Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Grassy Flats on the Georgia Coast

After several trips to the gulf coast, chasing red fish, more research led me to discover that fishing to "tailing reds" is more tricky than I once believed.

"Tailing" is the phenomenon where redfish push up into the grassy flats in search of food, and when feeding on the bottom, their tails wave in the air, due to the shallow water.

I discovered that this only happens when there is a super high tide, and this only occurs 3-4 days of the month! Armed with this information, I made plans for a trip to the Georgia coast, timed to coincide with a super high tide in the late afternoon.

My wife and I arranged to spend several days with family in Atlanta, and then drive to Savannah to vacation on Tybee Island and fish for the elusive "tailing reds".....hopefully.
(Our stay in Savannah included lunch at Paula Deans restaurant, "Two Sons and a Lady". I didn't realize macaroni and cheese was such a staple in the south-Grin!)

The first day, my guide, Scott Owens, mentioned that the tides really wouldn't be right for a couple of days, so we fished the morning incoming tide, and it didn't take long to find a nice school of fish. Unfortunately, they were not in mood to eat, yet I was able to catch a small 5 lb. red, before we moved off to another flat.

Within a short time, I was solid to a big bull red, and the fight was on!

15 lb. Bull Red Fish

Once Scott brought the big Bull (male) Red on board, I realized he was almost 3 feet long and much larger than I first thought! The scale indicated he was 15 lbs. and a very nice fish for the Georgia Coast.

Once the tide come up a bit higher, it was time to move, and with the weather calm and clear, my guide decided to head out to sea, in search of the Tripletail we had hoped to catch, as well. Tripletail spawn around Jekyl Island, and as we headed out, the wind promptly reminded us that we were not in control. Rather than getting our rods out, we grabbed our rain gear for a wet ride around the island and back toward St. Simons, where we might find shelter and perhaps find more redfish.

As we approached an oyster bar, recently covered by the tide, Scott started poling us around the edge and watching intently for "red submarines" that might be cruising the edge. It didn't take long to spot a couple of nice fish, and when I dropped the fly closeby, the fish jumped on it eagerly. Unfortunately, the fish was less than 10 feet away, which made it tough to get a good hook set, and I dropped the fish right away.

Encouraged, we moved on and soon spotted a huge red feeding along the oyster bed. As I started to cast, I noticed several smaller fish nearby, so tried to place the cast beyond the big red, away from the smaller fish. It rarely works this way, but as all the reds charged the fly, the big girl beat them to it, and I was solid to another 36 inch redfish. She knew exactly what to do. She doubled back and ran through an opening in the oyster bar, and all I could do was raise the rod as high as possible and hope the leader would clear.....and it did! Within a few minutes we had the beautiful female redfish along side the boat, and the scale indicated she was just a bit over 14 lbs., and 33 inches long.........almost the same exact size as the first one!

What a trip. Day one, 2 big redfish, and I feel the trip has already exceeded my expectations.......!!!

I should mention the fly. Scott wanted me to try my Red Meat Neutralizer, a neutrally buoyant fly designed for redfish. This fly was deadly. I fished the black and gold version, and each fish ate the fly aggressively, taking the fly deep into the crushers!

Although happy and content about the fishing so far, I was still thinking about those big spotted tails waving to me from the spartina grass. I didn't have to wait long!

Scott couldn't fish the last day, so set me up with Capt. Scott Dykes, and I met up with Scott to fish the grass flats around Sapelo Island.
As we waited for the super high tide to flood the grassy flat, I couldn't help thinking about the journey to get me to this time and place. It looked like this might be the opportunity I have been waiting for.......for many years!

Typical spartina grass flat.

As Scott poled the light skiff across the weedy flat, I spotted my first tailing red! I dropped the orange/gold Red Meat Neutralizer just beyond the waving tail, and as I brought the fly near the fish, it exploded on the fly, eating the fly instantly! A few minutes later, a chunky 7 lb. red came aboard.
It didn't take long to locate another tailing red, and I was soon hooked up to a second red that was pushing 10 lbs.!! Although the super high tide, and tailing reds, only lasted a couple of hours, it was magical. It was a sight-fisherman's bonanza, and I was totally satisfied with the experience!

Once again, the Neutralizer proved effective on yet another species! Being able to fish the fly suspended above the mud, but below the surface, was the perfect presentation for these spooky and selective fish!

The right fly, the right place, the right tide......formula for a great fly fishing experience!

Red Meat Neutralizer!!

As the tide ebbed, and the feeding redfish retreated back into deeper water, sunlight filtered down through the dark clouds, creating a peaceful, tranquil environment! It was the perfect end to a great trip to the Georgia Coast!

Many thanks to Capt. Scott Owens, and Capt. Scott Dykes, for a great fishing trip!