Head down south to the Louisiana fishing playgrounds in and around New Orleans and the Biloxi Marsh area, an estuary network of 210,000 acres of coastal wetlands located on the eastern side of Louisiana which borders the Gulf of Mexico, you will find yourself in the mecca of redfish fly fishing. This area is chalked full of bayous and canals, dotted with innumerable lakes, bays, ponds, and lagoons, which provide a rich variety of habitat that offers some of the best coastal fishing anywhere on earth.
Redfish are a perfect species for the beginning saltwater angler to gain their saltwater chops. We say they are friendly species to newer salt fishermen because quite bluntly, they eat flies. While other species like tarpon or permit require more of a hardened seasoned skillset to fish for, redfish oftentimes are caught in situations where an angler will only need to make a cast to them under 30 feet and many times within 10 feet.
Still, if you find yourself out on a skiff targeting redfish in close proximity, you need to ready for them.
We’ve put together a list of fly fishing for redfish tips to help any angler, seasoned or green, best curtail their approach to landing one of these large fish.
- Not just for Fall fishing.
There is a misconception about when to go fish for redfish. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just in the Fall months or early winter when you can fish for them. Any angler can target redfish year-round but there are some other things to take into consideration. It’s the south and the area you’ll be fishing in is swampy. As expected, the months of June, July, and August are historically really hot months down there. September through May is typically game on for ideal fishing times due to seeing big Gulf bull redfish that come through and the water tends to be the cleanest and the clarity is best.
At that time of the year, the marsh system has filtered enough of the water so that it makes for most optimal sight fishing conditions but like all situations left to chance, that’s not to say a big storm couldn’t move through and with the wind, could muddy up the marsh. Springtime can also be great for catching them. Typically, the later into the calendar year you wait like into December, January, or February, the weather can be unpredictable.
But again, you can find redfish anytime as many fish will hold over in the area throughout the year. Ultimately the weather is the unpredictable factor. A classic testament is to forget about the forecast because there is always the chance to have those calm, bluebird low-wind days even during hectic weather months like March. It’s still worth it to make the trip because you just never know what will happen.
- More opportunities to connect.
The nice thing about redfish is that they can be a very forgiving fish for new anglers to go after. Saltwater fishing whether it’s tarpon, permit, redfish, are all very similar in their general approaches but the redfish difference is that you don’t need to be as gentle with them with your presentation. Your cast doesn’t need to be as accurate as casting to a dixie cup but more forgiving like casting to the accuracy of a hula hoop target.
They might miss the fly once but chances are they will come around again for another strike again and again. You can drop it on their nose and they won’t spook. More than likely if you put your fly to any side of a redfish and give it some action they are going to attack it and want to put that fly in their mouth.
- For redfish, it’s all about the fight.
What makes redfish so much fun to catch is that they are a fight similar to having a carp on the fly. They aren’t typically going to run you 100ft into your backing like bonefish nor are they going to do aerials like a juvenile tarpon but instead they are going to bulldog you and can be fun, heavy load to fight on a fly rod. Have no doubts that they will bend over your 9 or 10 weight rod and make for an exciting battle.
The thrill is all in the anticipation of the eat. There isn’t a fishing experience quite like looking for light copper bodies moving through the water, getting off a good cast to those shadows, and then seeing that big white mouth open up to take your fly. Like we mentioned earlier, redfishing can be great year-round. Residential redfish that are there all year round average 5-7 pounds then you will get your big bull redfish that will be pushing 25-35 lbs plus in size during the peak times of the year.
- Practice makes perfect.
Before you go on your trip, it’s a really good idea to practice your casting. If you aren’t used to casting 8, 9, or 10 weight fly rods, it will be incredibly helpful to know how to use your equipment when it counts. To spend your time, money, and resources to get down to fish for this exciting species it behooves any angler to maximize their chances of having success by practicing before they go.
Remember, the maximum distance you’ll likely be casting is 30-40 ft. It’s a good idea to practice the shorter cast like 15-20 ft range because a lot of the time, your casts need to be short and quick. You’d be surprised but many people aren’t used to making those shorter casts but there are a few workarounds to help you out.
