My eyes followed the tracks across the sand in a long straight line, where they disappeared into the brush of the small hammock in the marsh. Sweat rolled down my back, and I wiped my brow in an attempt to defend myself against the oppressive heat. Deer, coyotes, and raccoons all used this high area to cross the marsh and reach a series of small islands. This sandy, raised area of the marsh wasn't covered with water during normal tides. This made it more firm and easier to traverse as we made our way out to the edge of the flat. My friend, Rich walker, tipped his water bottle allowing water to pour onto the back of his neck. His back arched suddenly as the cold water sucker punched him, and momentarily stole his breath. We stared out across the short grass, and I glanced at my watch. We had about an hour and a half until high tide. The lush, green, taller grass that snaked its way along the edge of the flat, concealed the small creek that would carry the water, giving the redfish access to an all you can eat buffet. I checked my fly, inspected my loop knot, and shifted my weight impatiently. I noticed then that the water was slowly creeping towards my feet, driven by the gravitational force of the moon. Soon the water was calf deep, and I carefully watched every movement on it's surface, in hopes of seeing that first tail. Anyone who has fished tailing fish knows one essential truth, they are consistently inconsistent. We moved to our left around the front of one of the hammocks. Here the creek swung within fifty yards of the small island. Staring intently, Rich said, "This is where they will come up." We moved slowly, stopping every few steps to scan the water. Suddenly, Rich said, "There he is, right there!" In one motion, he dropped his fly and flipped it two feet in front of the fish. I saw him then as his back broke the surface, and the reflection of his tail painted the water with strokes of gold, turquoise, and copper. Rich twitched the rabbit strip adorned fly and the fish charged, crushing it with a resounding "Pop!". There was no need for a strip strike, as the fish instantly turned hard and streaked for the safety of deeper water. After a hard fought few minutes, exhaustion and the warm water caused the fish to give in.
"The orange glow in the water made me think he was bigger, but he's a solid fish," said Rich. I examined the copper and gold scales extending along the spines of the fish's tail, each like gold bullion from a pirates treasure. Rich held the fish carefully allowing him to gain his strength, and with a push of his big tail he was gone.
I Hadn't fished a flood tide in 3 seasons. As we walked, we discussed that fact, and surmised that fishing was actually not the main reason we were here. "Just being here again, smelling the marsh, watching the fiddlers move in waves over the sand, feeling the soft tug of the mud on my boots, that's why I come," I remarked. "Standing here, immersed in all of this, watching the smile on your face as you whispered to that fish, and he fell for it," I said, my voice hushed as if the fish might hear me. Stepping onto the sand, I turned to survey the flooded grass one more time, and concluded, "It's like coming home."