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The winter months are the off-season for general tourism on the South Carolina coast, but not so as regards the saltwater fly fishing opportunities here. From Charleston up to Murrells Inlet, fly fishermen can target redfish year-round, and spotted sea trout in all but the coolest months of January and February. Even then, daytime temperatures can still get into the 50s and often 60s, which is ideal for many activities that non-fishing companions like to enjoy, such as walking around the historic city of Charleston and playing golf on the multitude of courses in the region. Add good restaurants and the lowest accommodation prices and greens fees of the year and you have some added inducements to try some fly fishing for the Palmetto State’s “winter trout” (spotted sea trout) and “spottail bass” (redfish).

But how does an outsider secure help in accessing this fishery? There are a growing number of fly shops in this region run by knowledgeable individuals and I will tell you about some of them in a moment. First, though, here is a rundown on some guides you may want to contact, starting with the so-called “Low Country” near Charleston.

The area around Charleston has several rivers that form deltas as they meet the salt water, plus islands, creeks, shallow flats and oyster banks, all within an hour of downtown. Clear water is the rule during the winter months in these shallow water flats. That’s good because it increases the possibility of casting to sighted fish, but bad because it means the available redfish tend to spook easily. To enjoy this fishery fully, you need to be able to cast at least 60 feet of line. The payoff is the chance to bring redfish to the net that range from two to 10 pounds or more, even in January and February. Even on the coldest days of winter, if the sun is out the flats will warm by 11 a.m. and the redfish will move in.

As for fly fishing guides in this area, they were few and far between until recently. Now, there are several in this region who are very recommendable. One is Richard Stuhr (*), who has been guiding for eight years and is Orvis-endorsed. He fishes an 18-foot flats skiff with a poling platform, an ideal boat for the area. Cost is $250 to $350 for one or two people depending on the length of the trip. Tackle is included, plus ice, but not lunch.

Another recommendable Charleston-area guide is Mike Able (*). He has guided out of his Haddrells Point Tackle shop in Charleston since 1991 and has 20 years of fly fishing experience. He uses a 17-foot Maverick with poling platform around the oyster beds and creek mouths of Sewee Bay, one of his favorite winter trips. Able’s fee is $350 for two anglers with tackle included, all fish to be released.

Moving north along the coast, the next general fishing area is the vast expanse of Winyah Bay and its surrounding waters near Georgetown. This historic but shabby and noisome industrial city was the seaport for northeastern South Carolina and the home of the riverboats that carried turpentine and lumber down the Waccamaw River. The nearby “Rice Fields,” the result of dikes constructed for the Low Country rice plantations, have long been known for ducks and largemouth bass. The opportunities for saltwater fly fishing are just beginning to be explored.

Gene Dickson (*) is the most experienced guide here, licensed since 1983 and still enthusiastic whether he’s talking about how attractive a streamer fly looks to redfish in mid-winter after the mullet and shrimp have moved south, or describing the family of bald eagles that has occupied the top of a tall pine just off one of the creeks he fishes year round.

Dickson fishes a 17-foot custom made War Eagle jonboat with a deep vee and 50-horsepower motor. He fishes from as far south as South Island to North Inlet across Winyah Bay. Before winter sets in, he targets sea trout and redfish. After the first deep freeze of the year, possibly delayed this year because of the lingering effects o

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