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Best Redfish Flies For Texas – Top 10 Fly Patterns

Best Redfish Flies For Texas

The Texas coast offers a wide variety of fishing opportunities. From large seagrass beds to wide-open sand flats, there are miles of water to explore while looking for redfish. Different flies and tactics require different situations and being prepared is crucial. Adapting your setup according to the situation will make all the difference when staring down your eight weight at a pod of tailing redfish. That is why we have compiled a list of our 10 favorite redfish flies for the Texas coast that have proven themselves, time and again.

The inshore waters of the mid-portion of the Texas Coastal bend are a patchwork of turtle grass and sand flats mixed with marsh lakes that fill and drain with the tides. This is home to our favorite species to target, creating a dynamic sight fishing experience unique to Texas.

Black drum that can reach fifteen pounds or more frequent these shallow waters. They rarely refuse most redfish flies that are placed in their line of sight. Sheepshead are also common on these flats and have developed a cult following up and down the coast. They have earned the nickname “Texas Permit” because of their ability to refuse our best presentations and most detailed flies, much like their sickle-finned cousins further to the south. Texas is also known for its ability to grow some of the biggest speckled sea trout on the Gulf Coast. They can grow to nearly 30 inches and will aggressively chase surface flies before inhaling them with their bright yellow mouths. All of our favorite redfish flies will convince any of these species depending on the conditions.

But the main attraction to the Texas coast is redfish.

redfish

To say redfish are opportunistic is an understatement. They will eat anything near them that moves and the takes are extremely visual. They attack baitfish, tail for crabs, and chase shrimp, everything fly anglers could ask for in a fish species. Redfish on a flat can sometimes be subtle. When hunting crabs in turtle grass, redfish can blend in surprisingly well with their surroundings. A push of water will give them away as they move from one meal to the next. Sometimes all you will see are tails tipped in neon blue that wave in the air like small, iridescent flags attached to an underwater flagpole.

But on the wide sand flats of the Texas coast, the bodies and shadows of traveling redfish contrast with the light-color bottom making spotting groups and singles easy. Redfish also like to patrol ambush spots along the edges of gutters that drain backwater salt marshes. Certain tides or wind directions create currents that flush food out into the open. Here, redfish get reckless and charge forcefully into places so shallow that their eyes are above water. They often crawl on their bellies as they move down a shoreline, spraying shrimp and baitfish in all directions. Each of these scenarios calls for a different approach and fly selection.

fly selection texas

What to fish and how to fish it varies from day to day. Often it takes experimenting with different techniques and flies to see how the fish are feeding or how they react. Some of our favorite Texas redfish fly patterns are so realistic that they look like they came from a seafood market. Others were designed specifically to be suggestive rather than imitative, capable of covering multiple food sources at the same time. Depending on how they are presented and retrieved, they might look and act completely different. These 10 redfish flies will cover any situation or scenario that presents itself on the Texas coast.

Top 10 Redfish Flies for Texas

10. Strong Arm Merkin

Available every month of the year, crabs make up a substantial portion of a redfish’s diet. The Strong Arm Merkin in a size #2 is going to be a heavy-lifter in your fly box so make sure you have plenty backups. Olive works best fished over turtle grass and tan is preferred for cruisers on sand flats. This fly is perfect for slow-moving, tailing redfish, black drum, and sheepshead. It imitates a small swimming crab that is fleeing from its hiding place. Heavy eyes get it down quickly and a large profile will stick out in dirtier water conditions. Small and fast strips will attract the attention of any nearby fish. In a pinch, when moved faster and higher up in the water column this fly will pass for a fleeing shrimp evading predators.

 

9. Shallow Water Crack/Redfish Crack

redfish crack

This is one of the more popular flies anywhere along the Gulf Coast that has proven itself on the redfish flats. A wide range of colors makes it an asset in every fly box. It imitates a crab perfectly when crawled slowly along the bottom but gets more shrimp-like as it is stripped quickly. Heavy eyes get the hook point turned up and the fly to the bottom quickly. The mono weed guard is a must when fishing around turtle grass. However, this can be quickly removed with clippers if needed. The Shallow Water Crack also has a big, flashy profile making it a great fly when the wind puts chop on the water and stirs up the bottom.  Put this fly on any time redfish, black drum, sheepshead, or speckled trout are nearby.

