout

There was one thing I wanted to see while on the Cumberland and it finally happened. When big Stripers feed on the surface it’s like an explosion. This activity is a memory, an experience, from those days of old when I chased Rockfish in Tennessee. I recall those explosions that signaled to us that it was going to be worth the trouble we were in for skipping class. It was the middle of the day and it only lasted a few seconds, but it was awesome. A school of big Stripers hammered some skipjack a couple of hundred yards upriver. The sound was unmistakable and the adrenaline unstoppable. Bob asked me sometime during our trip why I joined HOW and I just looked at him and said. “For the experience Bob. Thanks.”

NOTE: I want to thank Bob for his impeccable boat control and his superb netmanship. I couldn’t have done it without you.

About Ken McBroom 215 Articles
Ken McBroom is an accomplished outdoor writer and photographer. Growing up in Lynchburg Tennessee allowed him many opportunities afield as a boy and young man. Later in life, after Desert Storm, Ken’s wanderlust took him to Alaska to live and work and experience the last frontier. Married now with two beautiful children, Ken now calls Kentucky home where he continues to communicate our American outdoor traditions and the lifestyle it offers.

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