Friday, February 20, 2015

Ice Edge Trout in the South Carolina Upcountry

"I've never seen that before."

I'm not sure how many times Bruce Stanton and I said that or something like it today, always related to the cold and its effects. It started with crunching through a wide rim of ice just to get to open water. The snowy banks and icy river reminded me of pictures I see of fishermen targeting brown trout and steelhead in Pennsylvania and New York and were not what I'd expect to ever see in South Carolina.

We also saw trout rising, something I've not seen with the water and air as cold as it was today. I guess they were eating miniscule midges or something in the surface film because we never saw any bugs come off the water.

The next "never seen that" was major icing on lures. I'd seen plenty of ice in rod eyes (had to clear that about every four casts much of today) and on reel spools and bails on other trips, but never on lures that stayed submerged much of the time. Our lures got so icy so quickly that we couldn't fish hard baits as effectively as normal, and even with jigs we had to clear the ice off the hooks every now and then. I'm pretty sure a couple of fish I missed today were because of a hook that was iced over and lacking a sufficient point.

On the positive side, we ended up utilizing a pattern that I certainly had never seen. The fish were holding right along the edges of the ice in the big pools, seemingly using the ice as cover and ambushing baits in the modest adjacent current. Once we figured that out, we were able to aim casts upstream and close to the ice line and work Lindy Watsit Jigs and Fuzz-E Grubs close to the bottom and close to that edge and found good success by doing just that.

I suppose it's not surprising that we had the river to ourselves, considering a starting temperature of 12. Fishing was good, though, and it was a fun day on the river. And in truth the extremity of the conditions for this part of the country and all the ice only added to the adventure.

For more on one of my favorite areas to play, visit Upcountry South Carolina.

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