If ever a man could be considered an artist with a bucktail jig, it was Jake. All those years with my father and my uncles were merely a prep course for the hours I spent with Jake. He taught me to manipulate a bucktail—an inanimate hunk of lead, steel and hair—so that it imitated whatever the trout were feeding on. The first fish caught always was disemboweled to study that day's feeding. Jake also taught me to read the tidal rips and eddies of the Cooper and Wando rivers. Without Polaroid glasses or fathometers or other modern fishing aids, Jake could always put you on a speck.
"There," he'd say, pointing to a barely perceptible change in the creek's surface. "Right in that eddy. He's laying there with his head into the tide. Now flip your bucktail six feet beyond and let it sink a little."
So, I stand now in the bow of a wave-lapped whaler. The wind is blustery and from the west. Tonight it will swing to the north, and the temperature will plunge into the 30s. It is December; winter has come to the low country. Tomorrow the fish may be back in the deep holes or cruising the bottoms of the sounds. Today they are in a feeding frenzy. The marsh whips before the wind, and the tide, even here in the creek, is slashed to a foaming chop. Leaden winter clouds line the horizon. "Bluebird weather is for bluebirds." A voice from the past. Jake Jones lives.
Beside me is an awkward adolescent, all arms, legs and bottomless stomach. Blond hair stubbornly long. The first stains of acne march across his mother's chin. Impatiently he submits to being told how to thread a live shrimp on a hook. He knows how to cast, thank you. Or no thanks. Curtly. His brown eyes brighten, barely concealing his delight in his perfect placement of the float. I watch it bob and weave before the contrary pressures of tide and wind, slowly wending down stream. Any second now. Any second and the circle will be complete.