A Redfish is a Redfish, no matter if you are in Texas, Florida, or Virginia. Yes, there are a few minor differences, but they feed and act in the same way for the most part.
No matter if you are chasing them in the muddy mangroves or off a pier amongst some weed banks, if you find the fish feeding, you should be able to hook one.
The water systems in the South are rich in food sources, and this is where the redfish concentrate. Fiddler crabs, shrimp, and baitfish are on the menu, so it’s essential to have flies that imitate them.
Like Charleston, certain parts in the South have what we call a flood tide. This is where the high tide pushes an extra few feet, flooding the muddy grass banks. This gives the Redfish a feeding zone they can’t get on other occasions. These 2hours are golden and what every redfish angler dreams of.
There are so many fish feeding it’s actually ridiculous. But this doesn’t always mean you will be successful. Having the right fly for these conditions is essential. In these conditions, it’s not so much the pattern, but rather how it swims that is important. With all the grass around, a weed guard is a must to be in with a shot at hooking a Red.
Redfish, red drum, or spot-tailed bass are all names that refer to this fish. Most of them are caught in the marshes and coastal waters, but a few are targeted offshore. They are known as bull reds. The bull reds are singular fish, generally a lot bigger, and are more specific in what they eat.
The best description I have heard for a redfish is a Clumsy confident fly eating machine. I love this!
Guide Tip: Redfish grow to true trophy sizes. Image hooking into a “red” weighting over 50lbs. Is this getting you excited? Read -> What is the Biggest Redfish Caught
Redfish are very forgiving in that they will eat again on a second attempt and often follow anything that looks like food.
It’s important to remember that thousands of redfish flies work very well. If the fish aren’t committing fully to the fly, it doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in it, and it could mean it’s a little big or isn’t swimming correctly. Check this first and try again.
With that said, I will break down my favorite redfish flies and explain why and when I fish them.
1. Crafty Shrimp
The Crafty Shrimp is one of those flies that should always be in your fly box. I like to think of it as the ‘woolly bugger’ for reds. I like it in the colors of tans, beiges, and reds with some crystal flash and legs. Size #1 and #2 are best. The weighted versions can help in the deeper waters, and a weed guard is imperative for this pattern.
2. Kung Fu Crab
The Kung Fu Crab is a must when fishing the mangroves and grass plains. This fly is particularly good on the flood tide in those highwater grass areas. The weed guard is essential to the success of the fly.
The King Fu Crab swims hook point up, which is excellent, and the weed guard just makes double sure there aren’t any snags. Redfish will chase this fly from a mile away, so be ready. I like the fly in the mud crab color of dark brown /green in size #2.
Guide Tip: My buddies Kevin and Steve run Indigo Guide Service, they’re proving out to be some of the best redfish guides on the Louisiana Coast. If your interested in having true experts teach how to chase reds get ahold of INDIGO GUIDE SERVICE
3. Fool’s Gold
Fools Gold crab pattern is my first choice for tailing Redfish. A tailing red may be one of the easiest reds to catch, but they can be very particular at times as well.
The fools gold pattern is ideal for this as it sinks fast and has excellent movement in the water. It is tied in in smaller sizes, so it doesn’t make much disturbance when it lands. Greens and golds are the first choices in smaller #2 and #4.
4. Dupre Spoon Fly
Dupre Spoon Fly is one of those debatable patterns that some purists argue isn’t a fly but more a lure. While I tend to agree in most aspects, I know this pattern catches fish.
It is hand-tied by Jim Dupre and finished with an epoxy coating, making it bulletproof. It reminds me of a Perdigon, and that makes it ok for me to fish because I am a huge Perdi fan. In reds and greens on a size #1, this pattern wiggles and swims like an injured baitfish or crab.
5. Everglades Special
The Everglades Special is one of those baitfish patterns that will just about catch any predatory fish. Big bull reds love this fly. The EP fibers really changed how we could tie baitfish patterns, and the advancements are spectacular.
The fly is best used in the colder months when the shrimps and crabs are absent. The bulls chase baitfish in the shallows, and the Everglades Special is the key! It rides high in the water column and will attract a red from some distance off. Tied on a #1 or 1/0 hook in the color that best covers your area. I like tans, greens, and lighter colors.
Fishalicious, is another baitfish pattern worthy of the fly box. The deer hair body gives it the topwater element, and I love throwing these flies at cruising redfish trackers as they are often called. The Redfish will follow this fly until it commits. It’s an excellent pattern for the muddier waters where some surface movement is needed to grab the fish’s attention. The olive and brown combo is my favorite on a size #1 hook.
The Razmatz is an excellent choice for a shallow, dirty water fly pattern. It is very productive in a root beer color with gold tinsel and redhead profile. The golden color works well in the muddy water, and the reds love the movement of the fly. Raz Reed, who created the fly, also uses it for bass, something I haven’t tried yet but plan on tying up a few for my next bass mission.
Kwan is the fly to have for those quiet, cold winter days on the water. It needs to be small. The Redfish tend to like its smaller profiling in the colder months, especially on the clearer days. I think the craft fur body profile moves so well and has all the triggers. I like the neutral colors for the Kwan in sizes #4. The dumbbell eyes can vary from tungsten to bead chain for weight changes.
