If I've said it once, I'll say it again -- October is awesome in just about every way. The air has a clarity that makes every view crisp, to the point that it looks like you are watching a movie in high definition. The marsh grass is slowly getting that golden hue, and in the early mornings and late afternoons, the reddish glow of the sun hitting the grass is spectacular. In a nutshell, I can't get enough of this month of months. The desire to play hooky and get out on the water is almost unbearable.
Luckily for me, this desire seems to be contagious because twice this past week I got calls from friends who successfully twisted my arm to go fishing. The first call came from Jim Edwards, a longtime friend of mine from Spring Island. To my surprise, he brought along a friend, Bob Reynolds, who was a high school classmate of mine from Charleston. What are the odds of that?
I had seen Bob the week before (for the first time in years) at my 40th high school reunion, so I knew he was a trout freak. We had talked then and, as fishermen often do, we spent a lot of time away from the party comparing notes in one of those "mine is bigger than yours" testosterone-filled, chest-beating talks.
Used to fishing the Ace Basin area, Bob and Jim were in my backyard, so we started out trying to nail stag redfish. After we set up, the wind started blowing, and the water quickly changed to chocolate milk so I suggested we go after trout in some creeks I knew would be calm and out of the wind.
The tide had just started coming in, so instead of anchoring we decided to drift down this one long bank and pitch both live and artificial shrimp and maybe, just maybe, bump into some trout. We hadn't drifted 50 yards when I noticed what looked like a small clump of oysters sticking up near the surface. As we got closer, I knew immediately it wasn't oysters at all, but a tripletail floating on its side with the current.
Coming across this fish doesn't happen every day, but when it does, you have just seconds to get a bait in front of him, and 95 percent of the time the fish will gobble up the offering -- in this case, a live shrimp. Not an avid fisherman, Jim handled my yelling well and managed to put the shrimp inches in front of the tripletail. Though it was not a monster, it gave him a good tug.
I don't know what it is about fishing for speckled sea trout that gets me so fired up but I have always regarded this type of fishing as one of my favorites, even more than fishing for redfish. First of all, they are beautiful fish. Silver with spots along their length, with a purplish-blue hue that changes colors as you turn the fish in the sunlight. Secondly, they hit baits hard and, when hooked, furiously shake their heads, much like a marlin. Their heads are bullet-shaped, with two goofy-looking front teeth jutting out of their top jaw while the inside of their mouths are a vibrant yellow. It's their appearance, plus the fact that when you find one you may find 100 of them, that just makes me want to fish for them every day during the fall and winter months.
Boy, did we get into them that day. At times, all three of us were hooked up at the same time. Jim was using live bait while Bob and I used artificials -- and on light tackle it doesn't get any better. In all, I'll bet we caught and released 50 fish and, as an added bonus, ran into three bald eagles chasing each other all over the sky as we fished.
Talk about a day, it was magical.
The next day I went with some friends from North Augusta, Mike and Deena Latargia, and it was nearly a repeat of the day before -- trout after trout after trout.
It was just so refreshing to see this many trout around. It reminded me of the days when I would fish with my dad, and we would catch a washtub full of trout. Thankfully, people are much more conscientious these days about catch and release, and if that awareness stays in place, the next generation will be able to write stories of days spent trout-fishing just like the ones I have experienced. The only reason I am not playing hooky today is because this column is due but as they say, tomorrow is another day!
God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.