Fisherman first, fly fisherman second

Published 12:28 pm Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Lake Murray Country Tourism put me in touch with a guide for a fly fishing float a few months ago. My experience of Columbia was as a pit stop while driving to the coast. So, with zero knowledge of the waters, I was more than happy to hire a guide. Jake Howard, owner of Saluda Valley Guides, told me he would be in touch before the trip. That gave me enough time to internet sleuth on my guide before the big trip.

Thanks to Google, I found out that Jake knew what he was talking about when it comes to fly fishing. With experience guiding in multiple states, on multiple rivers, and for multiple species of coldwater and warm-water fish, Jake’s background was as strong as the rivers he rowed.

The excitement of the trip grew at an even more frantic pace as Jake reached out to me a few days prior. “Is there a certain way you would like to fish?” Jake asked.

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“I prefer fly fishing if that is OK, ” I casually and proudly replied. After all, I am a fly fisherman. I tie my own flies, build my own rods, and hold my own nose up as I walk by bait fishermen.

“Take a look at these,” Jake responded in a text. A few seconds later, photos of huge striped bass held by smiling anglers filled my messages. Excitement was now exponential, then Jake followed up the photos by texting, “These were caught on live bait the last couple of days.”

I was faced with a moral crossroads. I tend to pick and choose my fishing trips based on being successful with a fly rod. Bait fishing seemed like a slippery slope into fishing depravity. I scrolled back up to the photos of the smiling anglers with huge fish and my decision was easy.

“You can bring along some bait,” I replied as I mentally started reeling in monster fish. I may be a fly fisherman, but I am a fisherman first.

Some fly fishermen would have laughed at the idea of bait fishing. Some may even state that it is below them. Those would also be the guys frowning at the end of the day with sore shoulders and no fish photos.

Our day of fishing was incredible. Large, hard-charging fish danced at the end of our line throughout the day. Jake said that some days artificial flies and lures catch as many fish as bait. But these fish have a PhD in lure technology after being targeted all summer. So I trusted the guide with the local knowledge and years of fly fishing experience to lay down the fly rod and toss in a minnow. 

Columbia is no longer a pit stop on the way to the coast. Having the ability to catch trout, striped bass and smallmouth bass in a day is a treat. There is no doubt I’ll be pointing my truck southeast again to spend the weekend in Lake Murray Country. I’ll plan to bring my fly rod, but if Jake tells me to fish with bait, I’ll listen. After all, I’m a fisherman first.

Jake Howard (Saluda Valley Guides, LLC) can be contacted at (803) 312-2435. 


The author recently tried his hand at bait fishing in South Carolina.