Some of the most consistent saltwater fly fishing available today can be found on the grass flats of any number of states in the Southeast, where anglers by the thousands search every day for telltale tails rising above the surface. These anglers are chasing red drum, the target of choice for a growing legion of fly anglers, thanks to the fact that there are more red drum in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico waters today than we've seen in years.
Reds customarily feed on small crabs, shrimp and baitfish, such as mullet and mud minnows. Almost any fly that imitates such forage works well. But many cutting-edge anglers are using flies that are constantly being tested by the ever-growing numbers of fly-rod redfishermen. Here is a brief overview of some hot fly patterns in vogue today among the "in the know" coastal redfish angling set. Most have been well tested via the school of hard fishing knocks - endorsed by the anglers who cast them and the redfish that eat them.
Cone-Head Wooly Bugger
In Georgia the water is dark and turbid, and the tides run hard and high. Redfish, big ones, are abundant, with fish in the 20- to 30-pound class available at times on barrier-island shoals that kiss the entire coastline of the Peach State.
Georgia also has vast areas of inshore spartina grass flats. But because tides run so strong, flats fishing can be difficult, more difficult than that found elsewhere in the Southeast, even in areas as close as Florida and South Carolina. The fishing is good, but different, and the type of fly required to dupe reds is different too. Most of the time fly-rodders are working from kayaks and canoes, casting to pushing fish or blind-casting to creek mouths.
Longtime Georgia fly-fishing guide Larry Kennedy, owner of Bedford Sportsman Fly Shop (912-638-5454) on St. Simons Island, says that while a number of different flies work for Georgia redfish, his favorite is a small, all-black classic Wooly Bugger streamer. He ties the fly on a barbless 34011 Mustad size 4 hook, with a bright-gold cone head to help get it deep. The fly body is black ice chenille wrapped Palmer-style with black hackles, and a black marabou tail.
The dark color and bulky body make an easy-to-find target for Georgia reds, Kennedy says. He and his clients fish it slow, slower and slower still. He wants the fly right on the bottom, where a redfish can find it. Kennedy nicknamed this all-black cone-headed Wooly Bugger the "American Express Fly" because he never leaves home without it.