Fly fishing rod

OUTSIDE: Being of a place | Sports

Have you ever thought about where you come from? I mean, in the deep, thoughtful way of a philosopher like Jimmy Buffett or Yates? When you think of home, what do you think of it? Things like this interest me, whether people are from Milledgeville or Green Bay, Macon or Detroit. I like people who are proud of where they come from.

Years ago in Atlanta, there was a columnist named Lewis Grizzard. Some of you may remember him, and for those who don’t read him or never read him (he died in 1994) in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, you have to go through one of his books or consult his old columns. Lewis was a frat brother to my dad’s best friend at UGA. Lewis wrote about people I know, knew and admired. Whether it’s his famous story in UGA’s Red & Black, about the Gamecocks, his many columns on Coach Dooley, BBQ, or the Yankee Invasion of the South, the man simply lived, ate, and breathed Georgia. Lewis characterized Georgia. In the right direction. Everything good about us, he proclaimed. Loudly!

As 2021 drew to a close and 2022 came into play, I thought a lot about Lewis and Georgia, my home state and the state of my birth. You know, he would be proud right now. The Braves won the World Series, and to my amazement, the Dawgs hold the National Championship trophy! It seems that in Georgia a new era is dawning. I can only imagine Lewis looking down from the sky with Larry Munson and Wally Butts. “Hang on, furry bunch one more time!

As much as I wish, I am not Lewis Grizzard. The words don’t quite come out of my mouth and my laptop like they did from Lewis’s mouth or his typewriter. I wish they would and maybe one day they could because I don’t know if it’s a birth gift, a skill you can learn or an act of God. This may be the time and the place. As short as I can drop, Lewis is still my hero.

So, in Lewis Grizzard fashion, I have a story for you.

Long before the world went crazy, I traveled a lot. I mean, multiple days a week every week throughout Georgia, South Carolina, and parts of Alabama and Florida. I was down in Savannah one day and ended up fishing for fall rockfish with my good friend Captain Scott Wagner. We both had a free afternoon and the tide, moon, sun and everything else seemed to line up perfectly. So we went fishing.

Scott and I have known and fished together for 22 years now. This afternoon we fell into our usual routine of making fun of each other and complaining about Scott. Usually about my ability to catch fish, which is sometimes epic but more likely to be a sanity issue. So Scott led us to a small mudflat and there were bait fish scattered everywhere. Bait showers. A big red bull was at the edge of the flat chasing them, half out of the water and completely oblivious to us. It was amazing to watch. As we got closer to the fish, it ate and ate more and more and became more and more shallow. Scott brought me within 30 yards of the big bull. Even I could do that cast with a fly rod. I shot a cast with my weight of 11. To my amazement, it landed right in front of the big fish! I think my heart stopped at that moment.

The big red had to roll over to eat the fly! I watched everything happen right in front of me. The fly disappeared and immediately Scott started screaming for me to put the hook in! I pulled it hard and the hook sank into the fish’s jaw. Immediately after feeling the hook, the big red took off! The water went everywhere; I mean, even I got wet from the splashes that big bull blasted off. My reel was screeching and the line was flying, salt water spray and mist spreading everywhere. Now the funny thing about fly fishing and catching really big fish in shallow water is that they tire quickly and after a few runs. This fish took about 20 minutes and it was next to the skiff. The estimated weight was just over 35 pounds. This is the biggest red I have ever caught on a fly rod.

The next morning I got up and made my way through Savannah and into Springfield, Ga. The Mars Theater was being renovated and I was working with the manager and city manager to secure the placement contract. I arrived around 3 p.m. and was chatting with my clients Tommy Deadwyler and Brett Bennett in Brett’s office. At 4 years old, Brett looks at his watch and declares “well boys, you can all do what you want but I’m going hunting”. I simply replied, “Dadgum, I wish I could go today.” It was October 30 – a beautiful fall afternoon in southeast Georgia.

Brett replied, “why don’t you come and come with us.”

Well, I didn’t have a gun and I was wearing khaki shorts and a golf shirt. But we left. Brett let me borrow a nice little Remington 308 rifle and at 4:45 p.m. I was sitting in a deer stand above a cotton field outside of Springfield.

Now was one of those afternoons that if you hunt, you will hopefully live once. As soon as I settled in, deer started to appear. As a guest I had no intention of killing a lot of money and it seems like I get more invites to hunt somewhere IF I shoot a doe. So I began to inventory the deer, trying to sort out the biggest and oldest. At 5 p.m., I hear a gunshot nearby and get a text that Brett’s stepson killed a deer. Well, it did. One doe was obviously taller than the others in the group and she eventually walked away from the group and looked up. I shot him at that time. A borrowed 308 and just over 320 meters away in a cotton field. By 6 p.m. the two deer were at the processor and I left to drive home to Greensboro.

This is the story of probably the best 48 hours outdoors I have ever had.

—The outdoor columnist can be reached at [email protected]