Hiwassee Etowah Saluda River, Southern Summer Runs on the Fly
One of the most prized game fish in the world is the striped bass. They are big and strong and can be very opportunistic.
The South's summer runs on the fly fishermen are fast approaching. There is a limited time left for striped bass fishing in these areas.
Most stripers live in saltwater in their natural habitat along the Atlantic Coast. During the spring, they migrate to freshwater rivers to spawn. This activity generates a lot of excitement for fishermen from the Mid-Atlantic to Maine.
Striped bass are the same species that are found in different types of fisheries. Most of them are native to the states, and they are mostly kept and stocked. However, they are also known to survive and grow well in reservoirs and rivers. This gives fly fishermen an opportunity to catch them when they are in the water.
The spring run is usually followed by a larger group of fish that seek out cool-water refuge in the deep summer. In Southern systems, where the reservoirs are warm and the oxygen levels are low, large numbers of striped bass can be found in rivers and creeks as they feed. They remain in the water until the temperatures fall, which usually happens in the fall.
For most fly fishermen, the process of catching river-run striped bass can be very challenging. It involves casting large patterns and using heavy tackle, such as 10- and 9-weight rods.
Since these runs occur in different systems, it's important to scout for them in the river that empties into a nearby striped bass reservoir. Some of the well-established fisheries that can be found in this area are listed below.
According to Bill Stranahan, a guide, the fishing for stripers in the Hiwassee is similar to that of deer hunting. For most fishermen, the goal is to get a few bites from the large fish that often weigh over 20 pounds.
According to Stranahan, a good day can be achieved if a fisherman can land a few fish in the boat. However, it's also important to put in the work to get the results.
The river near Reliance begins to fill up with large stripers during the summer season. These fish run upstream from the Tennessee River and enjoy the cold water coming from Apalachia Lake, which is located in the mountains near the Tennessee/North Carolina border.
The fish in the Hiwassee look for various structures, such as rock faces, wood, and shoals. According to Stranahan, it's important to target areas where the fish are most likely to congregate.
According to Stranahan, the best way to catch a striper is to fish the water well. He also advised that fishermen should not rush their approach to the fish.
To imitate the appearance of stocked trout, skipjack herring, and gizzard shad, Stranahan uses large-sized baitfish patterns and big streamer flies. However, he noted that there's also a time to size down.
Guide Garner Reid often refers to the Etowah River as an ambush site for stripers. The fish are known to hold in the current-shade of fallen timber and logjams, waiting for the lure that swims past.
The Etowah is also known to have various natural structures, such as wood cover and shoals. This area is frequently fished during the late April to September season. All of these structures are located near an old lowhead dam that's downstream from Allatoona Lake in Georgia.
As the fish move through the system, they reach about 75 miles from Lake Weiss in Alabama. Due to the reproduction success of this run, fishermen can expect to land a wide variety of sizes of stripers.
According to Reid, the key to success is to make sure that the flies are presented properly. He also noted that an aggressive retrieve is what draws the fish to the lure.
According to Stranahan, the fish will often target a fly that looks wounded or fleeing. To trigger the action, fishermen have to make a commotion in the water.
The Etowah is mainly filled with threadfin shad, which makes 2- to 3-inch baitfish patterns and natural shad-colored streamer flies the ideal choice. Large-sized patterns are sometimes targeted by larger fish.
Columbia, South Carolina
Striped bass make their way up the Congaree River near the Santee-Cooper Lakes in South Carolina during spring and summer. By late summer, most fish head downstream to the 10-mile-long tributary known as the Saluda River. This area is fed by cold water from Lake Murray.
According to Jake Howard, a guide, the fish density in the area becomes so thick that he's able to land 100-fish days with a couple of stripers weighing in at around 2 to 5 pounds.
He mainly fishes for muskie and uses sinking lines, big flies, and 10-weights. He also tries to target the smaller stripers.
Although there's a time to fish smaller flies, Howard usually uses 6- to 8-inch articulated lures on sinking lines in an attempt to catch the larger stripers.
The lure to this fishery is the fishing pressure. Due to the large numbers of people fishing the area, the stripers tend to get spooked and become more finicky.
To get the fish excited about eating a fly, Howard usually carries a bait tank full of herring. He then uses a small amount of injured herring to entice the fish.
According to Howard, the water is clear enough that the fish will come up and blast the flies on the surface. They'll then start moving around and eating them as soon as they're introduced.
It's up to the fisherman to present the fly. According to Howard, it usually takes about 60 feet of casting to keep the fish on the lure.