The Method to My Madness

“The best time to go fishing is whenever you can!” This is the refrain I often hear when I talk about planning a saltwater fly fishing trip for redfish. I try not to eye-roll but sometimes I can’t help it. When it comes to tides and planning a fly fishing trip most folks are thinking it’s best to go “when the fish are biting” or just “whenever you can.” But sight casting to redfish is most successful when you have several things going for you which may not have anything to do with the Maori charts, Solunar tables or Madam Vilma and her Tarot cards.

What I want for sight casting redfish is simply to be able to see the fish, but there’s quite a few factors that affect that. Since you need sunlight to see the fish, hopefully you will have a sunny day, and the best time for seeing into the water is between 10 and 2 o’clock. Another major factor too is the fact that you can’t see the fish if there is too much water over his head, not to mention that if the fish has the option to swim in the cordgrass where the crabs are, that’s what he’s gonna do. All that makes sense, right? So when I plan a trip to fish, if tide tables are available, I look for a day when there is the least water in the marsh between 10 and 2. Where I fish, on the Mississippi coast, that becomes an issue between March and August because the high tide occurs somewhere near noon. Beginning in August, that starts changing.

For example, say I would like to go fishing this weekend. Well here is what the tide looks like for July 24. In the following graph I drew my little crayon redfish down in the grass with a lot of water over his head in the prime fishing hours between 8 and 10. Obviously its gonna be hard to see him as deep as he is and plus he’s up in the grass anyway.

So, I decide to skip this weekend and look for another day. I find that on August first the high tide is at 6:00 am. The water is receding and low during the sight casting window, which runs Mr. Redfish out of the grass and into the open with not much water over his head. That’s what I am looking for.

Now there is just a little bit more to it. I am looking for a moderate tide that won’t run so fast that it will muddy the water. Also I don’t want the sight fishing window in any of the low tide which is typically unproductive and hard to move the boat around in.

Once I find dates that look like what I want I start watching the weather. Obviously sunny days are preferable but also days where the wind is not real high and more specifically, not from the south. Southern winds from the Gulf tend to beat the banks and stir up the mud. A mild southern wind is workable but a northerly wind would provide lee shores and would be the best.

Of course, you usually don’t get everything, so starting with a good tide is very important, at least you can count on the tide, as long as there are no major storms or really high winds.

One bonus to this type of planning is that these tides usually occur on the quarter moons. Most other fishermen are looking to fish on other dates with higher tides and they actually like the high tides in the middle of the day. That fact means less competition on the water on the days I’m fishing, which is not a bad thing. 🙂

And that’s the method to my madness.

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