I just returned from a week at Pawleys Island with the family and it shows. I'm a bit beat down and worn out. Chasing a gaggle of youngsters around the beach for a week will do that to anyone. Add to the 6-and-under-beach-contingent the fact that I was up every morning, dutifully, at five a.m. to catch the low tides then you'll begin to understand my pain.
I'm to blame, of course, as I'm a early riser by nature. I'm also a father and family vacations are first and foremost about the kids. That I'm an angler and fly shop owner also means that I typically carry a arsenal of rods with me even when I have no real intention of fishing. On this trip, that certainly was the case and I only threw a few (four to be exact) rods into the back of the truck just in case. My only real fishing plan was to sneak away one day to fish with Capt. Scotty Davis, owner of Lowcountry Fly Shop in Charleston, on Friday.
Despite no real intentions of fishing much beyond the creek with the boys, I spent the week up to our vacation talking with Capt. Scotty as well as Capt. Jay Nelson about what if any fishing might be found during our visit. Both conceded that the only real gem during my visits would be pretty exceptional low tides coinciding with day break. Crack of dawn low tides work with a family vacation and so I saw my opportunity and ran with it.
What I hoped to find was some speckled trout and maybe a pompano or two in the breakers at dawn. What I ended up encountering instead was a relatively large group of migratory tarpon, right at the inlet, every morning at dawn from about 5:30 to 6:15. I wish I could have had a picture of my face when the first tarpon breached on Monday morning about a two feet from the retaining wall of the north inlet.
Now, if you've been to Pawleys Island or ever fished South Carolina for that matter you know that it is not on a short list of places to chase tarpon. Far from it. The water clarity is minimal and the large flats most tarpon anglers are familiar with simply don't exist. Nevertheless, when the big fish feed, and feed with enthusiasm, you have just got to believe you've got a shot. So, every morning, I awoke at five, made coffee, and headed out to throw a large rod at giant fish breaking just off the rocks on the north inlet.
The beauty of the whole affair was the fact that I owned it all. The whole feeding event went off like clock work every morning. First feed 5:30. Ferocious feeding for forty-five minutes to an hour. By the time the early risers chasing trout, reds, and what-not arrived the show was long gone and I was just some weirdo siting on a rock rubbing his arm. They were none the wiser about what I had just been a part of and by 6:45 I was back in the kitchen cooking up some Benton's bacon for the thing 1, thing 2 and their cousin.
While I confess that I never touched a tarpon with my fly, I never in a million years would have guessed that I would have even had the opportunity to throw at tarpon. I was just happy to have something all my own for a few minutes every morning in a spot I had been coming to since I was the age of my youngest son. Optimism and a good show are a powerful thing and despite my aching arm and shoulder I carried on happy simply to throw a fly in the spot that a fish just showed. That changed, however, on Thursday morning when a young guy carrying a large spinning rod with a fluke on it showed up towards the end of that morning's show. It was immediately obvious what he was up to so we struck up a conversation. I mentioned the tarpon, and as if on cue, a large one smashed some mullet on the point of the wall.
Turns out the young man was Capt. Jordan Pate of Carolina Guide Service. After a brief discussion (and another appearance of a fish or two) we agreed to meet again in the morning with Jordan's boat in tow and see if we couldn't connect with the object of our desire. Friday morning I was up and out watching the inlet per usual when Jordan sent a text. He was running a little behind but would be there shortly. It wasn't much of a worry as the early morning low tides had pretty much run their course. Friday's tide was falling but it was still too high and the bait too scattered. By the time Jordan made it around the end of the inlet from the creek I hadn't seen a single tarpon. I hopped on board, stowed the fly rod, and we tossed out two live mullet rigged on circle hooks.
Jordan, who had to be at his day job around eight was on borrowed time and had his two year old son in tow so the whole affair given the tide, time, kids was a crap shoot. With about five minutes to spare, however, one of the rods began to sing. I hopped up and grabbed it and gave it a good jerk. The fish, I'm guessing about 100 pounds, rocketed out of the water and spit the hook back at me. A touch of gold and a perfect ending to a special week; I jumped a tarpon on the north inlet of Pawley's Island...
Our Sage rep Raz Reid blew through town yesterday showing us the new line-up from Redington, Sage, and Rio. Suffice it to say, all three lines are getting some fresh new faces to their line-up. First and foremost on the list, of course, is the new Sage Circa. Being somewhat of a fan of the more moderate action Sage rods of old (I've got a bit of an LL fetish), I've been very curious to see what the “Konnetic” technology, (which has to do with how the carbon fibers are aligned in the rod during manufacturing, and what resin-carbon ratios are employed) would feel like in a slower action rod. It's no secret that I love the ONE rods for chasing small mouth, but how about something a little bit more forgiving for mountain dry fly fishing?
1 Day Off
3 Rivers (French Broad, Holston, & Tennesse)
1 Collard Green
6 Gallons of Gas
5 Hours of Sleep
16 Hours on the Water
59 River Miles
6 River Otters
3 Bald Eagles
Untold Nubers of Bass Officially Harrassed
1 Exhausted Allen
Well folks it looks like the tailwater trout action and mountain fishing has officially come to a screeching halt with the full-on arrival of summer and record breaking temps. TVA has all the taps open in an attempt to keep their down river assets running on all cylinders during this heat wave which means high water everywhere but the mountains. Unfortunately, the lack of rain has most of the fish on the freestones seeking shelter. What's an angler to do? Simple, get out early and give something new a try. Billy Davis is out there on the water targeting the early morning striper bite with great success. While these fish aren't always easy to catch on a fly rod, Billy can put you on them and give you your best shot and if that doesn't work don't be afraid to give Mr. Wiggly a try, you won't be disappointed. I sure wasn't.