I met Captain Ben Alderman based near Charleston, SC at the Shallow Show in Atlanta in 2001, and we finally had the opportunity to fish on the beautiful South Carolina coast.
Ben is headquartered in Mount Pleasant, SC, just north of Charleston. At the speed limit, the trip took me about 5 and a half hours drive time from Atlanta. It was a comfortable trip with good roads all the way.
Once there, I found the Charleston area steeped in history and rich in low country rustic elegance. Everywhere I looked, I saw many more opportunities for nature, maritime, marine, and historic structures photography. This is a good trip for family vacations and fly fishing.
FISH SPECIES AVAILABLE: Ben guides for many species. Throughout the year Red drum is the main target, but big Jack Crevalle, Spotted seatrout, Ladyfish, Spanish Mackerel, and even Tarpon are available. Check with Ben to see when your favorite species is active in his area.
RED DRUM SEASONS: Ben fishes for red drum year 'round. Giant red drum show up in nearshore waters every spring and bite well throughout the summer and early fall. Tailing reds during summer flood tides provide big red fishing opportunities. Ben also sight fishes for red drum at low tide throughout the year, but late fall and winter months are when schools of red drum are largest and the water is the clearest. Call ahead and discuss the best time of year and tides for scheduling your trip.
CONDITIONS: We had a high tide over six feet, partly cloudy skies and 78 degrees. Winds ran 10 to 15 MPH. Since I was headquartered at The Shem Creek Inn, Ben picked me up at the dock right in front of the inn -- a tremendous convenience. Ben headed to tidal creeks sheltered from the wind.
GEAR: We fished 7 and 8 weight 8 1/2 to 9 foot medium action rods rigged with WF floating line and reels with strong, readily adjustable smooth drags. We were well equipped, but still had two 10 pound plus reds hook up, then take off up tidal creeks around oyster rakes, and head for the next county. Only 30 feet away at the beginning of our battles, we couldn't even slow down much less turn those drum around. That is part of red drum fishing!
FLIES: Most copper or gold size 2 shrimp flies will work, but we fished a simple pattern Ben tied called the "gold flashy" (image right). We also fished several additional shrimp patterns to see if we'd get a good reaction.
THE TRIP: We left Shem Creek, ran by historic Fort Sumter, and up the intercoastal waterway exploring tidal creek waters as the tide began at full, then slack, and started out about 2:30PM. We found many fish holding and feeding in water 3 feet and less and had to carefully cast to ensure not spooking the fish while positioning our flies out in front of them. This day the wind and higher tide kept water in the tidal creeks longer to our advantage.
We cast to pods of reds following the tide out in specific spots in channels, or in tidal pools as small as 10 feet in diameter (left), casting over or beside oyster rakes, settling our flies into the little ditches and channels that make the network of rich estuaries. Everywhere we turned there was tidal wildlife and tall grasses, but nowhere was there another boat!
Ben watched for active fish and defined their position. I worked hard to cast to THE presentation spot. So it went for 6 hours, and a productive day.
For those who don't pursue red drum in shallow water on a regular basis or don't fish an 8 weight regularly, this sort of trip can be challenging. It was for me. Normally I fish a 1 to 3 weight rod. Long casts aren't really necessary in the tidal creeks, but accurate casts are imperative. A good guide like Ben educates you, shows you what to do, and is patient even when you can't get the job done every time. I caught many oysters and thought I missed several fish, but the fish I caught were unmistakeably solid hookups!
We had an all around good day. I began by catching and releasing three hard fighting puppy drum weighing in at about three pounds, and I was most impressed at their strength and stamina. I am VERY happy to catch puppy drum, because -- I'm an equal opportunity hooker! Also, they warmed me up for what was coming later in the day.
My big fish was a fat 8 1/2 pound 29 inch red drum (right) which really fought well. Earlier in the day, I hooked one larger red drum which bulldogged right up a tidal creek, then turned behind an oyster bar, and promptly cut my fly line above the loop. I quickly tied a 6 turn nail knot and re-rigged.
Ben enjoyed being able to fish and showed his skill. He caught a couple of puppy drum, a 4 pounder, and later an 11 pound 32 inch red (image left) that put up a serious battle.
The quality of this fish and all the red drum we caught and released was very good, and we were happy to see that. All fish were revived and released. It was a picture perfect trip!
TAKE YOUR TRIP!
Whether you want to bring your family for amazing sights, food, and maybe some fly fishing for yourself, Charleston has everything. Shem Creek is a quiet community where you can relax and see the sights of Charleston.
If you decide to fish, Ben will pick you up at the dock (image right) at Shem Creek Inn. For guide service call Captain Ben Alderman, Mount Pleasant SC at 843-906-3630, OR visit Ben's website at Ben Alderman.
On his recommendation I booked my lodging at The Shem Creek Inn, a landmark in this area located right on Shem Creek. The scenic view included wildlife, shrimp boats, and dockside pickup for my fishing trips. Also there was good dining within walking distance.
The view (left) was from my balcony. Visitors can sit and watch passing vessels for hours. You can walk on the dock and even make friends with a fat pelican.
One really unique thing at Shem Creek is dockside pickup for fishing trips. Most guides in the area will pick you up on the dock just out the back door at Shem Creek Inn.
To book your lodging, call Ms. Robbi Hemmen, Manager, Shem Creek Inn, Mount Pleasant, SC. toll free at 800-523-4951, or Email to The Shem Creek Inn or go to the Shem Creek Inn website.
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