Monday, October 25, 2010

Tails in the grass

I stepped out of my Jeep in the pre-dawn light and took a deep breath.  I love fall in the Low Country.  The cool morning air, the smell of salt water and pluff mud.  Hearing pelicans and seagulls calling out, and a marsh hens bark.  Headlights shone from behind me and I knew my fishin buddy had arrived.  We set about assembling our fly rods and picking the flies for the day.  I had a new weapon in my arsenal.  I call it the "Copper Clobber " and it looks nasty.  It has the same body as Mad Mikes Copperhead Crab and a Rabbit strip tail like a buddies go-to fly.  I took the best of both flies and created this one.  I just hope the Redfish like it as much as I do.  We had some time before high tide and we set out just as the sun came over the horizon. 
We walked the flat from end to end and I mentally cataloged each fishy looking cut or dip with a land mark to allow me to check it out when the water came in.  I got here so early because it is a brand new flat to me.  I wanted to see it dry before the water came in and try to "read" this flat.  As the water came in and started to flood the grass we set up on high ground.  We watched a pretty good looking flat as it filled up.  I left Drew watching the spot while I scouted out a few other close places.  I worked out and around, the grass was beautiful, flooded and about knee deep.  I made my way around my mental checklist and stopped at each landmark I had set.  I moved out to the last one of the area we were in and I stopped for a minute.  movement in front of me caught my attention and I saw three very nice Redfish tails waving at me.  Instantly the tunnel vision set in.  I started stripping line from my reel and gauging the distance.  I was in full on sneak mode as I picked my way closer to the fish.  Each step those tails kept waving.  A thousand thoughts raced through my head.  Did I tie the fly on good enough?  Will the Reds even want this fly? Is my leader too long or short?  Will this leader be strong enough? Did I turn off the coffee maker before I left?  My ADD kicked in and it brought me back to the task at hand.  I got about 30 feet from the first tail and sized him up.  Not huge but since the water was over my knee it had to be a good fish.  The next fish was HUGE.  One of the biggest tails I have seen.  Flip, flop, splash... gone.  The big one never tailed again and ghosted.  The closest one was still tailing away and the furthest one was too, but the closer one looked bigger so I set my crosshairs on him.  My first cast was a little short.  No biggie.  I stripped more line out.  Cast number two.  Perfect but behind him.  Have I mentioned this is only the second time I have seen a Redfish tail this year?  Yeah... I am a little rusty and it doesn't help when your heart is beating 500 times a minute and your hands are shaking.   Cast number three.  Perfect but he misses it.  I pull it up, haul it and drop it in front of him again.  Three feet, two feet, he is on top of my fly.  I see his tail swirl and I feel my fly line start to move under my finger, two inches, three inches, BAM!!! I stuck him hard and I have a fish on!!!  The water erupted as he flipped over and headed for deeper water.  I threw the fly line out to my left in a perfect loop and the line quickly dissapated as it came tight on the reel.  As the fish ran my reel screamed that song we all dream about.  Line payed out and I slowly put more pressure on him and started reeling him in.  He ran back and forth and took a little more line and I fought him back and forth.  I started walking towards him and felt the fight turn in my favor. He was running out of steam and I was gaining line back pretty steady.  As he got closer and saw me he made one more short run and I dragged him back and scooped him up. 

FINALLY!!!  I have caught AND landed a Redfish OTF in the grass while wading!  Another check mark on the list.  I have hooked and fought too many redfish to count OTF in the grass but I usually have the leader break, the fly pull or some other reason I never landed them.  Well of course there is also the bad casts, dropping flies on fishes heads, falling down and spooking fish, and another 200 excuses for not executing, but I finally landed one.  He is not a giant by any stretch, a little over 20", and although he didn't fight super hard he did straighten the hook on the fly a little.  After I took the fly out of his mouth and placed him back in the water he was breathing fine but he wouldn't leave us alone.  He kept swimming around our feet for a good five minutes as we laughed and joked about him being too big to be a puppy drum.  Finally he swam off and headed right back to where he was feeding.  We walked the flat for a few more hours and saw a lot more tails.  Drew is new to salt water fly fishing and I tried to get him on his first Redfish but it wasn't in the cards today.  We threw flies at probably 3 more tails and kept scouting the flat. More often than not we would see a tail flop over and disappear.   As the water receded and started getting thin we worked our way back to the landing.  It was a banner day.  I finally landed my Grass Bass and Drew saw his first tails and I have a new fly to tie more of and chase redfish with.  I have one more photo of my fish, this is a tribute to Mad Mike as his help over the years with casting and fly patterns has helped me get better and to also pass that on and teach more people, like Drew, how to do what we love.   Cue dramtic Mad Mike Pose....
Tight lines and screamin drags to you--

