Savannah, GA: Battling High Tides in Low Country
On Sundays, I go grocery shopping. It’s a dreaded part of my week that I hesitantly grin my way through as I pass through the organic vegetable section and make my way to the Pop Tarts. The wheels on my weathered shopping cart painfully screech past the fresh deli meats and come to an impermanent stop right around the pre-packaged hotdogs and that delicious plastic-looking cheese. Like clockwork, I’m in and out at less than ten minutes, free from suffering through this retail assault for another seven days.
I don’t like shopping and it’s not limited to my domestic necessities. I spent a total of ten minutes shopping for my Old Town Next, my unnecessarily expensive cooler, and my PFD now doubling as a camping pillow. I bought my car after only an hour of browsing internet listings and I buy the same model Sanuks every time the old ones wear thin on the sole.
In a retail culture that is overwhelmed by well-marketed shots at consumer’s self-confidence, I don’t spend much time in retail shops.
My time with the Savannah Canoe & Kayak gang changed that.
Everyone Has That ‘Matt Phillips‘ Friend
I wasn’t supposed to stop in Savannah. A long drive from south Florida and some canceled plans along the Space Coast led me to Skidaway Island State Park to crash for the night before heading further north to the mountains. After a couple of hours of sleep and some trail exploring with the cat, the plan was to be on my way to cooler temperatures and bigger views in the morning.
Shout out to Matt Phillips for crashing those plans.
Matt is one of those uber friendly, ridiculously well-connected, and wickedly-talented-on-a-fly-rod dudes that knows everyone and everyone knows him. Everyone has that one friend and Matt is mine.
It didn’t take more than a couple of snapchats, a text message, and an email over to some of his Savannah connections for my newfound travel agent to have my next two days booked.
So much for passing through. Time to get comfortable in Savannah.
Retail Shop Chillin’
I also wasn’t supposed to be shopping in Savannah but – through Matt Phillips Travel Inc. – I spent the evening at the local kayak shop, Savannah Canoe & Kayak – an unprecedented amount of retail time in my book.
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I don’t do well with sales pitches and I have never favored small talk but Nigel, Kristin, and the folks at SC&K operate one of the most comfortable paddle shops I’ve been in, pleasing my retail-averse nature with a homey, ego-free atmosphere, open bar, and live bluegrass musicians jamming folk takes on Beatles cover songs.
The evening flew by with no retail pressure, genuine paddling conversation with new friends, and an eerie desire to hop on one of their new $2,800 Stellar surf-skis before getting the introduction to SC&K kayak angler Keith Motola and in-house kayak fishing guide Kevin Kelly.
At 5:15 am, we chase low-country, Georgia reds.
Battling Low Country Tides
“If you can catch a redfish in low country tides, you can catch a redfish anywhere” head fishing guide Kevin Kelly subtly warned me at our pre-launch meeting. The passive aggressive ‘don’t come out here expecting to catch fish’ warning was well-received as leaving the water fishless is my specialty. It wasn’t until just recently that fish in my life became so plentiful. In fact, before the road trip started I was in a fishless streak that extended over five-months and eight fishing trips.
With a cut-bait and popping cork backup plan, we hit high tide and battled marsh grass looking for hiding redfish hungry for Unfair’s new Rip-n-Slash search bait.
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These tides are no joke. What was only inches of easily fishable water when we got there turned to two to three-feet-deep covered pockets for fish to hide. There was not going to be any sight casting for the greater part of the day until low tide came back around and sucked all of the water out, leaving only the oyster bed walls to trap the visible reds.
We push polled; we didn’t paddle. We fished; we didn’t catch.
Finally, pride took a backseat to common sense and we abandoned the artificials, setting the cut bait in an outgoing channel at the first sign of outgoing tide.
It’s still fishing – don’t get all judgmental on me from up on your pedestal, anti-live baiters.
The dinks rolled in: a couple of speckled trout for me and Keith, some small marsh sharks and, finally, a reputable and elusive low country redfish chose Kevin.
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Mission accomplished. In typical fishing trip fashion, it was time to pack up and go hang out at the bar, restaurant, or patio.
Not this time; this time the guy that hates retail shops went back to the shop – my comfortable bar, restaurant, and patio while relaxing in Savannah.
It was fun, Georgia! Thanks to these folks for making my impromptu stop enjoyable, fishy, and retail stress-free:
- Matt Phillips – You’re the man.
- Keith Motola – Thanks for taking a day off work to set the trip up and show me around the marsh. I learned a ton and fully plan on a second stop in the cool city you’ve got down there.
- Kevin Kelly – I really appreciate the tips along the way. If you ever need some replacement or rigging gear for your good lookin’ fleet as kayak fishing grows in Savannah, I know some guys down in Houston that would be glad to help you out.
- Nigel and Kristen – Thanks for the cool atmosphere and letting some random dude hang out with you and your crew.