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Shallow Water Stealth
An angler's manual to sight-casting
for reds on the flats.

By Paul A. Cañada

Finally, we spied a pod of fish before I accidentally alerted them of our position. The backs of three fish, slowly cruising an inside grass line, were about 30 yards down the shoreline from Bob and me. He gambled that the slight riffle on the water surface would make a 20- to 25-foot cast possible.

Holding the bantam-sized diver in my near-trembling line hand, I quietly awaited the fish's approach. "Don't overpower the cast, don't overpower the cast," I quietly whispered. "If you overpower the cast you're going to spook 'em again."

Speaking very softly, Bob instructed, "It's time, now or never."


  • Areas with a variety of habitat are more likely to hold baitfish, and as a result, redfish.
  • While stalking redfish, the shallower the water, the quieter you must be.
  • Avoid a bad encounter with a stingray by sliding or "shuffling" your feet along the bottom.
  • The best place to sight a red is the line where vegetation starts and the sand ends.
  • If you can hear yourself pushing water while stalking, you're probably walking too fast.
I let the fly go and slowly lifted the 15 feet of fly line laying at my feet off the water and into the air. I used the first casting stroke to measure the distance. The second cast sent the weight forward line sailing to the target. "Darn," I said with a sigh, "I overpowered the cast."

Amazingly, the small pod of redfish stayed the course. The fish drew within a yard or so of the diver before I made my first hard strip. Bloop, bloop - the purple diver plunged forward. In a mighty swirl of water, the diver was gone. Immediately, the fly line jumped off the water surface and then off my spool.

"Finally," I shouted, "sweet success."

I still remember that first redfish. Of course, my success was due mostly to the patience and valuable instruction of a good friend, and the appetite of a 22-inch redfish.

When sight-casting to shallow redfish, the angler has to do a number of things right. A single mistake in approach or the placement of the cast and the cautious redfish is gone. Thankfully, three of Texas' better flats guides - Eric Glass, R.J. Shelly and Elton Hudson - have taken the time to provide you (and me) with some solid advice on the art of stalking and sight-casting to shallow reds. Practice the following principles and your catch rate will surely climb.

Choose prime real estate

As is the case with all forms of angling, the sight-casting journey begins with the final destination. That is, the angler must first find the most promising water. This concept, locating productive water, is more critical to the wade fisherman simply because the angler's mobility is greatly reduced. Ideally, the wading angler wants to select an area that holds the greatest number of redfish in the smallest section of water.

After carefully considering both weather and water conditions, the smart angler first eliminates the more unlikely areas. Top guides like South Laguna Madre's Eric Glass also consider water depth and clarity, prevailing tides and wind speed and direction when selecting wading water. After carefully considering environmental conditions, Glass targets those areas that are protected, have a variety of water depth and habitat, and of course, plenty of prey.

According to Glass, the west side of the southernmost portion of the Laguna Madre is one such area. "There are more varieties of grasses and more relief on the west side of the bay," he says. "I like to fish flats that have a drop-off - like a channel or old well cut - within 1/4- to 1/2-mile of the shallowest water."

A variety of grasses, bottom composition and water depth typically support a greater variety of life forms. Not surprisingly, those areas with the greatest variety of habitat often hold the greatest number of redfish. Furthermore, when tides and conditions change, wading anglers needn't go very far to stay in touch with the fish.

"The general pattern in summertime," explains Glass, "is for the redfish to move up on the crown of the flat early. The fish will actively feed - tailing or cruising with their backs out of the water - until late morning. The fish then move out to the deeper water found in the nearest drop-off. Because of this, I find the fish on these ideal flats - with deep water in close proximity - more predictable and easier to pattern day after day."

Conversely, Glass finds that shorelines with extensive flats and deep water a good distance away are often tougher to pattern. There's simply too much shallow water to cover so it's much harder to locate numbers of fish. More importantly, it's difficult to know just exactly where the fish will be from day to day.

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