Friday, July 8, 2016

Stalking Trout in Coldwater Streams near Saluda Grade

Goin' Fishin' for Trout in the Mountains !!
When the water on the coastline begins to burn, and the pavement retains a steady heat that would make a pitmaster proud, it’s time to consider a trip to the mountains. Recent reports of warm weather at the top of the Saluda Grade in Polk County does little to discourage Lowcountry folk from heading for the hills. The middle of summer sends many to celebrate Independence Day at a higher elevation, and then stay for Coon Dog Day and other outdoor options involving cold waters.
Just three hours from Charleston, and only three exits into North Carolina, one can turn off the Interstate and seek solace in the small town of Saluda. Taking a boat ride on Lake Summit over the 4th of July is a popular practice for some, while many will wait to celebrate the annual Coon Dog Day on July 9. Then on July 24th the preservation community will unite at the Orchard Inn for a fundraiser to preserve the Saluda Historic Depot in town.
What’s nifty about all of these endeavors is that an escape to a shaded mountain stream is always an option, for the purpose of chasing some trout, or just to slow down and cool down. The Saluda Grade references the railroad track that came to town in 1878, cresting at an elevation of 2,097-feet, making it the steepest mainline standard gauge railroad. Therefore the streams that coarse through the upper reaches of Polk County maintain a temperature range suitable for mountain trout.

Once in possession of a North Carolina fishing license, I typically head just South of town and into the waters of the Pacolet River. Varying rainfall amounts determine the water clarity in the stream, and it usually pays to drive by several locations to visually verify the water’s height, and strength of flow. Afternoon thunderstorms are quite possible, and these streams can recover quickly from any splash and dash type of rain showers.

When I return to Saluda for Coon Dog Day in 2016, the focus will be on celebrating 120 years of history with the Saluda Sittin’ and Sippin’ Society. Building a float for the parade and participating in the annual square dance are also required activities, so time for prowling in the Pacolet will be diminished. But I still can’t wait to try and catch some stocked trout while enjoying the sights and sounds of the stream. And I can harken back to when trout fishing was my FIRST order of business, and to always recall how the big one did not get away.

To read this feature article in the newspaper click on Charleston Mercury.

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