Fishing: A Q&A with Joel Townley

A special river

June 24, 2012 

  • More on the water Columbia is one of the few large cities where you can play in top-notch whitewater and get out of the river a block away from top-notch restaurants. (Hint: All cities have the restaurants; few have the rapids.) • The true whitewater is along a 12-mile section of the Saluda River from the Lake Murray dam to the Gervais Street bridge. Even if you have whitewater experience, you should get a local to show you the lines through the Mill Race Rapids just upstream of Riverbanks Zoo. The rest of the rapids are relatively easy to navigate except when the river is running at extremely high levels. • Flatwater kayakers can explore a number of meandering black-water creeks in the area. The twisty Cedar Creek through Congaree National Park can be a challenging paddle, but the view of the old-growth forest is worth the trouble. Congaree Creek in Cayce is the second best creek paddle in the area and slightly easier for novices — if you don’t get spooked by the occasional alligator. • For something different, paddle up the clear, spring-fed creek at Goodale State Park. It’s tight and twisty, with interesting plants and wildlife, including a great blue heron rookery.
  • More information Hook, line and license The S.C. Department of Natural Resources sold nearly 365,000 fishing licenses in 2010, including about 225,000 freshwater licenses.

Editor’s note: We asked Columbia outdoor enthusiasts to share, in their own words, a favorite recreational experience. Here, Joel Townley talks fishing.

That summer morning years ago started with a shore breakfast cooked by the side of the Broad River, just as the eastern horizon started to light up. Breakfast consisted of fresh eggs, venison sausage, bacon and bread cooked in a cast iron skillet over an open flame.

The day was coming to life.

The ducks began to fly and the fish started busting the surface for their morning meal; my friend Talbert and I needed to get started fishing. Before long we were launching our kayaks. I was still tying my first bait, a shallow diving crankbait, when I heard Talbert yell, “Got one!” I couldn’t let him get too far ahead of me, so I quickly tied my bait, and within a couple of casts I had my first smallmouth bass on the Broad River.

The fish busted the surface several times, and I kept the line tight so he wouldn’t spit the treble hook.

I immediately knew how special this river is.

We spent an hour or so in that area catching several bass, bream and even a catfish. As we headed down river, we stopped in several places along our five-mile adventure to the takeout at Harbison State Forest, catching a few fish at each place we stopped. Halfway through our trip we ate lunch on a group of rocks that separated a good set of rapids, and each of us bragged about who caught the biggest and most fish.

As the temperature starts to rise and the kids are out of school for the summer, the lakes and rivers can become crowded, but you can get away from the crowds on the Broad River between Peak and Columbia.

There are only a couple of public access points along the river before you get into the Columbia city limits. These include the S.C. 213 bridge and a throw-in site at the Palmetto Trail Peak-to-Prosperity Passage parking area, both near Peak, and another throw-in-only site 17 miles downriver at Harbison State Forest. Due to the small number of public access points, there are plenty of fish to be caught; many that have never seen artificial bait.

As you get into the city of Columbia, the access is more plentiful. The parks and walkways of the Three Rivers Greenway have open fishing spots along the banks of the Broad and Congaree River with many access points for launching a canoe or kayak.

A few years ago I introduced my young son to this special river. I would strap him in my one-man kayak and paddle through some of the calmer areas of the river. Now that he’s pushing 5 years old we have upgraded to a canoe, which provides more room for both of us and our gear. I’m on my son’s schedule when we’re on the river; when he’s ready to go home, we pack up and leave. I always try and make our trips enjoyable, so he will want to continue to fish.

Taking your children fishing can be a wonderful way to provide a lifetime of memories.

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