I believe I have mentioned that part-time I guide folks in their boats, give intensive “How to Fish the Lowcountry” seminars at the Waddell Mariculture Center and, quite frankly, I love every minute of it.
I meet people from all walks of life, from just about every state in the U.S. and, for the most part, the common denominator is they all simply want to learn.
But as I was walking my beagles down to the May River yesterday afternoon, I wracked my brain about what would be the good subject for this column. Bad weather has been rampant this past month so telling you some great fish-catching tale was totally out of the question, and then it came to me in a most peculiar way.
Living in old Bluffton, my street has a cast of characters straight out of a William Faulkner novel. One of these neighbors raises orchids and chickens — lots of chickens.
So as I sat there on the seawall thinking about what to write, I looked up and there was a red-tailed hawk gliding over the pines near one of the chicken coops. There was nothing unusual about that because I see hawks hanging around the neighborhood all the time, just waiting for one of those chickens to sneak under the wire and wham-o, it’s chicken fricassee for some lucky hawk and I guarantee it doesn’t take long. Those hawks’ instincts are so fine-tuned they know that it’s simply a waiting game before some unlucky chicken’s freedom lasts all of five minutes.
It was that key word “instinct” that brought a smile to my face.
Fishing isn’t about what lure you use or what the tide is doing, it’s all about instinct.
If you think about the evolution of man, our success had nothing to do with the discovery of making fire nor our earliest tools; instead, it was pure instinct that ensured our survival. Even after thousands of years, I am convinced that every one of us is still born with instincts that have their roots in the earliest human to walk this earth.
You might think that first human was named Lucy or Ardi, but for me at least, it will always be Ug. I just like the name and when I think of two cave men talking, Ug had to come into the conversation. “Ug catch fish, Ug good, Ug smart” — see what I mean? It just works.
Anyway, I truly believe that consistently successful fishermen use their instincts to guide that success more than any lure, rod and reel, tide or electronic device.
We all have those little voices in our heads that try to guide us, but because we have become so civilized, we tend to ignore them. Heck, I have more voices in my head than you can shake a stick at so for me it’s a bit harder picking the right one.
You might think I am full of it but I swear I know when a fish is about to bite. Not always, but when I get that tingling feeling I pay attention to it and more often than not it pays off. Some days I know I am going to crush ‘em from the get-go, and on the flip side, there are days when I know I should go to Plan B. It’s all instinct-driven.
I don’t care if it’s fishing in a freshwater pond, saltwater estuaries or out in the middle of the Gulf Stream, I rely on those inbred instincts all the time and the payoff has been huge. But the secret is using all those instincts, along with all your senses — sight, smell, touch, as well as the slightest inclination.
Since I am itching to get out to the Gulf Stream, setting out eight lures while trolling is a perfect example. Seven look good, but my instincts tell me that eighth one needs to be reeled in five feet. One, two, three, four, five feet, and as I step away from the rod a fish creams that lure. It happens all the time.
So tune those instincts and, more importantly, pay attention to them. A millennium has gone into developing them, evolving us into the dominant species, so use them!
If it doesn’t look right or it doesn’t feel right, then move on. I swear if you learn to listen to those voices in your head (except possibly the one with the Jersey accent), you’ll make Ug proud.