Many of our guests are making their first fly fishing trip to the flats. Others are veterans of flats fishing along the Texas coast, while others are experienced fly fishermen new to fishing saltwater flats. This planner is intended to help you prepare for your trip by acquainting you with the fishing you will experience the skills you need, and the equipment you will use.
Getting Ready for Your Trip
Good casting is the most essential of all the skills necessary to fly fish saltwater. You will need to be able to cast quickly and accurately out to sixty feet.
To increase your chances of success, you must be able to quickly present the fly to the fish. A redfish or trout will eat a properly presented fly most of the time; but a poorly presented fly will either spook the fish or will be refused almost every single time. Your best chance to hook up is to make a quick, accurate cast the first time.
Practicing Before Your Trip
Practice (in the wind) before your trip and your enjoyment will be increased. During practice sessions work on accuracy. Sacrifice some distance for accuracy. Most of the fish caught on fly down here are hooked within 50 feet of the boat.
Also, practice casting with as few false casts as possible. Contrary to popular belief, repeated false casts do not increase the distance of your casts. Because of the wind along the coast you will find that it is, in fact, a detriment to good fly casting. With proper technique, 3 or 4 false casts are all you need to make. If you can place your fly in a garbage can lid at 50 feet, eight out of ten times, you can be successful on the Texas flats.
Redfish Lodge guides are good instructors and they enjoy teaching. They will happily work with you to improve your skills while you are on the water. However, instruction takes away from your fishing time. There are several good instructional videos available from your local fly shop which will be very helpful Also, a couple of lessons from a good instructor before your trip will be well worth the money and will go a long way towards shortening the learning curve. And by all means, learn the "double haul". This technique is a requirement for making accurate casts in the wind commonly experienced on the flats.
On the Water
What to Expect
You and your guide will start hunting for fish at sunrise. Your guide is on the water almost every day and will do his best to put you on fish all day. Of course, the fish you are looking for occupy a small percentage of a vast bay system. Every spot will not be loaded with fish; but be patient and alert, so that you can take advantage of every opportunity. Your guide will be working hard all day to find fish.
Probably the biggest surprise that anglers get when fishing the flats is how fast everything happens. The boat is moving, the fish is moving, the wind is blowing – in the few seconds from when the guide sees the fish to the time he gives you distance and direction, the fish’s position may change by six or eight feet relative to the boat. The window of opportunity is open only for a short period of time. This is where practice will pay off.
Casting to Fish
When your guide spots a fish, he will point out the fish using the clock and distance method. Visualize the boat as a clock face with 12 o’clock straight off the bow, 6 o’clock dead astern, 9 o’clock directly to port and 3 o’clock directly to starboard. Thereby, a fish 60 feet and just to the left of the bow of the boat would be called out as "11 o’clock, 60 feet". This gives you a direction and distance towards which to cast.
Here is where the quick, accurate casting is needed. The strike zone for redfish and speckled trout is seldom larger than 24 to 36 inches. You must be on target to catch that fish. Here is the sequence of presenting the fly to a fish:
- Your guide points out the fish.
- From the ready position, roll cast to get the fly airborne
- One full false cast to shoot a little line and increase the line speed
- The go for target
That’s all –and it happens quickly!
Redfish are not speed burners like bonefish nor are they jumpers like tarpon, but they are tenacious. Once they feel the hook they will make a run of anywhere from 50 to 120 feet. During this initial run hold your rod tip high to reduce the amount of grass your line picks up and let the reel’s drag do the work. At the end of their run, redfish will hunker down and fight it out. Because of their body shape, large head, heavily hewn body and large tail, it is difficult to do anything with them early in the fight. Try to work the fish back towards the boat by pumping the rod tip up and reeling down to the fish. Do not get impatient, you won’t be able to pressure the fish until it is within 35 to 50 feet of you.
When the fish is within 50 feet of the boat it is time to take the fight to him. The quickest way to defeat a fish is to move its head. Vary your angle of attack to disorient him and fatigue him. Keep in mind that you have the least amount of leverage while lifting vertically with your fly rod and pulling directly opposite of the fish puts great stress on then weak link of the connection to the fish, either the leader or the hook. When the fish is confronted with the boat it will make a sudden lunge; let him go – there is a lot of tension on the leader at this point and the fish can break off. Fight him back to the boat as before. When the fish is ready, your guide will boat it.
Fly fishing on the coast centers around redfish, but speckled trout and black drum also provide challenges for the fly fishing guests. Each fish exhibits different types of behavior.
Out on the water you and your guide will be looking for redfish. You will encounter redfish in one of four behaviors.
