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by Sue Purdy


Its never too late to learn something new. Ive decided to learn to fish. Ive tried fly-fishing several times and really enjoy it. Recently, I purchased a fly-fishing rod and reel and hope to run into Robert Redford when my River Runs Through It. I have a copy of the Handbook of Western Fly Fishing, by noted authority Paul Downing, and plan to pack my gear and head out to Colorado some day.

I like to fish in a less Hollywood manner and to that end recently visited southern and eastern Kentucky to try my hand at fishing the well stocked lakes in this beautiful state. In Lake Cumberland, one of the largest man-made lakes in the nation, I stayed on the southwest shore at Grider Hill Dock. This resort is worth recommending as the location is ideal, the restaurant truly excellent, the accommodations affordable and fine and the staff is sterling.

I met Janet Wells, the only female fishing guide on Lake Cumberland and a terrific and fun lady as well. Married to Don for 34 years, she has three children, four grandchildren and those to-die-for high cheekbones that tell of her Native American ancestry. Our transportation was a 20 Solid Craft boat that Janet called The Bitch when it acted up. Janet says, Sitting and waiting is called fishing. Bringing fish into the boat is called catching!

I couldnt wait to start catching. Janet set out the Shakespeare Ugly rods with 20 LB test and Ambassador 6500s Bart Casters. We were tied to a bank on the lake and would be bottom fishing for striped bass with live shad on Gomakatsu treble hooks. I got my wish as one of the rods sprang to life. I grabbed the rod and Janet yelled, pump the rod, which meant to bring up the rod, crank the reel, then drop the pole down again and keep repeating until I landed this baby. Which I finally did after an exhausting and thrilling ride — better than a day in Bloomingdales.

Soon this beautiful silver fish jumped out of the water and I shouted at the sight of him. Janet got the net and brought him on board. What a catch at 32 long and 14 pounds. We knew it was a he as he was spewing sperm all over the boat and this is mating season, after all. Janet took my camera and shot my photo holding this big guy and then we placed him back in the water to go about the business of making more strippers. I wish he knew there wasnt any pressure on him as the lake is restocked with 300,000 strippers each year.

On the way to Laurel River Lake, I passed a sign that read, Antiques and Needful Things. I didnt stop. There were fish to be caught.

I stayed on a houseboat (my first) at the Holly Bay Marina. I had an upper bedroom which was a good size with a comfortable mattress on the floor and a small closet. The houseboat had a large living/dining area with a big kitchen, television and outdoor decks fore and aft. That evening the people on the houseboat next door were fishing off the deck with corn kernels and catching carp, blue gill and trout.

Laurel Lake has 5,600 acres of deep, clear water, 192 miles of cliff-lined shore and is located within the Daniel Boone National Forest. Randy Proffitt was my guide on this beautiful lake and we set out quite early. In fact, the mist was still laying on the water in spots like translucent lily pads and in other areas it spiraled up like playful apparitions dancing at day break. The sky was blue with pink clouds woven throughout and birds twittered to announce themselves. It was all so lovely and exactly the reason I love my new sport. But we were here to fish and Randys Arrowhead 21 Stratus with a 225 Yamaha engine really whipped around the water. We found a stand of dead trees in the water, sculpted by woodpeckers and began casting. I caught a lot of fish, including a 16 large mouth bass.

Paintsville was the last lake I would fish on this trip and you know what they say about saving the best for last. Paintsville Lake is located in the heart of Appalachia in the Jenny Wiley State Resort Park. I loved staying there as it was an excellent family getaway with much to see and do. The buffet dinners in the main lodge are delicious and affordable with accommodations that include wallet-friendly cabins, large rooms with two double beds and campgrounds for RVs. There are even live Broadway shows in the Theater. The park is named for pioneer Virginia Sellards Wiley who in 1789 endured the deaths of family members and survived eleven months as a captive of the Cherokee.

'T' Watkins was my guide and we parallel fished off the front of the boat (two people cast out a few feet from each other, into the strike zone.) We used crank baits on a fiberglass 6 rod with 12 LB test greenline. It was chilly here, too, and I wore more layers than a wedding cake. We had a great day fishing and then 'T' asked if I liked crafts. When I said 'yes,' he told me about his father-in-law, Russell Rice, who carved walking canes. 'Ts' wife, Sharon, brought her 82 year old father down to the lodge along with some of the most spectacular folk art Ive ever seen.

Mr. Rices business is called Canes with a Brain, as most of what he carves are imaginative animals made from local woods such as dogwood, maple, sourwood, oak and sassafras. Many of the pieces are twined with thick vines, one with a beautifully painted trout as a handle and another sported a snake painted onto the vine. Each was unique and each a masterpiece. People at the lodge stopped by asking to purchase the canes but this was Mr. Rices own collection and he wasnt about to part with these wonderful samples. One cane in the private collection had taken approximately 88 hours to carve and paint. Mr. Rice says the inspiration comes to him as he studies the wood. He works on three to four canes at a time and prices range from $50.00 to $250.00.

Kentucky turned out to be one of the best adventures Ive ever experienced. The fishing was truly superb and my knowledgeable guides taught me much about my new sport.

I have now become one of the 9.5 million women in our country who are anglers.


Handbook of Western Fly Fishing by Paul B. Downing, 970-586-2411
Grider Hill Dock —
Janet Wells — 270-433-6333
Holly Bay Marina —
Jenny Wiley State Resort Park —
Russell Rice — 606-886-8687
Southern & Eastern Kentucky Tourism Development Association —


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