I have caught some fish in my life. I have caught many fish, I have caught big fish, I have caught many big fish. I used to be a conventional fisherman, using spinning gear as well as my fly rods but lately as I get older I want to really challenge myself so I have forsaken the conventional gear and I am 100% all fly fishing.
I have noticed I do not catch as many fish as I used to. At first this concerned me but then I remembered why I made my choice and I am completely at peace with my decision. Tonight I got the chance to walk a new set of flats with a new friend and it was a stellar evening. As we arrived to the first spot it was bone dry and we walked along the creek where it would eventually flood and looked at the topography. The first thing to greet us was a big red-tailed hawk launching from his perch and giving us a call as it flew away. It looked very fishy. We scouted and waited for water to move in and flood the grass. As we scouted we saw some good sized tails in the grass. Easy casting distance and they were eating well but I found if you throw at the first fish you see as the water is coming in, they seem to be the scout fish and tell all their buddies that there are idiots with buggy whips throwing things at them and the fish usually find another spot of move into.
We left the fish and backed off down the flat. The water was not supposed to flood very deep but we were taking a chance there would be a few spots that would flood enough. As we left the first flat to explore another, we found another pocket with a couple BIG tails waving. We got back in the truck and headed down the road to spot number two. This spot had some serious potential. As we walked along the edge we could see water pushing and bait everywhere. All these good signs had us pumped up and ready to walk the grass. We found a good spot and started making our way over to it. Within seconds tails started to pop up. Simon and I put the sneak on them and we maneuvered ourselves into a good spot and started working the fish. Fly line sang through guides, the soft plop of the flies at they hit the water were echoed by the sounds of redfish tails lazily slapping the water as they rooted for food. Simon had the line for the cast and he was working them pretty hard. The grass was pretty thick and trying to get a fly down to the fish was harder than usual but we kept at it. Behind him about 30 yards another big tail popped up. We split up and decided to chase our own fish.
As Simon worked his fish and followed them around the flat I walked over and got myself in a pretty good spot where I could see two fish tailing happily about ten feet apart. After I smacked the first fish on the head with my fly and lost sight of the second one I walked a little more to my right and further back on the flat towards thinner grass. I stopped. The sun on my face felt good. I closed my eyes and soaked it all in. The smell of salt water and pluff mud, he sound of water splooshing as bait ran away from the redfish, the sound of shrimp popping on the surface in the grass. The slight breeze on my face with the setting sun’s rays was warm and cool at the same time. Good Lord I LOVE living in the Low country. I was totally absorbed in the moment; I was truly happy and had not one care in the world. As I opened my eyes I noticed that in the minute or so I had been standing there in my trance I was literally surrounded by tailing redfish.
It had been so long since I was in a position like this I had no idea what to do. I slowly stripped line off my fly reel and picked the biggest tail of the bunch to cast at. My fly line sang through the guides and the fly landed about four feet in front of the fish. Perfect, except my fly was 4 inches out of the water hung on the grass. I gave it a small strip and the fly came off the grass and sank perfectly, right on the fishes head. As the fish spooked and ran away as fast as his fins would carry him I looked for another target. Off to my left was another fish. I launched my fly in its direction and landed a perfect cast three feet in front of the fish. No way he didn’t see it. As the fish got closer a big swirl and the fish was on my fly. Then nothing… it looked like it was eating my fly but he either missed it or spit it out. No problem, I got other options. I pulled my fly out and double hauled it a little further in front of another fish. Another good shot but this fish swam over my fly, I picked it up and dropped it back in front only to be snubbed again. The third time was the charm as I smacked him squarely on his head and spooked another one. I was running out of options and I looked for another target. A big tail popped up a ways out and after I stripped more line off I let fly with a long double haul and dropped my fly right in his path. WHOOSH! No eat and he was gone like the others.
After a few more shots the flat was empty of tails and we decided to move back to the original flat. We headed over and the water was up where we wanted it, not as deep as we thought but there was water. We jumped out and made our way to the spots we scouted earlier. About three seconds on the flat, BAM, Tail. I stripped line of and made a cast into the tall thick grass. After about four casts the fish either didn’t like my fly or saw me and made a bee-line for deeper water. We worked further down and Simon found a fish. He was working it hard, this fish was eating well and at one point was totally out of the water. He never saw his fly and moved out. We worked further down and I went all the way to the furthest part we had scouted and started working my way back. I saw a push and dropped my fly about three feet in front of it. A big swirl right where my fly was, this fish attacked my fly but never ate it, as he swam off I expected to feel the line move but no hook up. I still had a huge grin on my face. I worked my way back towards Simon and saw another tail. This was a good sized fish so again I put all my Jedi powers to work and started to put the sneak on him. I quietly moved through the grass and water at a snail’s pace and kept the tail in my sights. As if moved towards the taller grass I angled myself towards the tall grass as well but further behind. As I entered the tall grass I lost sight of the fish. I moved up about six feet and stopped looking for any sign of the fish. I didn’t see anything. I guess he ghosted. Then I realized my Jedi/Ninja powers must have been in overdrive because three inches in front of my left leg was the fish. Maybe he was a little slow, you know the special needs redfish, but he was just sitting there. I froze and tried to figure out what to do next. The tip of my fly rod was nine-feet away so a cast was impossible, I could try to drop the fly in front of him but I didn’t want to move. Then the special needs fish made my decision. It actually moved sideways and leaned his shoulder over and touched my leg. Of course the material of my pants was not spartina grass and he did not like that but he just swam off lazily… I laughed and made my way to where Simon was and we decided to call it a night. We made our way back to the truck and headed home.
I ended the night at 0 for 6. So my batting average sucks but the experiences I had far outweighed the no hookups. As I get older and I hope wiser, I realized it’s not about the catching anymore, it’s about exactly what I did tonight, fished with a friend and saw some amazing things. It doesn’t get much better than this.