RED: THE LAST LEGAL DRUG

 

 

As I pack up the family truckster for our annual vacation in the low country, I am trying to stay positive. Trying is my new thing when it comes to redfish. I will not be defeated before I leave. I will be defeated when I get there, like a normal human being. So in honor of my impending mediocrity in the face of marsh donkeys, here is one of our favorites from the vault.

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RED: THE LAST LEGAL DRUG

By Scott Davis
Photos: Steve Seinberg and Scott Davis
Southern Culture On the Fly
Issue No. 4: Summer 2012


 “we spot each other clearly by the wet pant legs, the dubbing or flashabou bits in the beard, the raccoon eyes”

Step back and think where you’d be if fish didn’t control your life. What magazines would be by your toilet? What stickers would adorn your boat’s tow vehicle? Maybe you have another passion, but I doubt it. It seems to be all or nothing, and not by choice.

Watching a redfish commit murders among the crustacean community in inches of water has got to be it…it’s the last legal drug…these tailers. When they tail, something dies—simple. Once you’ve seen it, it generally grabs you like an untreatable fever. And like a disease you’d never want to cure, you feed it thinking it will satisfy the addiction, but you’ve really made it much worse.

I meet very few “casual” redfish anglers. Most are sunburned, obsessive, smell funny and couldn’t give a damn about who won last night’s game. They tie flies out of necessity, stop to skin road kill, eat in the car, and forget birthdays, but can tell you the tides for the next month. If the flats aren’t going to flood, they’ll go where the fish go even if that means casting through tourists and labradoodles at the beach. The fish are always out there somewhere as are these maniacs, these wonderful misfits.

It becomes eerily cult-like, this lifestyle of fly fishing. Most people can’t tell by looking, but we spot each other clearly by the wet pant legs, the dubbing or flashabou bits in the beard, the raccoon eyes. We can feel the push pole or oar calluses in your handshake so don’t fake it, we know who you are.

It’s the nature of humans I suppose, to seek out what makes us happy and pursue it relentlessly, at all costs. The simplicity of fly fishing is its greatest merit. I think it’s the same with the redfish tails. They are simple. Vaguely colored, adorned with only bronze, blue and a speck of black, they lure us like mythological sirens into a life of searching—waiting and hoping for the chance at another glimpse.

SCOF History: The Holy City

Who doesn’t love Mad Mike Benson? Who? You tell me and I’ll punch them in the face. This is the first story  Mike did for us way back when, and we couldn’t have been happier. Mike’s somewhere in the Caribbean this week, so now we  couldn’t be more disappointed in Mike for not inviting us. Screw you Mike, but pleased keep writing stuff for us regardless.

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The Holy city
By Mike Benson
Photos: Steve Seinberg and David Grossman
Southern Culture On the Fly
Issue No. 2: Winter 2012


Anybody who’s ever sat in an American History class already knows a few things about Charleston, SC. Mainly that we fired the first shots of the Civil War. And those who’ve ever lived here for any length of time may tell you a few other things about our city. They’ll tell you about Moultrie, the “Swamp Fox”, John C. Calhoun, the “War of Northern Aggression”, and of course, Hurricane Hugo. Nowadays, fly fishermen from across the country, and in particular the South, are becoming more and more familiar with Charleston as a great place to chase redfish with the fly rod. But if you’re going to come on down and join us amidst the Spartina grass, I ask that you take a second to really take a look around and attempt to take in what is going on around you.

When you’re poling or wading the flats north of town, just stand still and listen for a minute. If the wind is blowing just right, you may hear the low mournful hum of slaves singing hymns in fields long untended. Running across the harbor, you may hear the sound of Yankee cannons over the whine of your outboard, conducting one of the longest artillery sieges in modern military history. As you leave the harbor and turn north into the waterway, try to picture the Sullivan’s Island bridge completely dismantled and laying on its side in the creek, and the raw natural forces it took to accomplish that. And when you’re standing on one of the “fly away places,” the small cedar islands that escaped slaves used to stop and pray on for God to turn them into birds so they could fly back to Africa, try your hardest to keep your feet on the ground.

They call this place the Holy City, and the tour guides in town will tell you it’s because of the sheer number of churches, or our history for religious freedom. But spend enough time being quiet in the backcountry and it’s hard to ignore the natural and spiritual forces that seem to surround this place. So when you come to Charleston to chase the reds, bring your 8wt, a box full of crab and shrimp patterns, and open your mind and your soul. You may just be surprised by what you’ll catch down here.

one fish, two fish, three fish, redfish

After sitting in a holding pattern for a couple of days, the winds on the coast finally died down enough for Steve and I to get down to Charleston and put together the Spring Redfish feature with SCOF contributor Tucker Blythe.  Fly fishing the Low Country is kind of like Mexican wrestling, there is a whole lot going on and most of it is way beyond your comprehension (also the whole flamboyant masks and banana hammock thing).  Tide, cloud cover, wind, bait chuckers, idiots with trolling motors, and trout sets are all a part of the equation. The equation only gets more complicated when you add in the fact that there are thousands of miles of coastline, creek, marsh, and oyster flats where a biomass of Reds can appear and disappear just as quickly.  In the end the whole thing comes down to getting shots and not completely crapping the bed when that shot comes. I wouldn’t say that our bed was spotless after two days, but it wasn’t like we had to throw away the sheets either…maybe just hide them at the bottom of the hamper. I really want to thank Tucker for working hard to put us on the schools, and I would also like thank myself for not completely letting myself down. Look out for the feature in the Spring preview issue but until then enjoy some shots that won 1st runner-up in the beauty pageant.

– Dave