Red Redemption

By Scott Richmond

"Look, here comes the sun!" said Mrs. Fuzzy as we drove to the boat ramp. To my right, Old Sol rose from the sea, hazy in the low fog that hung over the sea grass. Brown pelicans were silhouetted against scattered clouds.

Sun rising from the ocean? Sea grass? Pelicans? Toto, I've a feeling we're not on the Clackamas anymore!

Nope. We're in Savannah, Georgia, on our way to meet Captain Scott Wagner. Captain Scott, of Savannah Fly Fishing Charters, met us at the Lazaretto Boat Ramp, and we soon headed into the ocean in his Hells Bay flats boat. After a short ride, we entered a break in the surf and were soon in a different world: the creeks and sloughs of south Tybee Island, hunting for redfish.

The Mantra

"Nine o'clock. Tailing, next to the grass," Captain Scott said softly from the poling platform. He indicated with the push pole. I silently rehearsed my mantra: Point the rod at the fly. Don't move the rod when you set up on the fish. Don't move your feet--they hear it. Don't move your body when casting--they'll feel the pressure wave when the boat rocks. Don't talk too loud--they'll hear it. Cast in front of the fish. Each line of that mantra was learned by way of missed opportunities earlier in the morning. I didn't want to blow it again.

I made a bad cast. The redfish kept tailing. The next cast was better placed. I stripped line. The fish followed, water bulging over its back. Point the rod at the fly. Don't move the rod when you set up on the fish. Don't move your . . . The rod bent, line zipped out, and I was on.

"Don't wiggle the rod," Captain Scott said. "They have a tough mouth and it can work the fly loose.

Right. Point the rod at the fly. Don't move the rod when you set up on the fish. Don't wiggle the rod when playing the fish. Don't move your feet . . .

The fish came in, photos were taken, high fives were made. Now, on to the next one.

Redemption

Redfish have been my jinx. Four years ago I spent two-and-a-half days chasing them with a guide in Pine Island Sound, in Florida's Gulf Coast. Never had a hook up. One bad thing after another. Either I made a poor cast on a willing fish, or a good cast to an unreceptive one. Or I stepped on the fly line. Or two fish went for my fly and scared each other off. Or . . .

Anyway, I wanted a second chance at redfish. I wanted redemption.

My daughter Holly and her husband opened a veterinary specialty clinic in Savannah in January, and we'd come for a visit, arriving yesterday. I had checked out the fishing opportunities in advance, and found that Savannah had redfish. I found Captain Scott via Google, and set up a trip. He's been doing this for about twenty years and knows his stuff. I was enjoying fishing with him.

Not the Best Day for Reds

While the sky was mostly clear and the temperature in the low 60s (headed for the low eighties) the wind blew out of the north--in direct opposition to the incoming tide. This roiled the channel's silty bottom and reduced visibility to about six inches. Spotting fish was very difficult, and Captain Scott had to work hard to pole the skiff into the wind.

I missed a few more opportunities. Sometimes it was my fault, sometimes the fish just didn't go for the fly. We hunted along the east side, headed downwind for a bit. "Look for grassy points were little creeks empty into the channel, "Captain Scott said. In one side cove, I thought I saw movement in the water. I cast and stripped the fly. Water bulged. It looked like several fish were chasing my fly. Point the rod at the fly. Don't move the rod when you set up on the fish. Don't wiggle the rod when playing the fish. Don't move your feet . . . The line went tight and the fish headed past the skiff's stern, into the open channel. Line peeled off the reel. And peeled. And peeled. The line/backing knot ripped through guides. And kept going.

Eventually the fish ended its run and came grudgingly toward the boat. The backing was now on the reel, and about a third of the fly line. Then the line went slack. Bing. Just like that.

I grimaced at Captain Scott. It's always hard to lose a fish, but it's especially hard to lose a big fish that you never got to see.

"How big do you think it was?" I asked.

"Oh, we've got reds that go ten to fifteen pounds," he said.

Like I said before, Captain Scott has years of experience, and that was a nice piece of guidespeak. You'll notice he didn't say how big the fish was. He just put out an undeniable fact and let me draw my own conclusions.

I choose to conclude I'd lost a ten to fifteen pound redfish.

"I've had worse fishing under better conditions," Captain Scott said at the end of our half-day trip.

I choose to conclude that meant I hadn't screwed up as badly as some other beginning redfishers. Hey, I hired a guide; I deserve to draw my own conclusions about this things.

I'll Be Back

I might have another shot at reds in a few days. It depends on family activities, which after all are the real reason I'm here. And on Captain Scott's schedule. And the weather and tides and wind.

If I don't make it this time, there will be other opportunities. My daughter is here for a while, and I like visiting my children. Especially when the live this close to great fishing.

In the meantime, I'll practice my casting. And my mantra. Point the rod at the fly. Don't move the rod when you set up on the fish. Don't wiggle the rod when playing the fish. Don't move your feet . . .

Scott Richmond is Westfly's creator and Executive Director. He is the author of eight books on Oregon fly fishing, including Fishing Oregon's Deschutes River (second edition).