For trout fishermen in the Upstate, it’s the best of both worlds – you can choose between fishing artificial-only, delayed-harvest waters or fish put-and-take streams and take a mess of fish home to eat. Either way, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources has been taking advantage of higher water levels and cooler temperatures to load local streams up with rainbow and brown trout.

According to Brandon Barber, owner of RiverBlade Knife & Fly Shop in Spartanburg, trout in the delayed-harvest sections of the Chattooga, Chauga and Eastatoe Rivers will be found holding and feeding near the bottom off deeper pools. Barber suggests anglers use small split-shot ahead of a black or gold stonefly for larger fish, or a No. 18 pheasant tail, or a double-nymph rig for a shot at better numbers of trout.

“The delayed-harvest program is great, because they really stock those areas heavily with trout this time of year,” said Barber (864-699-9433). “The delayed harvest actually started on Nov. 1, but this is the first cool weather we’ve had, and the trout feed hard when it starts getting cold. Just bear in mind that the delayed-harvest areas do not permit keeping any trout, and you must use artificial baits only, single hooks, and no scent can be attached to the bait.”

On the other side of the equation, better water quality in the put-and-take streams is also allowing SCDNR to stock those areas with more fish than they would at other times of the year. Barber said the secret to finding good fishing in these rivers, which include the Middle and South Saluda rivers, is to check the stocking reports on the SCDNR website, and find out what rivers are being stocked on a given day.

“The good thing about the put-and-take rivers is that there are not as many anglers in the cold weather as there are in the spring and summer,” he said. “This time of year, I’ve had great success fishing stocked trout that had been in there a couple of weeks because of lack of fishing pressure.”

In addition to a large number of coldwater mountain streams that are stocked by SCDNR, primarily in upper Oconee, Pickens, and Greenville Counties, the agency also stocks rainbow and brown trout in the tailwaters behind the Lake Hartwell and Lake Murray dams.