The lower Saluda River, which begins just below Lake Murray Dam outside of Columbia, S.C., is stocked with rainbow trout, and because the water in the river comes off the lake’s bottom and stays cold, they don’t die during the summer.
This puts them within reach of many anglers who otherwise wouldn’t think of casting a lure for these fish, and March is a great month for it.
Garreth Duggar of Orangeburg, S.C., makes several treks to the lower Saluda this time of year. He enjoys the simplicity of fishing here, as well as the short driving distance it takes to catch fish for which he used to travel to the mountains of Oconee County.
Around 2000, Duggar discovered he was driving right past rainbow trout on his way to the mountains every March.
“I actually like fishing the lower Saluda much better. Up in Oconee County, a lot of it is hiking and fishing off the banks, but the lower Saluda is better suited for a canoe, and that’s my favorite fishing,” he said. “I take two ultralight spinning rods with 6-pound line. I put in at the canoe launch at Saluda Shoals Park, and I paddle upriver until I come to the set of shoals that stretches across the river. The trout are all around those rocks.”
Duggar keeps a No. 4 Mepps Aglia-e spinner tied onto each rod, and he probes every nook and cranny of those rocks for trout.
“The Aglia-e has a spinner blade, and the body is made up of little colored beads that look like fish eggs. It’s also similar to the pellets these fish are fed when they’re in the hatchery. So it looks like food to them all the way around,” he said.
Duggar first fishes at the bottom of that set of shoals, covering the eddies behind bigger rocks and also the areas with fast current. He usually catches a few fish here, then paddles his way up into the rocks, lodging himself against them to hold his canoe in one spot.
“This is my secret, and I don’t know anyone else that does it. Once my canoe is lodged in some rocks, I cast one of my spinners behind me. I get that one close to the downriver side of a big rock, and I find the line of current that will keep that spinner in one spot, just below the surface, with the blade spinning. Then, I set that rod in a rod holder, and I fish with my other rod like normal. You’d be surprised how many fish that lure will catch that way,” he said.