Muddy Water Redfish

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Owen Plair

Water clarity is the most important thing in saltwater fly fishing.

No matter what fish you are targeting, simply being able to see the fish, and the fish being able to see your fly is key. Targeting fish on the flats in muddy water is a challenge, but there are ways to get past the dark side my friends!

Many things can cause water to be muddy. Wind, rain, current, temperature, big schools of fish moving, and tides, especially when it comes to shallow water redfish flats. Targeting redfish, on mudflats with poor clarity, can still be productive. The fish are still feeding, they’re shallow enough for you to see them push, and it’s easy to get close enough for a simple cast.

Seeing the fish in muddy water is the first step to having a productive day. You’re not looking for the bodies of the fish but the push of water caused by fish moving or chasing bait. These pushes are shaped like a U and give away the direction the fish is moving, which will help you make the right presentation. You can also look for tails, backs, and other visual signs of redfish without having to see their whole bodies.

The most important thing, when targeting redfish in muddy water, is your fly selection. Always go with a dark colored fly. The dark silhouette is easier to see in the muddy water and will get the attention of a cruising redfish. When I say dark I mean REALLY dark. Throwing black, olive, and purple will always get the job done in the muddy stuff. Size matters too. Use a larger fly because it will move more water and give the fish more to zone in on.

Presentation and fly movement is by far the hardest thing, when targeting redfish in muddy water. These fish are out of their element, when clarity is bad, which puts them on edge and can cause them to be very spooky at times. When presenting the fly in muddy water you always want a quiet presentation. Land the fly softly, in front of the fish. A hard splash from a fly will always spook redfish in the muddy stuff.

You want to lead the fish by at least 2-3 feet and strip to close the gap between your fly and the fish, putting the fly, literally right on his nose. As you’re stripping the fly you want to “bump” it with short, fast strips. Let the fly move slowly, but with enough action to push water and rub the bottom, doing an up and down motion like a crab swimming. If you don’t get a take right away, keep working at it. It may take a few shots before the fish gets an eye on your fly. Always keep the fly moving no matter what and improvise, varying your retrieve by changing your strip. They sometimes like a fast moving fly when baitfish or shrimp are in the water.

When approaching redfish out of a skiff or kayak, you always want to move slowly on the flat. Redfish always move slowly in muddy water conditions so taking your time while working the flat is key. You don’t want to run into the fish and spook them before you see them push or tail.

One good thing about muddy conditions is that the fish can’t see you as well either. This allows you to get closer than usual and not worry as much about them seeing your fly line. You always have to remember that redfish in muddy water are on edge, so being quiet on the approach is crucial. Try not to step around in the the boat. Don’t slam the cooler shut after grabbing a beer, and most of all try to be as quiet as you can when poling. Complete stealth mode is key when approaching these fish in muddy water.

Muddy water is not the end of the world, where redfish are concerned. In fact, it can be your friend. You just have to go slowly and adjust your tactics. There are still plenty of redfish eager to eat your fly.

Owen Plair
Gink & Gasoline
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6 thoughts on “Muddy Water Redfish

  1. Perfect timing. As I read this I hear the Laguna Madre winds whistle outside and know that the flats are going to be a bit churned today. Time to dig into the box and go big and dark.Thanks Owen.

  2. I was wondering about this. I fished for Reds this past winter in skinny water. Their dorsal fins out of the water. Guide says “Land on their nose” I did about 50% of the time,(40 fish) spooked fish! The only one I caught was when I cast, wind caught it, and it landed 5 ft from the red, he swam over and “off to the races, and drag zinging away. Was guide telling me wrong or was I just lucky?

    • In my experience on the nose works when they are tailing but if the dorsal fin is out and they are cruising you want to lead them. just my 2c.

  3. Pingback: Catching Muddy Water Redfish | MidCurrent

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