There are ways to make loading your rod easier for those shorter casts like using lines that are more heavily tapered on the front end to help turn over your flies at shorter distances or you can over line your rod by using a 10 weight line on say a 9 weight rod which will greatly help. Fast action rods are also good to use especially if the wind picks up.
Using a reel with a really good drag will benefit you too. For your lines, there are many good redfish specific tapered fly lines by Rio or Scientific Anglers that are worth checking out.
- Gear investment isn’t necessary
The nice thing about our guides down in Louisiana is that they supply their clients with all the gear you would need which is super convenient. You don’t need to invest money into gear as entry into getting into redfish fishing.
Our guides will have usually three different setups in the boat for their clients. Likewise, all of the flies, leaders, and the terminal tackle that you would need is readily available. It is a great convenience to not have to invest over $1,000.00 for rod, reel, and fly gear set up. All of our Yellow Dog pre-trip printed materials will have full lists of equipment to help you prepare.
- Our guides roll with the punches.
All our Yellow Dog Fly Fishing guides down there are fly fishing orientated but if needed, they are equipped with conventional gear like spinning rods. You can plan for the best weather when you are down there, but if it is not conducive to catching fish on the fly, we tell our clients not to be opposed to picking up a spinning rod.
You made this journey to get into fish and sometimes changing your course and picking up a spinning rod can save your fishing day and when it comes down to it, it can be a lot of fun. Guides will have one or two spinning rod setups on their skiffs along with running jigs and other soft plastics lures.
So when your guide makes the suggestion to switch to a traditional spinning set up don’t be offended. We want to get you on fish and it’s important to have an open mind about it.
- Listen to your guide.
Applicable to any place you would fish with a guide before you even step into the boat, it’s a good idea to tell your guide how you received instruction best. Down there, the fishing is a team effort. Whether if it’s letting them know that you appreciate them using the clock system for where to make your casts like saying cast at 11 o’clock and 30 ft out or 9 o’clock at 20 ft out.
Good communication between you and your guide is key.
Let’s face it. Guides aren’t minded readers. Without good communication, you can waste half of your day because you two are not on the same page. Think of it more like a team effort and the sooner you two can figure out your communication to get onto a fish, the more success you will likely have. Setting that foundation early on, you will find that your day will be much more successful.
- Be Ready
When fishing for redfish, you need to be on your toes for making those quick shots at a moving fish. Yes, you will have those times where you see the fishtailing with their noses down as they dig for crabs and shrimp and they aren’t paying attention to things going on above them.
This situation allows you to sometimes get right on top of them and take your time casting to them or you’ll have a fish laid up and not moving. But more often than not, you will get one, maybe two, backcasts before casting your fly in front of that fish.
Typically you won’t be fishing water that is deeper than one to three feet deep. Having some variety in your fly colors will be helpful. Key is the movement of the tail. With most flies used for redfish, the design is kept simple. All you want is a long rabbit fur tail about 4-5in long because the fish like that pulsing behavior of the fly.
The body of the fly will have some sort of mass to it. And don’t forget about weed guards for your flies. They can always be cut off if not needed. With stripping for redfish, you want to get that fish’s attention by stripping to take that fly away from their reach then pause and then strip again. You are essentially teasing them and triggering their predatory instinct to strike at the passing fly. Many times they will follow that fly all the way up to the boat before they bite it.
Besides the action of your fly in the water, the color of your fly will be a big determinant for your success. Different weather conditions, be that a light day or a dark day translates to a light fly or a dark fly pattern used. Blacks and purples are popular down there and even orange colors. Topwater is a popular method to land a redfish and using crease flies and gurglers works well.
Lastly, don’t forget to strip set you fly.
Overall, you’ll find that the whole ecosystem down south is really cool experience to take in. Not only are there redfish available but you will also have opportunities to get into a black drum, sheepshead, gar, and jacks which are a lot of fun to catch too. Where else can you fish and see alligators everywhere? With the addition of the Cajun food and culture famously found throughout the New Orleans area, it can all make for a special cultural experience to accompany your saltwater fishing experience. It’s a trip not to be missed!