Catch trout while escaping the heat and crowds
When looking to beat the summer heat, Hamp Cross of Blue Line Outfitters heads to the upper portion of the Chattooga River. Brown trout is his main quarry, but he catches plenty of rainbows as well.
The Burrells Ford area is where he parks, but he hikes upriver about 30 minutes and into the Ellicott Rock Wilderness Area.
“If you like bigger water, this is the place where you can cast until your heart’s content,” he said.
Cross uses fly-fishing gear, and if he had his way, he’d cast streamers all day for the browns. That usually works out well for him early in the day, or during cloudy periods. But once the sun gets up, he said the fish get pretty wary of chasing those streamers into open water.
“I like to use a 9-foot, 6-weight rod, and I like to throw big streamers,” he said.
Alternating his casts between the small rapids and slack-water pools, he works the streamer back at a steady pace. The best speed changes daily, depending on the fish’s mood. So finding the right cadence is one piece of the puzzle.
When the streamer bite slows down, Cross switches to nymphs. Sometimes he opts for using a strike indicator, but other times, he fishes without one.
He’ll often cast upriver, then just let the nymph ride the current down. Once it’s passed him and at the end of its natural drift, he works it back in. Sometimes he doesn’t get to work it at all because it’s already been picked up by a fish.
When casting nymphs, most of the fish he catches here are rainbow trout, including some good-sized ones. This section of the river benefits from stockings by both the SCDNR and the GADNR, another reason it’s a great spot for anglers.
Adam Shirley, Cross’ fishing partner, has a couple of suggestions for anglers fishing here. First, he said anglers should wear proper shoes.
“You’re wading waist-deep water that’s moving pretty fast. And the rocks are slick, so you end up doing a bunch of roller skating,” he said.
Shirley also said anglers need to keep track of the time, and get back on the trail with enough time to get back to the parking area. A 30-minute hike in can seem like a longer hike out after you’ve been fighting the current all day.
But he said it’s definitely worth it, in terms of the scenery, the escape from the crowds and the number of bites from numerous species of fish.
Follow the fly-fishing adventures of Cross and Shirley at youtube.com/@bluelineoutfitters3964.