is One Beautiful Broad!
The Broad River begins way up in western North Carolina and
tumbles its way all the way down to the capital city of Columbia, SC, where
it joins with the Saluda to form the Congaree. Along its route to Columbia,
it is dammed up several times, although never into a big impoundment. These
small dams are there more to produce power than to make recreational lake
opportunities. At times I despise dams on rivers, but the truth is that if
they were not there much of the Broad would be completely silted in and we
may not have the great fishery we do today.
Here you can see the entire Broad
River Basin. Several of the Broad's tributaries are also worth fishing, most
notably the Green River, Enoree, Tyger and Pacolet.
This fishery consists of two species
of black bass, the largemouth and smallmouth. The smallmouths have not
always been there either. In the 80's the South Carolina DNR stocked them
into Kings Creek, a Broad River tributary, and they actually swam out of the
creek and began thriving in the main river. This is a bit unusual because
smallmouth are known for preferring water that is on the cooler side. The
Broad River in the summer reaches temperatures in the high 80ís. Once the
DNR realized that they were there to stay they began supplemental stockings
in various parts of the river. Today, the DNR would not stock a non-native
fish into a river system, but since there is nothing they can do about it,
they are happy with the nice smallmouth fishery the Broad has become. As a
river fisherman who loves smallmouth, but hates to drive way up north to
catch them, this is a dream come true.
However, access to
the Broad can be difficult and the numerous shoals make it a challenging
river for motor boats. This is a good thing if you are a kayak or canoe
fisherman like me. Even though it is a major river, these fish see little
pressure once downstream of the launch points. There is nothing I like
better than fishing where there are big fish that receive little pressure.
I finally found a
place to put in and paddle upstream to some shoals. Usually the smallmouth
will be caught in or near the swift and rocky water, and that is what I was
hoping to catch. I threw my tube bait into a likely looking pool and
immediately my line started moving rapidly downstream. I could hardly keep
up with whatever was on the end of my line it was so fast. The next thing
you know it was gone! I wasn't too happy about losing what I believed to be
a pretty big fish, but oh well. I threw back into the pool and had the same
thing happen to me again. Finally I caught my fish out of that pool and it
turned out to be a nice 2+ smallmouth, just what I was hoping it would be!
This confirmed to me that I was in the right spot to catch these fish.
I caught a couple more as I worked my
way upstream to a big pool that sat below a nice set of rapids. This pool
appeared to have some big dark boulders in it so I just knew there had to be
some fish here. Since the area was so big I decided to throw a search bait
to call up some fish from the depths. I slung my Zara Spook Jr. about as far
as I could and started "walking the dog" back to me. Sure enough it got
slammed by a fish, but this time it was a largemouth. Once I was done
fishing the pool I paddled through it and realized that what I thought were
boulders turned out to be big patches of hydrilla - a well known largemouth
hangout. Hydrilla is not too common in rivers in the southeast (except FL)
so this was an odd sight. I began to find many more areas where I could
clearly see hydrilla patches. Every time I threw that Spook over a patch I
got hammered by a largemouth. It turned out to be a very productive pattern.
This largemouth was spooked out of the
his hydrilla home by the spook!
At one point I noticed some rare
spider lilies and I just had to snap a picture before I floated by.
The river where I
was is very scenic and for the most part can be fished while wading, which
is always nice. The Broad river is exactly what its name portrays it to be -
broad. This usually means that it is also relatively shallow. There were
certainly deep holes that were over 10ft deep, but most of the river was
indeed wide, shallow and a joy to fish.
I was really hoping to get into some
more smallmouths, so I stayed away from the slower water where the hydrilla
was and targeted some better looking smallmouth water in the shoals. This
fish fell for a fluke like several others on this trip.
Finally I got to an
area that looked to be prime big smallmouth water. I noticed a lonesome
boulder with about 5 feet of moving water around it. I just knew there was
going to be a smallie hiding by that rock. I threw the spook jr. to where it
would walk-the-dog tantalizingly close to the boulder. Sure enough a big
smallie shot straight up in the air and annihilated the bait. The bad part
was that neither of the Gamakatsu treble hooks found the fish's mouth. So,
knowing that she is there and hungry I immediately threw the fluke back into
the crime scene. A couple twitches and I could see her swarming around it
like a shark. Finally she flared her gills and inhaled the bait! For a split
second I had her and then "poof" she was off. Man, was I at a loss for
words. I really doubted my chances of getting this fish to bite again, but I
threw the fluke back in to see if she would. Thankfully, she graciously
accepted my third offer and I was able to get a better hook set into her.
She weighed 3lbs and 2oz. The fish was very short and stout for a 3lber. It
was about 17 1/2 inches long and put up one heckuva fight as expected!
If you ever get a chance to hit the
Broad anywhere from North Carolina down to Columbia, SC, I would do so
because it is one special river. The fact that you can have a shot at a 4lb+
smallmouth and a largemouth between 6 and 10lbs in the same float is rare
indeed. Not to mention the birds, including bald eagles, herring and ospreys
that you will see along the way. On this day I was able to see two coyotes
and numerous river otters and of course those rare spider lilies. The Broad
is home to the state-endangered ginger plant as well. In 1991 SC designated
the stretch from 99 Islands dam downstream 15 miles as wild and scenic. The
area is also home to many historical landmarks such as Smith's Ford and
ancient indian fish traps.
Even if the fishing
isn't at its best, I think you are starting to get the picture that you will
leave the Broad with that "can't wait to get back" feeling.