It was a serene Labor Day in Richmond County with the autumn breeze trying to sneak in while summer was least expecting it.
While some take a trip to the beach or just stretch their weekend, some found vacation close by.
Out at Blewett Falls, Richmond County residents Kip and Sissy Denham strolled hand in hand over the dam in the mid-afternoon, looking over the lake at a couple of water skiers zooming by before walking down a shady trail to the shoreline.
“We come here a lot just to check the scenery out and spend time together one-on-one with my wife,” Kip Denham said. “It’s just beautiful out here, she loves the dam, we love nature and water —, ” a man playing in the water behind the Denham’s yells “Woooo!” Sissy Denham added, “We don’t love that.”
“Just seeing God’s creation,” the husband continued. “That’s the main thing, just to see what he has made.”
The Denhams said they had spent the day cruising in their Camaro convertible. Sissy Denham pleaded with her husband to take her to the river.
“We love to do this,” she said.
Little did the Denhams know, their son-in-law, Zach Phillips, just so happened to be fishing in a small pool about the size of a baseball diamond to the right of the dam.
Phillips said he only been there for 15 minutes and had already caught an 18-inch and a 14-inch large mouth bass on back-to-back casts.
“It’s been a productive 15 minutes,” Phillips said. “That’s a week right there.”
This wasn’t exactly beginners luck. Phillips is an avid fisherman, and as his father-in-law said, “If he doesn’t know what’s biting he knows what to put on the line to make it bite.”
Originally from Wilmington, Phillips is still trying to figure out the best fishing spots in the area. The dam, he says, is one of the best spots for finding bass.
“The dam affords so many different kinds of locations for a fish to be in,” Phillips said. “Depending on how much water is coming over the dam, it completely changes the whole layout so you have to learn what everything is like when the water is four feet higher versus lower.”
Phillips said that as the water gets cooler, the bass will try to move into more shallow areas, like the pool off to the side of the dam, to get warmer. Not having a boat, Phillips figured this was his best bet.
“Zach’s trying to catch a fish and we’re just trying to catch a moment,” Sissy Denham said.
Kip Denham said he grew up water skiing on Blewett Falls Lake, and later brought his children to camp on the shore.
“We would stay all weekend, bathe in the river, fish, tube — we would do it all,” he said. “Come on a Friday and leave on a Sunday.”
Normally the Denhams would head over to Hinson Lake and bring their grandchildren. An autumn trip to Hinson Lake was actually what brought Phillips to the area from Wilmington after he met the Denhams’ daughter, Sarah.
“I said to them, ‘Come on, please. I’ve got to show you the leaves. They are breathtaking down there’ and they were like ‘Oh, okay, okay’ so they appeased me,” Sissy Denham said. “We went down there and we walked the trail and Zach said that was one of the first times that he thought ‘I could leave Wilmington and come here.’”
“I’m from the water, so if I was somewhere with no water I’d be dying,” Phillips said.