Like peas and carrots or mac and cheese, red drum and fly fishing are perfect together. Redfish live in shallow water, making them an ideal target for sight fishing. Best of all, reds are ultra-aggressive, rarely passing up a meal.
Don’t be fooled, fly selection is crucial for the correct presentation. Each region has a favorite bait for specific conditions.
Instead of dumping your life savings into the fly box, choose a few go-to patterns and include a couple variations. Redfish may not be picky but matching the local prey and correctly presenting the fly are the best way to attract the fish’s attention.
Read on as top fly fishermen share some of their staple redfish flies.
Redfish are known for aggressive behavior and vicious eats, but they can be spooky. One of my favorite patterns is a shrimp I created using pseudo marabou. I call it the pseudo shrimp. The marabou holds water and keeps its shape when wet, unlike EP fibers, but also breathes like marabou.
In addition, it takes barring well and is very durable. Since the fly holds some water, it doesn’t require much weight, which is prefect when you find yourself 20 feet away from a belly crawling red. In Louisiana, I don’t lead a redfish. I land the fly softly and close enough for the fish to see it as soon as it hits the water.
Gulf County, Florida
Ten years ago, I was invited on a fly-fishing trip to Saint Joe Bay, FL. I began to research flies to tie. On casting gear, a gold spoon had always brought me luck, and the gold Kreelex is one of my favorite streamers.
I picked Gregg Bowdish’s Mylar Bagoon pattern on Flytyingforum.com. I tie the Mylar Bagoon with small dumbbells down to bead chain. Land the fly in front of the redfish, if the red doesn’t rush it on the fall, make quick scurrying strips. Be ready to set the hook, hard.
My favorite redfish fly is the rattle shrimp. I tie it with a mini glass rattle in gold mylar tubing. Use medium-black bead chain, natural bucktail and gold Krystal flash tied on a size 4 hook.
Most inshore fishermen use floating line, but I prefer fish on an intermediate sink tip. It helps to get the fly down without adding weight, giving the fly a subtle presentation. The rattle sounds like a clicking shrimp to draw in reds when the water is dirty. I’ve had reds turn and run it down from 10 feet away.
Grand Isle, Louisiana
Weight from the epoxy allows the Redfish Ration to cast well without the extra weight of lead-eyes or bulk of a spoon fly. Lighter, with a smaller profile, the Ration hits the water softly and sinks moderately fast.
The Redfish Ration has caught every flats fish, even sheepshead. I guess the fly looks like a little crab to reds. When stripped fast, the fly will rise up and scoot like a minnow. Tied in smaller sizes, it’s really similar to the MOE (Mother of Epoxy) fly. The Ration is unbelievably durable. I’ve fished the same fly on three trips to Grand Isle.
I call my favorite redfish fly The Marsh Rocket. I based it off the popular pompano rocket bonefish pattern. I shifted to natural colors and tie it sparsely to resemble the small shrimp redfish love.
The marsh rocket is bulletproof. The pattern shines when stalking redfish on shallow flats or casting into the depression behind an oyster bar.
My number one pattern for sight fishing shallow water redfish is the redfish Ritalin. My favorite color scheme combines tan, brown and copper with a little flash. The fly is fairly bulky and sinks slowly when weighed with bead-chain eyes.
I can cast the Ritalin far enough to land ahead of the fish. Another advantage: the Ritalin won’t sink into the muck when I pause to wait for the redfish to notice it.
Pretty fly for a white guy. | Photos: Chris Funk