The lower Saluda River runs through the heart of Columbia, originating in the tailrace below Lake Murray Dam, then merging with the Broad River to create the Congaree. Around Saluda Shoals Park, the river varies in depths and is full of boulders. The water is clear and cold, even in July.
That cold water makes this a great place to fish this month, and the main target, thanks to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources’ stocking program, is trout. They live throughout the year in this section of the river, and while the water in many of our lakes, ponds, and rivers is sweltering in the dead of summer, the Saluda’s waters, drawn from the depths of Lake Murray, are cold enough that standing in it gets quickly uncomfortable.
That cold water though, keeps the trout healthy and active. They bite readily this month, and anglers can catch them with a variety of methods.
A small boat launch at Saluda Shoals Park allows anglers to put canoes, kayaks and small aluminum boats into the river, and while the fishing isn’t bad right at the landing, anglers who paddle or motor upriver as far as they can will have more success. A lot of folks fish from shore around the landing, so getting upstream will help. The current is also faster upriver, where the water is more shallow and its surface broken by boulders, creating the churning water in which trout are most at home.
Ultralight rods and small spinning reels are all you need, and fishing on the bottom with night crawlers is an easy way to catch your share of trout. Pinching on a few small split-shot weights is effective enough, but using a small Carolina rig will help keep you from getting hung up on the bottom, and it allows trout to run with the bait without sensing your weight as easily.
Rob Watson of Lexington motors upriver in a one-man boat with an electric motor, then wades in ankle-deep water. He prefers using small spinning lures like Black Furys, Roostertails, and Road Runners.
“I don’t have a favorite, but I like to take all three brands with me. If I’m not catching anything on one, or if the bite slows down on one, I’ll switch to another,” he said. “You’d be surprised at how much better the fishing is when I do that than when I just use one brand the whole time.”
Watson, who covers water quickly, said there are days when he’ll catch more behind rocks. On other days, he catches more in deeper holes, and on some days, he’ll catch them equally as well, no matter where he concentrates his efforts.
“It’s rare to have any trouble catching trout here this time of year,” he said. “I use 1/16- and 1/8-ounce spinners, and I vary my retrieve. Most of these trout are fairly small, but they are fun on the ultralight gear, and it only takes a few to make a good meal.”