One day last year I laid an open box of 17 MirrOLures - no two alike - in front of Ken Lauer and asked him to select one for the trout fishing we were planning the next morning in the Edisto River basin.

"I don't see one I would use," he said.

Those who know Lauer would not be surprised. When it comes to fishing, he knows what he wants. He has been there, tried every tackle combination and long ago narrowed his preferences to a Spartan few. He has no time for experiment and feels no need for it.

From 1946, when he moved to coastal Virginia at age 14, Lauer has been an angler. He became a professional guide at the Outer Banks in 1968 and continued guiding and directing his guide service for 20 years.

He has hardly laid his rods down since, moving to Florida, thence to inland South Carolina, finally retiring to Johns Island near Charleston more than a decade ago. His wife, Kathy McGreevy, took a teaching job at the Medical University of South Carolina hospital.

"If you had a 52S or a 7S floater," he said, "I'd fish them, but I would add a little weight to the floater."

Lauer makes his MirrOlures simulate a wounded minnow by attaching a 1/8-ounce Walter Gremlin Rubbercor pinch weight to the shanks of the forward trebles on a floating No. 7. That causes it to dive 3 inches on the retrieve, he said. It floats to the surface when the retrieve stops.

"You'll need needle-nosed pliers to spread the gap and remove the rubber liner," he said. "Rubbercor pinch-weights work best."

Wouldn't a small-lipped diving lure do the job, one might wonder?

Don't ask.

Lauer's color choices are even more limited: any as long as it's silver.

"There's little for trout to eat in these creeks," he said by way of justification for a preference for silver. "The bottom is 'pluff' mud, which supports little marine life. Trout feed on small mullet to a major degree, if not exclusively. They come and go with the tide. You're wasting your time trying to imitate anything but a jumping mullet."

Hence his preference for silver MirroLures.

Lauer also fishes jigs with grub tails, weighing 1/8 or ¼ ounce, no exceptions. The tails are smoke colored or have a green body with a smoke tail.

Lauer fishes almost every morning, but usually not from one of his boats. He prefers to fish from the bank.

"I like to get to a creek at first light when the water is flat calm," he said. "There's nothing that will get the adrenalin flowing quicker than casting a floater out there, letting it rest a few seconds, twitch it and having a big trout come up and slam it.

"But that only works before sunrise. Once the sun gets up, surface lures don't work any more. Then I go to a 52S or a weighted 7S. They are effective as long as there is enough water."

The creeks are tidal, so depth and currents vary. To master them, anglers must become students of the tides to know how they vary at any given spot, Lauer said.

Lures work well for him, but bait fishing from the bank can be effective, too, especially in the summer and fall when live shrimp are readily available.

"The only downside to live bait is you cannot cover as much water as you do with a lure," he said. "I sometimes catch more trout on artifcials than anglers beside me catch on bait."

That's because they're probably fishing in one spot while Lauer is exploring the territory with his jigs or plugs.

Lauer and McGreevy can afford all the fish they care to eat - and for their health, they eat fish often. But gathering food is not what fishing is about for Ken Lauer.

"I much prefer to catch a fish on a lure because it's more of a challenge," he said.

Just as it is for many anglers, Lauer fishes for fun.

"Fishing from a boat is confining," he said. "Sure, you drift along a bank and cast. But if you're afoot, you can pick up and walk or drive to another location and not have to worry about a boat and all the responsibility that comes with it."

Lauer confesses to fishing from his boats more in the fall. Trout begin to move out of the creeks then, he said, particularly in the Johns Island-Maybank area.

"But we find the biggest concentration in the Edisto creeks," he said. "It makes more sense to drive there rather than try to find the specks in a boat."

Lauer also believes fishing is more effective from the bank than from a boat. It's more convenient, he said, and, most of all, it's more fun. For any fisherman, Lauer believes, that should be the first criterion.

"There's nothing like standing on the bank and challenging a fish to take whatever lure you're presenting," he said.

What are the most common mistakes novice anglers make?

"They use the wrong tackle and the wrong lures," he said. "They fish in the wrong places at the wrong time of day or level of tide. It's a lot easier to do it wrong than to do it right."

For fishing from South Carolina coastal creeks, Lauer recommends a spinning rod from 6½- to 7-feet long and a reel that will hold 200 yards of thin-diameter 12-pound test line.

"Watch the local fishermen," he advises, "and go to a tackle shop close to where you'll fish and ask the clerks. You can learn a lot that way in a short time."

But don't buy much of any one thing until you try it. Lauer suggests you start with a couple of MirroLures - the 52S and the Purple Demon (which is also a 52). He also recommends 1/8- to ¼-ounce jigheads with soft-plastic grubs.

Lauer's unwavering (with one exception) rule is to imitate as closely as possible whatever the fish are eating. The most common food for S.C. trout, he said, is finger mullet and other minnows.

