Top 5 Redfish Flies
The Best Flies for Sight Fishing to Redfish
There are literally thousands of flies out there that imitate the crabs, shrimp, and baitfish that make up the diet of a Redfish on the shallow flats and backwater marshes. The good news is that Redfish are highly aggressive feeders and are usually not too picky. But if you've fished long enough, you've almost certainly experienced the times where they tend to focus on one prey type exclusively and seem to ignore every fly you tie on. We could fill a whole book with discussions of what Redfish eat in any given situation, but when deciding which fly to tie on, start with "matching the hatch". Observe the size and type of baitfish that are up on the flats in high numbers and pick a fly that most closely resembles that. Also, take note of the depth of the water and the type of bottom (grass, sand, etc) you are fishing in. You need a set of flies in your arsenal that covers the entire water column, from topwater, to bottom crawling, and everything in between. Flies with lead eyes are going to sink fast and are best used in water depths of 2+ feet or when you want to crawl your fly along a sandy bottom. While flies with bead chain eyes (or no eyes at all) are best in water depths of 1 foot or less when you want your fly to stay out of the grass and near the surface. Furthermore, be aware of the water clarity as this will factor into the colors of flies that will tend to be more effective. As a general rule, the darker/muddier the water, the darker the fly should be; and, when the water is gin-clear you should pick flies that are more of a natural color such as tans, whites, and browns. With all these factors in mind, let’s go over five of the top producing Redfish fly patterns that every angler needs in their box.
This Kwan pattern, or sometimes called the Redfish Toad, has a long history of proven success. If you’ve fished for Redfish before or are researching Redfish flies, you will undoubtedly run across the Kwan fly. Traditionally it is tied with a Craft Fur tail, a little flash, a small attractor/egg hot spot, a palmered hackle collar, segmented sections of yarn or EP fibers, and some beadchain or lead eyes. The Kwan fly is a great fly for sight fishing to Redfish in a few inches of water because its light weight allows it to land softly on the water, is easy to cast far distances, and has a slow sink rate that suspends with great movement. The basic shape of the fly tends to replicate many sources of the Redfish’s diet, such as shrimp, small baitfish, and crabs. It can be tied in countless color variations and weights to suit all water clarities and depths. The customary natural colors of brown, tan, orange, and white are a very popular choice among saltwater fly fishermen.
The Redfish Crack fly, or maybe you’ve heard of the variations Redfish Cracklin, Redfish Meth or Redfish Ritalin, is another fly with a proven track record. It has a large front collar that pushes water and the head to tail contrast makes it highly visible and attractive to fish. The pattern excels in stained/murky water that’s very common along the Texas and Louisiana coast. When retrieved with quick short strips it closely resembles a fleeing shrimp and the head pulses with bite-enticing movement. While it was initially intended to target Redfish, it does equally as well for large Speckled Trout up on the flats. The defining characteristics are a Craft Fur tail, a few wraps of chenille, and then some type of brush to build the head of the fly. Many tyers will add in some small bead chain or lead eyes depending on the depth of water you intend to fish and additions such as silicone legs and/or mono-eyes into the tail section will give the fly a buggy look that Redfish cannot resist.
If you’re going to have an arsenal of Redfish flies at your disposal, then you need to cover the entire depth of the water column, and that includes topwater! Floating on the surface, Gurglers will pop, splash, and create noise when being retrieved. Short, quick, aggressive stripping will have the fly gurgling through the water and imitating a fleeing shrimp or wounded baitfish. They are superb at grabbing the attention of fish and will trigger a natural reaction bite that Redfish can simply not resist. Most gurglers are built with a foam body with an aggressive front head and have a marabou, buck tail, or synthetic fiber tail. You’ll end up tying this fly on very often because once you get that rush of adrenaline watching Redfish blow it up out of the water, you'll be addicted. There are many variants of topwater flies, the classic Gurgler is just one example. Other examples include modified Diver variants and the Popcorn Shrimp. All of these flies are absolutely deadly for Redfish up on the shallow flats of Gulf Coast fisheries.
Almost every saltwater fly shop will have a selection of spoons available and if you pay close attention and compare different patterns you will notice slight differences. From the shape of the spoon, to the angle of the hook, to the amount of material tied at the bend of the hook; it all factors in to how the spoon sinks, wobbles, and flutters in the water. The spoon fly excels by flashing and emitting low frequency vibration sounds as it’s being stripped. Strip this fly slow and with short pauses to allow it time to shimmer down into the water column. They simply cannot resist the flicker and flutter as it moves through the water. This pattern performs extremely well in murkier waters or on overcast days, and just like any other fly the spoon has many variants that can cater to any situation. Take for example, the Shrimpadillo fly, it’s a combination of a crab fly, shrimp fly, and a spoon fly that’s guaranteed to get engulfed by a hungry Redfish.
Crab flies are deadly for targeting Redfish (and Sheepshead) in the Gulf Coast region. Some quick online research will show you hundreds of Crab patterns available. Some popular patterns include the Merkin, KungFu, Contraband, Flexo, Fleeing Crabs, and many more. Usually most crab flies you find in the big box stores are designed to target permit or bonefish. They typically have heavy amounts of weight and little bulk to get the fly down to the sandy bottom fast. But if you’re targeting Redfish here along the Gulf Coast, usually over grass flats and skinny water, you want a lighter weight fly with a little more bulk so that it will slowly flutter down to the bottom and not rapidly sink into the grass where fish can’t see it. You’ll also want it to resemble a juvenile blue crab that’s highly prevalent in the region, including a tan-colored textured shell body and bright orange claw tips.
Crab flies mainly fall into two different categories and can be fished a few different ways. The straight style, like the Straight-Shooter Crab pictured, has the hook shank positioned perpendicular to the crab body. This allows the crab to stand upright in a defensive posture with claws dancing in the current when resting on the bottom. Fish this fly slow and allow it to sink, then with very small, crawling strips you will mimic the movement of a defensive crab. Next there is the side style like the Sidewinder Crab, this pattern has the hook shank parallel with the crab body. This allows the crab to "swim" while being stripped. Retrieve this fly with steady, slow strips and it will mimic the movement of a fleeing crab. Both styles are highly effective Redfish flies when fished properly under the right conditions.
Sight Cast Saltwater Fly Shop
All five of the flies featured in this article are available in the Sight Cast Redfish Pack. Years of experience and field-testing have led to this collection of flies that is perfectly suited to targeting Redfish. Attention to detail and making high quality flies that represent the people who live and breathe the back lakes and shallow flats is our main focus.