On The Fly Freshwater
Article and Photos by Jimmy Jacobs
When it comes to Bluegrass State trout fishing, most of the attention focuses on the commonwealth’s tailwater action, and especially on the big water of the Cumberland River downstream of Wolf Creek Dam. But, that’s not the only type trout water found in Kentucky. There also are smaller, back-country streams in the Daniel Boone National Forest.
One of the better ones located in this 708,000-acre preserve is Whitley County’s Bark Camp Creek, which lies roughly 15 miles southwest of the town of Corbin. This stream holds just shy of 4 miles of tumbling trout water, is a feeder of the Cumberland and offers only a single roadway access point.
Once out of sight of the road, Bark Camp provides a wilderness experience as it courses through a mini-gorge toward its mouth. In places it is framed by stone cliffs, passes rock shelters and is shaded by thick forests. About a mile downstream from the Forest Service Road 193 bridge, the creek leaps over a scenic waterfall. Additionally, just upstream of its junction with the Cumberland, the water rushes through a set of stair-step cascades.
For the most part, Bark Camp is in the 20- to 40-foot width range along its course. Though it has a lot of stream-side foliage, fly casting is possible. It also holds some deeper runs in which the trout hide.
Those trout are both rainbows and browns that are stocked by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, which grades Bark Camp as a Class II stream. That means it has a low number of days between June and September when the water temperature rises above 72 degrees. Also, they indicate the probability that some trout hold over from year to year in the deeper pools.
Rainbow trout are released in the stream monthly from March through June each year, with an additional planting in October. That latter stocking is because delayed-harvest regulations apply to the creek from October 1 until March 31 annually. During that period only artificial lures may be used and all fish must be released. Outside of those dates, general trout rules apply and fish may be harvested.
Brown trout also have been stocked in Bark Camp since the early 1990s. These fish are managed on put-grow-and-take basis. Each fall a single release of 8-inch browns takes place at a rate of 200 fish per mile in the flow.
This mixed bag of regulations has resulted in a fishery that can yield browns and rainbows in the 12- to 13-inch range each year. Obviously, with the limited access for stocking, more fish usually are available near the bridge crossing, while the chance for holdover fish should be better farther downstream. Equally obvious, the more distance you put between yourself and the bridge, the fewer anglers you are likely to encounter.
As with most DH fishing, fly selection is fairly standard. For dries, buoyant attractor patterns that are visible in the shaded gorge are one option. White-winged Royal Wulffs or Parachute Adams in sizes 12 to 14 are good examples. For the deeper runs, dead drifting nymph patterns or swinging them across the current can produce fish.
Access to this stream is provided by the Bark Camp Creek Trail (FT #413) that parallels the water from the FS 193 bridge to the mouth of the creek. While the section near the bridge is fairly level, be aware that the trail has a 383-foot elevation change and is rated as moderately difficult along its boulder strewn pathway to the Cumberland.
At that point you reach the junction with the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail (FT #100) that runs along the Cumberland River. Sheltowee is a Native American word meaning “Big Turtle,” which was the name given to Daniel Boone by Chief Blackfish of the Shawnee Tribe. That trail is marked with blazes in the form of a white turtle.
Near the mouth of the creek you will find the Bark Camp Shelter on the Sheltowee Trail. This Adirondack-style structure offers a camping site for multi-day fishing trips.
When you are ready for an off-the-beaten path angling experience in Kentucky, Bark Camp Creek is a good option.