There is a stream in the Appalachian Mountains of southeastern Kentucky called Bad Branch. Its waters cascade down the south face of Pine Mountain until they reach a sandstone cliff where they tumble 60 feet to a pool below. The waters then carve a gorge surrounded by hemlock stands, pitch pine, rare flowers and dense thickets of rhododendron.
I first visited Bad Branch three years ago. As I hiked the trail along the stream, an enchanting rhythm of cold, clear water tumbling over perfectly rounded cobble, spilling into luminous pools and emptying to turbulent riffles was the music of the forest. I crouched on one knee streamside, looked down at a shallow pool and was astonished when a brook trout wriggled from underneath a rocky outcropping.
I am a fly fisher and everything about Bad Branch spoke of fishing in the Appalachian Mountains. I had never seen a more pristine trout stream. I had fished the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina and although I had lived in Kentucky nearly all my life, I had never fished the mountains of eastern Kentucky.