Tailing Redfish

Tailing Redfish – Fall Fly Fishing With Guide Matt Crowe

It is a fall day and the summer heat has fallen to cooler, more bearable temperatures and the Redfish are chewing. This is one of the best times of the year to stalk tailing Redfish on the flats, combining hunting and fishing into one sport. Many think the Redfish are off the flats and moving into winter feeding patterns, however they are still feeding heavily on anything they can to beef up before winter. Come winter, the baitfish become scarce and the crabs head to the deep.

There are still plenty of food sources like fiddler crabs, blue crabs, shrimp, and finger mullet on the flats in the fall available for them to eat. If you want to get out on the flats in the fall to fly fish for these hardy fish, there are a few things you must consider. What kind of gear you need, what to look for, and finally, how to deliver the perfect cast and fly pattern to get them to eat!

Tailing Redfish In The Fall: Bring The Right Gear

There are a lot of opinions on the gear you should use when you seek tailing Redfish on the flats, but the truth is, it’s just not that complicated.

You do not need the latest and greatest or the top of the line equipment to target these fish with a fly rod.

Technology has come so far, to the point where even the less expensive, entry-level rods and reels are great at what they do. I repeat you do not need to spend a fortune to get the necessary tools for the job. I recommend an 8 or 9 weight fly rod with an accompanying reel. I personally prefer Temple Fork Outfitters as they make great rods and reels at all different price levels.

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As I said, I personally prefer Temple Fork Outfitters, but Orvis is another great brand for fly fishing gear!

In terms of the business end of the rod and reel, I recommend a tapered leader that’s roughly 10 foot long. Again, this is not a must, anywhere from 8 to 10 foot of tapered leader will do. Your best bet is to have some fly patterns in a box that are appealing to you, things like crab flies, shrimp flies, and even some baitfish flies. The most important thing about fly selection is to pick one you are confident with, this will come with time as you discover your favorite colors and materials.

Don’t Break The Bank

Now, this next piece of “gear” is optional in my opinion, but a boat is certainly a nice thing to have and provides you with a lot of opportunities. That being said, if you are willing to look hard enough, you can find flats accessible by land and sometimes these can be terrific flats. Now, if you do have a boat, or you are looking to get one, you do not need one of the flats boats that are tens of thousands of dollars. They may be nice, but a jon boat or kayak will do just fine.

You can either pole along the flats or tie on some old tennis shoes and walk. I have spent countless fishing trips on the flats in an old pair of shoes tied on real tight and still had success.

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The key is, you must be stealthy in every way, whether you are walking or polling.

My first pole for my little skiff was cut out of my grandpa’s backyard. It was a long, strong and flexible piece of bamboo that held up fine for a while until I was ready to invest in the sport. The point is, you do not need to break the bank to fly fish for tailing Redfish.

What To Look For When Targeting Tailing Redfish

It is incredibly important to understand what you are looking for prior to heading out onto the flats. When you are looking for a flat, you should keep an eye out for small feeder creeks or low spots where fish may be able to swim up onto the flat. These are considered to be access points. Look for creeks with a lot of marshland, you want to find a spot with little grass. The grass that is spread relatively thin and is not too tall allows you to see the fish and travel without much restriction.

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I prefer a flat that is a mixture of sand and mud so that I can walk on it quietly, without sinking to my thighs in mud.

That is another reason to move slowly and take your time, so you can avoid getting stuck or having to make a lot of noise moving as that may spook the fish. If you don’t have time to go scout new flats, hop on the ANGLR app and search for some, this is a great way to find new spots. Use technology to your advantage because now we can view an entire area, mark waypoints and all our fishing spots from a device in our hands… it’s just up to us to find the right spots.

Now that you have geared up properly and found your spot, you must know what you are looking for on the flat. Redfish make distinct movements in the water that you will learn over time. Small disturbances are something you will need to train your eyes to ignore. You will either see a big bronze tail sticking out of the water or a U-shaped wake cruising the flats. The V-shaped wakes are small baitfish that need to be ignored. It is important to keep in mind, once you have spotted the fish, study which direction it is going position yourself to cast quietly. Be careful when getting into position because some fish are spooked easily.

Making The Perfect Cast For Tailing Redfish

When you finally get in the right spot, you are going to have to make a cast which can be quite daunting in the moment. You need to make the cast out in front of the fish by several feet and gently lay the fly where you think the fish is headed.

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I believe it is best to cast in front of and beyond the fish so that you can bring the fly back through its path.

I normally move the fly very slowly and often let it sit. When I think the fish may see it, I will twitch it a little to give it some life. This normally provides a bite from the fish, but if it doesn’t, I would change flies and try either a different pattern or color and give it another go. It is important to note that sometimes the fish just won’t eat. Be sure to keep your eyes out for more as typically when you see one, there will be more nearby.

Now you know what gear you need, what to look for, and how to get in on the action. Use the tools you have to your advantage, go to your local fly shop and talk with other fishermen to learn even more about the Redfish in your area. The more time you spend on the water, the more you will learn and in turn, the more fish you will catch.

I recommend taking note of where you went and what the conditions were as well. Keep track of what flies you used so that you can reference that when planning other fishing trips to help maximize your level of success. Lastly, if you have any questions for me or if I wasn’t clear on something please feel free to reach out.

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This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert

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Matt Crowe


I have grown up in Bluffton, SC near Hilton Head Island fishing my entire life and spending my days navigating the backwaters in search of new fishing spots. I currently work as a Captain for May River Excursions in Bluffton when I'm not in school at Clemson University.

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