Spotting Tailing Redfish



charleston fly fishing

Here in Charleston, SC the almighty redfish reigns as king of the flats in our salt marshes. With large tides that sometime get as big as seven feet, we are presented with several options of how we can approach them with the fly. From low water exposed pluff mud flats to flooded spartina grass flats, we choose our approach based on time and size of tide, season, and recent trends. Since our tides are so big and span six hours, we are presented with periods of time in which these flats are fishable based on water depth.

flood tides

Spring to Fall

As these large tides fill in our spartina grass flats so do the redfish. Often referred to as a "flood tide", these high tides are very unique and one of the most popular tides to the fly fisherman. Hunting for redfish feeding on fiddler crabs with their tails waving in the air is the approach to these tides. They typically happen on new and full moons with the exception of fall months where they occur more frequently due to the earths distance to the moon.

Two hours before and after high tide is when we fish, and our goal is to target a single fish tailing, then we feed that fish the fly. Distance is not as important as accuracy during these tides, because the fish will be feeding head down in the mud on crabs allowing the angler to get in close range. Crabby patterns are the preferred but other shrimpy and critter patterns work as well. Weighted patterns with strong weed guards are a must to allow for the fly get through grass and to the bottom.

Charleston Refish

mud flats

All Year but best during late fall-winter months
Hunting for reds on the mud flats requires a little more distance typically. When the fish are not in schools, but spread out, then you need both accuracy and distance. When in schools and especially a winter school, you really just need to get the fly in front of the mass without spooking them. They can be sensitive at times due to harassment from porpoises especially during these months. These schools can range from twenty to hundreds of fish. We look for anything from wakes to them tailing and flashing. During the winter, coastal South Carolina's water will clear up as well allowing us to sight fish in clear water


All Year

Despite the season's "normal" approach, sometimes the fish are happy during a different than normal stage of the tide. Sometimes these trends can be a guarantee catch! For example finding fish coming out of the grass at a high falling tide, happy and hungry and not even aware that a skiff is thirty feet away, or a giant school of tailing flashing fish attacking anything thrown at it, even topwater flies in the middle of the summer! Sight fishing for reds on the beach or in the surf would fall in this category as well. Quite often these trends can be a great way to catch multiple fish!

The Fish We chase with a Fly Rod