How to Choose the Best Fly Line for Redfish
Redfish are fascinating predators. Like a lot of gamefish, these thick-backed marsh fish feed based on water conditions, weather, and tidal swings. On bright sunny days, they can be found tailing in shallow water, digging crabs out of the mud. On other days, they move offshore and school up to chase baitfish. When the water turns cold, they hunker down in 4+ feet of water and are pretty tight-lipped. One of the major attractive qualities of the Redfish, however, is that they can be fished for year-round in Louisiana and across the US.
We traveled to NOLA this winter and tried our hand at these notorious Bulls. Fishing can certainly be difficult during the winter months. We dealt with weather, cold water temps, difficult water conditions, and other adversity. Fish were caught, definitely, but they didn’t come without a bit of work. We found that having the right gear certainly helped. Many people think of Redfish as a warm water fish… and during the summer they are. But water temps were colder in the winter so we had to choose our fly lines wisely.
The Basics (and other resources)
Needless to say, if you’re fishing for Redfish in the summer during warm water conditions you’re probably going to want a tropical fly line like RIO’s Summer Redfish Line (a Tropical Series). For us, water temps were around 50 degrees so we opted for a cold water line like RIO’s Winter Redfish Fly Line. If you’re confused about when to fish a tropical line and when to fish a cold water line, we’ve covered that topic here.
So we chose a cold water line… summer anglers should choose a tropical line. And typically anglers fish a 9wt or a 10wt fly rod (find more info on that here) so we matched the fly line weight to the rod weight. If you're wondering about fly reels for Redfish, find more info on that here. Redfish are found in shallow water so a floating fly line is best. Intuitive, right? But there are more options than RIO’s Winter and Summer Redfish lines. Here’s how to choose.
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Redfish are caught inside 40 feet 9 times out of 10. No hero casts here. In fact, Capt. Bailey Short of Southern Flats Louisiana Fly Fishing says that’s one of the biggest adjustments for first-time Redfish anglers. Making a quick, short cast and landing a fly accurately is the best way to catch a feeding Redfish. Because Redfishing is mostly sight fishing, being able to make an accurate short cast with minimal false casting is important.
What does that mean for how you choose a fly line? It means choosing a line that loads a rod at short distances is paramount. It also means you need a fly line that’s accurate at short distances; your fly line better help you land a fly in an area the size of a dinner plate at 35 feet. That means a fly line with a heavy head, and a taper that loads fast action rods at short distances is best. These lines also encourage accuracy at short distances. Lines that fit this bill include:
Choosing a fly line also depends on which flies you’re fishing. If Redfish are feeding comfortably and happily, sometimes landing a large fly in the feeding zone triggers an aggressive strike. Redfish have even been known to chase down large flies from 10+ feet away with their backs out of the water. Redfish also eat flies on the surface like poppers and wigglers. Anglers very rarely cast small flies at longer distances with finesse for Redfish… although longer casts aren’t unheard of.
Large, wind-resistant flies at shorter ranges are cast most efficiently with a fly line that has a heavy head and an aggressive front taper. Lines like the SA Titan allow anglers to turn over large flies in windy conditions and put them on target at close distances. They also help anglers lift heavy flies off of the water quickly to recast to moving fish.
In a bluewater scenario when Redfish are schooling, fly choice is a little different. Casting small baitfish patterns at longer distances is the preferred approach. In this case, a line with a mid-length head like the Orvis PRO Saltwater Tropic Fly Line allows for accuracy at long distances and accuracy in the short game (if needed). If you’re planning on venturing outside of the marsh, choose a fly line that’s a little more conducive to longer shots with smaller flies.
OK, I know what I’m looking for. Now, which fly line should I go with?
Some lines with short, heavy tapers include:
Some lines with mid-length heads that are better for schooling fish include:
If you're still confused or want more information about how to choose a line for Permit, don't hesitate to give us a call at (888) 413-5211 or email us anytime at [email protected].