I can remember the first time I saw Captain Tom's brand new Hells Bay. I had heard of Skiffs before, but had never seen one up close. The memory is shockingly vivid. Capt comes rolling down H street with a smile on his face and clients in his truck, a sight Nantucket has seen since 1973.
Captain Tom's Charters is a generational family fishing business out of Madaket Harbor, the furthest west end of the island. A no shoes, no shirt, little summer getaway from bustling downtown Nantucket. Capt started the business with a beautiful 29 foot Crosby Hawk, a tuna boat customized for light tackle and fly fishing.
In 1980, Tom decided to get a second Crosby Hawk. The boats Purple water and Priscilla J both had a famous blue hull with a small red line. Once the skiff and center console revolutions started to occur, Capt quickly adapted. He added two more boats to the fishing fleet.
It was a brand new Hells Bay Marquesas and, of course, customized to match the rest. Each had the famous blue hull and the red stripe. Rory, the headmate at the time, shouts out, "that is the Ferrari of flats skiffs." So for the rest of summer, I would see "ruckus" going out onto the flats.
As I learned more about this so-called skiff life, I became obsessed with tv shows that had anything to do with flats fishing in the Florida Keys.
Two years later, I had the opportunity to be on a flats skiff for five days in Sugarloaf Key. It was a film assignment, but I figured I could take a crack at the front of the bow a couple of times.
I finally had my chance and as soon as I stepped on to the platform, I heard Capt. Rob Kramrza scream, "Is that a Tarpon? No, that's a Dinosaur Permit." Flustered, I started casting (probably the sloppiest cast in history), I spooked the fish and it was gone immediately. I was embarrassed, rattled, devastated and overall unprepared. After repeated fails that week, reality started to settle in that this skiff life thing was much harder than I could have ever thought.
Years later, I relocated to the Low Country, Beaufort, South Carolina. After that, all I could think about was getting a skiff - and maybe, just maybe, I could finally figure out a fishery rich with visual flats fishing.
Luckily, I found the perfect skiff, and the dream was in reach, but fly fishing is never that easy. The first day goes something like this; I lost my phone, my orvis clearwater rod (which was coupled with my hatch reel!), plus, poling was much, much, much harder than it looked. So big props to all the flats fly fishing guides out there. With my tail between my legs, I knew this journey would take years and years, so I might as well enjoy the struggle along the way.
Initially, I thought the first fish to come into the skiff would be a beautiful tailing redfish waving for me to throw flies at it. That was not the case at all; the first species to land on the fly was a Bonnethead Shark. A Bonnethead Shark!!!! I guess that is how it goes with something as unpredictable as fly fishing.
Over the next couple of months, I will continue writing fishing reports and short stories about our adventures. Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org about your fishing adventures. I would love to hear from you and share the low-country experience.
I may not have any idea what I am doing, but I love how mother nature humbles you and heals you all at the same time.
The healthiest addiction is a fly rod in your hand and fish on your mind. So cheers to the moonrise and the steady rhythm of the low country tides.