First Fish

Recently, I have been thinking about a boat that would allow me to fish in open and nearshore waters.  While I love my skiff for fishing in the rivers and creeks, it was not designed to fish in the harbor and beyond.  Clearly, I needed a second boat.  A larger vessel would enable me to pursue Cobia, Tarpon and Jacks in our near coastal waters.  The lure of catching (large) coastal pelagic species was overwhelming.  Unable to resist, I purchased a Pathfinder 22-foot bay boat. 

The first fishing trip on the new boat was Saturday afternoon.  Elliott joined me.  We had a friendly competition to see who would catch the first fish on the new boat.  Wanting to run the Pathfinder a bit, we decided to start fishing up the Wando near the Highway 41 bridge.  The ride up river was quick and soon we were casting lures (Z-Man TRDs on 1/5-ounce NedLockZ jigs) to a submerged ledge in about 15 feet of water.  On my second cast, I felt a solid thump but somehow managed to miss the fish.  I expected Elliott to quickly cast where I missed the bite (like he usually does).   However, he did not.  I looked back and he was just standing there waiting.  He said, you should catch the first fish.  So, I cast back to the ledge and boom, fish on!

It was not a particularly large Redfish, but we were pretty excited.  Elliott took a few pictures to commemorate the first fish caught on the new boat.  As I was releasing the Redfish, Elliott picked up his rod and cast to the ledge.  He immediately hooked a Trout.  For the next 20-minutes, we caught a fish on nearly every cast.  The fish were still biting when we decided to leave and run the Pathfinder down river into the harbor.  We were smiling the whole way.

Holiday Fishing

For me, the holiday season is about the 5 Fs; Faith, Family, Friends, Food and Fishing.  These are the key ingredients for making great memories.  Thinking back, my senior year report card also had 5 Fs.  However, those are memories I am trying to forget.  Or, at least to deny!

As our families and friends gather to celebrate Christmas (and eat tremendous quantities of food), don’t forget the 5th F, Fishing.  The water temperature is in the middle 50-degree range and the fish are eating like me at Prime Rib night at the Daniel Island Club.  Another memory I am trying to forget. 

Seriously, this is a great time to go fishing.  On warm days, the Trout and Redfish move into the shallows seeking food and warmth.  Casting a Z-Man TRD or StreakZ 3.75 near creek bank irregularities assures solid action.  On cold days, the Trout move into deep holes.  It is not unusual for over 100 fish to stack up in one hole.  It is literally like fishing in a barrel.  So, get out and make some great memories.

Thanksgiving Fishing

Thanksgiving week was filled with lots of family, friends, food and fishing. Unfortunately, on several days, gale-like conditions made fishing a bit of a challenge. Of course, I went fishing anyway because the best catch in fishing is time with family and friends. Thankfully, the fish were cooperative, even in the tough conditions.

On one of the really windy days, Elliott, David and I set out to catch a Redfish on the fly. The main river was blown out. So, we began our search for Redfish in a small wind sheltered creek. The tide was falling and nearing dead low. There was not much water left in the creek. This made locating Redfish much easier, as their backs and tails were often above the water line. Finding them was easy. Accurately casting a fly in gale-like conditions was another matter entirely. Our first few casts did not even land in the water. The wind would catch the fly line and blow it onto the bank. After a few adjustments, my brother David (finally) made a good presentation. The fly landed a foot or so in front of a decent size Red. We held our breath as the fish slowly swam forward and inhaled the fly. The Redfish was feisty, and the fight took longer than usual. All the while, Elliott and I were giving David a hard time. When he landed the fish, we were all happy. David unhooked the Red and was releasing it, when Elliott took a picture. It would have been a great picture, but it captured me looking stupid in the background. This gave David and Elliott cause to give me a hard time. Things change fast on family fishing trips. Standing on the poling platform, watching Elliott and David laugh (at me) reminded me of why I fish (so much). Fishing is about time, moments and memories. Catching fish, well that is just a bonus!

Redfish at First Light

As we approach Thanksgiving, Fall is giving way to Winter. Several consecutive cool days and cold nights have dropped the water temperature below 60-degrees. While I am not much of a cold weather person, the cooler water is welcome. It has the Trout and Redfish feeding like me on Thanksgiving Day. Nothing is safe. If I can fit it in my mouth, it is going to get eaten. Regardless, of how much I may have already eaten. This gluttonous behavior was on display early Saturday morning. I launched the skiff 30-minutes before sunrise. The short ride to my first fishing spot was brisk. I pulled back on the throttle and deployed the trolling motor a good distance from my fishing area. The water was slick calm and I did not want my boat wake to disturb the shallows. As I slowly and quietly approached a submerged oyster bar, the water above the bar erupted. Finger mullet were jumping and running for their lives. I picked up my favorite bait casting outfit and cast a Shimano Colt Sniper top water lure towards the feeding activity. Before I could impart any action to the lure, a Redfish ate it. If you heard hooting and hollering before sunrise on Saturday, it was me. Until the sun cleared the horizon, it was cast, catch, release and repeat. The epic top water bite stopped soon as the sun’s rays hit the surface of the water. I thought the Trout and Redfish were still in the area but unwilling to strike a surface lure. So, I put the bait casting outfit away and un-racked my fly rod. On my third cast to the oyster bar, a small Redfish ate my fly (a brown and white Whistler pattern). While fighting the fish, I noticed the light was perfect for a picture. When the small Redfish came to the skiff, it posed for a quick picture and then swam away. Rather than make another cast, I sat down, admired the view for a few minutes then went to breakfast a Honey Comb. Why should the fish be the only ones to eat a hearty breakfast? Speaking of eating, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Redfish On Foot and Fly

