By Owen Plair | Beaufort South Carolina is one of the most beautiful small towns on the east coast, a place people call the hidden jewel. Beaufort is an island surrounded by the lush saltwater marshlands and ever changing tides, which gives it unique beauty from all angles. From the history, old plantations, waterways, culture, and slow pace of life; Beaufort brings paradise to reality in every day life for many people. You hear the term ‘Lowcountry Living’ a lot of times when people talk about Beaufort because its a unique and very special way of life influenced by the culture surrounding Beaufort’s history.
As a Beaufortonian I was fortunate to be born and raised here on the waters of the Lowcountry, and brought up on the culture of Lowcountry living. My mother and father taught me to respect the water, and be thankful to live in such a special place. Beaufort doesn’t have a big shopping mall, huge sky scrapers, theme parks, or any big man made attractions. But one thing Beaufort does have, however, is the water, a natural and everlasting attraction that can not be duplicated, or built. The waterways that flow through out the surrounding towns, under bridges, past docks, and through constantly changing marshlands. Life here revolves around the water, and every day as the tide changes so do the lives of the people here… in the Lowcountry.
My childhood was spent on the Whale Branch river, which is part of the Broad River, and one of the best fisheries on the coast of South Carolina. As a child my 1st boat was a 12ft wooden Bato with a 25 Johnson Tiller steer, and for a 8 year old kid it was a dream come true. Navigating new areas, getting caught in thunder storms, figuring out the tides, and most of all learning in first hand experience. The feeling of being alone on that little wooden Bato is one I will never forget, a feeling that no one will understand. For me the water and marsh were home, and I was always my happiest when I was out there.
Beaufort is one of the top red-fishing destinations on the coast, and provides huge populations of redfish, seat trout, cobia, flounder, tarpon, Jacks, and numerous other species. Being 25% of the east coast’s marshlands is what provides such a great fishery, and the reason Beaufort is so unique when it comes to fishing. Growing up, my dad Frank is the one who introduced me to fishing, and really taught me how to find the fish. When it comes to fishing in Beaufort there are a lot more things that you need to know besides finding the fish. Tides, weather patterns, and seasons all effect the fish, and how to target them.
One very special thing about the fishing in Beaufort is that its not pressured. With hundreds of flats, creeks, and rivers, its rare to fish within a mile of another boat. With Beaufort being such a small town it provides a hidden secret when it comes to our fishery, and keeps the pressure of anglers away. Whenever I’m fishing on a Monday-Friday I rarely see another flats boat, and if I do its probably Tuck Scott who is another guide for Bay Street Outfitters. Cobia season can get pretty rowdy on the Broad River May-June for the Cobia run, but its really the only time of year I see more than 10 different boats in a single day.
As I got older in the town of Beaufort my respect for where I lived became even greater. From traveling to other states, cities, and countries, I realized how lucky I really was to live in such a special place. In my teenage years I can remember friends always talking about moving away into a bigger city, how Beaufort wasn’t fun, and simply just wanted to leave. Every time I heard these kind of comments I would always smile and wonder why people said things like that. But I realized the kids who disliked Beaufort just didn’t have the passion and love for the river as I did. Beaufort doesn’t offer much more besides the outdoors and the water, so if that’s something you don’t enjoy, then I can understand why some people would say things like that. The way of life in Beaufort is slow, and for many younger age kids that’s something they don’t want, but for me living life slow was the only way.
My career as a fly fishing guide was born from my love for Beaufort and the surrounding water. As friends grew up and moved away, I stayed to follow my dream, and became an Orvis Endorsed Fly fishing guide for Bay Street Outfitters when I was 18 years old. Sometimes I feel that this was the path I was born to follow, almost like a calling. Things happened that I never could of imagined, and I found that I was doing something that I had always dreamed of. My favorite part of guiding is seeing how much people who are visiting fall in love with Beaufort, and watching the look on their face as we run the boat through the tall spartina grass into the Broad River. It amazes me everyday how the city of Beaufort is growing, and I cant really imagine where it will be in the next 20 years.
Fly fishing is a passion for most people, and Bay Street Outfitters supplies Beaufort and Hilton Head with everything they need to feed that passion. Guiding for an Outfitter to me is an honor because I’m not only representing myself on the water, but a whole business in general. Tony Royal who is the owner of the shop is one of the most experienced anglers I know, and one of the best guys you could ever work for. The days I’m not on the water are usually spent in the shop working the front, and helping guys get rigged up with their fly equipment.
Beaufort is filled with southern hospitality, and that’s a reason why so many people love to live here. Its almost like everyone around you is a friend whether its a wave, smile, or simply letting someone pull out in an intersection. Being a smaller town you become friends with a lot of the people you see on a daily basis, which to me is special. When you can walk down the street and say hello to four or five random people… that’s Lowcountry living. Life here in Beaufort is special, and to me, the only way of life. A fishing charter in the morning, motorcycle cruise to Alvin Ords in the afternoon, and dinner with a pretty lady at night; my perfect day here in the Lowcountry of Beaufort, SC.
Visit Capt. Owen’s website for more fishing information at www.redfishbeaufort.com