Posted - 09/21/2016 : 10:18:22 AM
| Folks that move to the lowcountry always complain that there is no true fall season here. One day it is 110-degrees, a week later all the leaves are on the ground and the highs are in the upper fifties. Truth be told I gauge fall here in Charleston by the need for some neoprene when I surf, the great trout bite, and most notably the change in the color of the marsh grass not the leaves on the trees. If my wife and I want to see fall colors we hop in the truck and head up to the South or North Carolina mountains for a long weekend. As a matter of fact we make it a point to go every year just to get away and enjoy some crisp fall air.
While attending Clemson if it was not a game weekend then I was in the Sumter National Forest for some camping, hiking, and fishing. What better way to unwind from a long week of studying and exams than camping out on the Chattooga River? My roommate and I along with a couple of other friends would take off right after class on Friday, stop by the grocery store for some food, stop at the base of the mountains for some tackle, and be on the trail by 5 pm. By dark we would have our tents set up, firewood gathered, and dinner on the grill. After dinner we would sit next to the fire, have a few beers, tell allot of lies, and relax. By 8 am the next morning we had already finished breakfast, slapped the waiters on, and were casting for trout. We would fish till lunch, grab a bite to eat, then either hit the river again or go for a hike to explore the local waterfalls. Life was good!
The mountains are no more than five hours from most of the lowcountry and offer a great retreat from the flatland. Primitive camping as well as maintained camp areas with facilities and even federally maintained cabins are scattered throughout the Sumter National Forest. Check in with the National Forest website, http://www.fs.fed.us/R8 , for locations as well as regulations on campsites and campfires.
Though I rarely get to do it these days, in my opinion there is no better way to enjoy the true mountain experience than some primitive camping. If you plan to camp you will need these few essential items:
* Quality Back Pack – Make sure it is large enough to hold your gear and fits you comfortably. I prefer those with a built in frame and padded back.
* A Good Sleeping Bag – Weather can be unpredictable in the mountains and a cold evening can make for a miserable experience if you are not prepared. Spend the extra money and get a good bag. I would recommend a lightweight Gortex covered mummy bag that is easy to hike with and rated down to at least 0-degrees. You can always unzip the bag should you become hot.
* Sleeping Pad – A small self-inflating pad will help save your back and will also serve to insulate you from the cold ground.
* A good tent. – This is not one to skimp on the price on. I once camped out in a steady drizzle for 4 days. It was late spring & the air was warm, so hiking and fishing were okay, but sleeping at night would have been miserable without a good tent. Waterproof floors wrapping at least 6-inches up the side and a good rain fly are a must. Just like with the sleeping bag, pay close attention to weight if you plan on backpacking with it.
* Good waders – My first experience wading in the Chattooga was in February with a pair of non-insulated PVC waders from Wal-Mart. Even with 2-pairs of wool socks, long johns, and jeans I still froze, and subsequently had to limit my time in the water to 1 hour increments to keep from going numb. Neoprene waders are a must from early fall through early summer.
I have caught trout on natural and artificial baits and have used both ultra-light spinning and fly tackle. Natural baits in my mind include corn and wiggler worms while artificials include small shad grubs and Rooster Tails. For fly tips I would recommend stopping by the Charleston Angler before making the trip. Remember you will need a freshwater license issued by the state where you plan to fish and check the regulations on the trout before keeping.
Enjoy a break from the flatland with a mountain retreat…
Captain Tim Pickett