Fly fishing the Saluda river in South Carolina can indeed be a great experience. You may say "Fly fishing the Saluda in Columbia!" with a bit of surprise. While the Middle Saluda River has been the source of some South Carolina's brook trout records, the portion of the river below Lake Murray in Columbia also sports trout. Yes, there is good fly fishing for trout in the South Carolina mountains, but there is also good fly fishing right in Columbia -- in fact right near the South Carolina Riverbanks Zoo.
The Saluda River is formed by the confluence of its north and south forks, which is about 10 miles northwest of the city of Greenville. The North Saluda River flows generally south to southwest through Greenville County. The Middle Saluda River rises in Jones Gap State Park and flows southward through Greenville County. The ten miles of the Lower Saluda River is a tailrace from Lake Murray and is indeed over 100 miles from the mountains. The fly fishing starts at the dam managed by the South Carolina Electric and Gas and extends as far south as the Riverbanks Zoo, which is one of the best zoos in the nation. Below the zoo, however, the water will usually be too warm for trout to exist. Since so little is known about this portion of the Saluda, we will confine our report to that section.
Fly Fishing the Lower Saluda River:
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Since the water flows from Lake Murray, it averages about 55 degrees year around as it leaves the dam, but as you know South Carolina summers can be hot indeed, so by the time the water gets to the zoo, it is not capable of consistently maintaining trout. However, nearer to the dam, it has some good fishing with catchable size rainbow trout stocked monthly from November through April. The SCDNR usually stocks a total of about 40,000 trout per year (many of them are stocked from helicopter), in this put-grow-and take fishery. The 6" - 11" brown trout stocked in the fall average about 1" of growth per month before the following summer months, so you can do the math as to what you can catch in terms of size. The insect population is good with the Mayflies starting early followed by the caddis flies and the stoneflies.
There is a limit of 5 trout that can be taken on a single day as well as other conditions, so please check out the S.C. fishing regulations. For more information about fishing in Sout Carolina, go to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. CAUTION: Due to its cold water, as with any tailrace, hypothermia is always a consideration and the rapidly changing water levels are something that anglers must be constantly aware of. There is a telephone alert system in place where you can sign up for alerts when the conditions on the river change, and of course, water flow information for the Saluda is available by calling (800) 830-5253. A recorded message provides the number of generators South Carolina Electric and Gas intends to use any given day, or you can visit their website for planned water releases, or to sign up for an automatic update via phone. Also, visit the USGS website for current streamflow data on the Lower Saluda River.
The spring season will bring about some good hatches. Blue Winged Olives, Craneflies, Cream Midge and Blood Midges including the larva, pupa and adults as well as the brown or white belly sculpins. Both dry flies and nymphs will work well.
In the summer the fishing remains good due to the constant water temperature of about 55 degrees F. Cinnamon Caddis, Little Sister Caddis, Cream Midges as well as terrestrials which will be effective due to the abundant tree cover.
Fall & Winter:
Due to the mild climate, fishing is good and the fall colors are enjoyable as well. Watch for a fall hatch of Blue Winged Olives, as well as Little Sister Caddis, Cinnamon Caddis, Blood Midges Black flies and sculpins.
The Lower Saluda is bordered mostly by private land, so permission must be obtained from the land owners for access for most of the river. However, the best approach is to float from one access point to another, depending on the water flow. Caution: The water level and flow on this river can rise rapidly, without warning. Stay alert and check the predicted water levels before you go! There are currently four public access points on the Lower Saluda River.
1.) Hope Ferry landing (on south bank) and Saluda Shoals Park (north bank) provide the only public ramps for trailered boat launches on the river. Hope Ferry landing is accessed from Corley Mill Road which connects with SC Hwy 6 and US Hwy 378.
2.) Saluda Shoals Regional Park Access facilities at this new park include canoe launch, boat ramp, decked overlook to the river, fish cleaning station, and picnic area. A fee is required to enter the park. Enter from Bush River Road which connects with SC Hwy 6 and I-20.
3.) Gardendale / SCE&G Put-in this access is 3.5 miles downstream from Hope Ferry and Saluda Shoals Park. The site provides access for boats that can be carried in. The location is on the north bank near the Gardendale community and WVOC radio station off Garden Valley Road which is accessed from Bush River Road near I-20.
4.) Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens offers nature trails and a pedestrian bridge with views of Mill Race Rapids, historic structures, and native wildlife. Carry-in boat access is available at the western (upstream) end of the parking lot by walking a short trail to the river. Riverbanks is located off Greystone Blvd which connects with I-126. Open daily from 9-5 pm, admission is charged.
View Low Saluda River Fishing/Canoeing/Kayaking Map in a larger map