Monday, October 18, 2010

Low Country Cast and Blast

Fall.  Usually it means you now have a skinned knee or a bump on your noggin, but it is also my favorite season.  The air cools, the humidity dissipates, the water cools down and the redfish bite shifts into high gear.  We all love hanging out with friends, sharing a few beers and enjoying the beautiful weather.  Some friends and I got together recently  and had ourselves a good old fashioned Cast and Blast and then roasted some oysters and made a low country boil.  Mmmmmmm Son.  There is nothing better than shooting some skeet, fishin for a while and then eating some of the best food there is known to man.   I stopped my Jeep and stepped out at my friend Trey’s property the smells of pine needles and fresh cut grass filled my nose.  I closed my eyes and listened to the sound of the wind in the trees and birds chirping.  The others I had driven up with arrived minutes behind me and the chorus of “Hey Brother!”  and “ hey Brenda this is Chris”, and all the other introductions filled the air.  We all settled down with a beer and started to get to know our new friends.  The conversation quickly turned to shotguns and why the clays were still in the box.  In the blink of an eye shotguns were loaded and the clays began to fly. 

 The sharp “ping” of the thrower cutting loose followed but the blast of a shotgun as the clay disintegrated and whoops and congratulations on a great shot were followed but the whoops and laughter as I took my turn shooting.  I am pretty rusty but I soon got back into the swing and managed to hit a few.   A few of our new friends had never fired a gun much less shot skeet.  After a quick lesson they were off and doing great. 

 The shells ran low and everyone was ready for some grub.  Some of us went out to fish for a while as Chef Trey and his cohorts prepared the Low Country boil.  Potatoes,  corn on the cob, shrimp and sausage all boiled together with the perfect blend of seasoning.  We dumped this out on the table and dug in.  As with most places where there is good food the conversation died until we were done eating. 

 As we relaxed and fished some more Chef Trey was again at the controls of the gas burner and getting it ready to steam some oysters.   Once the weather starts to cool down around here everyone’s thoughts turn to oysters.  One of my favorite things to do in the fall and winter is an oyster roast.   I am not a big fan of raw oysters but a good steamed one is a beautiful thing, especially our local clusters. 

 A lot of people like the Gulf Select oysters.  They are bigger and prettier to look at but I prefer the saltier, better tasting and smaller local clusters.  I love the fact I can pick up a cluster and work it over to find oyster after oyster as I turn it over in my hand.  Once in a while you get a bonus of a tiny crab that has been steamed that you find.  As we stood around the table shucking oysters and talking about our favorite recipes for oysters,  I took a moment and just stood back and soaked it all in. yeah, Fall is my favorite season.  Good Friends, Good Food and Great times…

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Second Annual Redfishville Shoot-Out for HOW

October is a great month for targeting Redfish.  The water starts to clear, the fish start to school up and the weather turns nice enough to fish all day.  Every October there is an event held in Charleston that means a lot to a lot of people.  The Redfishville Shoot-Out.  This is a kayak fishing tournament held every October to raise awareness and funds for the South Carolina Chapter of Heroes on the Water or HOW.   How is an organization that takes injured war vets and takes them kayak fishing to assist n their recovery and therapy.  Our Motto is "Paddle.  Fish.  Heal." , through donations of companies, local like The Charleston Angler, The Dog and Duck and Time Out Sports, to national companies like March Brown fly rods, Yak Attack and Stearns, we are able to take our Heroes fishing with zero cost to them.  Once a Hero is identified to us and he or she wants to fish, we take care of all the cost they would incur such as travel, equipment, licenses and meals.  The Redfishville Shoot-Out refills our coffers every year and allows us to continue to help our Heroes recover. 
The night before the tourney is the Captains meeting.  All the anglers participating met up at the West Ashley The Charleston Angler and we ate, drank a little and went over the rules and procedures for the tourney. The Tournament is a classic "CPR" Tourney.  The is Catch Photo and Release.  Each angler catches their fish, photographs the fish with a special identifier then releases the fish, we'll most do but a few people do enjoy eating a fish or two. It is a one day event and the main goal is to raise awareness for HOW, raise some needed funds and to get as many kayak anglers together to enjoy fishing and teach some of the new guys a trick or two.  The Dog and Duck in Park West provided the wings and food and The Pampered Palate provided our drinks for the meeting and the tourney the next day.   The meeting ended with everyone headed off to rig up poles, select flies and get their last minute preparations together. 
Saturday morning the dawn was met with fog and a slight breeze.  Much warmer than last year, and as the light slowly came up the anglers started to launch.  One by one they disappeared into the fog.   The sun finally peeked over the horizon and the fishing was on.  Within 30 minutes I got a text message of the first redfish of the day caught.  A respectable 25" form Tommy "Too Busy" Samuels.   As I paddled out to see if I could find a few fish and take some photos, I heard rumors of a 31" that was caught and I could hear people laughing and yelling back sizes of fish, " I got a 24 and a half!!"  "Cool I got a 27", the banter back and forth was spooky at first as only voices could be heard and no one could be seen.  I guess it is fitting for an October tournament.   The sun crept higher and the fog lifted to reveal a beautifully lit up marsh bathed in golden light with pelicans and swallows flying around.  Kayakers could be seen at every point of the compass.   The sun burned off all the fog and revealed a beautiful day on the water.  Bluebird skies and a slight breeze.  We couldn't have asked for better.  The day wore on and people started checking in their fish.  All in all about 50 redfish were caught.  All in all we had 30 Kayak Anglers fishing this tournament.  I might add that was more than double of the IFA tournament in Georgetown a few weekends ago. 
Our 1st Place winner was Phil Lowery with a 29.5” red who took home a 6’6” Med action HOW/TFO Casting Rod with reel, our 2nd Place winner was – John Chapman with a 28.5” red who took home a Shimano Scimitar rod and reel combo, our 3rd Place winner was Dave Jaskiewicz with a 28” red and he won the Z-Man Prize pack full of some new soft plastic baits and ChatterBaits.  For our Fly Fishing division 1st Place went to Justin Carter with a 21” red and he took home a Custom Made 8wt fly rod as the only person to turn in a scoreable redfish on the fly.
I did just find out that in addition to the above prizes Phil will also receive a 2011 BassPass Elite, worth $200 and a $75 gift card to the Kayak bass Fishing Shop, John will also receive a BassPass Premium worth $150 and Dave will receive a BassPass Standard worth $100 so they will be able to freely compete in the online challenges of www.kayakbassfishing.comA BIG Thank You goes to the Founder and Head Dude in Charge  of KBF, Chad Hoover, for throwing those in for our guys!!! 

