In many ways, redfish are the quintessential saltwater game fish. They are found throughout the south and southeast parts of the country, will readily eat flies, and pull hard. Anglers can target them in many ways, including sight fishing, blind casting large streamers, or fishing top water flies. It’s an experience worthy of all fly anglers, offering technical but rewarding opportunities. Here’s what you need to know before getting out on the water. 

Photo: Bay Flats Lodge

Tips & Tactics:

Most fly anglers are familiar with a trout rising to a dry fly. The technical skill and visual aspect have drawn anglers to flyfishing for generations. The saltwater equivalent to this is a tailing redfish. When the tide is right, reds will flood onto flats, looking for food and showing themselves by waving their tails in the air. Stalking and casting to these tailers can draw a strike and an ensuing shallow-water battle.

There are two main ways to target these tailing fish: by boat and on foot. Boat anglers can cover more water, ultimately finding more fish. To access the flats by boat, shallow water skiffs are a requirement. Most fly anglers prefer a 16 to 18 foot flats boat with a poling platform. A two-man crew consisting of one angler and one poler work in tandem to get quality shots at fish. With the help of a long push pole, the poler positions the boat and angler within range of a tailing fish. The angler’s job is to make the cast. The first step is to identify which direction the fish is facing. When redfish are tailing, cast opposite to the exposed tail, in deep and dark water, anglers likely won’t be able to see tails. The best solution is to look for mud clouds. Redfish make these mud clouds as they root around the bottom, looking for an easy meal. When it’s time to cast, lead the fish by several feet. A good weight-forward fly line is a must, like the Airflo Superflo Ridge 2.0 Gulf Redfish. It has plenty of power to turn over large flies while landing flies accurately and delicately to avoid spooking fish. Short ticks of the fly line mimic shrimp and other crustaceans and are an excellent bet to draw a strike.

Photo: Bay Flats Lodge

For those without access to a fancy flats boat, wade fishing offers plenty of opportunities at tailing redfish. The first step is to identify flats with wading access. Online mapping tools and satellite imagery are the best place to start. Once you find a flat, a pair of wet wading boots and a rod are all you need. Walk the flat until you locate a tailing fish. Take slow steps toward the target fish until you are in range and be sure to lead the fish properly for the best shot. While wading anglers may not cover as much water as boat anglers, you’ll get consistent quality chances. A good waterproof backpack like the HellaDry Archelon Waterproof Backpack keeps your gear dry and away from saltwater. If you want to open up more water without investing in a flats boat, a paddle board or kayak is an excellent addition to access new water on a budget. 

Regardless of how you approach tailing fish, finding them is the hardest part. The key to consistently finding fish is learning how the fish react to tide swings. On a rising tide, water pushes onto oyster bars and mud flats filled with shrimp, crabs, and other bait. The redfish know this and will head out of deeper water onto flats in search of an easy meal. Once the water is on the flats, search for mud clouds and tails from feeding fish.

Photo: Bay Flats Lodge

As the tide falls, reds will move off the flats and into deeper channels. The receding water will wash bait off the flats and into these channels. While not sight fishing, this is a great time to target hungry fish. Shrimp patterns and baitfish patterns fished through these channels will draw strikes. This is especially true during colder months when redfish congregate in large schools. Moving water in larger channels and river mouths will hold sizable redfish. Throw large streamer patterns for your best chance at a bull red. If you find yourself fishing deep channels, a sinking line will get your fly to the right depth.

Another favorite way to target redfish is topwater flies. Like trout and bass, reds will readily take flies off the surface. The fly of choice is a gurgler, designed to represent fleeing shrimp. These can be sight-fished or blind cast to areas that hold fish. Short ticks with the fly line create a popping motion to draw strikes. While the topwater bite may not always be on, there’s no way more exciting to catch a redfish. 

Photo: Bay Flats Lodge


Redfish pull hard and can be harsh on gear. Investing in quality gear goes a long way when battling corrosive saltwater and tricking redfish. Here are our favorites to help consistently fool and land wary redfish.


Sage Salt R8 Fly Rod 

Winston Air 2 Max Fly Rod 

Photo: Bay Flats Lodge

The first step is choosing the right rod. The two most popular rod configurations are a 9-foot 8-weight and a 9-foot 10-weight. An 8-weight, like the Sage Salt R8, is perfect for most redfish anglers. It delivers tight loops, subtle presentations and has plenty of power to land hard-fighting reds. The combination of power and accuracy is more than capable of delivering consistent and delicate casts to tailing redfish. Anglers consistently targeting large bull redfish should opt for a 10-weight. The Winston Air 2 Max 9-foot 10-weight has the added power to punch bigger flies through the wind and put the brakes on larger fish. Unlike other 10-weights, the Air 2 Max has a lightweight feel and fishes much like a lighter 8-weight. Hard titanium finished guides and an extra fast action round out the Air 2 Max as a perfect addition for redfish anglers.


Ross Evolution R Salt Fly Reel 

A large arbor reel is essential for saltwater angling. The Ross Evolution R Salt 7/8 is our preferred reel for redfish. The oversized spools have plenty of line capacity for long runs and a faster pickup rate when reeling. The Evolution R Salt is paired with Ross’s supercharge drag system, producing an impressive 30 pounds of drag. The drag system is also fully sealed to keep saltwater from corroding the internals. Still, a good rinse with freshwater after each trip is a good idea.


Airflo Superflo Ridge 2.0 Gulf Redfish Fly Line 

Most redfish flies are weighted with dumbbells and can be tricky to throw at distance. The best solution is to choose a fly line with an aggressive front taper. The Airflo Superflo Ridge 2.0 Gulf Redfish offers a stout taper for turning over large flies and punching through the wind. That said, it is balanced to deliver accurate and delicate casts. Even heavy flies will land soft enough to avoid spooking wary tailing fish.

Wading Boots:

Simms Flat Sneaker 

A good wet-wading shoe is a worthy addition to any redfish angler’s arsenal, especially those that wade the flats. The Simms Flats Sneaker is a lightweight and comfortable boot designed with saltwater anglers in mind. They feature supportive insoles and non-marking rubber outsoles to keep skid marks off boat decks. Pair these boots with wet-wading socks to keep gravel and shells out of the boot for the most comfortable solution to wading for tailing redfish.


Hella Dry Archelon Waterproof Backpack 

Photo by @zentoslinger (IG)

Saltwater is tough on gear. A quality waterproof backpack is a worthwhile investment to keep your flies and gear dry. The HellaDry Archelon Waterproof Backpack will keep your gear dry and organized. Unlike other waterproof backpacks, the Archelon has three separate pockets to organize gear. This allows anglers to separate leaders, flies, camera gear, and more for quick and easy access. In addition, side straps double as a net holder when it comes time to net your redfish.

Put your new knowledge to the test:

If you are looking for a place to put all your knowledge on targeting redfish to the test, we recommend seeing our friends at Bay Flats Lodge. Bay Flats is nestled right on San Antonio Bay on the Texas coast, with world-class fly fishing guides and some of the best lodge amenities. Book your trip, and get out with some of the best to test your skills and learn from their staff!

Photo from Bay Flats Lodge

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