Fly fishing in the shallows for reds

Tina Harbuck
tharbuck@thedestinlog.com
Capt. Royce Dahnke of Team Cast N Blast releases a redfish after he caught it while fly flishing. Dahnke said it's all about the "thrill of the chase" when it comes to fly fishing. [SAM COLLETT/SPECIAL TO THE LOG]

Although Destin is often associated with deep sea fishing, fishing the shallows can be productive as well.

In the last few weeks, Capt. Royce Dahnke of Team Cast N Blast Bay Fishing has been pulling in some big redfish out of the bay in water less than foot deep.

“The shallowest I’ve ever caught one was in 5 or 6 inches of water,” Dahnke said.

He said he looks for the real grassy flat areas in the bay and has found redfish from Panama City to Pensacola.

The cool thing about fishing for redfish in the shallows is the angler can sight fish for them.

“You get to see the fish before you catch it,” Dahnke said, noting it’s kind of like cobia fishing where the angler hunts for the fish.

Just recently Dahnke spotted a redfish in extreme shallows.

“His eye came out of the water while I was casting,” he said.

Most of the time, Dahnke sight fishes for redfish in one-foot of water or less, which makes it easier to spot them.

“Their backs or tails are out of the water … their heads are down feeding, looking for crab or shrimp,” he said.

A sunny day also helps in being able to spot the fish. And this time of year, fly fishing is the method he uses to snag those reds.

“It’s a good challenge and a good way to present without scaring the fish,” he said.

Dahnke explained that a redfish can hear and sense things and can be spooked by noises on the boat or baits hitting the water.

Thus wading and fly fishing for them in the shallows is a good way to go.

“The flies land very gently on the water and I try to throw past them,” he said.

Dahnke uses a fly rod with a 10-pound test leader. Plus he makes his own flies out of synthetics and natural fibers.

“I tie my flies to look like a shrimp or any small crustacean,” he said.

And this is the right time of year to go sight fishing for redfish.

From early November to mid-January is Dahnke’s favorite time to go, noting that’s when the redfish move into the shallows due to the cool temps.

“Mid-50 to 60s is perfect,” he said.

Plus wind can also play a factor when you’re fly fishing for them.

“We don’t go if it’s over 10 to 15 mph wind … unless you can find a cove or something,” he said.

The limit on redfish is one per person and they have to be in the slot limit to keep. Redfish can’t be less than 18 inches or no more than 27 inches.

“Mainly we let them go. It’s all about the thrill of the chase when we fly fish,” Dahnke said.