Wednesday, July 23, 2014
By Brad Wright, produced in cooperation with the HubCity Writers Project.
When I was 6 years old I caught a 16-inch catfish off of my grandfather’s dock on the gulf coast of Florida. Although 25 years have passed since that day, I can still remember with remarkable clarity the exhilaration of having a fish on the line, the thrill of reeling it in, and the pride in having made such a fine catch.
Other than that catfish, however, I am sorely lacking in fishing experience, despite the considerable time I’ve spent in the outdoors. Thus, on a warm day in May, I am excited to attend the Tyger River Foundation’s first annual Fish the Tyger event to learn more about the angling arts in Spartanburg County.
This county abounds with rivers and lakes, and the local Visitors Bureau has a good list of places to fish. The Tyger River Foundation, a west-side land trust in Spartanburg, is getting into the game with this new annual event, which it hopes will bring more people to this beautiful, riverside preserve about 30 minutes southwest of Spartanburg off Interstate 26.
The sky is overcast and the Tyger River has swelled a few feet due to the recent heavy rains. It rushes past, tinted a deep orange from the storm runoff. This is to the chagrin of every fisherman present; all of who explain that there’s no chance of catching a fish in water that opaque. I, too, am a little disappointed, as there were to be some demonstrations that now appear to be moot. Nonetheless, the Foundation has put together a great deal of information, vendors, and activities to make the event worthwhile.
I walk amongst the various vendors and exhibit areas, impressed by the turnout for such a muggy day. On the bank of the river, small children squirm and squeal as they learn how to properly hook different kinds of live bait. One cricket decides that today is not the end for him and creates quite an amusing scene as several children scurry after him.
I approach the newly formed USC Upstate competitive fishing team to get some insight into where a novice like me would be the most likely to find some success. The energetic young men tell me that Lake Bowen is an excellent spot for largemouth bass and brim, with the caveat that it gets very crowded in the summer, and the boat traffic can make fishing more challenging. They also suggest the Pacolet River near where it meets Lake Bowen. Although inaccessible by a fishing boat, I am assured that the river is full of bass and brim that can be caught from the shore.
Striking up a conversation with one of the vendors, I am shocked to hear that Camp Croft State Park is prime territory for bass, brim, and catfish. I’m shocked not because of the information, but because I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it first. Camp Croft is Spartanburg’s hidden jewel. I made several outings as a boy with the Cub Scouts, and it is a delightfully tranquil place. All you need is two dollars and a valid South Carolina fishing license and you can fish to your heart’s content in a truly serene environment. The park is frequently restocked with fish, and they also offer boat and canoe rentals to aid fishermen.
Being the most familiar with rod and reel fishing, I move on to see the fly-fishing demonstration. Again the muddy water proves to be quite the nemesis, as the instructor is unable to demonstrate how different lures imitate the life cycle of certain insects on top of the water, in the middle of the current, or at the bottom. Her enthusiasm for the sport is infectious regardless of the conditions, and I ask if there are any good places nearby for an outing.
Like many people, I imagine fly-fishing to be the exclusive domain of the crystal waters of the Rockies (blame it on too many viewings of “A River Runs Through It”). To my surprise, I am informed that all of the waterways in Spartanburg, particularly the Tyger and Pacolet, are excellent places to fly-fish. While too far east to go after any trout, this area provides ample opportunity to catch brim and bass. I am even more surprised to learn that, with the right type of fly, you can even fly-fish for brim from a lakeshore. North Spartanburg’s RiverBlade Knife and Fly Shop is recommended as the best place to procure all the gear necessary for fly-fishing.
Heading back to the Nature Center I gather a plethora of information the Foundation has provided about the Tyger River and local fish populations. I depart the event satisfied in the knowledge that I need not go far to experience the pleasure of recreational fishing. I now know that I am fortunate to live in an area that, if you’ll forgive the pun, is brimming with opportunity.
Brad Wright, Produced in cooperation with the HubCity Writers Project.
Brad Wright is a Spartanburg native and freelance dilettante, recently returned to the Hub City after an extended tour of the Southeast. When he’s not entertaining his lab Rex Banner you can find him volunteering at Hub City Bookshop and the County History Museum. He loves to discuss pop culture ephemera, the Appalachian Trail and his recent appearance on Jeopardy!