8. Marabou with 1 ½ brush

Marabou with 1 ½ brush fly

The effectiveness of this fly is all about its simplicity and durability. Marabou breathes underwater. Even when the fly isn’t moving, this fly is just as effective sitting still as it is being retrieved. This fly is built to last and take plenty of abuse thanks to the brush. It comes in a variety of color options that can imitate shrimp and suggest baitfish. The bulkier material in the brush pushes water and triggers the sensitive lateral lines that fish rely on. Lighter eyes in this fly allow it to land soft and not spook fish that are cruising shallow making the Marabou Brush fly a go-to shrimp when faced with clear conditions or nervous fish.

7. Alphlexo Crab

A fly that needs little introduction for many saltwater anglers. An ultra-realistic crab pattern that is an effective redfish fly, it’s an absolute necessity for any Texas coast fly box. A sideways profile imitates many of the different crab species that redfish, drum, and sheepshead find irresistible. The Alphlexo moves like the real deal when slid or ticked along the bottom, triggering an aggressive feeding response. It is sold commercially in tan, white, and olive which allow you to experiment with colors. Fish larger size #2 Flexos in off-color water and smaller size #6 in clearer conditions. Confidently fish this fly to slow-moving fish and tailers in all water conditions, just vary the size in color.

6. Texas Toad

Texas toad fly pattern

The Texas Toad is an adaptation of the Kwan fly and is a well-known producer for redfish and speckled trout. Usually tied light, the Texas Toad lands soft and delicately making it ideal for situations when stealth is needed. That makes the Texas Toad an ideal fly when fish are cruising in shallower-than-normal water. Finding fish working water that is barely shin deep is not uncommon and this is when they are most alert. It combines a large, water-pushing profile that is still easy to pick up and recast without causing a disturbance. Cast it tight on the banks where groups of redfish are spraying shrimp or ambushing bait and be ready. In general, the more color the water has, the darker the fly should be so in dirty water conditions, black and purple is a proven color combination.

5. Shallow Water Stealth Shrimp

Shallow water shrimp redfish fly

Calm water conditions without wind may make casting easier, but it makes getting flies in front of fish extremely difficult. Combine that with clear water and presenting a fly properly is almost impossible. The Shallow Water Stealth Shrimp was designed for these types of conditions. This shrimp fly lands light like a feather and will sneak easily into the zone of redfish and speckled trout. It’s easy to cast and reposition for the perfect shot at cruisers, staying high in the column and well out of reach of snagging grass on the bottom. Weed guards keep floating grass off the hook but can be removed with nippers if preferred. Perfectly calm conditions may be a rare occurrence in saltwater flyfishing but it does happen. With the Shallow Water Stealth Shrimp, you’ll be ready when it does.

4. Kung Fu Crab

This has been a staple crab fly in the saltwater angler’s arsenal for many years and for good reason. Another highly imitative fly design, the Kung Fu Crab comes in larger #2 and #4 hook sizes. It perfectly imitates a crab in a defensive position ready to defend itself. Heavy brass eyes get the fly down quickly into the zone of redfish, black drum, and sheepshead.

Move the Kung Fu Crab slowly along the bottom to stir up sand and draw the attention of a passing fish. Then drop the fly completely. Movement from the rubber legs will continue to entice the fish once the fly stops. Watch the fish’s body language and wait for it to tip down indicating that it picked up the fly. Crabs will often stop completely when trying to bury or defend themselves, sending sharp claws upward and into the face of their attacker hoping to deter it. Fish the Kung Fu Crab on sandy bottoms or along turtle grass patches where hunting fish are cruising.

3. Seaducer

The Seaducer has been around almost as long as people have by flyfishing in saltwater. It’s a timeless pattern with a wide range of applications that can be applied to any predatory fish out there. All-natural materials breathe in the water on larger size #2 hooks and can come in a variety of colors. Fish it in black and purple in dirty water and light color combos like white and red in clear water.