9. Electric Chicken
The Electric Chicken was originally tied to mimic the electric chicken plastic bait. Its simple design is very deadly for many species, especially Redfish. The best colors are chartreuse and pink chenille, and I will fish this pattern if nothing else is working. It just seems to work and change my day around.
10. Kinky Muddler
The Kinky Muddler means business. Low summer tides mean baitfish being flushed into the shallows and the reds having a field day. The kinky muddler is excellent for these summer conditions. The angel hair’s hollow body gives bulk, and the bucktail and long hackle feathers give the tail lovely movement. This is my summer flat’s first choice in the colors closet to the mullet in your area—tans and beige with whites and black markings.
11. Clouser Minnow
Clouser Minnow needs no introductions or explanations! It’s a great pattern that has worked on many species for years now. Its simple design and ease to fish are what I love about it. I’ve almost been tempted to tie some very small ones for trout. The body profile and hook riding upwards make it deadly. My favorite colors are blue over white and chartreuse over white.
An Easy Redfish Fly to tie
Electric chicken pattern link….
Setting up a Fly Rod for Redfish
The setup you choose to use depends entirely on your ability as a fly fisher. Suppose you aren’t accustomed to casting the heavier rods it’s best to practice on the grass and get more confident. That said, I’m an 8wt shooter myself, and I feel an 8wt setup is ample to target most reds in their environment. My choice would be a medium to fast action rod with some backbone to roll over the larger patterns.
Pair the rod with a smooth drag reel and a floating line, and you are good to go. I like to have an intermediate spool ready to roll if needed, but it isn’t necessary.
Keep your leader short and straightforward. You can play with tippet strengths but stick to what you are happy to fish and go from there.
Recommended Gear List for Redfish
As mentioned in the above setup section, fly rods, reels, and lines are entirely up to you. My choice is an 8wt setup, but you should fish what you feel comfortable with. A 6-10wt setup will work just fine. It all depends on the flies you are using and what depth of water you are fishing in. 9 ft leader is standard with 25-30lbs breaking strain tippet. A floating line will be just fine for most scenarios, but an intermediate line is excellent for the deeper water.
Waders and boots are great to have. In the colder months having the waders is excellent to have to keep you warm and dry. Boat shoes are great, so you don’t slip and slide around on deck. These are all suggestions and please wear what you feel comfortable in.
Bags and packs are entirely optional. I, for one, have a boat bag that has all my gear and flies in. I’m all set to go a simple boat fly box with the above patterns!
Redfish Questions and Answers
How to ID feeding Reds?
We are lucky in that Redfish tell us how they are feeding. There are various signs to look for to help us decide how to fish for them.
- Tailers– tail these fish are actively feeding will most likely take a fly put on its nose.
- Diggers– are so busy digging for food that they often don’t see the fly and need something to get their attention. A plop of a fly is a great way to get them interested.
- Trackers– track the fly from a distance and will often follow the fly right to the boat. The term ‘running out of water is frequently used for these fish, and a slight pause or faster twitch often triggers the eat.
- Snakes– just cruise and aren’t really interested unless it’s worth their while. A large baitfish pattern is my choice for these types of fish.
- Floaters– just casually drift around and don’t feed much. These fish can be so tempting to cast to but rather push off to a new location and find fish that will eat.
What fly line to use for Redfish?
Redfish are predominantly found in shallow waters, so a floating line will be just fine. Carry an intermediate line for the deeper waters, just in case.
How do you catch Redfish on Fly?
We are lucky that Redfish are such a forgiving fish to target. They will generally eat a second time if they spook or miss the fly. The best is to get the fish to see the fly, and you will generally hook them. They eat with ease and love to chase the fly.
One More Cast for Redfish
So, there you have it. Redfish are a staple on fly down South, and many a fly angler love to catch these fish throughout the year.
I’m one of those fly fishers. I love nothing more than being out on the water chasing a few reds with friends. Polling around on that flood tide is a special time to fish, and it should be cherished.
Working that fly to get the eat, fighting well, and then gently releasing the fish after a few photos is what it’s all about.
So, get out there and get your rod bent, line stretched, and net wet.
It’s so worth it!
Tarpon, Redfish and Snook
True trophy fish can mean being in the right place, with the right flies, setup for success. Below are some articles to guide you to a TROPHY
- Snook, Reds and Tarpon can be found all over Florida. Read where to go in this article > Where to Fly Fish in Florida
- How big do Tarpon, Redfish and Snook get? Read about the BIGGEST Caught > TARPON , REDFISH and SNOOK
- Casting a Fly to Snook is amazing. Read about How to Fly Fish for Snook and the Best Flies for Snook
- Both Tarpon and Redfish can haunt the same waters. It’s just a matter of selecting the right flies. Check out The Best Flies for Redfish
Fly fishing has been my passion and pursuit for the past 20 years. I am a South African based fly fisherman who loves nothing more than spending a day on the water. Fly fishing is more than catching fish, being in the outdoors with good friends and family is what it is all about.
- Picture Source – A huge thanks to the great folks at Umpqua with credit to many of the fly pictures in this article. Truly leaders in the fly fishing industry.
- Some of the amazing redfish pictures were provided by my buddies at Indigo Guide Service