Redfish and the Lowcountry

The Lowcountry is an exceptionally special place; a place filled with countless winding tidal creeks teaming with marine life, live oak trees swallowed up with Spanish Moss, and cultural roots that run deeper than the aforementioned live oaks.

Let’s go ahead and get two topics out of the way off the bat...

One, it’s “Lowcountry”, not “Low Country”. I don’t have a good reason for ya. But, it is what it is. And two, what is the Lowcountry? Historically and geographically, it’s the low-lying, coastal wetlands between the Savannah and Ashley Rivers. Today, it commonly includes the greater Charleston area as well. More-so, it’s defined by the natural beauty of the area, especially it’s salt marshes, and a cultural heritage rich in African American Gullah culture and it’s key contribution to the history of the United States as a whole.

It’s “Lowcountry”, not “Low Country”. I don’t have a good reason for ya. But, it is what it is.

A quick bit about me... My name’s Lawson. I’m a photographer and former fly fishing guide. Now based in Charleston, SC.

I was born in the heart of the Lowcountry, on a small island in Beaufort County (pronounced “BEW-fert”, and not to be confused with “BOH-fert”) called Hilton Head Island; it’s now commonly known for it’s rankings among the top resort towns in America. I spent most of my childhood knee deep in pluff mud (the oh-so-gooey and thick mud that makes up much of our wetlands) in search of anything aquatic. Crabs, oysters, shorebirds, baitfish, and the renowned redfish... the latter of which would become a bit of an obsession, if not a directional guide for my life as a whole. This is, for the most part, where my love for the Lowcountry truly began and the part of it that I can best share with others.

But where it truly shines as a gamefish, in my humble opinion, is through sight casting and fly fishing.

 

The redfish (also referred to as red drum, Spottail bass, channel bass, etc. etc.) is a common gamefish found across the South East. In truth, the redfish is rather unremarkable. It’s primarily a bottom feeder, but has a tendency to be stubborn-headed enough to chase baitfish higher in the water column as well. A great sense of smell, good eye sight, and a voracious appetite make it a relatively good hunter and in turn a decent target for the casual angler. It’s plenty willing to eat just about anything it finds in front of its face. But where it truly shines as a gamefish, in my humble opinion, is through sight casting and fly fishing.

Using a shallow water boat (most commonly a flats skiff that can float in a mere inches of water), anglers can pursue redfish during low and high tides, searching for signs of the fish or full-on spotting them from the higher vantage point of the boat, and making a well placed cast with a fly or artificial lure to trigger the fish to eat. Primarily in the late Fall through early Spring when the water becomes gin clear, redfish can be found in schools that can number into the hundreds, lazily circling each other, in water that might be only a few inches deep, and using numbers as a safety tactic against predators. This requires stealth and a very well-placed lure. Thanks to extremely high tides (known as a flood tide or King Tide) during the Summertime and early Fall, redfish will move into the flooded grass flats in search of crabs and baitfish. Scouring the bottom for food in only a few inches of water causes the fish to push their tail fin out of the water, causing them to “tail”. This means anglers can search for fish on these flood tides by keeping an eye out for lazily waving tails in the shallow grass. Because of the depths that this fishing happens at as well as the need to be stealthy, it is common for a two-man team (angler and “pusherman”) to use a long carbon fiber pole to silently push through the grass in search of tailing fish.

Chasing that last fish, staying for the last little bit of light... any excuse to be out there and appreciate everything just a little bit longer.

 

As with most outdoor pursuits, there’s a lot more to fishing in the shallows of the Lowcountry than just the redfish we’re targeting. Calm waters, sandy flats, and so much beauty all around you make it, dare I say, more of an ethereal experience than just a fishing trip. While much of our fishing happens in four to six hour blocks of time as we follow the tides, it’s easy to find yourself looking for any reason to stay out just a little bit longer. Chasing that last fish, staying for the last little bit of light... any excuse to be out there and appreciate everything just a little bit longer. Feeling the wind billow across the spartina grass flats, listening to the popping oysters as the tide drops lower, and watching the sun setting over the distant tree line making everything turn an incredible golden hue. If you ever get the chance to come down South and enjoy the Lowcountry for yourself; come for the redfish, stay for... well, everything else.

LAID BACK LOWCOUNTRY PICKS

Summer is all about getting lost in the moment. No plans necessary; ready for whatever, whenever. A celebration of expression, spontaneity, free forms and free minds.