“Now is the spring of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York;
And all the clouds that low’r’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.”
It was, of course, the future King of all England, who uttered these lines in Shakespeare’s “Richard III”. Richard was a man deformed not only physically, by virtue of his severe kyphoscoliosis, but morally as well. His lust for the power of the throne led him to murder his own brother, as well as two young princes who stood in line ahead of him to ascend the throne once the ailing Edward died. All right, he didn’t say spring. As we all know, the word was “winter” in this famous quote . It just seemed appropriate today to do some creative quoting, like some people I know do frequently.
These lines came to the fore of my mind today as I prepared for church services, glancing occasionally out the window as I donned a dark sweater as protection from the foul weather. The cold rain falling from leaden skies seemed much more winter than spring to me. Although the now blooming azaleas offer empirical proof of early spring’s arrival, I find myself frustrated by what should be the season of new life, as I contemplate the absence of other life.
Like Richard, I lust for something as well. The object of my desire is not political power, but angling excitement. I find little discontent in winter, as the redfish of coastal South Carolina abound in the colder months, compacting their numbers into schools which roam the clear cold waters of the flats. There they feed on baitfish and shellfish. The algae which normally clouds the water of our flats has been killed off by the colder weather, and redfishing becomes a game of silently poling a shallow draft boat over clearwater flats while sight casting to these coppery creatures.
As winter dissolves into spring, the redfish disappear from the flats for parts unknown. Maybe it’s their vacation time and they are all off to Disney World, or perhaps Arizona to bask in the sun and ride donkeys deep into the Grand Canyon. All I know is that they seem absent from their usual haunts on the flats where I socialize with them during the colder months. This fact causes me much consternation this time of year. I am forced to put away my redfish rods and flies, and retire to the tying vise. There I begin to replenish my stores of redfish patterns, and try to invent some crazy new design, which, Walter Mitty-like, I fantasize will catch fame and fortune for me. Thus far, no such fly has hatched from my vise. My mediocre designs have brought me no fame, no fortune,only enjoyment on the flats, and as I reflect on matters, isn’t that the true bottom line?
Grieving for the now absent redfish, I seek some solace in freshwater. Spring , despite denying me the opportunity to seek out redfish, does instead substitute that most southern of fish, the largemouth bass, as a potential target to assuage the pain of redfish once loved, but now lost. As the water warms, the bass demonstrates its proclivity for taking lures or flies offered on the water’s surface. These strikes can be indeed impressive and are quite sufficient motivation for me to seek out these indiscriminate predators. Bass are well known to attack essentially anything they can stuff into those wonderfully large mouths. In that regard, they remind of myself, a trait which, like a bass leaping with a hook through its jaw, has caused me much regret as well as physical harm. Unfortunately for the bass and myself, we are slow learners. Great for the fisherman, not so much for overindulging writers..
With this in mind, I arose early Wednesday past, and armed with both my old Shakespeare spinning rod as well as a fly rod, I set forth on a quest for early season topwater bass. The plan seemed simple and workable. First, I would prospect for those bass inclined to strike a topwater target, then, once located, I would switch to the fly rod. The Shakespeare was equipped with my favorite lure, a plastic frog, with its cleverly disguised dual hooks, rigged so as to be weedless. Once located, I hoped to entice the bass to a surface fly. Instead of the more traditional popper, I decided to take a bold step by tying on a largish deerhair fly called a Pink Pollywog. This high riding fly was designed for silver salmon in Alaska, and in fact, I have used it for those fabulous fish from the far reaches of the Alaskan wilderness. I reasoned that it should work equally well for the local talent, and would offer a change of pace.
So, off I went to a local pond. After 45 minutes of casting frustration, I tried another pond with similar results. So, I made my way to yet another pond, but to no avail. The PP ( pink pollywog) never left the confines of the Tahoe. Defeated, I motored back to my domicile and unloaded my rods, head hung low.
Fishermen who fail always offer technical reasons for their lack of success. I am familiar with many of them from my own frequent usage- it was too early, it was too late, the barometric pressure was too high, the barometric pressure was too low, a cold front passed in the last day, and on and on ad nauseum. I tend to use my old standby-“The sun got in my eyes”- or maybe that is residual from another sport.
In many sports, both players and fans are partial to the old saw- “Wait ’till next year”. I have heard it said that upon finally locating the wreck of the CSA Hunley, the world’s first submarine, the iron sides bore what today we would call bumper stickers, amazingly well preserved after those many years of saltwater submersion. One urged voters to”Re-Elect Strom”. The other sported the image of a University of South Carolina Gamecock and boldy proclaimed “Wait until Next Year!!!”. My personal variation on this theme might read “Wait until Next Summer’s High Tides!!!’, maybe with an image of a hefty redfish displayed prominently. I will, with a little good fortune, be found on the redfish flats once more when the high tides of summer, combined with prodigious amounts of redfish crack ( fiddler crabs) reappear there, desperately seeking reds.Who knows, maybe I will throw a pink pollywog at them.