The southern US is home to bright sun, warm weather, Marti Gras, and southern hospitality. Yes sir, no ma’am, big trucks, and welcoming faces. Beyond the lively culture and flat, dry landscape winds a coastline that’s characterized by marshes conducive to boats with poling platforms and sleek designs. From Louisiana to Texas, Florida to South Carolina and everywhere in between, anglers chase a fish with a personality that seems to fit well with the surrounding convention: the exuberant Redfish.
While the Redfish doesn’t ride in a Chevy Silverado, they’re often as bullish as a big truck with horsepower that rivals the meanest four-wheeled machine. Well, almost. Redfish are thrilling to catch on a fly and often tail their way into shallow water to be sight fished by patient anglers. They’re fish that feed with the tide, so care and attention should be paid to tidal patterns and fish behavior during the range of tidal oscillation.
Effort should also be expressed in choosing a fly rod for these heavy-shouldered predators. Most Redfish enthusiasts will hand you an 8wt and send you on your way. There are times, however, when a 7wt or a 9wt is a better tool for the job. How do you choose?
The proper fly rod for Redfish differs based on fly choice. Shrimp flies, crab flies, streamers… how do you decide what to fish and which rod is best for which flies? Typically tailing Redfish in shallow water are digging crabs out of the mud or sand. If you’re fishing an area characterized by shallow water and marshy surroundings, chances are you’re going to be fishing crab patterns or streamers.
A delicate presentation is important when sight fishing Redfish in shallow water with crab patterns and small streamers. These fish are spooky. Generally, smaller fly rods allow anglers to present small flies delicately to spooky fish. Choose a 6wt or 7wt with a medium-fast action if you’re targeting smaller tailing fish in mud/sand flat environments.
Water quality contributes to fly choice. Reds are often found cruising muddy flats in murky water conditions. Large, bright flies are often necessary to capture a Red’s attention when the water is off-color. Larger flies are more difficult to cast, especially with lighter rod models. A larger rod like a 9wt or 10wt is best if you’re throwing big flies to grab the attention of a fish feeding in murky water especially if you’re targeting larger fish.
A 9wt or 10wt is optimal when battling big Reds. Reds can reach weights over 30lbs. That’s a big fish. 30lb fish are usually deep and strong with huge heads and wide bodies. These fish are particularly difficult to steer to the boat in strong currents or in tight cover. A heavier rod model provides the angler increased lifting capabilities and a stronger butt section to land monster Reds more efficiently. If you’re after trophies, a fast action 10wt is the best tool for the job.
Reds, like other flats fish, can also be found offshore. Reds travel in schools to chase bait in water that ranges from 20-100 feet in depth. Similar to Albies and Stripers, Reds push bait to the surface and capitalize on the barrier the surface of the water provides. Heavy sinking lines help fly anglers capitalize on these fish in deeper water, even if they’re busting baitfish on the surface. Reds lower in the water column eat more readily and aren’t as particular as fish feeding on the surface.
Heavy lines = heavy rods so if you’re targeting Reds in deep water, choose a 10wt rod. Redfish also hold in deep channels where sinking lines are necessary to tempt a larger fish. Redfish typically feed downward (hence their downward facing mouth), so flies that end up deeper in the water column often produce more fish. Two-handed rods are a viable option for fish that are holding in tidal water or water with a strong current.
Ultimately, close to 90% of Redfish are caught in shallow, murky water close to marshes or flats. An 8wt rod with a floating line caters to these fish and covers the vast majority of Redfish scenarios. If you’re targeting fish that are in the 10%, however, a larger rod will help wrangle these trophies; upgrading to a 9wt or 10wt is worthwhile. And finally, if you’re a proficient angler looking to get the most out of a smaller fish, a 7wt can be loads of fun for sporty Reds on the flats.
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