Our Splooshers Cup was won by Tim Jones who turned in the last of 5 skunks for the day. Tim wins the coveted Splooshers Cup which contains some new tackle and a Free 4-hour guided kayak fishing trip, from so he can learn some pointers about catching redfish from a kayak.  CONGRATULATIONS to all our Winners!!! 
This year's tournament is in the books, a great time was had by all and the preparations for next year's tourney are in the works. A few changes to the format and location but I think we'll have even more fun and hopefully a few more anglers and sponsors!  Keep you eyes peeled for upcoming Heroes n the Water events and hopefully a Springtime tourney.  Thanks again to all our sponsors and partners who made this event a resounding success!!!

1st Place Conventional Phil Lowery

2nd Place was won by John Chapman who was not available for the photo.
3rd Place was Dave Jaskiewicz

and 1st place Fly Division was Justin Carter

Thanks you also to Austin Pritchard who supplied the award photo as well as photos number 1, 2, 10 and 12 above.  Thanks Bro!!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Keri's War

Not long ago I was still inthe Air Force and a fellow Co-Worker came into my office and she had a look on her face that kinda scared me.  She sat down and told me she thought she had breast cancer.  She had some appointments and she was scared.  In 1993 my Mom was dioagnosed with cancer and we lost her soon after.  All these memories came flooding back and I was afraid I was goign to lose another friend.  Keri was diagnosed and she has decided she is going to fight tooth and nail. So far her treatments are working and she is even back to doing PT and running.  She is not done with the fight.  Our fellow Combat Photographers have banded with her and they have set up a great website that chronicles her story and fight.  Please visit

Check out her story, see some powerful and moving images and take a few minutes for a prayer.  A big thanks to Master Sgt. Jeremy "JT" Lock, Tech. Sgt. Jake Bailey and Staff Sgt. Joshua DeMotts for putting thsi imagery together and helping Keri win her war!!!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ghostly Tails

October is the month we all think of pumpkins, skeletons and ghosts.  Some people are scared of ghosts but they just make me angry.  I am of course talking about Redfish Ghosts.  A buddy and I spent the better part of the day Sunday paddling to all our favorite flats looking for redfish and scouting for the upcoming Redfishville Shoot-Out for Heroes on the Water this Saturday.  I finally saw my first tail of the year.  And then he ghosted.  This time of year the tailing reds usually are in full force and easy to spot, not so much in my usual haunts.  We saw the tail, stopped and watched him tail a few times.  Austin got a couple of shots at him then… gone.  Just gone.  The water wasn’t that deep, there was no wake when the fish left, no ripple, no push, nada.  There then gone.  I hate when they ghost like that on me.  We paddled and scouted for a while and we set up on the “Highway” and settled in to actually fish for a while.  Not soon after the bait was down Austin’s reel started screaming and the fight was on!

I started throwing Gulp ripple shads and the new mud minnow from Gulp and my light rod started dancing.  I grabbed it and there was a fish on.  He was headed for the grassline and he thought he was a stud but he was no match for the new Penn Battle 3000.  Have I mentioned that this reel is freakin awesome.  A smooth as silk, sealed, stop-a-truck, drag and  a braid ready spool make this the top of my “ gonna get another one of these” list.  A 14” rat red made his way to the kayak and after a quick picture he was off. 
We paddled back towards the landing as is started getting dark and threw some topwater and I threw some more Gulp ripple shads.  First cast, WHAM!  Something  hit it like a ton of bricks but only bit it in half.  No more bites and the sun was gone.  The wind laid down but the bugs came out so we called it a day.   Not a bad day of scouting, the tourney this Saturday should be awesome! 
Another day on the water with a good friend.  Ya really can;t ask for a whole lot more.