Flats Fishing Gear

I’ve fielded quite a few questions on what you need to fly fish for red fish here in the Low Country. My recommendations here are geared toward the person who wants to wade or paddle flood tide grass flats and includes items that are reasonably priced without sacrificing quality and durability. I do offer personalized classes for anyone interested in learning how and where to use this gear.


This may be an odd place to plug this, but none of this gear with metal components will be worth anything for very long if you do not wash it off with fresh water after every saltwater use.

When are the flood tides?

The most user-friendly way I’ve found to keep track of when flood tides are going to happen is the TideTrac App.

Rod and Reel

A nine-foot, eight-weight Temple Fork Outfitters BVK Rod paired with a Redington Behemoth Fly Reel is an excellent combination that’s pretty hard to beat. People use six to nine weight rods for red fish, but most prefer a nine foot eight weight. Be sure to get a rod, reel, and line that are all the same size, for instance eight-weight.


There are tons of line options out there but the Scientific Angler Mastery Line performs perfectly for me so I’ve stuck with it even on my more expensive setups.


Premade 9 foot 16 to 20 pound test leaders are readily available if you don’t want to build your own but they are pricy for what you’re getting. You’ll save a bunch of money if you get a spool each of 50, 30, and 20 pound test monofilament leader and learn to tie blood knots. Under normal conditions I build leaders using the following: four to five feet of 50, two to three feet of 30 and two to three feet of 20. The total length for my leaders is nine to 10 feet. If the fish are being really spooky or the water is really clear I may shorten the 30 and 20 pound sections and add a 20 or 16 pound section of fluorocarbon. Orvis offers great instructional videos on fishing knots. 


The beauty of fishing the grass flats is that the red fish there are actively feeding and generally not that picky as long as you present the fly properly. Three to five medium sized black and purple flies with lead eyes that make them sink in the grass will get the job done the vast majority of the time. Don’t forget to rinse and dry your flies after they are in the salt water or they will rust.

Fly Holding Device

Keep it simple. A small container like a clean dip can works well.

Line Cutting and Hook Removal

There are a thousand ways to skin this cat, but I like how simple, effective and compact a pair of rust resistant nippers and hemostats are.

Seeing Fish

If you spend any amount of time around the water a good pair of polarized sunglasses are essential and they really help with spotting fish.

Flats Access

Wading is the easiest option for fishing grass flats. Old tennis or water shoes work well but if the periwinkle snails getting inside your shoes bothers you too much, you may want to upgrade to a flats wading boot. Another excellent option that gives access to more flats is to use a kayak or SUP.

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