Monday, July 31, 2023

07.31.23 Back from the Low Country....

     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. 

Friday, July 21, 2023

07.22.23 "Honey, I'm all packed..."

      Two rods. Three reels. Leader and tippet material. Couple of fly boxes. Wading shoes. Stripping basket. I think I'm good. Off for a week in Hilton Head with Theresa's buds going all the way back to grammar school. I plan on fishing so that's why I'm going loaded, even paying for a checked bag for my gear. Neil and I have a day planned with Captain Mark Nutting of Loco Fly Charters. I'm looking for tailing reds. From what I hear there could be that an tarpon, jacks, sea trout and more. Thumbs up. 

07.21.23 For those that take one for the table...

     You know I don't like to just post other people's and places content but sometimes you just have to. I found this video after it popped up on Facebook. It caught my attention because there was a striped bass as the lead image. 

     The video discusses how to properly prepare a fish (kill it) to get the best results for the table. How many of us have hooked a fish, fought it, put it in the cooler, buried it in the sand, or put it on a stringer. The ikejime method is comprised of three steps, inserting a spike to the brain, bleeding the fish out, and then running a metal rod through the spinal cord for final nervous system destruction. 

     I found it very interesting and wonder how many of us have had really properly, and professionally prepared, striped bass. Commercial fisheries don't have time to prepare fish in this way. And states that do have a commercial fishery for shore based or small boat anglers, I doubt the ikejime method is used.

    Last year, after years of not eating striped bass, I ordered it at a fine restaurant called NOCO out in Long Island. It was one of the best fish dishes I can remember having. I might think that finer 

restaurants demand that kind of preparation for their foods. In the better restaurants fish and meats are hand picked at the markets, like the Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx, where the best trained eyes can easily see, or smell, fishes that have been processed before being sold. 

     When I looked at the video I thought "Well, that's a tiny striped bass". So that was a Chesapeake fish. The Chesapeake bay and it's tributaries fall in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware ( The C & D Canal) and each has a different set of regulations, and there are different regulations depending on the time of year. In Maryland, from May 16th to July 15th you can harvest one fish per angler per day 19 inches to 31 inches. And the Trophy Fish period is from May 1st to May 15th where the MINIMUM is 35 inches. That ASMFC emergency plan doesn't include the Chesapeake. And while you thought Maryland hates striped bass, they go and close it July 16th to July 31st, to reduce the stress on the fish. But the next day on August 1st it's one fish a day again 19-31 inches. 

Thursday, July 20, 2023

07.20.23 Fish are back to eatin'...

      With the flows down around 19,000cfs and the temps holding at 74 it was just a matter of time before fishy water gave up a few fish. Set up and tank and threw Jim Matson's bigger jig fly into the mix and had both striped and smallmouth bass come out to play. 

     I was a tad late coming to the party as the dropping tide left quickly but due to the river being bumped up there was still water behind the rocks. The best part is you just have to pout it out there because they don't have time to study it and decide to bite. If it looks fishy they will eat. 


07.19.23 Had to get Ugly...

     Had to make a special trip down to Monmouth County so that meant I was fishing regardless of the tide or conditions. I rolled in about 515am and soon realized I forgot one of the most important things- my stripping basket. I was annoyed at myself, but had to fish anyway. If you ever want to test your line management skills in the surf just leave your basket home. 

     I tied on a popper because I remember the good old days when you could pop a bass up just about every morning in the summer, way before the sand flea/mole crab thing became a thing. On the first cast I had a bass jump on the popper at the height of the wave but even if I set I don't think he committed. 

     What does it mean when you don't have a stripping basket? It means you're way up on the beach scarp which prevents the water from either dragging your line into the trough or running it up and around your legs. I thought it was going to be one of those days but it wasn't. The tide was just starting to flood and finding good water wasn't easy, and the swell all but eliminated the crab fly soak. 

     I worked along side the north side of the groins because the south sides were all shoaled up due top the prevailing summer south wind. The north sides weren't much better but I knew something must be moving in and positioning itself for the incoming tide bite. I figured a nice big rock on the groin might

be the closest thing to a stripping basket so I made my way out and set up making sure the fly line was directly below me. I made some casts keeping it from the exposed rocks directly below me and on a 

longer cast I hooked up. At first I had tied on a Clousery type fly I had tied up (above) but got no love. To add insult to injury, besides forgetting my basket, I said to myself, "I've thrown three different flies, let me just see if the Ugly Ass Fly would make a difference. A few casts in and I was tight. The fluke 

coughed up silversides and somehow that UAF must have tricked him into thinking it was the same thing. With the approaching rain coming, and figuring it would be another 30 minute torrential rain event like were used to now, I decided to call it a morning. On the way out Leif had stopped by and dropped off some crab and shrimp type flies for my trip starting this weekend in Hilton Head. 

    But the main reason I was down in Monmouth County was to see Erin for her 18th birthday. She's an "adult" now, so no more children, although they are always your children, if they need you anymore or not. She was tired from getting back from Ireland and Amsterdam late last night but I woke her up to give her a hug, a card and a little gift. It's a version of the rescue tool I talked about the other day, it's

a combo window breaker, seatbelt cutter, and a knife. Hopefully she get to use it someday doing good for others, which is the path she is on having completed her EMT training now and heading off to college in a month on her way to become a Physician's Assistant (PA). HBD Erin!