Tailing – A redfish tails in shallow water as it tips its’ head down to root and feed along the bottom. This is the classic redfish behavior when a pod or school is actively feeding. The fish’s attention is focused downward and a fly must be presented close to the fish or it will go unnoticed. Also, you’ll need to let the fly sink a little to get it in front of the fish. Only a few fish in the school may be tailing so look closely for other fish
Mudding – This is what you see when redfish tail in slightly deeper water. Their tails do not break the surface but the mud cloud raised by their grubbing is visible. From a distance, you may notice "nervous water" before you can see muddy water. Again, the presentation is the same as for tailing fish.
Cruising – A cruising fish may not be actively feeding but will often strike a well placed fly. If his pectoral fins are "lit up" he will definitely eat a fly. When a cruising fish is sighted your guide will give clock and distance as well as tell you what the fish is doing. As an example, "11 o’clock, 50 feet, swimming right to left" means a fish on the port side of the bow, 50 feet away, swimming towards the back of the boat. Your cast should be in front of, not beyond, the fish so that you can strip the fly away from the fish. Believe it or not, a little size 2 fly will scare a 30 inch redfish if it is stripped towards instead of away from the fish.
Pink Fish – When redfish become lethargic and disinterested in feeding the normally vibrant colors of their fins and tails disappear and they take on a pinkish color. They are so lethargic they will often allow the boat to drift right up to them before fleeing. Occasionally, multiple presentations will draw the fish’s attention, excite it and a strike may occur on the fourth or fifth cast.
Large sow trout, big females, 25 inches or longer, are usually found on the flats in early spring or late fall. When sight casting for them, they are most often found either laying up or cruising.
Laying Up – When the weather is cool, trout come up on the flats and "lay up" in sand holes where the sun can warm them. These fish usually appear lethargic and will seldom chase after a fly; but they will eat a fly that is cast close to them. A slow retrieve made with short strips is the ticket.
Cruising – Sometimes, trout are spotted cruising shorelines. These fish are active and can be very aggressive. Start the retrieve slowly and then speed it up.
Trout are head shakers when hooked. Expect them to come to the surface and shake their head trying to throw the hook. They are faster than redfish, so be ready to pick up slack line if the fish turns toward the boat. Near the boat, big trout almost always make a sudden lightening quick run. Be ready to give line so that the tippet does not break or the hook does not pull free.
Black drum are a cousin to the redfish and exhibit similar behavior. They will be seen tailing and cruising the shallows. Drum flies are small – number 4 or 6 Crazy Charlies are tops. The fly must be cast right on top of their noses, allowed to sink, and then just barely twitched. Black drum will not chase a fly more than a few inches!
Redfish Lodge is happy to provide you with equipment should you wish. We use and recommend G. Loomis rods and Abel fly reels. If you are bringing your own equipment, consider the following:
To cover the widest range of conditions we recommend a nine foot, 8 or 9 weight, medium to fast action saltwater fly rod. The rod guides and reel seat of a freshwater rod will not stand up to the corrosiveness of saltwater.
Reels and Lines
Again, saltwater equipment only. Freshwater reels will not stand up to the saltwater, nor will the drags be adequate in fighting redfish, black drum or large speckled trout.
Choose a reel capable of holding 250 yards of 20# Dacron backing and a floating fly line matched to your rod size. A direct drive reel with a smooth, reliable drag will handle all of the fish you will encounter on the Texas flats.
Choose a weight forward floating fly line in the appropriate size. We do not recommend the new ‘front heavy’ lines designed for casting in high winds. They hit the water like a brick and spook too many fish. Conversely, the’ bonefish tapers’ with extra long front tapers are difficult to cast a short distance. Scientific Anglers "XPS" fly lines seem to be the best compromise.
Leaders should be in lengths of 9 to 12 feet of hard monofilament or fluorcarbon with tippet sizes from 12 to 20 pounds. Braided butt sections tend to pick up grass and are not recommended.
Our tackle shop stocks a selection of flies specifically chosen for use on the Texas flats. If you wish to bring or tie your own, your fly box should include the following:
|Seaducer||Size 2, 2/0||Red/Yellow, Red/White|
|Lefty’s Deceiver||Size 2, 2/0||White, Red/Yellow, Black|
|Clouser Minnow||Size 2||White, Red|
|Scates Shrimp||Size 2||White, Red|
|Pencil Poppers||Size small||Copper, Red/White|
|Hot Butt Bendbacks||Size 2||White Hot Butt, Red Hot Butt|
|Crazy Charlie||Size 4, 6||Brown, White, Pink|