Fishing Lessons

Renae Brabham

Recently, my husband and I spent a day pier fishing at Mt. Pleasant Waterfront Park. Nearby, another fisherman worked that pier tirelessly, up and down with his rods. Each time he passed, he was optimistic. "The tide will change any second," he'd say. Hours in, he had only a few tiny pinfish for his efforts. He still insisted: "They are going to start biting anytime." My husband, Don, asked, "What time did you get here today?"  He replied, "8 a.m." 


At  4 p.m., as we started pulling our rods in, another fisherman walked up and cast his line just feet away from the gentleman who had been there all day. Almost immediately, he pulled up a big flounder—minutes later, a nice Red Drum. 
Is it skill? Is it luck? Is it a numbers game, a waiting game, a fluke, a test? "What about the person that comes and needs to catch their dinner and they don't catch it?" I asked Don. He didn't reply, but instead shot me a wry look that seemed to say, "You're in Mt. Pleasant, not a third-world country."
I'm glad that, like that unlucky fisherman on the dock, I have the patience of Job when it comes to fishing. I've fished until I got bedspin drunk at night after closing my eyes, the stirring waters and cork still bobbing behind my eyelids. There was a time when Don didn't like going lake fishing with me. I could literally stay on the bank all day long feeding pinfish. On one such day, he sauntered over after several hours to peer into my red worm container. He dug a finger through to find that I was down to my last three worms. Contented with his find, he walked back to the grassy bank, stretched out ,and lounged—confident the end was near. I smiled, pulled out my knife, and cut the worms into three pieces. Just like that, I produced another hour of fishing. 
I'm not an adept angler, I just love to fish. I do everything wrong. I jiggle my line, I talk the whole time, and I'll hook myself and you too if you are near. Also, at the end of the day, I do what is called "stupid fishing." I  thread worms halfway up the line, sometimes put a shrimp and a minnow together on the hook, and I've used plastic lures soaked in shrimp juice. Once, when I wasn't ready to leave yet but sadly out of bait, I threaded macaroni from my packed lunch onto the hook. 
I like cork fishing. And don’t understand why it isn't done in the ocean. One summer, we took a trip to Sea Level, North Carolina, near the Outer Banks. We were staying at the Sea Level Inn. I could hardly wait to get my Zebco 33 with yellow and orange cork in the water. Don told me several times: "That's not the right set-up for the ocean."  He was right... and wrong.  
I was on the hotel's fishing dock before check-in. My line wasn't in the water 10 minutes when it whizzed out—I had something big on it! It jumped and splashed and we realized I had a beautiful Red Drum behind that cork. Don jumped in the water to help me get it up. The restaurant at Sea Level said that is was one of the nicest Drums they had seen caught there. The chef took it into the kitchen and they cooked it for us for our dinner. Delish.
Our most recent fishing trip? Shem Creek Pier. Just glorious. Sailboats eased by the dock—they wanted to catch a breeze and so did I. Beautiful Hobie fishing kayaks eased beneath me, idly trolling their lines while the lady fishing beside us caught a fish so big, her line snapped. Dolphins eased through the creek to the delight of the boaters as two manatee come to the edge of the marsh to feed. Family pets sit at the helms of their masters' boats, while other pets stroll the pier with their owners, some licking our salty legs as they pass. 
The ocean, the creeks, the marshes. The pleasures are always enumerable, unpredictable, and unprejudiced. And when we pull in our lines, pack our rods, and head down the pier without anything in our cooler for dinner, no worries. Mount Pleasant Seafood's usually got fresh flounder.