By Zoë Watkins
It was my husband and I’s first year anniversary trip, and we were vacationing along the coast outside of Savannah, Ga.
My husband was under the impression that there was no “exotic” fishing in the South. Until he found redfish.
As shallow water fish, redfish wait for the tides to come in salt marsh areas along the coast, where they hunt for shrimp, fiddler crabs, and other crustaceans buried beneath the mud. Subsequently, their tails pop up out of the shallow water, “tailing,” so they’re easy to spot.
The objective is sight fishing, to cast right in front of their face, strip your line quickly so as to imitate fish swimming away, and then hopefully reel in your catch.
Just don’t spook the fish.
It sounded challenging but easy enough. So for our anniversary trip, we decided to give it a try.
My husband and I fly fish in the surrounding area, primarily along the Elk, Caney, and Duck rivers. We’ve caught our fair share of rainbow trout, so I would say we were proficient in the fly-fishing world.
We searched online for chartered redfish fishing trips and came across what we thought was the most cost-effective one (that is, the cheapest).
I mean, why pay the extra $50 when you don’t have to, right?
For the sake of simplicity, let’s call him Capt. Ahab. Though not as consumed, our captain was equally as gruff and mysterious. Just don’t call me Ishmael.
We should’ve seen the warning signs of Capt. Ahab, such as our charter guide lost my husband’s phone number and he didn’t give us time or directions until the night before our trip—after my husband had called him for the third time.
But once we had everything figured out, we were to meet our captain at a boat dock just outside of the Savannah city limits.
The boat was a standard, small fishing skiff, similar to the size of a bass fishing boat. Capt. Ahab told us to find our seats. He never asked us our names or anything.
Once out on the bay waters, Capt. Ahab wasted no time. Off we went, clocking in around 30 mph through fairly choppy waters.
On the way we saw dolphins, cranes, and even a bald eagle, which dove to the waters and caught a fish. The ride was incredible. Salt wind blew in my face and sun shone warm on my back.
After about a 45 minute ride, we came to the salt marshes. Through narrow canals we snaked our way through tall grass, watching crabs along the edge and keeping our eyes peeled for schools of red fish.
It took no time when we pulled into a narrow canal to see the water’s disturbed surface and red tails.
This was going to be great.
Except we didn’t catch anything.
Like a true freshwater fisherman, my husband casted delicately with his wrist and forearm. Except the weighted rod caused the tension to slack and the line to pile in the water.
The redfish swam away, spooked.
“Stall on your back cast,” Capt. Ahab said.
My husband tried again. Same thing.
“Stall on your back cast,” said Capt. Ahab.
Again. Nothing. Except spooked fished.
“Stall on your back cast,” said Capt. Ahab.
I could tell my very patient husband was getting frustrated.
When it was my turn to try—I thought I had by then, because I’d watched my husband so many times—I went back to cast, and I nearly hooked Capt. Ahab in the face.
“Hey, hey, hey! Watch it!” he yelled.
I stepped down from the platform.
Six hours went by and nothing. No catches.
For some reason, Capt. Ahab thought this was a good point to take the rod from my husband and actually show us how to properly cast.
It was completely different than any movement we had been doing. We were operating on a level 1, but Capt. Ahab was operating on a level 10 and didn’t know how to communicate that.
Eventually we decided to call it quits. The turning point was when we were stuck in the mud, and my husband had his fly stuck in some grass, and Capt. Ahab nearly fell out of the boat, landing heavily on back.
“God dang. You’d think I was drunk or something,” he said as he rubbed his bum.
We were done.
The ride back was still fun as we still experienced seeing much of the local wildlife and made zero-point turns through the marshes.
Once at shore, we paid our fair captain and promptly left. We pulled off at the closest gas station and sat in our car for 15 minutes, completely zoned out.
Eventually, we looked at each other and burst into laughter.
“What the heck was that?” my husband asked.
“I have no idea,” I said through breaths. A few tears rolled down my face out of both frustration and laughter.
Later that night, we looked other charter fishing trips. One—the one that cost $50 more—said the guide would show you how to cast and let you practice. “All beginners welcome.”
We should’ve just paid the extra $50. But at least we had a good laugh and a great wildlife tour through the marshlands.