Tidelines – September 14, 2017
Sometimes catching fish isn’t about catching fish. Sometimes it’s more about confidence and character building, and the latter is what happened on an early Friday out of Oriental, NC. My morning with Capt. Jennings Rose, of North State Guide Service, gave me the opportunity to watch James, my middle child, grow as an angler, and maybe even as a young man.
North Carolina’s big red drum fishery, which hits its height in August and September, provided James and I with an opportunity to get a little time together, uninterrupted by his noisy brothers, and say goodbye to summer as the school year for both of us started to crank up.
I knew from previous trips with Jennings that he was great with kids, so when he let me know that he had been patterning some big reds where the Neuse River meets the Pamlico Sound, I thought this a great time to try and get James his first citation red drum.
Luckily Jennings had been seeing lots of bait and plenty of slicks on a transition area where the Nesue River meets the Pamlico Sound, a contour change that went from 16’ of water over a muddy bottom to 6’ over a sandy bottom, and that’s where he had been catching fish in the days before our trip.
For James (and for other young kids), the classic big red drum fishery is an easy way to get them hooked up to a big fish. The kids don’t really need to know how to cast, nor do they need the patience and stamina to cast and keep casting and working baits through the water until they find a fish.
Our method, once Jennings had us strategically anchored, was the simple but effective soaking bait technique—fan casting out big chunks of fresh mullet off the front and back of the boat, and then eat, drink, and tell stories and bad jokes until one of the rods bends over double. I think I had just finished my cup of coffee and James was still working on a double chocolate muffin from The Bean, when one of the stern port lines went down.
Though we were calling for James to move to the rod, he looked a little hesitant. The scream of drag and a bent over rod can be intimidating, so there was a little confusion in his eyes as he awkwardly grabbed the rod with two hands and then tried to hold on, because while it’s relatively easy for kids to get hooked up to a big red drum, there’s nothing easy about bringing them in to the boat.
James struggled. He struggled with how to hold the rod and retrieve, where to stand, and how to balance himself in the boat tethered to a strong and resentful fish. James needed help, and Jennings was that help, reminding him not to reel when the drag is going out, coaching him on how to relax his hands to avoid muscle fatigue, and suggesting that he try planting the butt of the rod into his waist line while leaning back against the console.
James labored in many ways, threatening several times that he was ready to give up, but he eventually landed his first big red. Though beat up in the process, the smile on his face when he posed for a quick photo with his fish made me pause. Parents know their kids, and I know when James is smiling for the camera because he knows he’s supposed to, versus smiling sincerely because he’s genuinely happy.
James’ was genuine—tired but genuine.
Maybe 30 minutes after our first fish swam off and several rounds of Jennings checking our bait to make sure it was fresh and unmolested, the same rod bent over, and while James once again grabbed the rod with two hands, this time he did it with confidence.
He patiently let the fish go on its big first run, this time knowing without being told that you don’t reel against the drag. He put the butt of the rod where he knew he was comfortable, and he was more relaxed and determined as he brought the fish closer to the boat with every opportunity the fish gave him to retrieve line.
Jennings and I still stood by his side ready to help, but James was now more excited than intimidated, and he needed no assistance.
Another big red drum over the rails, another quick photo, and that genuine smile on James’ face was even bigger. Parents also know when their children are truly proud of what they’ve accomplished, and that pride was beaming as he sat next to Jennings on the bow of the boat, the big fish laying across their two laps.
Capt. Jennings Rose, of North State Guide Service, loves being on the water and taking people fishing, so you’re bound to enjoy a trip with him no matter the target species. He’ll be focusing on trophy reds through September and into October, and then in October/November it’s strong puppy drum action and an even better speckled trout bite.
Then in late November he transitions into his other passion, duck hunting, where he offers clients all kinds of different techniques to choose from—stake blinds, scissor rigs, and layout boats—and chances at all kinds of different ducks—bluebills, redheads, teal, widgeons, black ducks, gadwalls, sea ducks, and more.
You can find out more about Capt. Jennings Rose and all of the different trips he offers year round at www.northstateguide.com, or give him a call at (910) 231-7741.
He’d love the chance to put you on fish (or ducks) and some genuine smiles of your own.