The South Carolina Lowcountry is famed for its very unique Flood Tide Fishing especially when it comes to Fly Fishing Anglers. There is nothing like seeing your first tailing Redfish crawling around through the short Spartina Grass looking for fiddler crabs. What exactly is a flood tide? A flood tide is a larger than normal tide that pushes water onto short spartina grass flats. The short grass flats only get water during these certain higher than normal tides which creates an amazing habitat for an assortment of bait including the mostly targeted Fiddler crab. During this 2-3 hour window of high water the Redfish follow the tide up onto these short spartina grass flats and feed on the fiddler crabs, shrimp, and an assortment of different bait fish that are on the flat. The reason a Redfish "Tails" during a flood tide is because they are sticking there nose in the mud to eat crabs and as they do so, there tail pierces the waters surface because they are only in 10-30inches of water at the time. The beauty of a tailing Redfish is that its looking for food which gives you a very good shot at a very hungry fish. It is also a scenario when the fish is looking down for food and takes of his defense guard which then allows you as angler to get a lot closer to the fish.
What makes a flood tide so extremely unique is the fact that these fish are feeding in a general area that is only covered by water certain times of each month during certain tide cycles through out the month. We are also only fishing these certain flood tides from the middle of March until the end of November depending on water Temperature. Once the water Temperature dips below 65 degrees the fiddler crabs go down and there is no longer a buffet for the Redfish to gorge on. As stated above these tides are limited and have to be the right size tide to fish. Here in Beaufort, SC we are mainly fishing flood tides between 7.8ft and 9ft which provide a prime time of tide to fish. We are usually starting about 2 hours before the tide and fishing around 2 hours after the high tide for the best opportunity sight fishing. Watching the tide roll over a dry field of short spartina grass is simply beautiful and it will amaze you just how fast this phenomena will happen. Wind can be a large factor in the hight of the flood whether it pushes more water in or holds water out. For example a West wind will hold water out and an East wind can push water in. Some days we are not able to fish the flood because of west wind and other days we can fish a smaller tide because of the east! Simply amazing how mother nature can affect the fishing when it comes to such a large tide swing here in Beaufort, SC.
Matching the hatch is the key when choosing the right fly pattern for a flood tide. The good thing about Flood Tide Redfish is that they are not very picky about specific patterns. We like to use a variety of crab, shrimp, and minnow patterns. One very important part to a flood tide redfish fly is the Weed Guard! The weed guard must be stout and strong, usually around 40-50lb mono or flouro will do the trick. The important part of a weed guard is keeping you off the grass which is crucial when fishing to not only keep from breaking your fly off, but also to keep it from spooking the fish if the fly snags a piece of grass. There are a large variety of flies we recommend for flood tide fishing including the LC Shrimp, Flood Toad, Pluff Crab, Bay Street Bunny, Dubree Spoon Fly, EP Crab, Creek Shrimp, just to name a few. All of these flies are available in the store or online.
When it comes to choosing the right leader you want to use around a 16-20lb Fluorocarbon leader. The reason for this heavier test is not only for the size of the fish but also the obstructions you run into when fishing a flood tide including the grass, oysters, muscles, and perry winkles. We like to use flouro because its a little more abrasion resistant but monofilament will do just fine too. Tapering your leader is key to provide a even layout when presenting the fly which can be very important when casting to a fish crawling around in just a few inches of water. The length we prefer is usually around 9-10ft so you have so room to play with when fish for a flood tide redfish. They are constantly changing directions and having a little longer leader can help even though they are not very leader shy during a flood tide. We sell an assortment of different pre-tapered leaders from Orvis and Rio, both providing a smooth tapered leader with out a bunch of blood knots. You can find these leaders online or in the store as well.
Now that you have a little taste of how this whole Flood Tide Fishing in the Lowcountry works, its time to book your trip! We offer 4 Full Time Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Guides here at Bay Street Outfitters that specialize in this type of fishing. You want to make sure to call in advance to make sure the tides and time of year are correct for fishing a Flood Tide. You can reach us by phone at 843-524-5250 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading and good luck out there!