On the Elkhorn

I don’t know how many “Elkhorn Creeks” there are in North America but since elk once roamed from coast to coast in what is today the U. S. and Canada I’d guess there are quite a few.

The one I was fishing Tuesday drains a postcard pretty slice of north-central Kentucky. That Elkhorn Creek rises where the north and south forks join just east of Frankfort, the state capital, at a spot known as the Forks of Elkhorn. From there the creek winds north for about 80 miles before horse shoeing into the Kentucky  River.

Kentucky’s Elkhorn is about the best the state has to offer, thanks in no small part to the decision several years ago by the state fish and wildlife agency www.fw.ky.gov to establish a 12-to-16 inch slot limit on the creel’s then dwindling population of smallmouth bass. The agency’s management decisions don’t always reap dazzling results. This time it did.

Today the stream is heavy with slot limit size smallmouth bass plus a few in the 17-to-19 inch range (and small ones, too). Each year you also hear of the creek surrendering a 20-plus inch smallmouth, though I have yet to encounter one.

My friends Lee McClellan and Ben Post (pictured) and I did not enjoy stellar day – unless you count the perfect weather and the solitude. The creek was thick with moss. The fish were there, too. We each spotted several smallies and Lee, who fishes the Elkhorn regularly, eyed a couple of largemouth bass. But the moss was drifting throughout the water column. It was difficult to make a cast without hooking a glob.

McClellan works of the state game agency (he’s a magazine editor, not a biologist) and said the moss is an annual occurence. It usually appears in mid to late April and is gone by early May, but rarely as heavy as we found it Tuesday.

We still fished most of the afternoon. Tried two spots but found the moss as thick downstream as it was upriver.

Between hookups with moss I managed to catch a couple of smallmouth on a No. 10 Mickey Finn, which allowed me to add smallmouth bass to a fish on the fly roster for 2010 (the fish was under the slot limit size and therefore, legal, which is one of my self-imposed rules).

I hope to add a white and/or black crappie to the fly list this week.