Josh Boyles loves fishing so much that he doesn’t always watch the clock when out on the water guiding customers to hot fishing holes aboard his 20-foot bay boat.
The owner of Southern Drawl Outfitters in Moss Creek Village, just across the bridge from Hilton Head Island, Boyles charges $100 an hour for a half-day trip from 8 a.m. to noon, which he said is the average rate almost nationwide for an inshore guide. That fee typically will be prorated down a little bit for longer outings, he added.
“I love fishing, so I frequently run longer than what I’m charging for," he said. "And if the fish are biting, I’m not going to pull in the lines and go back because they only paid from 8 to 12."
Fishing has been in Boyles’ blood since he was a kid. He grew up in the small town of Gillisonville, out in the country near Ridgeland in Jasper County, where his entire family has always been into hunting and fishing “‘and just the outdoors.”
He frequently visited Hilton Head Island and went to its beaches as a child, and after high school made his way to Hilton Head to live. There he was “fortunate enough” to land a job with Stratty Pollitzer working on his boat, "Hero," which he ran out of Harbour Town.
“He truly was a living legend in the fishing industry,” Boyles said. “He just passed a few months ago.”
Stratty ran off-shore trips and when Boyles left him and the "Hero." Four years later he returned to inshore fishing as a fishing guide.
It wasn’t long before he found Lowcountry Outfitters was for sale, a store he had long liked, and had the opportunity to buy it from then-owner Travers Davis.
“I always loved this store,” Boyles said as he stood at a counter and surveyed the merchandise. “I always thought it was a phenomenal store. I was a customer for years and years before I ever entertained the idea of getting into the tackle business.”
Boyles renamed the store Southern Drawl Outfitters for the heavy Southern accent he and his father and brother had – him not so much any more – and they were scratching their heads and searching for a name that embodied the Lowcountry.
He said he did mostly “tweaking” and “modifying” the contents of the store. But he made one substantial change – removing the guns and hunting gear it had carried.
“I don’t sell uns and I don’t do hunting,” Boyles explained. “I strictly focus on fishing.
“It took me off the water for about two years while I got everything somewhat down in here,” he said, surveying the store’s offerings, “and then I was able to go back to fishing half the week and working here half the week.
“I run charters three days a week and I’m in here three days a week, and I spend Sundays doing whatever my wife tells me to do.”
His wife, Anna, shares Boyles’ passion for fishing. Not only does she like to fish, but he said she’s a “phenomenal” fisherwoman.
“She was fishing before I met her and that’s the reason I fell in love with her,” he said. “I met her on a May River sandbar” where they both were fishing “and she started showing me pictures of fish she had caught – and it was all over.”
Boyles, 33, said his store specializes in outfitting the Lowcountry sportsman.
“We carry everything from really nice oyster knives to conventional rods and reels, fly rods and reels, a full selection of custom-tied and commercially-tied flys and fly tying material, and some of the best clothing brands in the country when it comes to outdoor apparel,” he said.
And, of course, the store carries live bait. There also is a walk-in humidor room in the back where a nice selection of cigars is kept.
When choosing stock, Boyles said he and his staff know their fishery and what their customers want and need. The bottom line: “If I wouldn’t’ use it, it won’t be in the store.”
The store also does fishing seminars on a regular basis – some in-house and some for clubs, including plantation fishing clubs.
Boyles said the staff consists of half a dozen people, himself included, with most of the rest being licensed fishing guides who also work in the store.
“They’re fishermen first and store workers second,” he said.
Boyles said they use various docks around Beaufort County to launch their boats, but the one they most frequently use is the Charles Haigh Landing on Pinckney Island.
"It’s centrally located,” he said. “You run one way and you’re in Port Royal Sound and the Chechessee and Broad rivers. You run the other way and you’re in Calibogue Sound, the May River, the Cooper River and the back side of Daufuskie.”
Boyles said fish that are staples on his charter trips are red fish, trout and flounder. “Then we have seasonal fish - cobia in spring, large sharks throughout the summer, tarpon In late summer and early fall.”
Asked which fish he most enjoys going after, he said, “I enjoy them all.”
But, he allowed, “Tarpon always had a special place in my heart because they are so elusive and so tough to catch, and they are just a phenomenal fighting fish. “I’ve got to say I love red fish. They are plentiful and they’re usually happy to oblige you by eating your bait. They fight very hard and they’re delicious.”
Nevertheless, he said, “They don’t excite me as much as tarpon because I get to do it all the time. But this time of year when we have tarpon in the area, I will put my stake in any three-day I have and chase them because they’re only here such a short time.
Asked if owning the Southern Drawl Outfitters and the charter business fulfilled a long-time dream, Boyles replied, “I wouldn’t say it was a life-long dream to be in the retail business, but I always knew I wanted to do something fishing-related. And the opportunity came where I could purchase this place. I really love the idea it has a longer shelf life.
“Guiding is – I hate to say it – a young man’s game because there’s not a lot of people older than me doing it.”
Boyles said when people hire a guide, they aren’t paying for the fuel he uses or the tackle he is using.
“You’re paying him for the thousands of hours he spent getting sunburnt driving around the river trying to figure out where the fish are,” he said. “That’s what you’re paying him for – is his knowledge, not for his equipment. You may have the nicest boat in the world, but if you don’t know where the fish are, it’s useless.”
Boyles said he was excited about the opportunity to buy the store because it was something that would permit him to stay in the business he loves, which is fishing.
“It’s something I could do further in my life,” he emphasized, then added with a smile, “plus there’s air conditioning in here, which is nice.”
But while he’s looking to his future with the store, Boyles is quite satisfied with his present.
“I’m very happy with the balance I have in my life now,” he said. ”I’m on the water half the week and I’m in the store helping customers and meeting new people half the week.”