"See that stump? Now look at that eddy just below it. And do you see that trickle of water from that incoming creek just below the eddy?" Reams asked.
Moments later, he cast a No. 2 Mepps Aglia spinner between the stump and the eddy. After a few turns on the handle of his reel, his ultralight spinning rod bowed. For a second, the dark water of the Lynches glowed red, then Reames lifted a brightly-colored redbreast bream out of the river.
Like all bream fishing, fishing for redbreasts can be as simple or as complicated as anglers choose to make it. Using a cane pole from the bank with a worm under a cork is certainly effective, and there are plenty of spots for such opportunities along this 140-mile river, which rises across the border near Waxhaw, N.C., and meanders through South Carolina, passing Pageland, Bethune, McBee, Florence and Bishopville to its junction with the Pee Dee River near Johnsonville.
But the real beauty of redbreast fishing on Lynches River, according to Ken Nutter, another Sumter angler, is getting away from the boat launches and into the heart of the river.
"Just a few bends away from any boat landing, you really get the feeling that you're in a far-off place, even when you may be just around the corner from a highway," said Nutter, who likes to use equipment a little more modern than the old cane poles of yesteryear. "A collapsible fiberglass bream pole, like a B 'n' M Breambuster will wear a redbreast out, without wearing the angler out."
The pure simplicity of redbreast fishing on Lynches River also attracts Nutter.
"You don't need any fancy gear to fish here, and small johnboats or canoes are perfect. Other boats you might see here are kayaks and electric sneak boats or johnboats with small outboards. You don't have to dodge big bass boats or jetskis on this river," Nutter said.
Nutter feels the same way about his fishing tackle as he does about watercraft - the simpler, the better. Outfitting his Breambusters with 6-pound monofilament threaded through a small foam cork, Nutter ties on a No. 6 hook and pinches one or two small weights a few inches above the hook. He uses a variety of live bait, but his favorite by far is one that doesn't get a lot of fanfare, even from many tackle stores.
"There is no better bait for redbreast on this river than waxworms," he said, describing a small, white worm that many mistake as a maggot.
Red wigglers and nightcrawlers are also good bait choices, bu. Nutter doesn't thread these onto the hook like many anglers do; he passes the hook through the worm one time only, at the head of the worm. While this does result in nibbles from what he presumes are small fish, he said that long dangling worm catches enough big redbreast to make it worth it.
Reames also likes to use waxworms, but crickets and tiny crawdads are his favorites.
"Years ago, when cleaning some really fat redbreast, I was finding half a dozen small crawdads in every one," said Reames, who catches his crawdads in standard minnow traps baited with dead fish.
But Reames' favorite method for catching these fish involves no live bait at all. Small spinners and tiny crankbaits make up his arsenal. He uses 5- to 6-foot ultralight combos with 6-pound test line. Reames' attraction to these lures over live bait is simple.
"It's just easier to cover a lot more water in a shorter period of time when throwing artificial lures than when tossing out a worm and letting it sit or slowly drift with the current," he said.
No matter the bait, both anglers agree the key to catching redbreast is to fish around cover and any changes in the river. Slackwater pools, eddies, stumps, logs and fallen debris that has gathered in one spot, or grass that is growing in the river are all good spots to try. When finding a place that has all those elements, dropping live bait in the middle of it all is a good option, and swimming an artificial bait through it or just on the edge of it will also entice bites.
Like other bream, redbreast build nests for spawning in shallow water, but they don't spawn in large colonies of nests like some other bream. Anglers targeting redbreast shouldn't expect to catch a day's limit in one spot. Five or six redbreast out of the same hole is considered good, but five or six more may come out of a hole just a few feet away.
While it may seem like luck to catch a redbreast over other bream in this river, Reames disagrees.
"You have to be observant, but you can develop a pattern just like bass anglers do," he said. "All throughout this river, redbreasts cross paths with other bream, but if I catch a handful of redbreast beside an old stump in 18 inches of water in an eddy, I'm gonna catch another handful of them beside a different old stump in 18 inches of water in an eddy, even if it's a mile downriver from the first stump."
Fallen trees and sandbars are other good spots to fish, but Reames and Nutter agree that the primary thing they look for is water from a small creek flowing into the main river. If it's a mere trickle, they will fish right where it meets the river, and if it's more than a trickle, they will toss their lure or bait into the smaller creek a few feet above where it enters and let the current carry it into the main river. This mimics the way insects, bugs, and tiny fish get washed into the river.
"You want the current to move your bait or lure, but you have to make sure you reel in the slack line, because when a fish hits, you have to be able to set the hook quickly," Nutter said.
When fishing these creeks, Reames said that perseverance is the key.
"You might not get a bite for 10 casts, and on the 11th, your lure will get hammered," he said.
Public access to Lynches River is not a problem. At least 29 public landings offer bank fishing and boat launching. One of these, the SC 15 boat landing in Lee County, offers anglers an improved boat landing, but at least half are rudimentary landings suitable only for kayaks, canoes, and small johnboats. Several parks like Lee State Natural Area and Lynches River County Park also offer access to anglers with or without boats.
HOW TO GET THERE - Anglers can access the Lynches River off Pageland Hwy and US 601 in Lancaster County, off Bethune Hwy farther downstream, then off SC 15 in Lee County just upstream from the Lee State Natural Area, at Lee State Park Rd., and ay Lynchburg Hwy and US 401 near the Sumter-Lee County border, off Lynches River Rd. in Florence County, and small ramps are available near Olanta, and at US 301, US 52 and Francis Marion Rd. Below Johnsonvill, US 378 and River Rd. have access near the confluence with the Pee Dee River.
TACKLE/TECHNIQUES - Live bait such as wax worms, red worms, nightcrawlers, crickets and crawdads fished on a cane pole or bream pole under a cork on a small hook will catch plenty of redbreasts. Artificial baits such as small spinners and crankbaits fished on ultralight spinning outfish are equally productive and allow fishermen to cover more water in a shorter period of time.
FISHING INFO - Irby Street Sporting Goods, Florence, 843-665-6462; Country Boy's Grocery, Bishopville, 803-428-2277; Belltown Bait and Tackle, Lancaster, 803-286-5205.
ACCOMMODATIONS - Lynches River County Park, Coward, offers tent camping and several cabins, 877-319-7799; Lee State Natural Area, Bishopville, offers tent and trailer camping, 803-428-5307; Jameson Inn, Lancaster, 803-283-1188; Econo Lodge, Bishopville, 803-428-3200; Ramada Inn, Florence, 843-669-4261.