The first piece of wisdom I try to impart on anyone who picks up fishing rods with the intention of catching any saltwater flats species is that you are no longer a fisherman – You are a hunter. First you must locate your quarry, which is done with your eyes and ears. The most common mistake I see in flats fly fishing is blind casting in earnest. With every cast, your chances of actually hooking a fish decrease dramatically. Look for the meandering, lazy swirls that feeding redfish make. The red’s wide girth pushes a lot of water when he moves as opposed to the smaller swirls of a mullet. If you are in clear water or the fish are tailing, spotting and identifying a redfish won’t be much of an issue. Whatever the case, don’t cast until you are absolutely sure there is a fish to cast to.
Once you have located a redfish, you have to take into account your position relative to the fish. Which way is he pointing? Are you close enough? Is the wind a factor? Are there any weeds on the surface that could foul your fly? You should also take a second look at the water between you and the fish. If you line another fish when you make your cast, you will probably be shocked at how many fish there are around you as a chain reaction of spooked redfish is set off. As far as the wind is concerned, it really isn’t the major issue that most people new to fly fishing make it out to be. An experienced fly casting instructor should be able to teach you how to use the wind to your advantage even when faced into a headwind and obviously, someone who can cast accurately in windy conditions will have a much higher success rate than someone who cannot. Once you feel you have positioned yourself so that you can make the best fly presentation, it is finally time to make a cast.
Presenting the fly to the fish correctly is crucial to fishing on the flats and can get your heart pumping with anticipation. It is the moment when everything must come together perfectly and, if it does, you will be rewarded with a redfish bending your fishing rod. How that fly comes into the view of the fish is critical and you must take into account the movements of the redfish before you aim your cast. If the fish is stationary, accuracy and a soft presentation will get you in the game. Try to drop the fly about a metre beyond the fishes nose. As you strip the fly it will come into the fishes view and you will hopefully get a response. If he ignores it, make the same cast, but 6 inches closer to his nose. If the water is very dirty and you are not able to see the actual fish, continue to make casts slightly closer until you get a reaction. If I can see the fish, I will generally stop at this point and watch him for a while. I want to make sure he is relaxed and happy before I cast again.
The pinnacle of all redfish fishing excitement is presenting a fly to a tailing fish. The first time a big copper and blue tail pops up in front of you, no matter what your ability, your casting will probably be somewhat reminiscent of that first day you picked up a fly fishing rod. My advice here is to not panic. Tailing redfish will more often than not continue to tail for quite some time, so slow down, be delicate and methodical. Keep in mind, that if the red is rooting around the bottom, he will probably not be able to see your fly until he stops tailing. When the fishes tail goes down, make one cast so that you can retrieve your fly as close to his nose as possible. If there is no take, wait for his tail to go back up to get a fix on his location. Over sparse weed or mud, I will sometimes cast to a fish while his tail is in the air. This is a tricky situation and you must choose a fly that lands softly yet sinks quickly if you want a hook up.
The ability to assess the situation, stay calm, and make an accurate and delicate presentation is what hunting with fly fishing rods is all about. The strategies outlined above are not only for redfish, but also apply when fishing for a variety of species. If you are keen to experience fishing for yourself, the Emtec website has further information on buying fishing rods and fishing tackle cheaply. Never spend too much on your first setup, get to grips with some cheaper rods first then you can step up your equipment once your experience grows.