Fishing Tygarts Creek

Like sands through an hourglass, the emerald green waters of Tygarts Creek flow through narrow sandstone overhangs and tight corridors of leafed-out trees through a landscape that time seems to have forgotten. Unchanged for hundreds of years, it’s easy to imagine animals prowling the rugged banks while Native Americans fish along the lush shores between the gnarled roots.
Tygarts Creek is a tributary of the Ohio River; however, it’s officially a part of the Mississippi River watershed. Flowing generally in a north-northeast direction it snakes its way past the town of Olive Hill and Carter Caves State Resort Park. Early Kentucky explorer Michael Tygart drowned near the headwaters of this creek and it now bears his name in his honor. 
What Makes It Great
Often overlooked for some of its better-known sisters, Tygarts Creek is an undiscovered honey hole, even for many native Kentucky anglers. This is the creek where the first national muskellunge research program started and is now one of best spots in the state to hunt for these beasts of the water. This creek also supports large populations of Kentucky bass, largemouth, red eye, rockies, bluegill, and catfish. Cast a line into one of the plentiful deep pools or riffles of this creek and you’re almost guaranteed that something will bite.
Growing up in these parts people hear stories of “muskies as long as your leg” and, unless you’re freakishly tall, that's not even an exaggeration—fish over 40 inches are regularly pulled out of here. Population studies show the muskies prefer brush and fallen trees to all other habitats, and the long, slower pools in Tygarts Creek are the perfect homes for spotted or Kentucky bass.
Also a popular paddling destination and designated Blue Water Trail, working this slow flowing river from a kayak, canoe, or fishing tube is recommended. For those who like to get wet, this pristine corner of Kentucky is perfect where it’s meandering waters and shallow shore make for easy wading. Locals like to use the put in under the bridge off KY Route 182 for wading. Spinning tackle or short fly rods are both well suited for this creek.
It’s difficult to talk about Tygarts without mentioning the spectacular scenery of Tygarts Creek Gorge. Flowing beneath ragged sandstone formations, the highlight of which is the Devil’s Backbone, this section is the place to start if you’ve only got a few hours.
Who is Going to Love It
If simply being outdoors and watching the wildlife are part of the appeal of a day on the river, any angler who enjoys the scenery as much as the fishing will have a blast hunting for strikes on this creek. The abundance and variety of species that call Tygarts home will delight every beginner (or anyone, honestly) who casts a fly here and starts to reel them in.
For those anglers who don’t mind the challenge of trying to attract “the fish of ten thousand casts” (otherwise known as muskie), this creek is rife with opportunities. These top of the line predators will be perfect prey for those with the patience and persistence to hunt them, fight them, and get past all those teeth to land them.
Directions, Parking & Regulations
Locals say the best access point to get in the water is just off KY Route 182 near the bridge. There is also public access at Smoky Valley Lake west of the dam at Carter Caves.
To the Tygarts Creek Rail Trail Park put-in in downtown Olive Hill: From I-64, take KY-2 for three miles south to US-60 in Olive Hill. Turn left on US-60 and go 0.25 miles to Cross Street. Turn right on to Cross Street and right onto Tygart Street. Access is through Tygarts Creek Rail Trail Park. You’ll find free parking here, but no facilities

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