By Norvise Ambassador Shannon Messer
Nose down, tails up searching for fiddler Crabs, Shrimp, Mullet, and Menhaden Shad, Redfish move amongst the marsh grass revealing their location to a keen eye of a captain atop the poling platform. The order is given, "30 feet nine o’clock now, strip, strip, strip", bang fish on! The Scott Tidal 7wt is bent, feeling every burst of strength the angry red exhibits as it comprehends what has just happened. Just as quickly as the battle starts it ends with the redfish coming unbuttoned without warning. Just like that the battle is over. I take a moment to replay the memory tattooed in my brain, dissecting each move. What seemed like hours was only a nanosecond in the battle between fly fisherman and redfish. Redfish won.
Let’s take the time to set the stage, and explain how a mountain Trout fly fisherman ends up on the bow of a skiff in the low country of Charleston, South Carolina. I give credit to my wife of twenty years as she threw out the idea of fishing on our twentieth wedding anniversary. Like many of us, we were looking to travel and explore to celebrate our accomplishment, or let's call it like it is— Tanya putting up with me for all these years. I jumped at the opportunity and we selected historic Charleston, South Carolina.
Charleston was an easy choice for us. We love visiting the area, the food is great, you are surrounded by history, and the weather can be amazing! Every time we visit, somehow, we discover something new. This trip we found Ye Ole Fashioned Ice Cream and Sandwich Bar in lovely Mount Pleasant, SC. While waiting on ice cream we couldn’t help but notice they have a fried bologna sandwich on the menu. If that doesn’t make it a first class food joint your expectations are too high.
I was excited and a bit apprehensive after we booked our excursion. I did not want to look like I had no clue on how to cast to saltwater fish. The double haul is a cast that we very rarely, if ever, use in the North Carolina mountains. I am a stealthy predator, roll casting in tight quarters to almost invisible trout, which is a far cry from a seventy or even sixty foot cast on the money for a saltwater species. I practiced as perfectly as I could until I felt confident in my abilities to present the fly as instructed by the captain.
The morning was picture perfect, mirror smooth water and chamber of commerce temperatures greeted us as we departed on our adventure. I must have felt like a fresh major league call up to the show stepping into the batter’s box for the first time. Just my luck it would be MLB Hall of Fame Greg Maddox on the mound that day.
The casting turned out to be the least of my struggles. It was the spotting of the fish that kicked my butt! Regardless of what lens I had in my Smith Optics, I struggled spotting moving redfish as they revealed themselves to us. I was able to spot a few tails, but that was it. Don’t ask me if I saw the mullet because it was a big fat no! I now felt like many of the guests that I guide in the mountains at that point. They tell me they struggle seeing what I see, and now I was experiencing what they feel and it was frustrating. Spotting reds was the biggest challenge for me and I was frustrated, disappointed, and helpless at that point. Tanya knew it, and she was supportive as I pressed on.
If you are someone like me who has never tried sight fishing for a new species you should do it. Don’t be afraid of failure, and accept the challenge head on. I am motivated more than ever to seal the deal the next time out on the skiff! I continue to practice, and I look forward to the next opportunity in the near future.
I have had the opportunity to fish in many different places the past three years, and for that I am thankful. I have faced many challenges along the way, but in the end it has made me a better fly fisherman and guide. You will see me on the bow of a skiff again, but this time holding a redfish. Who knows? It just might be the skiff that the @georgia_drifter owns. Till next time...
Tight Lines - Shannon