The heat of the last few days serves as a pointed reminder – not that anyone who spends much time outdoors really needs one – that the “official” first day of summer is just three weeks down the road.
I’ve always felt, however, that once June arrived in this part of the world, it brought summer with it. That means we can look forward to roughly a hundred days of wilting heat, withering humidity, and the occasional afternoon thunderstorm.
These weather considerations do not mean that sportsmen should simply adopt an attitude of “I’ll wait until fall” and become seasonal couch potatoes. There are plenty of outdoor activities to pursue in a South Carolina summer:
▪ Picking blackberries. Incredibly plentiful and generally under used, these wonderful wild berries will ripen in coming weeks. They are well worth battle scars in the form of scratches, maybe a few chiggers, and juice-stained hands. Just a bite or two from a cobbler straight out of the oven will make you forget all about troubles associated with picking. If you don’t mind getting damp from dew, early morning is probably the best time to pick blackberries.
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▪ Bank fishing. This kind of fishing lends itself to relaxation, rumination, and maybe a good time with a young understudy. I treasure the memory of a day now more than 30 years ago when my then young daughter caught a sizable catfish in Lake Wylie while bank fishing.
▪ Mountain fishing for trout. If the heat gets to be too much, the mountains of South Carolina’s upstate counties, and those of western North Carolina, are full of cold, clear streams holding trout. The delayed harvest season on selected streams in North Carolina ends June 6. The two weeks from that date are a grand time to put a mess of trout in the skillet. Wade wet and I can assure you any thoughts of being too hot will vanish in a hurry.
▪ Hiking and camping. The mountain areas for trout fishing are also fine ones for venturing into the back country for a few nights with your home on your back and sleeping beneath the stars. A variation on this approach is hiking into remote trout streams for a combination of camping and angling.
▪ Off-season equipment maintenance. If you haven’t already cleaned and stored your turkey gun, along with the many accessories connected with the sport, you are a month behind.
However, much of the attention focusing on equipment at this season involves looking ahead to dove or deer season. Dove fields need to be prepared now if one expects plenty of action in September, while food plots for deer, shooting lanes, trails on hunting property, stand placement or repairs, and more are best done over the next six to eight weeks.
▪ Float fishing. One approach to fishing in this area which can be highly productive, but doesn’t get a lot of attention, is floating the Catawba or Broad river in a canoe or kayak. Both streams hold fine populations of bass, plenty of catfish, and worlds of panfish. Whether you use casting rigs, spinning gear, or fly fish, it’s possible to have great days floating gently down these rivers. In shoal areas, you may want to beach your watercraft and do some wading in likely spots. This can produce fish as well as cool you off.
▪ Frog gigging. Presumably folks still gig frogs, although I can’t recall the last time anyone mentioned having done it recently. The myriad of farm ponds are prime gigging grounds. Anyone who has ever dined on fried frog legs knows what pure culinary delight is all about.
▪ Boat fishing. With plenty of lakes nearby, ranging from sprawling Lake Wylie down to farm ponds of less than an acre, anyone with a boat and a means of launching it – sometimes an issue in ponds – is just moments from wetting a line and possibly catching fish. At this time of year the first and last hours of the day, along with nighttime, generally offer the best fishing, although the real barrier to mid-day angling action is heat rather thaninactivity on the part of fish.
Finally, if none of the above seems appealing, stay indoors and read a good book on hunting and fishing, or keep up with what’s happening on the sporting literature front via the Internet. One good place to do the latter is the five times a week blog, “Sporting Classics Daily.” Of course there are books without number to interest and intrigue the reading sportsman. Sometime in the not too distant future I’ll share some suggestions.