Flood Tide Reds Part 2, Flies and Leaders

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Photo by Owen Plair

Photo by Owen Plair

By Owen Plair

“What kind of flies and leaders do you use for these flood tide redfish?”

“Doesn’t the grass foul your fly constantly?” “Don’t the oyster shells cut your leader?” “How do you even fish a fly in that thick grass?” I get questions like these all the time. Let me put your minds at ease. None of these things are a problem as long as you’re using the right stuff.

Fly selection on the flood tide is surprisingly unimportant. When these fish are tailing on the short spartina grass flats, they constantly have their heads down in the mud looking for fiddler crabs. When redfish get into this feeding zone it seems that almost any pattern you slide in front of their nose will do the trick, as long at it’s moving in the right way.

Of course crab patterns are key during the flood tides but other baitfish patterns, gurglers, or even shrimp patterns will work just fine. Some popular commercial patterns that work really well on the flood tides are the Kung Fu Crab, Fools Gold, Scotty D’s Drum Beater, Craft Shrimp, Redfish Toad, Dupre Spoons, EP Crab, Merkin, Electric Chicken, and pretty much any other baitfish/crab pattern with a GOOD weed guard!

Its all about the presentation and finding a fish that is in feeding mode, sucking crabs off the bottom like a vacuum cleaner. During these flood tides you are presenting the fly in 5-8 inches of water and short spartina grass. You’re bumping the fly slowly along the bottom to make it look like a fiddler crab, using short strips on the retrieve. Usually leading the fish by 2-3ft depending on how the fish is acting at the moment.

For example if he’s tailing really hard and focused on feeding, constantly changing directions, then you want to put it right on his nose. But if the fish is tailing slowly in a fairly straight line, you want to lead him by a few feet. You also want to cast past the fish so you have some leader to play with as you close the gap between the fish and the fly.

Redfish don’t have the vision a trout does. You’re not matching a mayfly hatch. As long as the fly moves in a way similar to a crab, they will crush it without hesitation. During the flood tide, they are in such an aggressive feeding mode. I’ve seen numerous times when an angler’s fly lands in front of the fish and he eats it before the angler even has time to strip!

One very important element in a good flood tide fly pattern is the weed guard. You absolutely positively want the best weed guard possible on a fly when fishing tails on the flood. Without a good weed guard you will spend your whole day getting hung on grass. Not only when stripping the fly in front of fish but also when picking it up to re-cast.

One of the most frustrating experiences when fishing a flood tide is to make the perfect cast, make two short strips, and BAM! Snagged on the grass. Watching the spooked fish bolt off the flat like a stray dog because your weed guard wasn’t doing its job. When tying flies I personally like to used 50-60lb fluoro to make sure the weed guard is stiff enough to hold up against the thick spartina. My good friend and master fly tier John Holdbrook also got me into using light titanium weed guards that hold up really great in the grass just like the dupre spoon fly.

Check out Owen’s top 10 redfish flies (HERE)

Now that flies are taken care of, what kind of leader setup should you use?

My favorite leader for flood tide redfish would be a 7-9 ft tapered fluorocarbon leader. The butt section being around 20lb going down to 16 or even 12lb at the tip. Like I said before these are not picky fish during the flood tides so a heavier leader does not spook fish and will also keep you from breaking them off especially if they run back into the thicker grass. You don’t have to use fluorocarbon, but I like it better in the grass simply because it’s more abrasion-resistant than mono.

I have even fished straight 30 lb before in the grass and it works just fine, but you want to be able to roll the fly over properly which is another reason I like the tapered leaders. You can adjust the length of the leader depending on conditions. For example if it’s windy I like a shorter leader around 7ft to cast a little easier but if clear, calm and sunny I like a 9ft leader so I have a little more room the play with. Pulling on these fish in the spartina can be tough on your leader so I’d stay away from anything lighter than 12lb.

Nothing too technical here guys but all good tips for chasing tailing redfish on the short spartina grass flats here in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

Owen Plair
Gink & Gasoline
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4 thoughts on “Flood Tide Reds Part 2, Flies and Leaders

  1. Simple, informative and concise article on the subject. As much as I would like to I’ve never had the opportunity to flyfish for Redfish, but this article goes in my Redfish folder in Google Chrome bookmarks in preparation for a re-read prior to having a go! Well written.

  2. Very good general advice, this gives some great points on where to begin and then you can fine tune from here.

    If you fish a leader shorter than 10 to 12 feet and heavier than 2X in the Mosquito Lagoon, you will see lots of fish, but they’ll all be going the other direction!

    I usually use 40 pound test Maxima Ultragreen for my two pronged weed guards, most of the Spartina Grass down here is 6 to 10 inches in length and can be a pain. I have seen many times where a Red will take a crab or shrimp out of the grass along with a mouthful of grass, it does not seem to bother them at all. After witnessing this many times, I got less concerned with a perfectly clean fly, I still want it as clean as possible, but I have found a few strands of grass on it will not kill the presentation.

  3. Fantastic goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to and
    you are just extremely fantastic. I really like what you’ve
    acquired here, certainly like what you’re saying and the way in which you say it.
    You make it entertaining and you still care for to keep it smart.
    I cant wait to read much more from you. This is really a wonderful website.

  4. Nice job, Owen. Thanks.

    I have a couple unweighted redfish flies for cruising reds in Florida. I found that flies that suspended in the water column did well for cruisers and for schools of redfish on the move. I guess the fish picked off prey fleeing the group. Of course they were also good for sea trout.

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