Just yesterday, I had a client (Mike) ask me, “Do you ever get tired of fishing?” I thought for a minute, not because I was contemplating saying yes, but because that question applies to me a little differently. When my wife asks me if I am fishing tomorrow, she means are you on the schedule, instead of you better not be because you have a list of things to do around here. So the answer to the question “Do you ever get tired of work?” is yes, though that is usually limited to having to get up early or just being worn out from working out in the sun day after day. The answer to his actual question is certainly not.
That answer makes me think about a video I made of my 2 year old niece. My niece watched it more than anyone else; she had never seen a video of herself like this on television. She watched it over and over, picking out every little detail of how it looked to see herself from the outside. This was exciting for her because it was new to a young child. My other thought went to how a friend and client of mine recently told me that each day with his new son is even better than the day before as he watches him become more aware and responsive. Whether child or adult isn’t that really one of the things that many of us are after in life, some new experience? More often though, it is the child that doesn’t put up with the mundane wtih so many experiences being new to them.
That’s it, why I don’t get tired of fishing…I am still a child when it comes to fishing. I refuse to put up with the mundane. If every redfish took a fly the same way I would get bored, if every cobia swam in a straight line and ate the fly on the second strip I would stop fishing for them, and if every time a tail from a redfish stayed put long enough to make a cast to it no matter how far away I was when I saw it the first time I would hang that up also.
Fortunately part of me has been transformed into wanting to see others experience the unpredictable things that happen out on the water. This past month has been filled with firsts both for my clients and me. Amazingly this August is only one month in my seven and a half years of guiding.
Back on August 2 I had a gentleman by the name of Tuck Tucker head out with me at day break to fish the incoming tide, which is a first in itself because I have never had another Tuck on the boat. It was the high tide that yielded two firsts. From inside the grass we were headed out to fish that were busting mullet and I looked over my left shoulder and saw two tails about ten feet apart. Spinning the boat around I said, “Alright we have two behind us tailing, let’s get them first.” The more distant fish stopped tailing but the closer one was coming around the edge of an exposed grass island in crystal clear water. “Lay that fly right next to the island so the fish doesn’t have time to see us when he gets into open water,” I instructed. Mr. Tucker’s cast was headed that way but a little hook at the end left the redfish with an open visual to our boat. The fish stopped tailing and slowly moved away from us. A little dejected, Mr. Tucker and I dropped our heads in unison only to find in the thick green marsh grass under the boat and 4 inches under water was a tail five feet off the bow. The grass surrounded the body of the red so the only visual we had was his tail and he had no idea we were there. Mr. Tucker tipped the butt section of his rod up by his head with the tip pointed downward and the Dupree spoonfly hovering slightly in front of the tail. As the fish tilted upward he lowered the rod tip to let the Dupree flutter down. When the fish sucked in the fly it was like you could see the realization of the looming boat and what he had just done for a split second just before he tore off to the right. It was unbelievable and I doubt I will ever see another red eat that close to boat in such clear water for the rest of my life.
After fishing tails Mr. Tucker and I found a group of big reds in about 5 feet of water outside the grass cruising around looking for some mullet to take advantage of. As the orange water of about 60 reds got close enough Mr. Tucker cast a Dupree spoon fly to the edge of the school and the largest red of his life, 33”, hooked in. The fish took him to his backing 3 times on his 9wt and afterwards you couldn’t wipe the smile below his mustache away with anything.
A few days later on August 6th, I fished with a super nice couple Andrew and Torrey. Andrew is a good fly caster but has never put a Redfish on the fly. Torrey is just getting started; she had her first fly lesson the day before our trip. After getting a few shots here and there we had a nice school head toward us down the edge of a bar, and Andrew led the school with a redfish toad. From my kneeling position on the tower I quietly said, “leave it…leave it, okay strip.” Two strips in and Andrew’s first red nailed it and took off. After that we had plenty of fish around but the wind took it to us. Torrey kept powering through the wind and while she didn’t get a red that day I know she now has the bug to beat one of these reds at the fly casting game.
