I usually try and decide if these vacations are fishing trips or not before I go. I try not to mix both. The Vineyard, no matter whom I'm traveling with, is a fishing trip. When Theresa and I go away, not a fishing trip, unless it is a fishing trip. This time, a week down in Hilton Head, it was a split trip, a vacation
with some fishing mixed in. Theresa and I teamed up with our friends Kathy and Neil from Long Island and headed south. It was a great trip, but since this is a fly fishing blog, I'll save you the trip details.
We stayed at a Marriott resort on Broad Creek. Broad Creek is a, well, a creek, that runs south to north and just about splits the island of Hilton Head. We were located between Colibogue Sound near the Shelter Cove Marina on Broad Creek. Just steps from our resort was a flat, that, on the right tide, brings in redfish looking for shrimp and crabs amongst the short, tall, thick and not so thick grass. There's a 9 foot tide there on the right moon and I caught it just about wrong, although by the time we left the water was up and so were the redfish.
Like the rest of the planet the Low Country this past week saw equator like temperatures and humidity. The air temps were just below 100. The water like 90. And my core body temp like 115. It was not the best time to fish, between the temps, the tides, and the moon. But, there were some fish to be had. I started out DIY'ing it behind the resort. I caught my first fish within 20 minutes, a cute "puppy
drum" that fell to a crab fly. No tailing. No sight fishing. Just a few casts to some wakes that could have been sheepshead or a pack of small red drum. Either way I thought I was in for non-stop fun. In the end that would be the only fish I caught doing it on my own. But by the time we left the tides were up and a few shots were there.
Before I left I contemplated buying a pair of flats boots but I talked myself into using my homemade warm weather beach and jetty shoes. Because that's just who I am, cheap, at least when it comes to myself. Within 2 hours they were done so I had to run to Walmart and buy whatever I could find, which was a pair of women's beach shoes which helped out slogging through the mud and the razor sharp oyster beds. For $15 they worked out just fine.
The highlight of the vacation, at least fishing wise, was our half-day trip with guide Mark Nutting of LoCo Fly Charters. Now I've guided walk and wade, float and boat trips, and I know when conditions are tough (well just suck) and you just do your best given what you're given on that day. On this trip Mark had just about everything against him. Dead summer, hot, weak tide, kinda early incoming, fish that were there but just kinda lethargic since the water was about 90 and looked anything but fresh and clean and oxygenated.
He asked us if we minded a drive, a long one, to fish a place that he felt would increase our chances of finding fish. Neil and I met up with him just outside Hilton Head and followed him for the 75 minute drive to Beaufort, South Carolina. The ride didn't benefit him in any way as he lived closer to where we met up. Easier to ride by the road than the water.
Mark had us on fish soon after we launched. Most of his time he was poling us into super skinny water where there were a mix of huge mullet (like 12-18"), dolphins, bonnet head sharks, sheepshead, triple tails and of course some redfish mixed in. He had me go first and I landed two before giving up the bow to Neil who went with the spinning rod. He hooked a nice red, but that came unbuttoned, well the lure became unbuttoned, and he had a few more hits before we moved and I got another shot.
We got some nice pics, a little on the sausage-finger-distortion aspect for me, but good ones of our guide Mark with a quick pic before the releases. He was drenched and the sweating didn't stop as the sun beat down and the humidity made it well, just about unbearable. He even offered to cut the half a day in half with an offer to run out Friday morning on a better tide, but, while I was tempted, I knew that would just be a douchy thing, and selfish, on my part. I would have really enjoyed just working with him in that
guide/angler tag team. It takes a bit for each to size the other up but once you do you close the gap and the day becomes better and the chances of catching increase. Before we left he took us for a ride to check one last spot, like a good guide does, always weary to call it a day, but that spot was kinda void except for some ladyfish chasing bait. Hats off to him and I will fish with him again, hopoefully in the spring or fall and not in that heat. I'd like to also try for those cobia and jacks. I higly recommend a trip with Mark if you are down in the that neck of the woods. He can fish you in Savannah, Hilton Head or Beufort. You can find him, HERE. Tell him I sent ya.
As the the week went on and the moon filled in so did the water on the flat. Everyday I walked that flat with high tides running 2, 3, 4, and 5 o'clock in the afternoon. On Friday I waded and had my best shot at tailing reds. It wasn't magazine cover tailing reds, but it was active fish in thick cover. One of the
challenges was finding a fish in somewhat open water, making a good cast, not hitting them on the head, and being able to get the fly down into that water, as most times the fly line, leader and fly dangled over the rooting fish. And while having water and fish on the flat was great, a little west wind and more water brought the debris along with it. Even with a weedless fly it was eaasy to catch something on the retrieve. With high tide at 545 am on Saturday (our last day) I got up at 5 to check the flat. The water was up, but the sun wasn't and I couldn't see anything so I headed back to bed before we checked out at 11. What's a shame is our Saturday evening flight was cancelled and we couldn't fly out till Monday, I'd love to have had those three days on the full moon tide. We got put up in Savannah which was nice as well, but I would have killed them, yeah right, for sure.
So what do I think. I am SO into sight fishing and redfish msake their living cruising the skinny water looking to eat. Striped bass hit the flats, but they don't stay there. While striped bass are my passion, I think redfish, and the Low Country, could run a real tight second. They're in the big water out front, the bigger water in the sounds and rivers, and in the super skinny water as well. Couple reds with cobia, big jacks, sheepshead and tarpon, I think this year round fishery could be calling me. These are not migratory anadromous fish. They don't run to New England for the summer. That's makes them a great gamefish. And I think they have been rebuilt and are a solid fishery, something the striped bass hope to be some day. Below is a little something I found to get your redfish love going.