Column: Blue River provides views, fishing opportunities

By Brandon Butler

The Blue River is one of the finest rivers in the Midwest. Originating in Washington County, the Blue rolls on through Harrison and Crawford counties before arriving at its confluence with the mighty Ohio River. Since the days when Native Americans thrived in the watershed, man has been drawn to the Blue by its exquisite beauty.  
The natural landscape of the region is rarely upset by civilization, but a few towns have found a way to survive in the sparsely populated land along the Blue. Milltown is one such community that has remained over the years. By embracing river life and catering to those who seek recreation and solitude, this dot on the map has become the epicenter of Blue River activity. Yet, you know a town is small when the most recognized industry in town is a canoe livery.

Cave Country Canoes is the number one provider of access to the Blue River. A truly exceptional livery; this operation is fully sufficient for outfitting recreational paddlers, or in our case, fly fishermen. If you intend to use your own boat, shuttle services can be worked out as well. A takeout in Milltown allows fishermen the opportunity to gauge their own speed without having to report back at any given time. This is nice for those like me, who find dusk to be the finest fishing time of any given day.

The essence of the Blue River may be found in the surrounding forests and lining of sheer limestone bluffs, but as fishermen, it’s the water we’re here for. I don’t know about you, but I would lay a loop into a six by six mud puddle if I knew the result would be a smallmouth bass. Fortunately, the scenic appeal of the Blue River doesn’t stop at the waters edge.

The water of the Blue is exceptionally clear most of the time. With the exception of immediately after heavy rains or during strong run-off, the reminiscent gin water of the blue will leave you yearning for a little juice. Highly substantiated from subterranean sources, the Blue River is about as close to a spring creek fishery as one will find in Indiana.

The fishing becomes quite technical in these skinny water times as bass are leery of exposing themselves to predators from above. An advantage fishermen hold during these times of the year is that once discovering a deep pool, the chances of it holding multiple fish are relatively high.

The average smallmouth in the Blue is probably between 10 to 12 inches, but to hook into a 16-18 inch fish wouldn’t be front-page news. Fish over 20 inches are possible, but come few and far between.

The structure of the river is reminiscent of most limestone bed, forested bank waters of the north.  Sharp turns create deep, corner pools while shallow runs form nice riffles, and large boulders and blow downs break the monotony of the long flats. Fishing is predictable to anyone who is at least semi-skilled at reading water.

Oxygenated tailouts are generally primed at dusk with eager smallmouth awaiting an easy meal. Wade fishing on the Blue is accessible at bridge crossings, public access sites and through public properties such as the Harrison-Crawford State Forest. Below the dam in Milltown is a must fish destination.

See you down the trail…

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