Bulls On Fly
By: Capt. JP Morel
Bigger reds move to the passes near shore in the fall to begin the spawning process. They will fan out on nearby flats at different times to feed where one can stalk and catch them with a well-placed fly. Most of the bigger fish will be very close to deeper water and tend to hang in the 1 to 2 foot depth range when feeding. A prime location is a pass coming off a large bay that has flats and ponds with an abundance of oysters. The smaller fish will be near the shore, and the larger reds will cruise the edge of the flats and move in and out of the ponds with the tide. It takes some time on the water to learn which flats and ponds will produce at certain tide levels. I fish one pond that has virtually nothing in it at low tide, but as the tide comes in, so do the fish. This particular pond has produced many fish in the 20- pound class over the last few years including one line class record that held for a number of years. To watch those big reds come from the deeper water into the pond is truly a sight to behold, as they seem to just suddenly appear.
If a torpedo size redfish cruising in a foot of water doesn’t excite you, call the doctor for a check up. Those of you who have fished shallow water reds have seen the scenario where another fish swims along with the hooked fish trying to take the lure from the mouth of the hooked fish. Many times a large red will come from the deeper water as you play another fish. He’s heard the commotion and wants to see what’s going on in the hope of picking off an easy meal. Even if you hook a smaller fish, keep a sharp eye out for the big boy that comes drifting up from the deep.
Equipment is about the same, use 8 to 10wt rods, a good disc drag reel, quick sinking flies, and tapeed leaders in 16 to 20 pound. I prefer tapered leaders because the fewer knots I have mean fewer knots to fail. Make sure you have ample backing on the reel, usual- ly 100 yards is enough, as a bull will more than likely get into your backing. Flies need to have a fast sink rate, as you need to get the fly to his level. Remember, you will more than likely be casting to a fish in 1 to 2 feet of water or more, and the fly needs to be in front of his nose pronto. When making the decision to go after big fish, one needs to understand the concept that there are fewer big fish so shots will be fewer, and you need to have the discipline to pass on the smaller ones. Practice casting to a small target before you go, as again, shots will be fewer and nothing is more frustrating than getting a few shots at big fish but not being able to make the cast. And don’t be alarmed if you blow the first couple of chances like one guy almost did a few years ago. Harry (name changed to protect the guilty) has fished the world but couldn’t hit the side of a barn when he saw his first big red in shallow water. He started casting at about 60 feet and finally caught the fish when it was about 15 feet from the boat on a not-at-all pretty cast.
As always, stealth is important. There are a limited number of bull reds in any given area, and you don’t want to ruin your chances by unnecessary noise. Look for the right area, make sure your casting is adequate, and don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t happen on the first try. As with all challenges, perseverance is the key.