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The Hard Part is Getting There

by Jim Stuard

When Paul, a co-worker of my wife, asked me to go fly-fishing with him, I was a little hesitant. Iím at that age now when I can take my fishing seriously, and who I go fishing with even more so. At least thatís what the old fishermen say. I can be competitive, but itís not in my nature.  I donít like to fish with score keepers. Iíd only this potential fishing partner a few times, and I wasnít sure heíd fit the bill. He seemed like a nice enough guy, but people can change drastically when theyíre not at work and they donít have their wives looking over their shoulders.

Trepidation aside, this was also an opportunity to go scout out some new water. Iíd gotten a day pass from my regular job as a stay-at-home dad and was determined to make the best of it. Paul had made all the arrangements, securing the guide and picking the stream.  Score one in Paul's favor, thereís nothing like hooking up with an organized fishing buddy!

Paul had secured the services of Mr. Bob Bell; a seasoned guide, through Delamere & Hopkins in Cincinnati. Paul and Bob decided weíd go to Dix Creek, a tail water stream  below Lake Herrington. Dix is also a tributary of the Kentucky River and that's how we would access it. There's about a mile of fishable trout water on Dix.  To fish it right one needs the right gear.  That includes a boat.  A flat-bottomed jon boat with a jet motor was our guideís vessel of choice. We heard tell, and eventually confirmed, that hardier folk can get there in canoes or kayaks, but Iím ten years past doing stuff like that. Did I mention I take care of two kids?  Bob's jon boat made the trip enjoyable.

My usual in-depth research (gossiping with opinionated fishermen) determined that Dix creek is one of those "mixed opinion" streams. There are some tales of big trout coming out of the Dix, but the biggest gripe anybody voiced with was that it was darned hard to get to. Well, after making the trek, I'll confirm it really is hard to get to. Driving from Cincinnati, it took Paul and I an hour-and-a-half to get to the boat ramp on the Kentucky River. For those hardcore orienteering types that's near Lock #7.  From there you motor downstream for a couple of miles to High Bridge.  High Bridge is a railroad trestle.  Our guide told tales of the record setting trestle heights, and of bridge jumpers.

You can always tell an old river. At least in geologic time, the old ones start meandering like a ĎSí curved, mountain road. The Kentucky river attests itís age with a panoply of 150 foot and higher cliff banks, cut by the river over eons. My flatland fishing experience hadnít prepared me for how truly pretty it was. The confluence of the Kentucky river and Dix creek is subtle, so you have to keep a lookout for it. Going down river, itís on river-right.

From the confluence with the Kentucky River, the trip up Dix Creek took about 20 minutes at speed. The need for the jet motor was demonstrated when we navigated the rapids and very shallow water of the first riffle. Because this trip took place in autumn, the fallen leaves on the water made keeping the boat on plane difficult. The boatís jet-style engineís intake was getting constantly clogged with leaves and it had to be cleared every couple minutes. Even with that challenge, we made it to the creek very quickly. One good rainstorm and we might have been rowing and using spinning rods, what with all the leaves that were still left on the trees!

We started fishing at the first riffle, initially fishing with a nymph/dropper rig. Iím not a dry fly purist but, to me, this felt like a lot of metal to be slinging .  I found it takes a while to get used to it. An upside is that it was a great thrill for the first fish of the day to be taken on one of my bead-head, hares-ear nymphs!  I'd only started tying flies about a year prior.  When the sun came out we tied on foam beetle patterns. that did a great job coaxing the trout to the surface. A parachute Adams was also a killer pattern, drawing a lot of strikes.

After fishing the first riffle, Paul and I walked upstream to watch Bob take his boat through the lower rapids. Iíve seen some wild stunts done with a boat, but this was amazing!  The lower rapids are definitely not for prop motors! In addition to being a nimble form of transportation, Bob's jon boat is a great fishing platform. Bob could easily keep position using oar-power while Paul and I fished.

The jon boat was comfortable for two fly fishers. One of us would fish with an overhand cast and the other used a cross-body cast whenever we both wanted to fish the same side of the river. When we fished opposite sides, there was plenty of room for a full overhand casting. A little awareness of your partnerís back-casts is all it took.  That, and the casting practice that Iíd had fishing the very brushy Mad River!.

I can never say enough about a good guide. You donít always get to chose, but when you get a really good guide it makes everything about the day better. Bob definitely knows his stuff. It was obvious he'd been on Dix Creek often.  He knew every nook and cranny of that stream, navigated it with ease, and got us into as many fish as our skill level could handle. I give him extras points for even complimenting my, sometimes, grungy nymph patterns!  His attention to detail extended to the cold lunch he provided.  The trip details and guide service were thoughtfully and professionally done.  And best of all, Paul ended up being a great fishing buddy! Paul is competitive, but he was quiet about it on that trip. Maybe it was the fact that he caught more fish then I did!

Directions to the ramp from Cincinnati:

I-75 SOUTH towards Lexington - Take the KY-922/BG PARKWAY exit towards AIRPORT/KEENELAND/LEXINGTON, Continue on NEWTOWN PIKE until you see the entrance for NEW CIRCLE RD/KY-4 WEST/BG PARKWAY towards AIRPORT ST This is a sweeping right. You are now on the New circle loop. Follow it around until you come to the HARRODSBURG RD/US-68 exit towards HARRODSBURG/LEXINGTON, turn right. Follow 68 towards the SHAKER VILLAGE until you come to the 29/68 split. Veer left. You now on 29 going towards WILMORE. Pass through WILMORE and continue towards HIGH BRIDGE. Follow 29 until it dead ends. You will pass the HIGH BRIDGE FIRE DEPT. Turn right and follow the road down to the ramp. Note: This is a fee ramp. $4.00 per boat and trailer.

 

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