Epic Cobia flyfishing on Hilton Head Island ! A classic story and a long tradition.
Oh what a hot topic. Things have changed a lot since the first days of cobia fishing here in the Lowcountry. We have learned so much thanks to the efforts of some people who really care about our unique waters and all the beautiful creatures in it. I just hope its not to late and that the regulations are enough.
During my travels, I see almost everywhere I go that their fisheries are completely wiped out. Talking to the locals its always the same thing . “You should have seen it back in the day” . I used to think that was simply what they all say until I had to experience it for myself here in my local waters. In the early 90’s when there were only two or three of us that even new about sight fishing for cobia, Capt. Trent Malphrus and I would have double digit days on the fly rod or light tackle just about every time we went. I looked in my Black Book and our best day was catching 17, 15 on fly and having 24 shots sight fishing and that was in a three hour period! It really was a world class fishery. We have killed our fair share of these beautiful fish but had no idea how fragile our fishery was. Like most human learning curves we had to learn the hard way. There is some good news, there is always hope and change can happen! At the present moment we have guys like AL Stokes of the Waddell Mariculture Center and Low Country Outdoors Guru Collins Doughtie, who have dedicated their lives to saving our wetlands and fisheries. Let’s do our best to make fishing for the next generation something we can be proud of.
Capt Trent and I have had a great tradition that has been going on since 1990. He guides me on his birthday May 8th and I guide him on my birthday on May 19th. This is the prime time for our cobia fishery so as you can imagine we have had some great birthdays! This Native Son Adventure goes like this. My dad had just given me my first custom Thomas and Thomas fly rod for my birthday complete with my name on it and everything. These rods were really expensive and we did not have much money so it was a really big deal. The rod had never been used and I was happy to let Trent break it in. When sight-fishing for cobia, it’s similar to flats fishing in that your hunting and searching. The angler on the bow eagle eyes on —rod ready—to make a presentation while the other is driving. After many years we have figured out exactly where to be and when to be there. We had just gotten started when Trent yells “eleven o’clock 50 yards!” Two big v-shaped wakes coming straight at the boat. Trent made a perfect cast and the fight was on . After a hour of unreal heart wrenching tug o war we landed this massive fish . You could of heard of us hooting from miles away. We got the pic in the boat and called dad to meet us at the dock to show what we thought was sure to be a state record on fly and even possibly a world record.
When we got to the dock my Dad was so stoked. “Get the rod and lets get a pic” he said. Thats where the happy celebration took a turn. We looked all over the boat and there was no rod. Best we can figure, Trent had put the rod on the gunnel and when we took the pic after catching the beast it must have slipped overboard. When I told dad his happy faced dropped like he lost a family member. He turned straight around and walked away. It was a one fish rod or better said “one and done.” I will never forget the highs and lows of that fishing day. You never know what’s gonna happen til you get to the dock. Traditions are so cool so go out and create your own with the one you love! STAY WET MY FRIENDS!