About 35 minutes from my house in Upstate South Carolina there is an amazing kayaking blueway that offers fun for all, especially if you are a fisherman. This hidden gem will throw a little bit of everything at you from various lengths of paddling trips, to running Class I and Class II rapids, to a small play wave, to insane fishing. What draws me to this location time and time again is the remoteness that you can get on the river, but the icing on the cake is the superb fishing for large mouth bass, Bluegills, and smallies.
There are 4 main sections or areas to run on the blue way. The first is section is right at 8 miles and we refer to this as the Upper Section. The Lower section is a blistering 16 miles, and will take everything out of you to complete it in one day, but it is definitely do-able. The third Section, another 16 miler, which I have not paddled yet, but is on my radar for the very near future. Lastly, you combine all the sections from the first put-in to the last dam you can cover 40 miles of remote wilderness on the water, that right 40 miles!
On any of the given areas that I just mentioned you may or may not see any other paddlers all day, and if you do they are very few and far in between. You may see a good many deer, turkey, wild pigs, all types of bird life, and we were even blessed with having a mating pair of Bald Eagles follow us down the river for 3-4 miles on one trip. The water is clean, clear, and very refreshing and this helps make for an epic fishery that I just cannot get enough of.
As many of us are facing the dog days of the summer, we can find it hard to fish all day, because the fish move very deep at mid day or the heat of the day just runs you off the water. This is why I have spent the last several years concentrating and spending a ton of time in the rivers surrounding me in the southeastern part of the country. The fish are always active, hungry, and aggressive in the river and this is primarily due to two reasons. There is a huge abundance of bait fish and the water temp is 10-15 degrees cooler than surrounding bodies of water.
Just a few short weeks ago Kris Moran and I set out to head to the blueway to run, fish and spend the day on the Upper Section. We wanted to get an early start, so I arrived at Kris’s house at 4:45am. We “shot the bull” for a short time, and then we headed to one of our favorite sections of river to run. After a small delay in the take-out gate not being opened until 6:50am we parked my truck and made our way to the put-in. The shuttle run is only 11 minutes, making this another bonus to being able to run 8 miles on this section. When we arrived at the put-in we were the only souls in site, so we quickly unloaded our 2 kayaks and made our way out onto the crystal clear river.
Kris was ripping a top water plug across the river, and I was tossing a rooster tail, we were both looking and searching for reaction bites. Well it did not take long I landed 4 nice bluegill, but in the back of my mind I was looking for more. So I kept slinging my old favorite hoping a small mouth would want to come out and play, but no luck. In the mean time my right hand man switched over to finesse worm fishing, and in no time he landed 3 decent LMB. So in less than 20 minutes and still insight of the put-in Kris and I had put 7 fish in the boat.
I was very pleased with these results, but I have to admit there was something just not sitting right with me. In the back of my mind I kept thinking should I switch up my tactics, and go to a slower approach. Knowing that I had a brand new 13 Fishing rod and reel sitting 2 feet behind me did not help matters. About that time Kris landed another LMB, so I eagerly grabbed my 13 Fishing Black Omen and 13 Fishing Creed GT set-up and went after the LMB. I love to finesse fish and I was stoked to see what my new combo had in store for me. On my 3rd cast I tossed my shaky head at the base of a tree, and BAAAAM, the drag started singing and I knew it was on. I quickly wrestled the beautiful green LMB into my boat, and Kris yelled out, “it is on now, we have them right were we want them.”
One of the best parts about this section of the river is there is about 15-20 shoal rapids, Class I, and a small handful of Class II rapids to run and fish. So with our first longer run coming up we secured our rods and got in position to shoot through a few rocks and a nice little two foot drop off. As we both laughed about how much fun it is to run rapids we were already grabbing our rods and aiming towards our next targets. By this time we had been on the river for about an hour, and we really had a finesse game on, and we were producing beautiful, healthy, quality fish. Time and time again you could hear the sweet sound of our drags screaming, and us giving congrats and high-fives to each other.
As we made our way down the pristine river the temps started climbing to the upper 80s, but that was great with us, because as the temperatures climbed so did the non-stop fishing action. There were multiple times when we had doubles on, if you could find really thick, strong cover you knew you were going to be able to bring a LMB out of it. This was our bread and butter technique all day long, and it paid off! Dark colors + finesses = big numbers and solid bass for us!
Kris and I made our way down the blueway and we found us a pleasant sandy beach in the shade to cool off and eat our lunch. To me there is nothing like talking with my brother on a epic river trip over a delicious PB&J. We reflected on the adventure so far, and laughed about how we running some sketchy rapid runs. We knew we had a good bit more water to cover so we jumped back in our kayaks, and off we headed. Before we even got down river from our lunch spot we both had fish in the boat. Right then I told Kris, “this is probably going to end up bring one of the best river trips we have ever had.”
We stayed hard at the fishing for just about the entire 8 miles down the wonderful Pacolet River Blueway. We were able to arrive at the take-out at about 4:00pm, and what a day it turned out to be. As we slid our boats up on the bank, we both took a few minute to reflect on our adventure, and the grins on our faces said it all. This would turn out to be a top 3 freshwater day for me, and a journey with my extremely close friend for over 26 years, that I will never forget or let go of. Kris and I landed well over 60 LMB and around 25 Bluegills. We have landed more fish on the Lower Section that I spoke about earlier, but the quality of the fish from toady was out of sight.
Never look pass a Kayak Blueway, you never know what may be lying beneath the surface….it might just end up being a day that you will never forget!