We are hesitant about letting you in on the secret, but we have found that nothing beats fly fishing the Texas coast. If you need proof, the water is crystal clear year-round, which makes for incredible sight fishing, diverse bait is abundant, and you have redfish, speckled trout, sheepshead, black drum, and jack populations – which will all eat a fly. This article will discuss everything you need to know about fly fishing the Texas coast, between species you can target, tips and tactics, gear, and destinations.
When you think of fly fishing the Texas coast, the first thing you might think of is redfish. While we could spend all day sight fishing for tailing redfish, you can target a diverse set of saltwater species on the Texas coast with a fly rod.
The gem of our estuaries and bay system, the redfish might be one of our favorite species to target on the fly. You can find redfish everywhere, from backcountry marshes to deeper water. They are impossible to mistake with their bright orange body and one-of-a-kind black spots off their tail. If you were to ask any of our fly fishing guides what their first choice of species is to target, it would be the redfish. Redfish are a prized resource, and most of our fly fishing trips practice catch and release for this species.
Speckled sea trout or spotted trout can be found in the southern coastal waters of the United States and are a staple here in Texas. Speckled trout are typically 12 to 20 inches long and weigh two to three pounds, but can grow much larger. They have a slender, torpedo-shaped body with a silver belly and a greenish-gray back covered in small, dark spots. They have two large canine teeth in the front of their upper jaw, which they use to catch prey. Depending on the time of year and their habitat, you will find them eating various small fish, shrimp, and crabs.
True to their name, black drum are typically a dark, silvery-gray with a brassy sheen. Depending on their habitat, they might appear bronze, muddy green, or even jet black. Juveniles have distinctive vertical black bars that fade with age. While many consider black drum a trash fish, they are fun to target when the redfish might not cooperate with you.
Sheepshead, or “sheepys”, are some of the most challenging fish to catch on the Texas coast. They are impossible to mistake with their almost human-like set of teeth. Many are unaware that sheepshead play a crucial role in controlling the oyster population and managing the health of coastal reefs.
Jacks are known for their aggressive feeding frenzies and strength. For an angler, they are known for their aggressive eats, fast runs, and big headshakes. They will attack almost anything that moves, which makes them an exciting fish to target on the fly. Jacks can be found anywhere from shallow water to open bays, depending on the water temperature and time of year.
Tips and Tactics:
The tips and tactics for fly fishing on the Texas coast will vary depending on your target species. Luckily, two articles dive into those tips for redfish and trout:
The main point we want to drive home is practicing your “short game.” While it is great to be able to punch a fly line 50 feet straight into the wind, most of our shots require delicate presentations within 20 feet. Practice your roll casts and casts with no false casts to be ready to make good shots at fish here on the Texas coast.
We are gear nerds, and for good reason. The gear you use can make a huge difference in your ability to make the variety of casts you need to be successful on the water here. With the right gear, you can imitate the bait the fish is feeding on, access certain water bodies, and increase your overall enjoyment on the water. Here is what we don’t leave the lodge without:
This is one of the most essential gear items for a successful day on the water. The rod of choice for fly fishing the Texas coast is between a 7wt and a 10wt. The Winston Air 2 Max is our go-to rod for that entire range of weights. When targeting trout and redfish on a calm day, we pick up the 7wt. Our most used rod is our Air 2 Max 8wt, the best all-around rod for all of the species we target. If you find yourself in a school of Jacks, we will reach for the 10wt to get the extra backbone for the strong, hard-pulling fish.
Your reel must withstand the salt-water environment with a smooth drag system and fast pick-up. We recommend either the Bauer RX or the Ross Evo R Salt. Both reels feature oversized spools that have plenty of line capacity for long runs and a faster pickup rate when reeling. Their drag systems are also fully sealed to keep saltwater from corroding the internals. Still, a rinse with fresh water after each trip is a good idea.
Your line will depend a lot on what species you are targeting. Most redfish flies are weighted with dumbbells and can be tricky to throw at a distance. The best solution is to choose a fly line with an aggressive front taper. The Airflo Superflo Ridge 2.0 Gulf Redfish offers a stout taper for turning over large flies and punching through the wind. That said, it is balanced to deliver accurate and delicate casts with lighter flies. If you are getting into Jacks, we recommend the Airflo Superflo Ridge 2.0 Flats Power.
Arguably, the most important piece of gear you take on the water will be your flies. Imitating the correct food source for the body of water you are fishing is crucial. While we have listed below some insight on the flies to use for fly fishing the Texas coast, we have taken the guesswork out with our own Bay Flats curated box. Take out the guesswork and buy the assorted box HERE.
- Crab Flies: Our go-to patterns for crab imitations are the freeport fiddler, straight shooter crab, and redfish cracklin’ in blue crab.
- Shrimp Flies: Choose smaller Clouser minnows or Merkin minnows. Additionally, the Redfish Cracklin and skinny water shrimp are always in our fly box. Choose these flies with olive, tan, and purple.
- Topwater: The most fun way to fish for redfish, in our opinion, is when you can elicit a topwater eat. The Popcorn Shrimp and Sight Cast Gurgler are great choices.
- Shrimp Flies: Similar to those for redfish, choose smaller Clouser Minnows or Merkin Minnows in size #4 or #6, with colors like olive, brown, and pearl.
- MirrOlure or Corky Topwaters: These popping lures are great for sight fishing, attracting strikes with their action and surface noise. Choose white or chartreuse for sunny days and black or silver for low-light conditions.
- Baitfish Flies: Small baitfish patterns like Menhaden or Silversides in size #6 or #8 are excellent, with silver, green, and blue patterns working well.
- Crab Flies: Shrimp flies from your redfish selection can work, but choose smaller sizes and opt for hairier bodies and claws to mimic barnacles and other sheepshead prey.
- Fiddler Crab: Dedicated fiddler crab imitations with their signature claw are irresistible to sheepshead. Choose tan or brown colors with orange highlights.
- Woolly Buggers: Simple black or olive Woolly Buggers can be surprisingly effective for sheepshead, as they readily attack anything that moves near their territory.
- Large Shrimp Flies: Go big with size #2 or #4 shrimp flies in olive, brown, or black, with heavy weights to reach the bottom where the drum feed.
- Crab Flies: Choose large, bulky crab flies with plenty of claws and hair to resemble the crabs black drum love to munch on.
- Mud Minnows: These long, slender flies with olive or brown bodies mimic the mud minnows that drum often target.
- Surf Candy: These flashy flies with metallic bodies and bucktail or marabou tails are irresistible to jacks’ aggressive feeding instincts. Choose silver, chartreuse, or blue, depending on water clarity.
- Poppers: Noisy topwater poppers in black, white, or chartreuse create a commotion that Jack can’t resist.
We might be biased, but San Antonio Bay is our front yard. There is world-class fly fishing on the Texas coast, and it’s steps from Bay Flats Lodge. If you want to take all the tips and tricks you have learned and put them to the test, Bay Flats Lodge is running a special 2-for-1 deal for Fly Fishing trips for the month of February. Call the lodge to learn more about the 2-for-1 deal!
On top of the incredible access to some of the best fly fishing on the Texas coast, Bay Flats Lodge offers the full Texas experience with incredible lodging, food, and the best staff on the coast. Book your next trip by calling the lodge or directly on our website HERE.