Welcome to Salt Water Fly Fishing

Welcome to Fly Fishing The Salt! If you are just discovering the joys of fly fishing the salt (or salt chuck as some call it) here you will find information to steer you in the right direction. Tips on what equipment to use, why, where and how to fish. And we will try to include a little inspiration to get you going. For the experienced salt water angler, there will be personal stories about real fishermen and their experiences, tips on what flies for which fish and techniques that work. Your stories and articles are also most welcome. Share the knowledge and adventure. Pass it on! This is for you.

The Fish - Red Drum

Red Drum

By Jimmy Jacobs, Smyrna, Georgia

Red Drum (Sciaenops ocellatus)

If a poll were taken along the southern Atlantic seaboard, it would probably reveal that red drum are the second most popular saltwater fish pursued by anglers, finishing just behind the spotted seatrout. Among fly-casters, however, that ranking would probably be reversed. The favor with which fly fishers look at the red drum is based on its ability to reach gargantuan sizes and the fact that the fish love to feed on shallow flats, making them very good targets for fly-casting. It does not hurt their rating that they also make delicious table fare.

Red drum are known by several other names in certain areas of their range, which stretches from the Virginia coast down to the Florida Keys and around the Gulf of Mexico to the Texas shore. In Florida and the Gulf states they are called redfish or simply reds. Other names in favor along the Atlantic Coast are channel bass and spottail bass. Especially along the coast of the Carolinas, smaller red drum are called puppy drum, while the larger members of the species are referred to as bull reds (even though these are usually females.)

Ranging from copper to bronze colored, red drum always have a black spot at the base of their caudal fin, which accounts for the nickname spottail bass. Additionally, it is not uncommon for some fish to have several other black spots that are not uniform in size or shape spread along their sides.

For the most part, the red drum found along the South Atlantic Coast are not migratory. Instead, they tend to remain in tidal creeks or rivers for their first four years until they reach about 15 pounds. They they begin to move to inshore ocean waters, forming schools that return to the sounds and bays to feed.

The exceptions to this rule can be found on the northern fringe of their range. While the smaller red drum there maintain their sedentary habits, in North Carolina there is a migration of bull reds along the beaches of the Outer Banks, moving south in the fall and back north in the spring.

Along beaches red drum are found around tidal rips where conflicting current clash, or in the deeper washed-out holes at the outer edge of the surf. In bays, rivers, and creeks look for them around marsh grass at high tide and around any beds of live or dead oyster shells. The ideal shallow flat on which to locate red drum has marsh grass along one edge and deep water on the other.

Most of the fly-fishing opportunities for red drum occur when they are on shallow flats, where they feed on shrimp, crabs, and minnows. On flats that are covered with grass, the fish sometimes assume a head-down position in the vegetation while feeding, often leaving their tails sticking out of the water. This is known as tailing and is one way to locate feeding red drum. On mud flats these fish also five away their position by creating "muds" as they stir up the silt on the bottom in their quest for food. Finally, when a school of reds is cruising in the shallows, the fish create waves on the surface as their backs push the water before them. These waves are commonly referred to as humps or wakes, and the fish are said to be humping or waking.

Although red drum have the underslung jaw that is characteristic of bottom-feeding species, they take flies that are presented anywhere in the water column, from top to bottom. The most exciting way to catch them is on topwater popping bugs, but colorful Bendbacks, Clouser Minnows, Lefty's Deceivers, and other colorful streamer flies are more dependably successful. When sight-casting to tailing, humping, or mudding reds, it is necessary to cast the fly very close to the fish. Though red drum are quite wary in shallow water and are spooked by noise and shadows, they have poor eyesight. Thus the fly needs to be presented close to a fish, with a quick retrieve to attract the drum's attention.

Fishing the South Atlantic Coast

The current all-tackle world record for red drum is held by Dave G. Deuel for a 94-pound, 2-ounce fish. It was caught in the surf on the Outer Banks at Avon, North Carolina, on Novenber 7, 1984. ~ Jimmy Jacobs

Credits: Excerpt from Fly- Fishing the South Atlantic Coast by Jimmy Jacobs, published by Backcountry, an imprint of Countryman Press. Fish illustration from Sport Fish of Florida by Vic Dunaway, published by Florida Sportsman.

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