The Flood Tide Chronicles

The Flood Tide Chronicles

For the modern sportsman living in the southeast, we all know the last day of Turkey season doesn't mean the hunt is over until Fall. Trickling in with the change of seasons is a stronger gravitational pull from the moon, resulting in a specifically high tide for our coastal regions that typically last from May-October. The spartina flats that are normally dry suddenly become flooded, and alive with a slew of predators looking to feast on the fiddler crabs that call these flats home. Our target for the hunt: redfish. The preferred method? On a fly rod.

To kick the season off this year, we called up some buddies and set dates on the calendar for the first official flood tide of the year in early May. After dreaming of redfish tails waving through a sea of spartina for 7 months, it's not hard to convince the buddies to make time for this magical event. It's a "Christmas in July" type of thing around here, and certainly one that will never get old. The cavalry showed up on a late Sunday afternoon at a boat ramp tucked away in an oak hammock, loaded up the coolers with ice cold beers, and into the marsh we quickly disappeared.

"We all know the journey means more than where you wind up," is the perfect quote that comes to mind when navigating through the winding blackwater creeks that create the puzzle of marshland along the coast of northeast Florida. A look in any one direction leaves you mesmerized by the beauty of it all. From pink Ibis drifting across a sunburnt sky, fiddler crabs perched high upon a single stalk of spartina grass, to the simple yet incredible act of water truly flooding a once-dry estuary in a matter of minutes, the marsh is a church in it's own right.

As we came around a sweeping bend in a creek hidden amongst a cliff of oaks, our favorite words came aloud: "There's one!" Sure enough, in a small pool tucked behind a low barrier of spartina, a redfish tail emerged from the grass and water mixture. Underwater we know the fish is locked in on digging up a crab from the pluff mud, but above, the slow side-to-side movement of it's tail is what we're locked in on. And the thing we truly live for this time of year. We quickly wedge the Hell's Bay skiff along the bank and hop in the knee deep water to sneak up on the fish. A few casts of a fly later, the water explodes and the air fills with hoots and hollers. Two seconds later, the fish pops the fly and escapes the fight. In most fishing situations this is the moment when devastation sets in and the mood dampers. But not here. We all look at each other, grinning from ear to ear, and nothing but laughter exhales. It's all part of the journey, and beating ourselves up about a fish winning this battle would belittle the beauty of nature we're literally standing in at the moment. Plus, it makes for a great story. Luckily we know this isn't the end of the story on this particular day.

There's another flat we want to hit so we head that way to meet up with another buddy who just got on the water. One guy jumps on his skiff and now we're ready to tag team any fish between us and the horizon of spartina ahead. The push pole comes out of the holder and into the mud it sinks. Onward. As we pushed in slightly different directions the tails began to pop up, but would quickly disappear. Minutes later one big hoot was heard from afar and we could see our buddies hooked up to a fish in the distance.

The sun was setting at this point, the sky a mixture of orange and pink, a fly rod bent over on the bow, and a skiff dog right by our buddy's side as he fought this well-earned redfish. We pushed over to watch him land the fish followed by a big handshake with his partner who put him in perfect position for a perfect cast. It's not just a win for them, it's a win for all of us. The camaraderie out here is special. There is no I in team. And we know how much fun it is to watch and celebrate your buddy reeling in a nice one. Plus, we love popping open an ice cold beer and throwing up a cheers.

We continued forward across the flat as we raced the sun, and it paid off. A tail, a few casts, and another eruption of water as a redfish inhaled my fly on the surface coming straight at the bow of the skiff. Watching them eat like this is a memory that won't ever leave your mind, and one I'm beyond grateful for. I hopped in the water to feel like one with the fish as I brought him to hand. He was small, but for me he was huge in a different way. I hadn't caught a redfish in a couple years, something that is unheard of for me. That big hoot came from my mouth this time, and I was overly fulfilled. I gave the biggest thank you to my buddy on the poling platform for making this all come together, and again we popped another beer. Minutes later as we struggled to see through the darkness that had quickly settled in, sure enough we watched our buddies hook and land one last redfish for the day.

Life's busy for all of us these days, and the reason we need days like this. Days to escape land and submerge ourselves in nature. Days where we continue the hunt for the things that make us feel whole. Days where the true goal is just cracking jokes with the boys. Days that will truly live on in our minds for years to come, and stories that will be passed down to our next generation. If you've never experienced a flood tide, put it on your to-do list this year, and make it happen. We promise you won't regret it.

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