Winter is here in southwest Colorado. We are lucky to have year round fishing in our corner of the state, but not everyone is cut out for throwing tiny nymphs in frigid temperatures. For those of us that seek warmer climes in the winter, we refer to this time of year as saltwater season. If you’ve never fished saltwater it can often seem intimidating but I’m here to spread some good news. There is a saltwater quarry that is abundant, easy to catch, and will take flies with reckless abandon. I’m talking of course about the often-overlooked redfish.
While the saltwater fly fishing game is often dominated by the big 3 (bonefish, tarpon, and permit) redfish offer an amazing introduction to the sport of saltwater fly fishing, and I don’t think there is a better location to chase them than the coastal marshes and wetlands of Louisiana. Full disclosure, I am a born and raised Louisiana native growing up just 4 miles from the coast. While the fishing can be good on the gulf coast from Mexico to Florida, and back up the Atlantic seaboard as far north as Maryland, the fish in Louisiana are abundant and will eat flies right at the boat, a trait no other redfish populations seem to have.
Big fish, big eats, great culture, and even better food all without even having to dust off your passport, what more could you ask for? Flights to New Orleans are easy from almost anywhere in the country, and some of the best fishing in the state are within an hour from its biggest and most culturally diverse city. Most guides are willing to start a little later in the day as well, for those anglers take may take in a little too much of the sights and sounds (and beer) that Bourbon Street offers.
For your first redfish trip in Louisiana I strongly suggest hiring a guide. While this a good practice anywhere, in a fishery that is marked by winding channels and open lagoons in the vast network of coastal marshes, this is more of a necessity than on your average trout trip. Not only are redfish not readily caught from shore in Louisiana, save for when they are feeding in the surf of barrier islands, the knowledge that the guides have of the waterways will make your days much more enjoyable. In fall and winter there is a large influx of guides from out of state that come to fish the big bull reds that move into our marshes, so you shouldn’t have any problem finding a guide during peak season.
Gearing up for a redfish trip can be a little simpler than many other saltwater destination trips. The redfish in Louisiana will eat almost anything so a box with a few shrimp, crabs, baitfish, and poppers will do. While the redfish in Louisiana will readily take flies fished on the surface, you’ll find your hookup rate will increase fishing flies bounced off the bottom. Rods should be in the 8-9 weight range and reels should have a large arbor and solid drag for the big, hard running reds. Depending on the time of year you may be able to run into some big Jack Crevelles, and targeting these fish a 10 weight or higher is a necessity. Some of my personal preferred rods are the Sage Salt HD, Sage X, and Scott Sector. For reels, I think the Ross Evo R Salt, Ross Evo LTX, Sage SPECTRUM Max, or the Hatch Iconic 7+ all have the durability and stopping power to handle even the biggest of these fish.
So are redfish the ultimate beginner saltwater species to target on the fly? They can be found in abundance anywhere there are grass beds. They can often be seen tailing or crawling along the shallows and are easily sight fished to. They will hammer flies, oftentimes right at the boat. On top of all that, they can be fished year-round, not just fall and winter. If we could only teach them how to jump…
(Photo credit of title photo, Capt. Derek Ems of Optimistic Outfitters)