|photo © Ryan Rice 2013|
The water is still a little cold and the crabs are still hiding but they are there. Redfish in the grass are an obsession. The stillness of the flooded marsh broken by a coppery tail flipping through the surface makes my heart pound faster. It makes my hands shake. A thousand thoughts fly through my head, from my fly selection, the distance to the fish and everywhere in between. I live for this. I feel I am more fortunate than most of my fellow Lowcountry anglers. They own their own boats and fish all the time. They rack up double digits worth of fish on a weekend. Many are like me, but for some of them it is “just another redfish”, and I feel sorry for them.
I have caught thirty-six redfish on the fly. I have hooked and lost tenfold that amount, but of the ones I landed and held in my hands, I remember every one of them. I started salt water fly fishing in 2006 but did not really put down the conventional gear and dedicate myself to the long rod until 2010. Some of my fish have been little pups or rats, and my best so far has been thirty-one inches long. Every single one has made my hands shake and a grin so big cross my face I could barely stand it. Everyone is special to me and a fish I earned. I hope I never lose this feeling, I hope every time I see a redfish I get the same heart pounding, shaking hands, sweaty palm reaction.
There are times where I walk the marsh and see tails and never even cast. I just love watching them, learning, following them, seeing what they do. There are times when I cast and cast and they never eat. Did I do something wrong? Did they not see my fly? Was it close enough? You never know. Maybe it was just not time to eat for that fish, maybe I AM just a spastic nerfbag who can’t fish. I don’t doubt myself for long though.
Then there are the times when I see a tail, I move closer and get the right line, make my cast and drop the fly and there is a moment of stillness. A heartbeat goes by, a second one; I know this because I can clearly hear the pounding in my ears, then the water explodes and for a second there is doubt until the line comes tight and the fight is on. As the line slips by and onto the reel and the drag starts to sing the rod goes up, bends in a beautiful arc and holds more tension on the fish. The run slows and I start to reel line back. Most of the time the line pulled out is just the fly line, but every so often you find the fish, that mean one that runs so hard and you see your backing. These are the one we all seek. The back and forth of the fight can go one for what seems like hours, or even days, but truthfully it usually lasts only a handful of minutes. As you put your hand under your prize and lift it out of the water, the feeling of accomplishment is awesome. Grins and high fives abound if you are with friends and grins and amazement abound if you are alone. Either way it’ll put a smile on your face.
Soon the water will warm up. Soon the tails will begin again. Soon I will be walking the marsh again looking for my next fix of the most powerful legal drug on the planet for me. Soon.
Thank you to Ryan Rice for the AWESOME photo. I can never put my fly rod down long enough to shoot tails. If you would like to see more of his great photography or even buy some to grace your walls, check out flyline media on Face book or shoot me a message and I will get you in touch. As always check out the Lowcountry Fly Shop for all you r fly fishing needs in Charleston.