The Bleckley Inn, a perfectly polished home away from home
I credit my daughter’s wedding with our latest fishing trip. Considerable amounts of administrative, logistical and craft support gave my wife, Joan, and me the idea to plan a post-party getaway for the two of us. While the newlyweds would be off honeymooning in some arctic region, Joan polled a few friends for warmer ideas. A co-worker of hers suggested Lake Hartwell in Anderson, South Carolina.
Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the eastern shore of Lake Hartwell, the quaint city of Anderson has the down-home appeal of Mayberry, with all the conveniences of a big city—plus renowned bass fishing. Exactly what we needed after months of venue-hunting, envelope-addressing and ribbon-tying.
The historic Bleckley Inn looked quaint from the outside—a colonial style two-story building with spotlights accenting the century-old brick walls and charming window awnings. Our plaza room had the feel of an upscale home because of the wooden floors, elegant rugs, stone-tiled shower and separate soaking tub. Complete with the modern amenities of a luxury hotel, such as a flat screen TV and free Wi-Fi, we were assured we found the perfect way to stay for a relaxing weekend.
It hadn’t occurred to either of us to pack a collapsible bag for our fishing excursion until the following morning, so we stopped by Grady’s Great Outdoors at the recommendation of our hotelier to pick something up to hold our snacks, sunscreen and other vittles. I’d expected a small specialty store, but Grady’s proved to be a complete outfitter. We found a few more things we needed while there, including a high quality thermos, and I got a pair of polarized sunglasses.
Fully outfitted, we drove to Lake Hartwell and chartered a fishing guide in hopes of catching a few of the huge striped bass the lake is famous for. Known as South Carolina’s “splash spot,” Lake Hartwell is one of the largest and most popular lakes in the southeast. At more than 56,000 acres, this vast man-made reservoir boasts large populations of striped bass, hybrid bass, crappie, white perch, catfish and largemouth bass.
Known as South Carolina’s ‘splash spot,’ Lake Hartwell is one of the largest and most popular lakes in the southeast.
After a scenic boat ride to our fishing spot, our guide Seth rigged live blueback herring onto each of our lines before lowering them over the side of the boat.
“Keep an eye on your rod tip and if starts to bend, hold tight and start reeling,” Seth told us.
Watching our rods lightly bounce with the waves, I wasn’t sure if we were getting a bite or not until Joan’s suddenly curved into a sharp bow leaving no doubt there was something on the end of it.
“I got one!” She shouted, while turning the reel’s handle. After a brief tug-of-war, my beautiful wife was posing with her first striped bass.
“Be honest now. Is this a big one?” she asked Seth.
“It’s a pretty good one, but I think we can get one even bigger, maybe even up to eight pounds,” he replied. At that, Joan turned determined.
We continued catching several more stripers and a few hybrid bass up until noon before deciding to call it a day and head in for lunch—short Joan’s eight pounder.
Dine on Cajun shrimp in creamy grits-a South Carolina classic
After freshening up in our room, we took a short stroll downtown to a local hot spot called Summa Joe’s just a few blocks from the inn. A vibrant locavore eatery, Joe’s specializes in farm-to-fork comfort foods using only fresh ingredients grown within the area. We both decided on the shrimp and grits, and after biting into the creamy mix of grits, grilled shrimp, and peppers and onions topped with a spicy tasso ham cream sauce, I must say they were in a class all their own.
“How’s yours?” I asked Joan.
“Very good,” she said laughing, sheepishly covering her mouth to finish chewing.
After lunch, we stopped at a local farmhouse brewery called Carolina Bauernhaus Ales for drinks. Specializing in hand-crafted ales from regional ingredients and seasonal fruits, the ornate taproom was filled with different varieties of ales, each with its own unique twist. As a fan of Belgian style pale ales, I went with the Tigerade, named after the mascot of the nearby Clemson University (which is apt because that’s exactly where the yeast is harvested for this beer). It was a refreshing, prickly pale ale made with blood oranges. Joan chose a blonde sour called the Dat Peach Weisse.
“I’m so glad we made this trip,” she said as we sipped our drinks beneath the glowing bulbs stretched across the ceiling.
“So am I,” I replied. “All the work we’ve put into the wedding the past few months means we completely earned it. Plus, who knows, maybe we’ll catch that eight pounder tomorrow.”
Joe’s specializes in farm-to-fork comfort foods using only fresh ingredients grown within the area.
Power up with this Southern staple done right at Mr. Rivers Breakfast Joint
The following morning we walked to Summa Joe’s sister restaurant, Mr. Rivers Breakfast Joint, to fill up before tossing out our lines again in hopes of catching a big striper. The Southern fried chicken and biscuits were another delectable dish that, when paired with their Mimosas, made for some of the finest breakfast we’d shared in years. On the water, the sun was warm and bright making for another beautiful day of fishing.
“How are you guys enjoying Anderson so far?” asked Seth.
“We love it!” we both answered in unison.
Before long we were back to catching a few good sized stripers until Joan cried: “Honey help! This one is big!” After several minutes of struggling, a huge striper finally emerged at the end of her line, and Seth quickly captured it in the net.
“Looks like you caught the biggest one,” he said weighing it on the scale.
“Is it eight pounds?” She asked.
“Nope, sorry,” he replied.
“Ah,” she sighed.
“It’s actually closer to 10. Congratulations!”
After celebrating Joan’s big catch, we began the relaxing boat ride back to the dock under the red glow from the setting sun.
“Honey,” Joan said.
“Yes?” I replied.
“I think this makes up for all that ribbon-tying.”
“Yes,” I agreed, “But maybe next visit we can skip that step.”
Before hitting the road home the next morning, we fueled up at Mr. Rivers Breakfast Joint again, leaving feeling full and refreshed, brainstorming our next excuse to return.