Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Redfish among fly fishing's toughest targets

Pete Greenan, who runs The Gypsy Guide Service out of Uncle Henry's Marina in Boca Grande, gave a great talk on fly fishing for redfish in winter at the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers meeting Tuesday night in Sarasota.

It certainly was one of the better talks I've heard over the years.

One thing that Greenan (in photo at right) said is redfish are great training for anyone heading south to try for bonefish.

I disagree.

From my point of view, I think it's the opposite. I think that if you head south, catch a few bonefish on fly rod, you might be ready to try for redfish.

Reds in shallow, clear water are about as tough of a fly-rod accomplishment as you can get. They're spooky and quite finicky.

A few years ago, I was fishing with Fishin' Frank Hommema, Jr. He was poling me along Charlotte Harbor's famed West Wall. I was casting a red-and-white Seducer under the mangroves and retrieving it slowly. I managed to land a half dozen hefty redfish.

I was extremely happy that I'd finally figured it out.

I haven't caught a red at that spot since that trip. The only think I have figured out is that I don't have anything figured out.

Redfish in deeper water are different animals and mush easier to fool on fly. Sarasota fly angler Walter Hamm wades a familiar spot in Sarasota Bay every August and September and does well on redfish that are schooled up in three feet of water off a sand bar. Put those same redfish on the sand bar in a foot of water and you'd have trouble with them.

Of course, outdoor writers have claimed for years that reds are among the easiest of saltwater fish to fool on fly. I'll guarantee you they haven't tried fly fishing for reds on Florida's west coast!

I can understand why they think reds are so easy. I was fishing with Islamorada guide Paul Tejera several year ago. We made the long run from Islamorada to Flamingo. Purpose of the trip was to test out Paul's line of saltwater jigs.

He found a flat and poled onto it. The water was chalky after being stirred up by a school of mullet. Even though the water wasn't clear, you could easily see fish in it. And the first fish we saw was a hefty redfish not three feet from the boat.

"Look at that redfish, Paul," I said, pointing my rod at the fish.

"Don't just stand there looking at it; give him the jig," Paul said.

I did as instructed. I reached out and dabbled the jig in front of the redfish, never believing I had a shot at such close proximity. But the fish rushed forward, opened its mouth and inhaled the offering.

After landing the fish and taking a couple of photos, I turned to Paul and said, "No wonder you guys think redfish are so easy. These fish are really stupid!"

In some areas, redfish do acrobatics to eat flies. In this neck of the woods, it's not like that often.

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