April 04, 2014
Sharpen your fly game for educated redfish.
This redfish may be impossible to fool with a fly, but most will eat if you do things right.
Not all that long ago, me and my circle of flyfishing buddies called redfish the antidote for bonefish. If we had a trying day with fussy, lockjawed Biscayne Bay bonefish, a trip to Florida Bay for tailing reds was the perfect elixir. For grins, we used to pole up to tailing reds and poke ‘em with a flyrod tip. I invite you try that today!
Fly fishers can still enjoy excellent sight fishing for redfish, but on the hardest-fished flats, there's little argument that the fish have become pretty darn educated. So a fly fisher has to smarten up some, too, or not catch fish.
It boils down to taking every measure to convince a redfish that all is well in its world, and that your fly is real food. Come winter, redfish school tightly in shallow water on lower tides. They can be extremely defensive and wary and can blow off the flat at the slightest provocation. If you are not willing to pole or wade to such fish, you don't need to read on. Trolling motors just won't get it done. They're too noisy even where deep enough to run ‘em, and you can't run ‘em where the reds rub their bellies.
Suffice to say, poling is mandatory, and you must pole correctly to sneak in close. I call it passive poling. Contact bottom with the foot or tip quietly, and don't make mighty shoves to move the skiff. When you do that, you push a bow wake, also called a pressure wake, and it gets way out in front of you and alerts redfish. A “p-wake” will scare reds as thoroughly as banging the pole against the hull. Waked-up reds will swim steadily away, or even sink into thick grass, until they think danger has passed. If you manage to get a fly in front of an alerted red, there's little chance it will eat.
When you spot a fish swimming your way, do not close the gap. Stop the skiff with your pole and wait for the fish. Sometimes, you'll come across a portion of a flat that serves as a funnel where reds enter. Plant your pole there—you may get successive shots at relaxed and hungry fish.
Keep false casting to a minimum, and use a dull-colored fly line, such as tan or light blue, or go for one of the new clear floating lines. Many anglers are convinced that they cast little shadow from overhead, and even allow you to use a shorter leader. Otherwise, switch out your typical 9-foot flats leader for a 12- to 14 -footer. That will distance your fly line spashdown from a redfish. As for where to cast your fly relative to the fish, the don't-charge-the-fish-with-the-fly rule applies doubly for educated redfish. Lastly, use a flurocarbon leader and downsize your fly. Bonefish crab flies tied on No. 4 to 1 hooks take spooky reds quite well. FS
First Published Florida Sportsman Jan. 2010