Month: October 2012

A Great Day

Below is an excerpt of a report from Robert Ford (Not the Senator) after a fishing trip with Ralph

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Had the honor and privilege to finally fish with the Master, Ralph Phillips today. Met Mr Phillips to set out for some topwater action early this AM. First spot produced a couple trout for Ralph on his skitter walk while the trout didn’t seem interested in what I had to offer… Moved on to the next spot and after a few casts caught my first keeper trout on topwater of the day. Ralph was up on me like 5:1 by this point…but, at last I had my trout in the boat with my Top Pup. Moved on to an area along a wood line…Ralph said to me…”Hey Robert..grab this other skitter walk I have and try using it”….I said…”OK” and tied it on….While tying the knot I hear a BIG KERSPLASH and looked up to see Ralph’s rod almost bent over with the tip just about pointed straight down into the water…HE HAD A BIG ONE ON….dropped doing what I was doing to assist by grabbing the net and getting ready…After about what seemed like almost a 10 minute fight getting that fish out of the grass and then away from the dock piling it was going into and then getting the line free from around the foot of the boat motor, Ralph got the fish close enough for me to net it and get it in the boat.

Ralph's 32.5" Topwater Red

I continue throwing and about 3 cast later…BAM!! on again…I say..”Ralph I got another nice red on”….drag was screaming off my reel and it’s pulling like a nice healthy red likes to pull and as the fish gets near the boat, I get a little glimps of it and my heart about came out of my…… well you know…..low and behold it was a BIG FAT GATOR TROUT….I was nervous as hell and I think Ralph might have been too ….I was thinking to myself….Ralph don’t mess up netting that fish…and at the same time, I know Ralph was thinking to himself…Robert…don’t you lose this fish!!…It all worked out and fish was landed successfully and you couldn’t have SLAPPED THE HAPPY OFF MY FACE!!

Robert with his 5 lb Gator Speckled Trout

It wasn’t even 8:30 yet and I told Ralph….”I’m done”….the day was perfect…I didn’t care if I caught another fish the rest of the day or not!!!…..Which I did, of course and so did Ralph….The weather was beautiful. The companionship, fellowship, and comaradery was excellent. And, the fish cooperated all day…Of course Ralph out fished me like by 10:1 but I did manage some a few more really nice healthy redfish and trout. Just before the day ended, Ralph said “Hey Robert…throw over there in THAT spot”….so I did and BAM…hooked up on what I thought was a nice keeper trout. Ended my day with a nice keeper 17″ flounder to round out the SLAM!!! Had a FANTASTIC time fishing with you sir, and can’t wait to do it again…Thank you again for the oppurtunity to fish with Charleston’s finest….”The Fish Master” Ralph Phillips!!…It truely was my honor!!

A True Gator


October Lowcountry Sunrise (Photo: D. Fladd)

Tailing redfish are an amazing part of the low country lifestyle that only a relatively few individuals ever experience in their life.  When you see a tailer, its satisfying enough just to watch it – to catch one on a fly rod … will turn a grown man into a little boy.

High tides during the new and full moons flood the expansive spartina flats around Charleston, and red drum will work their way into small feeder creeks, then on to the flats to feed on fiddler crabs and small baitfish.  Fiddler crabs are like candy to reds, and they take full advantage of the opportunity to feed on them.  When they nose down to suck the crabs out of their holes, the redfish tail will often lazily wave above the surface.  This can be seen at a distance by someone with a trained eye.

Egrets (Photo: D. Fladd)

I have read about tailers, and have tried countless times to find tails.  Those I have found I have had only limited success catching – mostly due to lack of opportunity.  It can be extremely frustrating.  Once, after several unsuccessful attempts, I made a post on a local fishing forum, venting my frustration to no one in particular.  My frustration apparently struck a nerve with Jeremy Mehlhaff, a local fly fishing guide who has been in my shoes, and overcome.  He contacted me and gave me a few tips.  From some of his prior posts, I knew of Jeremy and admired him being an innovative fisherman and also an excellent photographer.  I could tell he, like me, was very analytical and always trying to understand why fish behave the way they do.  In fact, his tips lead to me catching my first tailer the next year.

Redfish Tailing (Photo: D. Fladd)

Fast-forward a few years, and for my 44th birthday I told my family what I really wanted for a present was to charter Jeremy.  This would be a chance to focus on the fly rod only, and really get out of my comfort zone.  I knew it would be a challenge.  We talked, and being local, I was able to be flexible and wait for good conditions and for an opening in his guiding schedule.  We picked a morning in October, and even though a strong cold front blew through the day before, the morning of the charter was picture perfect.

Hooked Up (Photo: J. Mehlhaff)
A Fish in Hand Beats Two Tails (Photo: J. Mehlhaff)
Tagged and Released (Photo: J. Mehlhaff)

We set out in Jeremy’s Hells Bay skiff and flew through the small tidal creeks north of Isle of Palms.  He knows these creeks like the back of his hand, and in short order we were at our first spot.  We pushed onto the flat, through some tall grass, and were instantly surrounded by at least a dozen tails.  It was an incredible sight to me.  I had legitimate shots at at least 10 fish.  You see, I am a novice fly caster.  I can cast well enough but have trouble landing it just right, amongst a bunch of other bad habits.  Thus, I had many misses.  In my defense, the fish were rather skittish, as the flat was very calm, and water clear.  One did take my fly, but I did not get a good hook set.

As we pushed on, Jeremy coached me through how to present the fly and complete my cast.  Eventually we found three fish in close proximity.  I made a passable cast, and he coached me through the presentation.  The line came tight, strip strike, and I landed a fish.  Not a monster, but a very nice little slot redfish.

We finished the day trying a few more spots, and ended up looking in deeper pools for cruisers.  We did find some, and I almost had a couple fish.

To some, it might sound like a slow trip, but it far exceeded my expectations.  If I had spinning gear, I would have caught a dozen fish.  But this was all about the fly rod, and I was challenged like I hoped, and was able to hook two and land one.  I learned so much and can’t wait to put it to use in the future.  Personally, I would not hire anyone but Jeremy as a guide for this type of fishing.  He is a true professional, extremely knowledgeable and willing to teach you all he knows.  All you have to do is listen.  Capt. Jeremy Mehlhaff (

I’m a firm believer that you have to get out of your comfort zone to reach a new level in anything you do. Whether it’s fishing with artificial baits only, getting up before dawn, or fly casting to a tailing fish in 9 inches of water – you will be rewarded for your efforts.

– Dave Fladd

It Just Doesn't Get Any Better (Photo: D. Fladd)

Support CCA Summerville

The Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) is starting a Summerville Chapter.  Ralph Phillips Inshore Productions supports the CCA.  The first event is the Inaugural “Celebrating Conservation” Banquet to be held on Friday, Oct. 26 at 6pm.  The banquet will be at Miler CC.  Below is a flyer for the event.