Skinny Water Redfish

And I would I could know what swimmeth below when the tide comes in on the length and the breath of the marvellous marshes of Glynn.

                                                          From the Marshes of Glynn by Sidney Lanier

Featured photo by Polly Dean.

On The Fly Saltwater

By Jimmy Jacobs

June, 2021

“Reel it up. We’ve got to move.” It was not what Capt. David Edens wanted to be saying. Like all guides, he never wants to leave fish, to go look for fish. But, in this case it was our only option. The last of the falling tide was quickly slipping away and unless we wanted to spend the next several hours stranded on the mud, it was time to go.

The captain, On The Fly South associate editor Polly Dean and I were far back up in the maze of tidal creeks in Glynn County, Georgia to the west of Brunswick and St. Simons Island. We were looking for redfish and our present predicament fully illustrates why having a local guide pays off.

Capt. David Edens. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.

On the Peach State coast tides regularly fluctuate from 6 to 8 feet, and even as much as 9 feet on new and full moons. That fact left us surrounded by walls of dark gray mud on either shore, topped by a couple of feet of marsh grass. Just finding and navigating these places where reds hang out in the murky water and feed provides plenty of opportunity to get in trouble. That’s especially true since you are down in this type gully and unable to see any surrounding landmarks.

So far this morning we had seen plenty of reds pushing wakes through the shallows, often in such skinny water that their backs or tails protruded through the surface. But at every turn, we found ourselves just out of casting range due to water so shallow that even a flats boat could not traverse it, or our path was blocked by mounds of oyster beds. Again, local knowledge pays off – Capt. Edens has another trick or two up his sleeve.

A variety of shrimp and crab patterns can turn the trick on the redfish. Photo by Polly Dean.

On the Georgia coast, many fly casters spend their time waiting for the extreme high tides to get back in the abundant marsh grass flats to chase redfish in the vegetation. While that is something that Capt. Edens does, he also has developed techniques that can pay off in redfish any day at any time of the year.

Getting back into the tidal creeks a couple of hours on either side of the low tide makes the reds vulnerable. Due to the constantly stained water, it is not classic sight casting. Rather you are tossing the fly to the commotion created by the movement of the fish as they scourer the mud for fiddler crabs and other forage. 

Since that scenario had not worked. We now headed out into the sounds, much closer to the inlets and open ocean.  Again, the captain was looking for the shallow mud flats, but now in open water. Here the water was a bit clearer, and under a sunlit sky, we often could even see the fish. On the other hand, many of them were so close that they saw us before we spotted them. Still, we were getting shots at the fish, including a number of follows.

And finally a hook up. Photo by Polly Dean.

At the point I was about to tell the captain that the problem appeared to be he needed to get a better fly fisherman in his boat, things took a turn for the better. Standing on the casting deck, I spotted a redfish cruising directly toward me from 12 o’clock. It also was so close that I expected it to bolt off at any moment.

Fortunately, a mud puff caused by another fleeing fish drifted directly between me and the red. Quickly, I launched the fly tied to my 9-weight rig into that clouded water. Once the redfish swam into the mud, I felt the line go tight. A quick set of the hook and the reel was screaming as fly line melted off the spool, followed by some of the backing.

Two more times I worked the big red back near the boat, only to have it take off into the backing again. That prompted the captain to note he  had never seen a red strong enough to make three runs like that. After what seemed like an eternity of worrying about the possibility of the hook pulling free, Capt. Edens slipped the net under a 13-pound red.

The author’s redfish. Photo by Polly Dean.

Capt. David Edens has been fly fishing in both salt and freshwater for almost 50 years throughout the country. In addition to his Orvis-Endorsed guide service out of St. Simons Island, he is certified by the Federation of Fly Fishers as a Casting Instructor, and as a Professional Guide. Additionally, the Rod Builders Guild has certified him as a Professional Rod Builder. He also has received more that 100 five-star ratings as an Orvis-Endorsed Guide.

Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.

In addition to redfish, when time of year and conditions are right, Capt. Edens puts his clients on seatrout, jack crevalle and tripletail on the fly. When it comes to fly fishing the coastal water around Georgia’s Golden Isles, he’s the man to go to.

For more details check out Capt. David Edens website for Fly Cast Charters.