Time For Tails

We made it through the winter storms and almost through the spring winds, our time is here. High tide tailing Redfish are the main reason fly fishers have a hard time keeping jobs or relationships. But alas, this is our passion, and passions we should pursue. Here’s a Lowcountry primer for the season’s start.

Tides are the most important thing for saltwater anglers

Tides are the most important thing for saltwater anglers.  As the tide rises, it floods areas of grass where reds love to hunt crabs. Different flats can flood at different stages or heights of the tide, but those tides that hit 6’ are about perfect.

Websites such as NOAA will give the actual vs. predicted tides for the day which can be very helpful. If a tide is trending high due to wind direction, traditional tide charts will not be of much help (the height of a tide can be off by a foot or more).

Sure you can catch fish during any tide, but at these peak high tides, reds will be super shallow rooting for crabs. When they nose down in this skinny water, their tails pop up. Sounds easy, right?

Stealth is key here and this is where a fly rod can be more productive than spinning gear. The fish are spooky and sensitive to anything overhead in these environments.

With a fly, the offering can be placed a foot or two in a fishes path with little chance of them spooking

A fly lands much softer than a lure or bait. If you cast a lure, you must cast well past and reel it into the fishes path, and by that time they have generally switched directions. With a fly, the offering can be placed a foot or two in a fishes path with little chance of them spooking.

Fishing can be done via shallow draft skiffs, canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, or on foot so it is accessible to almost everyone. If you plan to fish on foot, stay in the shorter grass as this is a hard bottom. Tall grass = knee deep in pluff mud.

Flies for the flats can be a very personal thing but one thing rings true of all grass flies, Weedguards. Without a sturdy weedguard you’ll be hung in the grass almost constantly.  Some people throw floating flies during high tides, but the majority use crabs.

I prefer a slightly heavier fly (medium dumbbells) for the grass and use materials that “breathe’ such as rabbit, or marabou feathers. The biggest mistake many people make while fishing crab flies is giving them too much imparted action.

Crabs don’t jump, they don’t hop, and they don’t dart, so keep the movement to a minimum if any.  By using breathable materials the fly will still be giving off the image of movement without it acting unnatural. And remember, never move a fly towards a fish (Gazelle’s don’t run towards Lions).

Charleston is loaded with high tide grass flats, many of which get little to no pressure. Keep an eye on the tides and get out soon to find a new addiction if your not already hooked!


Scotty Davis – Lowcountry Fly Shop / Lowcountryflyshop.com

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