Winter means its time for a lot of fly anglers to focus on fishing for redfish in very shallow, clear water. With the water getting into low 60s and 50s after cold fronts these fish will seek out the warmest water during the day. Shallow dark bottom warms the fastest and the redfish will go much shallower than normal to stay warm. The water gets clearer due to the lack of rain and cooler temps which inhibits the growth of algae and other organisms that tend to cloud up the water in the warmer months. There is also less sea grass in the winter which leaves large areas of bare sand and mud where you can pick out the shapes of these fish much easier. Redfish can become quite spooky in these conditions and require a stealthy approach and presentation. If you like sight fishing in shallow clear water it doesn’t get much better. Here are just a couple things that can help you be successful when targeting these fish.
In the winter a redfishs diet is primarily shrimp and crustaceans. I primarily use shrimp and crab patterns in sz 4 and 6 in Tan, Black and my absolute favorite Olive. Much of our winter time fishing happens over sand or mud bottom. In my experience I almost always want my fly to be on the bottom for these fish. Most of my flies have good size lead eyes to get them to the bottom quickly and keep them there. When fish are being tough and spooking from the noise of the fly entering the water I will switch to an intermediate clear tip line and much lighter fly with no weight or bead chain eyes. A lot of people use sinking tip lines for blind casting in water that is several feet deep however they can be extremely useful for sight fishing in water that is sometimes less than a foot deep. The added stealth of a clear tip helps as well.
Fly placement is the most crucial aspect for success. Quick efficient 40-70 foot casts with a good double haul are essential. 7 and 8 wt rods with 9-12 foot leaders are the norm. When your fishing in 1-2 ft of crystal clear water or less getting the fly in the water without the fish becoming aware is the toughest thing to do. Once you spot your fish I find that if you get your fly in the proper position without spooking them they are usually very willing to eat. On a typical cast I like to lead cruising fish by 3 to 10 feet depending on the speed of the fish.I also like to throw a couple feet past the fishes anticipated travel line. By throwing a little long you can slide your fly into position. If your short you don’t have the ability to adjust where your fly is. Once the fish is within a couple feet slow small strips or even sliding the fly on the bottom seems to work best. If conditions are windy and tough throwing much closer to the fish is necessary as they are less wary.
These are just a couple things that can improve your chance of success when targeting redfish during the colder winter months. These same methods can be extremely effective for bonefish as well.
Captain Greg Peterson is a full time fly fishing guide working in the Tampa Bay, FL area where he has fished extensively for the past 10 years. All of his signature fly patterns are available through Rainy's Flies.