Fly Fishing South Carolina
South Carolina's trout streams get much less recognition than their neighbors in Georgia and North Carolina, but the numerous small creeks and headwaters found in the western reaches of the state provide excellent opportunities for local and visiting fly anglers to wet a line. Most of the trout streams here are found on the quickly dropping foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This leaves most trout habit as slow plunge pools or faster runs for the majority of their extent. This also leads to some excellent scenery with a plethora of waterfalls and hiking opportunities to get lost in nature. The largest piece of trout water in the state is the Chattooga River which forms the border of Georgia and South Carolina. You can learn more about the Chattooga in on our Fly Fishing the Chattooga page which details the best times of the year and flies you will need when visiting the river. This article will dive further into the lesser known, smaller trout streams of the state that harbor both wild trout populations and opportunities for beginning fly fisherman to target stocked trout.
Fly Fishing the Whitewater River
The Whitewater River, along with the fellow tributaries of Lake Jocassee (the Horsepasture River, Thompson River, and Toxaway River have their headwater in the mountains of North Carolina. These smaller, rhododendron lined streams are full of wild trout. The terrain in the area is steep and difficult to traverse, but rewards anglers willing to do as much hiking as fishing with aggressive wild trout. Plunge pools and the occasional slow run are the best places to find trout. Finding an opening large enough to make a cast is the most difficult task in these streams. There is no better place to visit for anglers looking to improve their bow and arrow casting abilities. Dry flies are staples on these streams as the wild trout look to the surface for much of the year. When things begin to slow in the winter months, a squirmy worm, or pheasant tail nymph will receive more attention from the trout. Once anglers climb above the natural barriers in the river native brook trout will be the most prevalent targets. This will be a common theme on many of the small headwater streams in South Carolina.
Fly Fishing the Chauga River
Still a less discussed trout stream in the Southeastern U.S, the Chauga may be the best trout stream within the state. The Chauga River has populations of stocked trout, wild trout, and has some trophy trout potential in the lower sections of the river. The majority of the trout stocking on the river occurs between Verner Mill Road and the Spyder Valley access. This area is also the most convenient as the lower gradient pools, runs, and riffles provide good shelter for these stocked trout. The larger tributaries in this section, along with the stretch of river upstream of Verner Mill Road possesses wild trout. The terrain here is much more rugged with the deeper plunge pools being the best habitat and cover for the trout. These trout are much more spooky than their stocked counterparts but are often more opportunistic when it comes to eating flies, especially on the surface. Anglers willing to hike further from the access points on the river will be able to find more aggressive trout along with a shot or two at some larger than average holdover fish.
Eastatoe River Fly Fishing
The headwaters of the Eastatoe River create a trout fishery similar to that of the Chauga River. Access to the Eastatoe can be found within the Eastatoe Creek Heritage Preserve just north of the small town of Sunset, SC. The smallest headwater streams contain populations of wild trout. These sections of the river are limited to artificial lures and flies only. Stocked trout can be found just above Lake Keowee to the confluence of Laurel Creek. These trout are stocked in the spring and fall as water temperatures tend to climb too high during the summer months for trout to be comfortable. The stream in this section flows over large rock outcroppings and into several plunges. Caution is advised while wading some areas as the slick rocks can be troublesome for anglers unaware of the threat.
Saluda River Fly Fishing
The Middle Saluda River runs through miles of untouched public land. One of the most scenic rivers in the state, the Saluda also holds healthy populations of trout. Beginning at Caesars Head State Park on the North Carolina border, the river flows in and out of public lands as it cascades down the gorges and through the densely vegetated valleys. In its uppermost tributaries angler can again find the occasional native brook trout once the have climbed above the waterfalls that serve as the natural barriers for the rainbow and brown trout that have made a home in the lower stretches of river. Moving downstream to the Jones Gap Natural Area where fly anglers can better access the middle section of the river, fly fisherman can target rainbow and brown trout in the many pool and pocket water created from the rock outcroppings throughout this section. For better odds of finding trout in this part of the the river a catch and release only section can be found from the beginning of the footbridge in the park downstream to Hugh Smith Road. Though there is no shortage of trout in the section, pressured trout prefer smaller nymphs and presentations with a little more finesse when conditions get
tough. Holdover trout that get to larger sizes can be found below Hugh Smith Road, but much of the access here is private. Warming water temperatures during the summer months in this section can also decrease the trout's odds of survival here.
Saluda River Tailwater Fly Fishing
Another section of the Saluda River in South Carolina worth mentioning is the tailwater section below Lake Murray in Columbia, SC. Though its not your conventional year round trout stream, the tailwater is stocked in the cold weather months for local anglers looking to stay closer to home. Junk flies and small streamers are the best producers here. Anglers looking for a real thrill can use larger streamers to target the predatorial striped bass that roam the river looking for easy meals from mid spring to early summer.
The Best Flies For Fly Fishing South Carolina
Fly fisherman visiting South Carolina can narrow down their fly selection into two main categories depending on what they are targeting. Stocked trout and wild trout will gravitate towards different offerings with only a bit of overlap. Even beginning fly anglers with limited fly patterns in their boxes can find success all year round.
Junk Flies- These flies will out produce all others when it comes to targeting stocked trout. Mop jigs, eggs imitations, and squirmy worms will draw the eye of just about every stocked trout in the rivers mentioned above. The squirmy worms will crossover nicely on the wild trout streams in the winter months as well.
Dry Flies- Stimulators, elk hair caddis, and adams variants will all work will on the high elevation wild trout streams. These flies are easy to maneuver in dense cover and always appetizing for hungry wild trout. Small terrestrials such as hoppers and beetles can also draw the attention of both stocked and wild trout. These serve as excellent flies for throwing dry dropper rigs as well.
Nymphs- smaller nymphs such as a pheasant tail, hares ear, walts worm, and copper john can work great for holdover trout, wild trout, as well as heavily pressured stocked trout. When trout have had time to acclimate to the natural food sources of the river after being stocked, these are the best flies available to anglers.
Midges- zebra midges, griffiths gnats, and matts midge patterns will always have a purpose when times get tough, especially in the winter when other insects aren't as abundant.
For more information about America's best trout streams and others in the area, check out our articles on Fly Fishing North Carolina, Fly Fishing Georgia, and Fly Fishing the Nantahala River. These articles will help you to plan your next trip in the Southern Appalachians, and ensure a great time on the water.