Typically tied weightless, the Seaducer rides high up in the water column where it steers clear of snags and grassy bottoms. It also lands softly on the water making it a great choice for nervous fish or calm conditions. Try to get your leader to lay out completely on your presentation then get the fly moving the second it hits the water. It usually doesn’t take much convincing to get redfish and speckled trout to commit to a classic fly like this.

2. Redfish Slider

Slider-style flies have remained a popular redfish fly across the Gulf Coast, especially in Texas. Defined by its spun deer hair head, the redfish slider pushes lots of water and comes with a serious profile. It’s the type of profile that you need when water conditions get tough. These flies are big. Sliders are perfectly suited for dirty water and come in sizes #1/0 and #2.

When it’s windy, it’s not uncommon to find redfish, black drum, speckled trout, and sheepshead seeking out dirty shorelines. Backcountry tidal lakes serve as protection for shrimp, crabs, and baitfish against predators. The fish will be hard to see but watch for pushes of water, tails, and backs. Cast a slider into the dirty water and pop it out of mud lines with short and fast, twitching retrieves. Fish pick up the fly’s underwater disturbances and often fight to be the first to get their mouth on it.

1. Gurgler

gurgler fly pattern

One of the things that makes redfish such a fun species to target is their willingness to come up and eat surface flies. There are few fish out there that feed heavily on bottom dwellers such as crabs but are still eager to eat off the top. This is why we love redfish.

The gurgler is a great searching pattern in zones known to hold redfish and speckled trout when conditions don’t allow you to see them. Throw a gurgler and chug it back to you through channels or gutters with deeper water, during days with heavy cloud cover, or in dirty water. Gurglers get the fish off the bottom and make them look up, and there are few things as exciting as watching multiple redfish or speckled trout fighting over a surface fly. They often boil on it multiple times before one finally connects with it and turns to run. Sometimes all you need is a little commotion to spark a reaction from a redfish, which is why we never leave home without gurglers!

Conditions Are Important:

One of the most important factors to consider when trying to decide which redfish flies to knot onto your leader is weight and castability of your offering. Fish in skinny or ultra-clear water can be spooky, so pick a weightless or lightly weighted fly and lengthen the distance between fly and fish on your presentation. Being able to pick up a long cast and stealthily resituate it without blowing up a pod of feeding fish with a disturbance is far easier with a light fly. Beacuse tailing fish tend to be focused on the piece of ground between their eyes, it is critical to cast accurately and get your fly to the bottom quickly. Even in deeper water or water that is dirty, weight, dark colors, and big profiles will grab the attention of a picky redfish. 

Poling for Texas redfish

It is also important to remember that the food eaten by redfish, black drum, sheepshead, and speckled trout is noisy. Crabs and shrimp click, pop, and even sometimes splash. Hunting fish detect these noises and vibrations triggering feeding responses even when cloudy water blocks their line of sight. Profile and bulky flies that push water will send hunting fish into a feeding frenzy.

Texas redfishing

It’s a safe bet to start the day with suggestive patterns such as Redfish Slider, Texas Toad, or Shallow Water Crack. But take note of how the fish react depending on how you present and retrieve these flies. They can be fished effectively as a crab or shrimp simply by the way an angler moves so are a great tool to take the fish’s temperature. If you notice that fish are reacting well to twitched and slow-moving flies on the bottom, switch to a crab fly and fish it with confidence. Fish traveling quickly across a flat or pushing wakes up a shoreline are most likely trying to flush out shrimp or baitfish and will aggressively chase down fast-moving flies higher up in the water column.

Texas flats boat

To Conclude:

The inshore waters of the Texas coast are a mesmerizing wilderness full of life and opportunity for anglers of all skill levels, making it one of the premier fisheries available to us to explore. Its vastness and complexity can sometimes make putting all the puzzle pieces together a daunting task. But with these 10 redfish flies in your fly box, know that you have all the tools necessary to keep your rod bent all day under that bright Texas sun.