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 9wt, 10wt, or even an 11wt is a better tool for the job. How do you choose?
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In LA, Reds are often found cruising muddy flats in murky water conditions. Heavy, 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.
Most of the time, especially in warm water conditions, accuracy isn't all that important. You're not making long casts at spooky fish that'll only eat if you put the fly on their nose. The casts are often short and quick with large flies to grab the attention of a fish cruising a bank. Therefore, a fast action rod that can handle a large fly and a large fish is your best bet.
A 9wt or 10wt is also 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 or even an 11wt is the best tool for the job in LA.
Reds in Florida and Georgia, etc. are typically smaller than Redfish in Louisiana. You're probably not throwing a huge, heavy fly if you're targeting Redfish in Florida or the Carolinas and you're probably not battling any giants. That's not to say trophy fish can't be found in these states, they're just less common than in Louisiana.
So choose a fly rod that allows you to make an accurate cast with a smaller fly and makes fighting a smaller fish enjoyable. In most cases, an 8wt or 9wt fly rod is the best choice. A rod with a super-strong butt section or an overly fast action is less important here - choose a rod you're comfortable with... don't worry about pulling on huge fish.
Ultimately, close to 90% of Redfish are caught in shallow, murky water close to marshes or flats. An 8wt or 9wt rod with a floating line caters to fish in Florida and along the coast of the eastern US and covers the vast majority of Redfish scenarios. If you’re targeting fish in Louisiana, however, a larger rod will help wrangle bigger fish that eat bigger flies; upgrading to a 9wt or 10wt is worthwhile.
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