Long time customers Mike and Nichi Mitchell from Raleigh hit the marshes for a 2 day tailing Redfish hunt this week. Having fished multiple open flats trips with me each year for the last 4 years, they were both chomping at the bit to experience this seldom seen side of Redfishing. As the big Spring tides of (Full and New Moon periods)March through October flood vast areas of the Spartina marsh, hordes of hungry Reds follow deep into the heart of the marsh in pursuit of their favorite forage. Enormous colonies of Fiddler crabs reside deep within the normally inpenetrable Sea of Spartina stalks, and although only accessible to a Redfish several days out of each month during these big flood tides, the crabs represent the most important feeding opportunity in a fish's life... infinite amounts of easily obtained protein!
I met Mike and Nichi Friday afternoon in Southport a couple hours ahead of the tide and talk soon turned to how we were going to approach the next 2 days. As I had already assured them, we would see tons of tailing fish over the next 2 days, but even if blessed with perfect setups, we would get just a few really good shots at perfect fish(lone fish attentively feeding with no pressure from other fish crowding them). I continued that the tailing flats are about the hunt and the visual aspect of watching fish for what sometimes seems like an eternity before carefully planning an approach and studying a Red's behavior to determine a pattern that might prove helpful in determing cast placement (it's a one shot deal most of the time) can wear on even the most experienced angler's nerves, causing an appreciable impairment of your mental and physical faculties, basically, they can turn you into a blithering idiot! Undeterred from my little pep talk, the couple was nothing but smiles as we made our way through a winding maze of tight creeks and hidden guts leading to the most productive tailing flats.
Friday night was a swing and a miss, we saw atleast 50 tailing fish and experienced perfect wind and light conditions, but the technical part of getting a Redfish to first see and then consume a bait that needs to be presented right under his nose without blowing him out proved difficult to Mike and Nichi. I assured them that the following evening we would get our shot, as they better understood the in and outs of this cat and mouse game, and the tide would come an hour later, giving us better sun angle to keep our shadows from crashing the party.
My promise of it happening held firm on Saturday, as 30 minutes into our trip, Mike made a spot on cast to a 25" Red less than 20 feet from the bow, and brought him boatside without missing a beat. With the tranquility of the shallow marsh pan broken by a wildly thrashing Redfish and the tension of making it happen now a memory to both anglers and guide, we were finally free to relax and truly enjoy the accompishment. Obligatory high fives were doled out and pictures taken before we made a move to another marsh pan to get Nichi her shot. With daylight quickly waning, we found ourselves utterly surrounded by tailing fish and Nichi was awash with excitement. Thats when it happened... as the big tide began to ebb, the switch turned off and tails dissapeared almost in unison. Fish we had been keeping tabs on and mentally cataloging, actually giving names like "happy" and"grumpy", no there wasn't a doc or a dopy, quit being a wise ass and let me finish the story! Anyway, it was over like it so often happens, and there was nothing we could do but recount the successes and head back across the river in awe of what we had experienced of the 2 days of upos, downs, and moments of fascination.
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