Because finger mullet don't have red heads and white bodies, he avoids 52M11 MirrOLures, which do, and he avoids every other color scheme except purple or black. Instead, he buys the highly reflective silver models such as the 52S.

The lure, when retrieved properly, imitates an injured mullet. He gives it a slow, erratic, jerking motion. The 7S, a floater, must be fished with equal if not more finesse. The weight he attaches helps it to dive when he jerks the lure.

"It will reach a maximum depth at about 3 inches," he said. "If I stop the retrieve, it floats to the surface. This drives the fish crazy."

The ¼- and 1/8-ounce grubs he fishes give him the casting distance he sometimes needs to reach the fish.

"The distance you can reach is dictated in part by the diameter of the line," he said. "For my purposes, I find a thin diameter 12-pound test line on a wide-diameter (long-casting) reel is the best compromise."

Lauer doesn't much care for ultra-light reels with faces the size of a 50-cent coin.

"You can't get the distance you need with those tight coils," he said. "And I fish 12-pound test exclusively."

Lauer explained that 8-pound-test line will give more distance, everything being equal, but the tradeoff comes when he gets a fish near the shore. He doesn't bother with a net, so there is no way to get a fish out except to lift it on the line.

"You'll lose a lot of fish with 8-pound (line)," he said.

Conventional tackle fishermen tend to go to heavier lines. But if they use 12-pound test, few could achieve the distance they could with 12-pound test line on a spin reel.

Lauer said the minimum length rod he will use is 6 1/2 feet, but prefers a 7-footer. The longer the rod, the greater the casting distance. Beyond that length, he said, most anglers would have problems lifting a fish onto the bank; and the extra length is not going to allow much more distance.

After crossing the McKinley Washington Bridge, anglers are only 300 to 400 yards from an impoundment where the trout fishing is good. On the west end of the Toogoodoo River Bridge submerged pilings from an old wooden bridge remain on the south side. They're visible on low tide, but invisible in the dark tidal waters when flooded. Fishermen must to be careful about hanging lures on them.

"The biggest trout at that bridge," Lauer said, "will be lying up close to it, but not necessarily near the pilings. You have to be quick to play a hooked fish away from the bridge and to the bank. Big fish hang in the middle of the river and close to shore."

Water tends to run shallow in estuary creeks.

"When the tide goes out," Lauer said, "you see that what you have been fishing over is mud flats.

"The trout will move in close to the shore when the tide is high. They fall back to the middle, to deeper water, as it recedes. Most locals like to fish when the tide is half out rather than at the flood. But I like the high tide or the beginning of the ebb."

Seasons

Trout season kicks off in September near Charleston, yet in some areas they can be caught year-around.

"We think of September as the month when trout begin to show up in South Carolina," Lauer said. "The main thrust comes between September and November At that time we fish grubs the last two hours of the outgoing and the first hour of the incoming. The best fishing occurs within a narrow time span."

Edisto Tributaries

High water provides access to the fish, but Lauer said anglers must explore creeks to learn the best tides for fishing them.

That will vary from creek to creek and from one season to another. Several creeks at Edisto Island must be fished at different times. But in the area is an impoundment where an angler can catch fish on high tide and continue successfully fishing down to mid-tide.

High water may prevent fishing at a couple of bridges. But if you wait until the tide is half out, Lauer said, you'll gain access and likely begin to catch fish.

During any tide, fishing will be good somewhere, he believes. Spend a day or two just looking and observing, Lauer advised.

The current can be a problem.

"You don't want a fast tide," he said. "Slow is better. A couple of hours before and after the top of the tide and near low water tend to produce favorable current speeds."

Trout disappear seasonally from Bohicket Creek in November and December. Curiously, other creeks have trout during the winter. So speckled trout can be found in winter somewhere in the many southern South Carolina creeks.

Fish won't enter some tidal creeks in summer because they're shallow, the water is warm and it lacks oxygen. At that time of year, if you fish near an inlet you'll more likely find trout.

From March through May Edisto Island will have fish, Lauer said, but, curiously, not Johns Island, primarily because of a shortage of bait in the Bohicket River in April and May and sometimes into early June. Mullet appear in different creeks at different times of the year, with trout along with them.

"For the last 10 years," Lauer said, "those appearances have been predictable in some areas. I wouldn't try to catch trout in the Bohicket River at Johns Island from April through July, but I would fish Edisto Island at that time."

So no hard-and-fast rules apply for where you will find fish at any give time.

Tidal levels for the local creeks are published in the Charleston newspaper. You'll learn by experience the lag-time between, for example, high tide at the inlet and where you want to fish, Lauer said.

Access? Generally, Lauer advises, anyone can pull off a road next to a tidal creek. Anglers fishing from a bank don't require a fishing license in S.C.

"You can fish virtually anywhere you can get to," he said. "Be careful of traffic, wear calf-high rubber boots, be observant, look for footprints. They'll tell you how soft the bottom is."