If you haven’t noticed by now, I am a looker. Now don’t get me wrong, because when I say that I’m certainly not talking about my garish looks, but rather keeping my eyes open in hopes that I will see something that might stimulate my rather peculiar brain. I’ve never quite grasped the right brain, left brain thing, but for as long as I can remember, I have always looked at nature as a wealth of artistic images.
All through high school I never went anywhere without my camera. Though I didn’t have a clue what I would do with my life during that period, it was more or less a fluke that I finally ended up at Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Fla., and then, after graduating, spending the next 3 1/2 decades as a graphic designer.
The point of this history lesson is two fold. First of all, it probably surprises many of you to know that I am not — or never have been — a professional fisherman. More importantly, I truly believe that nature was the inspiration for my career in art. Just growing up here surrounded by almost indescribable beauty opened my eyes to art in its purest form.
That beauty is here 365 days out of the year, but during that period, the 31 days in October is for me the most inspirational time of the year. I simply go on sensory overload. Waking each morning to a slight chill in the air, I walk outside, close my eyes and drink it in. It makes me feel so alive.
Then as the sun begins to rise, I amble down to the river with my newly acquired beagle named Butter Bean and am stunned by the beauty that greets me. The chill produces a slight mist on the water, and as the sun creeps over the eastern horizon, the once green marsh now has a golden hue that soaks in the sun’s rays, tripling the intensity of that color. Artist or not, that scene has to be an inspiration to any who witness it.
Out on the water, October is a visual feast. This past week I was lucky enough to get out there twice.
On the first trip out, the plan was to do some inshore fishing. At first light, I headed up Bull Creek, and the water looked like it was alive. From shoreline to shoreline, massive schools of baitfish were creating wakes in the shape of a V. This V would go this way while another would head in the opposite direction. There were so many schools of bait, it was like looking into a bowl of alphabet soup.
Traveling a bit further, I came across several dolphins strand-feeding on mullet. Though I have witnessed this behavior many times, you really can’t help but stop and watch. It’s like watching synchronized swimming with Esther Williams as half of the pod of dolphins rounds up the mullet and then the remaining dolphins line up six abreast and charge the shoreline. With hundreds of mullet in front of them, the dolphins push the mullet up on the shore, and without hesitating the slightest bit, slide right up the slippery bank after them. Completely out of the water, they lay on their side chowing down on flopping mullet before sliding back in the water. Mesmerized, I just happened to glance at this huge dead tree on the opposite shoreline, and sitting there like an audience at a baseball game were three bald eagles that seemed to be enjoying the show as much as I was. What a place we live in.
October is also by far the most productive month of the year for foraging. In the past couple of weeks, I have caught flounder, trout, black drum, bull redfish, mangrove snapper and even a couple of juvenile gag grouper.
With everything on the move, October is the only time of the year that I catch so many odd species or, better put, fish that you would never expect to catch here. It just proves that if we keep our waters clean and healthy, the Lowcountry is one of the greatest nurseries for all sorts of fish to be found anywhere on the East Coast. I know the expression “if wishes were horses beggars would ride” but I do have one wish. That wish is why can’t October have 62 days instead of just 31? Get out there now because it will be over before you know it.