September 01, 2021
Redfish became the darlings of the flats for Florida sight fishermen back in the '80s. Over the years, these fish have become a lot more sophisticated. In some areas, as well, they're fewer in number, due to loss of habitat such as seagrass. But they still gotta eat. You just gotta feed them a little more carefully.
Over the years I've witnessed the growing tendency for redfish to school in large numbers where they see the most pressure. Safety in numbers, perhaps? Generally, “flock shooting” is counter-productive. Randomly pelting those fish with a fly, or allowing a portion of your fly line to land over their backs, may spook the whole lot. Just as you would when dove or duck hunting, pick a target, one fish, and make it one at the very edge of the school. Try to position your skiff (by poling or using an electric on slow speed) so that you are in the path of the fish, for an ideal oncoming shot.
FISHING THE LONER
Fishing the solitary redfish is the most rewarding. Tailing singles are feeding, period. A cruising fish might present more challenge actually, if it is moving along quickly, forcing you to determine how much to lead it on the cast.
The general rule when presenting to a tailer is to get your lure within a foot or so of the fish while the tail is up. Let the orientation of the tail tell you which way the fish will likely face when it “comes up for air.” There is less chance of spooking the fish with the sound of the fly landing while it is busy grubbing.
If a tailing fish is so engrossed in its grubbing that it is not detecting your fly, consider switching to a surface fly—a Gurgler or Dahlberg Diver are two of my favorites.
The cruising single fish presents a special challenge because its eyes are up to detect threats. Captain Brian Esposito, an Everglades guide who also fishes big redfish in Louisiana waters in winter, gave me some great advice for this scenario on my last trip with him. In his own words, I was leading the big, single reds “like a Florida fly fisherman.” In that muddy water, we would spot the fish less than 40 feet away, and they were often heading toward the bow. I would lay my fly 5 to 6 feet out front, so as not to spook the fish. A few times, the fish saw the skiff before the fly. Or, it would change direction, or stop and sink. I would have to pickup and recast, which worked a couple times, but also resulted in spooked fish. Brian directed me to drill the big fish on the nose, right on the dinner plate, and 4 times of 5, the fish ate immediately.
LOWER YOUR PROFILE
There are shorelines on the Indian River Lagoon between Jensen Beach and Vero Beach that I fish where poling is not the best approach if the water is super-clear and the sun is shining. A few years ago, quite a few redfish were around in the dead of winter, but I could not get close to them before they spooked unless I came off the platform to lower my profile. Poling from the bow helped (lowered my profile), as did bumping along with my bow electric to cover ground. Or I held position with my Power Pole where I spotted reds to give a spot a thorough look. I let the fish come to me. Though I love to pole, the reds were easier to catch once I fished in this manner. FS
Florida Sportsman Magazine August 2019