Ben Moore has fished legendary trout streams in Montana for more than a decade – but some of his finest fish have been landed much closer to home.
“The fish I’m catching off the Saluda River are as good as any fish that come out of anywhere,” the Augusta-based trout guide told members of the CSRA Fly Fishers club last week.
The nine-mile segment of the Saluda River below Lake Murray Dam, where trout have been stocked by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources for decades, is gaining momentum as a trophy fishery, where rainbow and brown trout can survive from year to year.
“They stock about 25,000 to 30,000 fish in the Saluda every year,” Moore said. “The rainbows are nine to 12 inches and brown trout that they put in there are five to seven inches.”
The cold, fast-flowing oxygenated water offers a perfect environment for growth and survival, he said. “I’m catching fish all the way up to the 24-inch range.”
As a flyfishing guide, Moore practices and encourages catch and release – which best preserves the appeal and excitement of trophy waters.
The Saluda, about an hour from Augusta, has limited access for wading, he said, and is best fished by boat.
“I do float trips,” he said. “I’ve taken everything I know from float fishing and drift fishing in Montana for 13 years, and those tactics are very successful here.”
Moore typically launches his boat upstream and floats the best fishing waters, then uses a pre-arranged shuttle to get back to his starting point.
It’s not unusual to catch a dozen fish in a single trip, with 23 trout landed on one recent outing, he said.
Efforts are under way by groups including Trout Unlimited to further improve the Saluda’s potential by modifying regulations and creel limits.
A mortality study now under way in the river will extend into 2015 with about 5,000 tagged trout released each year, he said.
He encouraged anyone landing a tagged trout to carefully record and report the details to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
“They’re doing it for a reason,” he said. “The more information they can collect, the better their study will be.”
One of the challenges in managing a trophy trout stream is convincing food fishermen of the longterm potential the Saluda holds.
“This study is the gateway for that kind of education,” he said.
Moore books clients out of Augusta for day trips to the Saluda.
The cost is $425 for one or two people, he said, which includes transportation and equipment. Anglers must obtain their own South Carolina fishing license.
For more details, Moore can be reached at email@example.com or by calling 706-840-0787.