On the 9th of August I fished with the Frauen brothers, Larry and Bill, in my boat. We had always done well on past trips. Talking to Bill the evening before I verified that we were only going to fly fish because this was the first time we had cast the fly together. I honestly became a little worried when we pulled up to the first flat early that morning and Larry asked, “Did you go and catch your own bait this morning?” My mind went to thinking did I get this wrong or are we still only fly fishing. I replied, “Bill said we were only going to cast the fly rod today.” Larry said firmly, “alright sounds good.” We fished hard for the next 3 hours, and after some work on casting Larry put his first red on the fly. After another hour working hard we were running low on how much more time we were going to spend on the flats. Bill was continuing to strengthen has cast and finally the opportunity arouse. “Bill they are coming right at us.” I exclaimed as I pointed my pushpole past him toward the fish. I followed up with, “Do you see that little wake coming this way? They’re moving slow. Lay it right toward ‘em.” He did, I slowly backed the boat up a little and he started stripping. Unfortunately old habits are hard to break…this was the first time Bill had cast a fly rod in the salt and therefore when this fish ate his hook setting habits went against my instruction. When he pulled straight up on the rod the fish lifted and turned and the fly was left all alone laying motionless after it popped out of the fish’s mouth. A victory to get one to eat and a defeat in that same moment as it came unhooked. We all just stood there for a moment in silence. I am certain that Bill has told that story a few times and I am also certain he is chomping at the bit to get back to casting to one of these reds.
On August 17th I met Ian and his 6 year old son Ben at Chechesse river landing to head out for Ian casting the fly and Ben using a spinning rod. We started off around a bunch of oysters and quickly found reds horded up in the open areas around the shells. There didn’t seem to be anything but muddy water everywhere so Ian cast and cast and finally his first red on the fly lifted up and zoned in on a razmataz pushing a wake as he sucked it in. While this fight took place I put a shrimp out for Ben and handed him the rod. After we got a picture and released the red Ben started reeling and caught his first flounder ever. Ian later put a doormat of a flounder on my
8wt Helios. Soon after the tide was high enough for tails, we were getting good shots but things just weren’t coming together to get a hook up. Ian then asked if I would cast to a tail with a spinning rod to hook a red up for Ben. The fish were a little spooky so I got out of the boat for the first two shots and still have no idea why neither of the fish picked up the Berkley gulp crab I brought across their paths. I changed to a mud minnow right as the tide started to drop and there were a few fish exiting the flat. As the third one tailed out I was in a good position to intersect him with a mud minnow. After making the cast, I let it sit for about 2 minutes then he approached and I reeled slowly to meet his path…he nailed it. I set the hook and with loose drag I turned to get back to the boat. I tightened it just a bit and handed it off to Ben. You could hear the excitement in his voice saying, “It is pulling too hard for me.” He fought it in from a long way out and earned all the credit on his first struggle with a big red. This was a great first for him, his father, and me to get to be there for the experience. After the trip Ian put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Thanks, you have renewed my faith in fishing guides.”
Two days later on the 19th I had a fly caster and a buddy of his that would like to start to fly cast in the salt get in my Maverick. While there isn’t a lot of story here, Marc the fly caster did get his first red, plus a few more in a fairly short period of time. His friend’s cast got better and better as he worked on it throughout the day and while the fish are safe for now he will be back practiced up to take some of them down.
So back to Mike who I fished yesterday, August 24th. He was the one that asked if I ever get tired of fishing. Again he had never caught a red on the fly before and this day was a little questionable as to how the fish would act with incoming hurricane Irene. The fish were staying skinny so I ended up hopping out of the boat and pushing it up toward the bank so we could get skinner. We put a few flies into the fish but were not getting takes. Finally we switched over to a Razmataz and a few casts in Mike was stripping the fly but was looking somewhere else. A huge push lifted in the water and to make sure he wasn’t going to pick it up to make another cast I said, “Keep stripping.” The fish took the fly and the line started moving slightly to the right but mostly toward us. “Strip, strip, he’s got it.” Mike caught up to him and reeled up the slack line while saying, “He isn’t pulling that hard.” In the middle of that comment the drag zinged and the handle smacked at his fingers. “Wow, now he’s pulling.” Mike went on to land this fish and another about the same size; he later lost one that was a little larger.
While I still love to fish and I know that I have tons of firsts to come in my own angling, I really love to watch another’s reaction to their first time experiences. The child in me lives vicariously through every first my clients have. I don’t get tired of what I do because there is nothing mundane about the routine of firsts I get to see all so often.