It's a point guard trying to beat his defender off the dribble, a cornerback trying to stay inside the jersey of the wide receiver he's covering, a hunter in full camo with his back up against an oak tree, trying to lure a lovesick gobbler into shotgun range.
Oh, yeah, there's this deal between a tailing redfish and an angler wet up to his knees on a flooded grass flat, trying to present a lure just so .
"It's kind of like a one-on-one thing," said guide George Gallagher of Charleston. "You're stalking, and you're looking for the opportunity to catch one fish as opposed to casting to a whole school.
"If the Good Lord told me I could do only one kind of fishing, this is what it would be."
So like a pig taking to slop, Gallagher and many other fishermen, among them Rob Beglin of Pawley's Island, find themselves thigh deep in plough mud, slogging across ditches and creeks to their promised land - flooded grass flats where they stalk redfish.
When tide and time are aligned, the opportunity to spot and sight-cast to individual redfish is one that Gallagher and Beglin would move heaven and earth to do.
"This is my favorite kind of fishing; it's like hunting at its best. If you get a fish on, it's the greatest 10 minutes of fishing you'll ever have," said Beglin, a redfish tournament pro, who, like Gallagher, can think of only one place he'd like to go when the right opportunity appears: the Cape Romain/Bulls Bay area.
There, thousands of acres of shallow marsh are criss-crossed by creeks and ditches, with oyster bars and fiddler crabs to attract hordes of redfish. When a summertime high tide floods the spartina grass flats in the marsh, the reds push up and patrol the grass for fiddlers, snails, grass shrimp - anything that gets in their way. When they tip over to nose around on the bottom and root out a meal, their tails often pop out of the shallow water, hence, the term, "tailing." Those emergent fins become bulls' eyes for scores of fishermen who appreciate the challenge of doing battle with an opponent more than willing to provide a first-class tussle.
"Once you get one hooked, he'll go nuts. There will be water flying everywhere," said Beglin, who drives right through Georgetown and past sprawling Winyah Bay to reach the Cape Romain/Bulls Bay waters he calls home. "It's like a stick of dynamite has gone off in the water."
And with any luck, a satisfied fisherman finds himself bending over, cradling a 6- or 7- or 8-pound redfish in one hand, removing the hooks with the other, then gently returning the fish to the marsh. After a minute or two to let his heart rate get back into double-digits, the fisherman can make another scan of the grass for another tail and plan another pitched "one-on-one" battle.
One of the neat things about fishing for tailing redfish is that you can predict and plan, months in advance, when it's going to happen. A glance at a simple tide chart is all it takes. Gallagher and Beglin do more than just glance at them; they study them intently, taking note of when big summer tides are predicted. They are looking for tidal movement of 5.8 to 6.3 feet, a huge swing brought on by the position and phase of the moon and which calendar page is in view.
"It starts in the early part of the season, mid-April into May, but it gets progressively better during the summer, when it peaks - from a tidal standpoint," said Gallagher, whose operates South Carolina Fly-Fishing Guide Service. "It will last through September into October, but it will start to fizzle out in mid-October. Of course, how quickly the water warms up and how fast it cools down has a lot to do with it."
If you're fishing for tailing reds, you want to be on the water between two and 2½ hours before dead-high tide. You want to target fish as they're moving up on the flats and into the spartina, looking for crabs and shrimp. The bite usually fizzles out once the tide peaks, but you can get back in your boat and still have a little action catching reds as they move back toward deep water, using ditches and creeks as their travel paths.
"You want to be there early, so you can put your boat in position and anchor it so you know it's not going anywhere when the tide comes in," Beglin said. "Then, you jump out, and sometimes you're in plough mud up to your waist, but you gotta fight through it, maybe 50 yards to solid ground. We mostly wade in areas that aren't covered by water all the time, so the ground is more solid than the plough mud. You can walk through the low-cut spartina grass real easy. We wade in shorts and maybe some Docksiders, deck shoes."
Once on a flat, it's just a matter of standing, watching and waiting - almost like sitting in a deer stand or a duck blind, except that instead of watching for the flick of a tail or listening for the high-ball of a distant mallard, you're scanning the flat for the little triangle of tail or dorsal fin splitting the surface.
"My wife used to go with me a lot, and she'd say, 'When you see a tail, you get as excited as a little boy,'" Gallagher said. "Back 10 or 12 years ago, when we were going a lot, my wife and I could see 100-plus tails on a flat. Sure, you're seeing the same fish multiple times, but still, that's a lot.
"Now, on a good trip, you can expect to see a couple dozen tails. But it's not a numbers things. You catch one red wading, and you've had a good trip. The best trip I ever had, I took two guys who were pretty skilled with a fly rod, and they caught 11 fish in three hours."
When you get on a flat and see multiple fish, it's a matter of picking out which one might be easiest to get to, or which one is moving in a direction that you can easily intercept.
"You stand there, not casting, just searching, and all of the sudden, you see tails, maybe even a dorsal fin if one is cruising - and it's game time," Beglin said. "I've been in situations where you're looking at five to 10 fish, and you don't know which one to throw at. You try to pick one out, see where he's going, and what he's doing, and if you can lead him with your bait - get it out in front of him.
"The neat thing is, when they're up there feeding, they're relaxed; they're not as spooky as they normally are. I've had them tailing within four or five feet of me - so close you couldn't even cast to them."
Why the Cape Romain/Bulls Bay area?
"I grew up in Charleston and started guiding there, and I live on the Wando (River) now," Gallagher said. "If I take a trip on the Wando, I might see a dozen other boats. You go up to Cape Romain, you're probably not gonna see anybody - maybe a crabber or one other flats boat. It's a bit remote, and a little hard to get to, but you don't see any condos or townhouses or shipyards cranes, and no cabin cruisers.
"I look at it as two sections. Five Fathom Creek splits it in half. The southern half is Bulls Bay, Bulls Island and, Anderson Creek. The upper end is Muddy Bay and the Cape (Romain) refuge. To me, that area gives you more diversity; you have a greater diversity of flats to fish."