Credit- Shallowsouth.com Used with permission.
Adam and Val grew up fishing the Inlet together. They were nearly the same age and both had been born to families who had lived in the Murrell’s Inlet area for many generations. Using a spinning rod had come naturally to each boy and they reveled in the bounty to be found in the marshes and around the jetties . On the occasion of their graduation from the local high school, each was gifted a fifteen foot aluminum johnboat and an accompanying outboard motor. Of course, being teenage boys heavily under the influence of a burgeoning supply of testosterone, competition was unavoidable. Each relished making the bigger catch, giving him the right to unmercifully lord it over the other until the next trip.
“Val,” began Adam. “Let’s work the rocks along the south side of the jetty today. I just know the big reds will be there today.” “No, I think they will be over on the north side, so I’ll fish there. You try the south side and we’ll see who has better fish sense,” replied Val. The two buddies departed the ramp and snaked their way through the marsh, bound for the jetties. Val’s faithful Boykin Spaniel, Bluecrab, sat up front, her brown curly ears flapping against the passing air. The warm June sun had no clouds to hide behind that day, and the winds which had kept the pair shore bound last week had disappeared. Conditions were perfect.
In a few minutes, each young man had set up on his preferred spot. Each selected a live mud minnow from a bucket and dropped the baits to the bottom. An hour and a half passed. Val dialed his friend’s cell phone. “Adam, you having any luck?’ “Who need luck when you got skill?” his buddy replied with a laugh. “We both do today. It’s slower than molasses out here today.” They persisted for some three hours and tried every artificial bait they had in addition to the usually dependable minnows. Adam’s phone rang. “Looks like they beat us both today, man” admitted Val. Even Bluecrab seemed despondent, hanging her frizzy head down in doggie despair.
They met at the ramp and loaded their vessels onto their trailers. “You know, Adam, I was thinking.” “Oh that’s where all the smoke behind your boat came from. I thought maybe your engine was on fire!” laughed Adam. “Very funny, wiseass” was the response from Val. “Since we got totally skunked today, I am thinking of driving down to McClellanville tomorrow and giving it a whirl. You in?” “Sure, why not? Can’t do any worse there than we did here.”
Bluecrab, who had been wandering around the ramp as the guys talked, spotted a fisherman unloading his boat. Like a flash, the playful dog had seized the man’s rod by its handle and was rapidly dragging it up the ramp. “Bluecrab! Come back here and give me that rod! “commanded Val. Bluecrab slowed sufficiently to allow Val to grab the rod. After a brief, but intense struggle, Val gained possession of the rod and handed it to its rightful owner. “Sorry about that, Sir” said Val, apologizing for his dog’s boorish behavior. “I will get the cork replaced for you. My dog did put a few bite marks on it. “Naw, it’s OK. I have a lab at home and he has already gotten a hold of the rod and gnawed on it. Don’t worry about it”. “I appreciate that,” responded Val, casting a disapproving glare in Bluecrab’s direction.
The next morning, the boys made their way down Highway 17 to the quaint fishing village at McClellanville. Neither had ever tried the labyrinth of low lying flats that dot the landscape between the village and the Atlantic. They reached the ramp after an hour of driving and backed their boats down the dual lane facility. Adam was especially anxious, clicking on his GPS as soon as he was in the water and the little Yamaha was purring. Val, meanwhile, had starting issues with his Mercury. He tried everything from altering the choke, to squeezing the filling bulb for a second time, to just cursing at the motor.
Val, knowing that his friend’s motor was sometimes cantankerous, shouted “I am going on ahead. Just meet me at the GPS numbers I gave you.” He knew he should wait and help Adam, but the idea of catching the first McClellanville red overpowered him. How great it would be to get there first and land a thirty inch fish by the time Adam got there. Off he sped to the numbers the tackle store owner had given him.
Val’s GPS guided him directly to the location that was promised to be carpeted with shiny red tails on this morning’s flood tide. He quickly shut off the motor and picked up the nine foot eight weight fly rod his father has loaned him. He stood on the back bench and scanned around him. For fifteen minutes he saw nothing but the semi-clear waters of the flooded flat. Then, a faint glint of light caught his eye. It was a smallish redfish, happily tailing while chasing a frightened crab. The rod began a much too rapid motion, arcing through some two hundred degrees of travel, far too much to be effective. Though the fish lay a mere thirty feet away, the extra wide loop formed in the fly line by the excessive motion resulted in a cast that travelled perhaps ten feet before the line suddenly stopped and crashed in a pile on the water’s surface. Dejected, Val sat down. He attempted to analyze his failure as his eyes followed the redfish swimming away. “I should go help Adam” he realized. Even if he had indeed caught the first redfish, and that one on a fly, he began to feel that it would be a hollow victory. Fifteen minutes later, he rounded the corner and the ramp came into view.
Bluecrab stood on the front of Adam’s john boat, tail wagging and barking at Val’s approach. “Hmm.. “ Val thought. “A bow wow on the bow!” as he chuckled at his own cleverness. It would definitely be more fun to fish with his friend. Adam’s boat lay tied fast to the dock while he rummaged through his less than complete tool box in a last gasp effort to get the motor running. “Adam, let’s load your boat and just both fish from mine.” Said Val. “The redfish are there!” he added.
The tide was beginning to fall when the boys and Bluecrab returned to the flat. The forecast had predicted a big tide, nearly seven feet, for that day, so they had plenty of time to fish the tide down. Val displaced Bluecrab from the bow, while Adam took the after position. Adam suddenly said “Whoa! Look at that! A monster tail sticking up out of the water. Check out that blue tinge on the tip!!!’
“I see another one over there!” exclaimed Val, as he excitedly pointed out to eleven o’clock. Each young man cast, Val with the fly rod and Adam with a spinner bearing a gold spoon. This time, both lure and fly gently dropped a foot from their respective targets. The water boiled around each fish and just like that they had a double. Val and Adam looked at each other, eyes wide open, and began the celebratory whoops. Val watched his buddy land a gorgeous redfish of some twenty inches and thought “New places can be great, but old friendships can be even greater.” Aroused by all the shouting, Bluecrab grabbed a spare spinning rod by the cork and swung it around as if she were casting it. Adam and Val laughed so loud, they swore they could hear the sound echoing off the old lighthouse.