  Fishing is very good right now. The water temperature is in the middle 60-degree range and the days are much shorter. These conditions make fish school together and eat. Over the next week or so, fishing and catching will truly be synonymous. Given the abundance of hungry Redfish and Trout, it is a great time to target them “On the Fly”. This weekend, that is exactly what my brother (Dave), son (Elliott) and I set out to do. The only rod we loaded into the skiff was my Shimano 8 weight Asquith. As we launched the skiff, a strong wind had us questioning our fly rod only plan. Undeterred, we headed out to the Wando River, where we encountered truly awful conditions. Especially for fly fishing. Our decision to stay with the plan was made simple because between us, we had one fly rod. There was some debate as to which one of us came up with this brilliant plan. The consensus was me. So, I heard a lot of complaining and abuse on the long, wet ride to our fishing spot (a super shallow creek that was out of the wind). Upon our arrival, we played a quick game of Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who got to fish first. Dave won. So, he grabbed my fly rod and stepped onto the bow casting platform. I climbed up on the poling platform. Elliott, reminded me of what a stupid idea this was. I poled the skiff into the falling tide. All the while calculating how much water would be left in the creek at low tide. After some high-level math, the answer was not much. A fact that I did not share with Dave and Elliott. The water level kept dropping and the skiff began scraping over oyster bars. Elliott inquired if we would have enough water at low tide. I replied, no problem. Knowing that we were already trapped in the creek. Thankfully, a large school of small Redfish was trapped in the creek with us. They moved up the creek into 3 inches of water. Beyond casting range and the draft of my skiff. I was happy that the sight of many Redfish just beyond our reach kept Dave and Elliott from realizing our true situation. We were stuck. Elliott looked at Dave and told him to jump out of the boat and wade into casting range. To our surprise, that is exactly what he did. After Dave caught and released a Redfish on the Fly, Elliott jumped in. A few casts later, Elliott released a Redfish and it was my turn to wade. When I was fighting my Redfish, Dave said, I think we are stuck. We had a good laugh when Dave reminded us that it was his turn with the fly rod.

After the Storm

We are very fortunate that Hurricane Florence did not hit us. Sady, our friends to the north were not so lucky. Let’s all keep them in our thoughts and prayers. Given the slow-moving nature of Hurricane Florence, I missed a few days of fishing last week. On Sunday, conditions improved to the point that I could safely go fishing. So, I launched the skiff into the last of the falling tide. It was my theory that with the tide being low, the creek banks would protect me from the wind. As with most of my theories, this one was also incorrect. It was windy all over. After enduring a bumpy and wet ride to my first fishing location, a shallow marsh point, I deployed the trolling motor and began moving into casting distance. About then, a commercial crabber pulled up. He waved and yelled, I have to be out here to make a living, but you are just crazy. We both had a good laugh and went our separate ways. Once in position, I cast a Z-Man 4-inch Jerk ShadZ on a Finesse BulletZ 1/6-ounce jig to the marsh point and felt a solid thump. I set the hook but somehow missed the fish. On the next cast, my luck was much better, and a solid Redfish welcomed back to the river. While I was unable to fish due to the storm, I figured out how to take a timed photo with my phone. So, I propped my phone on the console of my skiff and posed with my first fish after the storm. Turns out my theory on taking good pictures via a timer on my phone was incorrect (again). The Redfish bite continued until the tide began to rise and the fished moved off the marsh point. With the windy and choppy conditions, I was unable to re-locate them. So, I headed back the boat ramp. On the way home, I passed the commercial crabber. He waved, and I could hear him laughing for a considerable distance.

Top shelf top water action

Sometimes you have to pay a few dues to enjoy an epic top water bite.  Last week, I set my alarm for 4:30 AM and was on location casting a bone colored Skitter Walk SW08 by 5:15.  The early start paid big dividends.  Trout and Redfish were aggressively crashing my lure.   Good thing I smashed down the barbs on the Skitter Walk treble hooks because the fish were wolfing it down.  You have to get up early to enjoy some top shelf top water action.

Montana Trip

A few weeks ago, Elliott and I made a quick trip to Montana.  For the past few years, we have wanted to target big Rainbow and Brown Trout with hopper style flies.  In late August, grasshoppers are abundant in the grasses that the line the Yellowstone River and are a favorite meal of the resident Trout.  So, Elliott and I flew into Bozeman and fished with Zach, a guide with The Montana Angler.  The hopper bite was very good and I get my personal best Rainbow, Brown and Cut Throat on hoppers.  Great trip to a truly beautiful place.

No Picture Lots of Excuses

Fishing this past week was slow. So slow, that I do not have a picture that goes with this article! That’s pretty slow. Poor fishing is usually followed by a series of bad excuses. Here are my top 5.

Excuse Number 1. Unusually high tides made for poor water clarity. When fish cannot see the lure, it is certainly hard for them to eat it.

Excuse Number 2. I hurt my back while helping my daughter move. This reduced my fishing efficiency. When your back hurts, riding around in a skiff is a lot less fun.

Excuse Number 3. After years of fishing (nearly every day), I have come to the realization that fish are simply smarter than me. Deep down, I think I always knew this. However, this week removed all doubt.

Excuse Number 4. It is hot out there. When the water temperature is 88-degrees and the heat index is in triple digits. Fish lose their interest in biting and anglers lose their interest in fishing. Well, at least I do.

Excuse Number 5. I am a big soccer fan and the World Cup was on. Subsequently, I fished around the television schedule verses the optimal time and tide. This is a sure-fire way to catch less fish.

As I look forward to the coming week, the tides will begin to normalize. My back is on the mend. Cooler temperatures are forecast. I feel a little smarter and the World Cup is over. It is time to go catching!