Elkhorn Creek - Fishing

Elkhorn Creek. Edgar P. Zhagüi MerchánAs Kentucky anglers like to say, God created the fly rod, and the next day he created the smallmouth. Pursue the original fly rod species on the Elkhorn, arguably the best smallmouth fishery in Kentucky.
The Elkhorn is one of Kentucky’s blueway treasures. Surrounded by pastoral farmland and Kentucky’s signature limestone cliffs, the excellent fishing is paired with great scenery. Though smallmouth are aggressive, they can be finicky depending on the season. If the smallmouth bites are cold, you’ll still have a blast catching bluegills, shellcrackers, and colorful red-ears.
While one can find plenty of small streams to hunt smallmouth and other warmwater species throughout Kentucky, none compare to the Elkhorn’s beauty and bounty.
Starting at the convergence of the South and North branch, Elkhorn Creek is a large creek just east of Frankfort and Northwest of Lexington. Like many of the waterways in Kentucky, the Elkhorn lies between steep limestone cliffs for much of its course. The most dramatic of these cliffs are known as the Palisades. Not only are these cliffs a sight to behold, but smallmouth also hang around the drop offs where a limestone ledges leads to deep pools.
Beginner fly fishers need not limit their quarry to trout. Smallmouth and other warm water river species are perfect for targeting with a fly. While Kentucky offers great trout fishing, an angler shouldn’t overlook the Elkhorn as a worthy destination for a fishing getaway.
To find smallies, look for the drop offs. Also look for rocky gravel bars and the end of riffles where smallies and other species wait for the current to bring them small nymphs, crayfish, and other forage. As far as flies, try using crayfish patterns that sink fast and can be stripped across the bottom. Wooly buggers and clouser minnows can also be used, as they imitate small crayfish and baitfish.
During early morning and later in the evening, try using surface flies like poppers and sliders to coax smallies to the top for exciting topwater action.
Whether a beginner or expert, every fly angler living in Kentucky should prioritize this watershed. Being an hour or less from Kentucky’s biggest cities, it’s an excellent fishery to hone skills and enjoy a long weekend float.
For those who visit out of state, this is a great place to get a feel for Kentucky’s outdoor scene. While the fish may bring you here, the beautiful Palisades and great culture create a fantastic weekend destination.
Start at the put-in for Whitewater Kayakers (a public property owned by the American Whitewater Association) on Highway 460. Leave your take out car at Peak’s Mill (38.307645, -84.814608) for the shorter float or at Stillwater campground, Sullivan WMA, or the fish hatchery.
Anglers must possess a Kentucky fishing license.

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