About this time last year we trucked south to Folly Beach, SC, for several days of unplugged rejuvenation. I especially love the ocean beaches in the late fall, and this seaside island village, a short drive from Charleston, fit the bill perfectly.
As you may know, Charleston is an awesome city, originally named to honor King Charles, II. Also called the Holy City, I think I prefer Charleston’s cheeky nickname, Chucktown.
We went for the food and history, but of course I packed some fishing gear, a fly and spin outfit, as well as a 10-foot surf stick.
There’s an embarrassment of fish-rich water around Charleston, such as its famed Cooper and Ashley rivers; the latter waterway, I was a little surprised to learn, even supports a decent striper fishery. But it was redfish I had my eye on, specifically hoping to find these sporting fish schooled up, as I had heard they do during the winter when the water is usually clear. Sight-fishing with fly and lure was the game plan, and since there are prodigious fishing grounds from the Wando River to the north and Kiawah River to the south, I figured one place was as good as another.
I chose to fish a nearby creek close to home base called King Flats Creek, which drains into the Folly River that empties into the Atlantic. I was told that there I might find clear, moving water, like the spots I fish on Delmarva, with fish attracting structure, such as jetties, marsh points, and oyster bars.
When Derek at the local kayak and tackle shop suggested I fish live or cut bait (shrimp or finger mullet), I told him I was going to cast artificials. He looked at me slightly sideways, paused and replied, in the polite tone reserved for the unknowing, visiting angler who insists anything is possible, something like, “Well, sure, I guess it’s possible, that sometimes, you know, on occasion, flies and lures can catch redfish on this tide under those conditions.” Translation: Mister, don’t be an idiot. Take my advice and use bait.
We paddled out to Kings Flat Creek where the vast meadow of spartina stretched out like ribbons of winter wheat. Had I never even left Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore? Was I cutting through the guts of Broad Creek to get to Pocomoke Sound? Familiar friends strengthened the thought—an osprey hunting overhead; pelicans plummeting at prey at ridiculous angles; an ibis stalking the flooded marsh. It was only the presence of live oaks, marvelous and majestic, some perhaps as old as our country, that gave away our location.
Very soon I was greeted with a Low Country boil, as countless finger mullet made the water ripple nervously with their erratic movements, occasionally breaching the whiskey-colored water to elude some unseen predator.
Despite cast after cast of the eight-weight, after a couple of hours I could not escape the sense of futility. Derek was right: A rattling-float rig with live bait was the ticket. Later, along the ocean front, red drum cruised the surf line past casters who lurked thigh deep among the ruined groins. Two hometeam anglers each landed drum better than 40 inches on chunks of mullet. Again, advantage to the locals.
Someday I’ll be back to Folly Beach, perhaps even a little smarter and slightly less stubborn. And one thing is for sure: I’ll correct my mistake of not budgeting enough money to hire a local guide.
Local Watering Hole
Though my angling success was limited in South Carolina, the abundance of great eats and drinks in the Charleston area more than healed a bruised ego. One of my favorite places was Bowens Island Restaurant. It kind of reminds me of Jimmy Cantler’s Riverside Inn outside Annapolis, the version from a couple of decades ago when they gave you a free bucket of piss clams to gnaw on while they fried your soft crab in a mountain of butter.
On this evening in the Low Country the oysters came from Louisiana, and oddly enough, among the four dozen we powered down were some silver dollar-sized ones that would have been illegal back home. Still, after a moment’s pause, down the hatch they went, the steam still hissing from the shells. To do otherwise would be impolite, as well as wasteful.
by Capt. Chris D. Dollar