Photos and Story by Corey Pelton
It was light enough to just make out the trail leading to down to the rippled shoals of the river. The sweet smell of fresh spring vegetation mingled with the musty dampness. The honking of geese erupted overhead. A distant car sped past on nearby Hwy 276 en route over Caesar’s Head or past Table Rock State Park. On this sixty-five degree morning, I was skeptical as I stepped into the cold river water. Not bad. Not bad at all. By the time I took my first cast, I could barely see where the lure broke the surface of the water. Three casts in and a silvery trout rose to the surface and easily shook the feathered lure from its possession.
This morning I am not “matching the hatch” to determine what pattern of hand-tied fly I will choose. In fact, I’m not using the latest and greatest expensive fly gear at all. My creel is a plastic freezer bag and my rod and reel cost a total of $35.00. Yet within an hour and a half I am able to limit (daily limit of 5 this season) on three different species of trout: brook, brown and rainbow. From my residence in Travelers Rest I drove 14 miles, fished and made it back to the office in time to start my work day.
Do we really know what a resource we have in the upstate of South Carolina in the Saluda River system? The majority of these waters hold, not the wiley native trout of the upper reaches of the mountain tributaries, but the product of the hard work of our South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) and the caretakers of the Walhalla Fish Hatchery. The licenses you buy, the gear you purchase and the boat fuel you use help fund this resource.
If you choose to fish, be sure to get to know where you can fish. There are three separate rivers that converge to make up the Saluda which flows all the way to Columbia, SC and beyond. Here in the upstate they are the North Saluda, South Saluda, and Middle Saluda. All three can be fished, but be sure to check with the SCDNR because the regulations can change and they vary depending on the river and section of the river you choose to fish.
There is something magical about being on a river and this one exceeds expectations. I am constantly surprised by what each morning brings. Low lying fog sometimes drifts ghost-like over the water. Other times the sunlight streams gold-filtered by the leaves and overhanging branches. Other days drops of rain create temporary divots much like a thousand trout rising to the surface. I am thankful for every scene. Now that my children are driving age, they too are experiencing the river with their friends. I am thankful for the Saluda River system and those who work to keep it a viable fisherman’s opportunity. And the fish . . . Yes, I am ever grateful for the fish.