Redfish and black drum provide willing targets in spring and summer
by Ted Lund
The Ugly Duckling
Black drum may not be as glamorous as their bronze-backed cousins but they are a great fly rod target — one that allows anglers to hone their sight-casting and stripping skills.
While redfish prefer feeding on or near the bottom most of the time, they will commit to savage mid- and topwater strikes more akin to snook and redfish. Black drum — on the other hand — rarely if ever lift their head out of the mud to go out of their way to eat anything. Examining the black drum’s intelligent design, you quickly see why. They’re dedicated bottom feeders making a living probing the bottom with barbels on the ventral-surface of their jaw. Anytime they manage to locate something, they’ll flush it out and pounce.
Both fish range from the Gulf Coast of Texas all the way to the northern end of the Chesapeake Bay, and throughout that range, they are an important recreational species; in fact redfish are one of the most popular gamefish in North American saltwater.
When selecting fly patterns for black drum and redifsh, Levi and Gorichky prefer to think in terms of “schrimpishness” — a quality that describes an impressionistic representation of shrimp, crabs or other crustaceans comprising the lion’s share of the black and red drum diet.
“You want something that’s going to give the impression of something shrimpy or crabby,” says Chuck Levi, who runs KBB Outfitters in Titusville, Florida. The Space Coast Area is home to some of the best black drum and redfishing action in the country. “It doesn’t have to be exact; a fly pattern like a Kwan or toad pattern that’s a little bit of everything is perfect.” The Clouser Deep Minnow is another popular fly.
Both agree when it comes to black drum, however, darker colors rule.
“Black and purple or dark browns work best,” says Gorichky. “Something that definitely stands out. For reds, you can go with brighter colors involving a touch of chartreuse but the black drum definitely prefer the darker shades.”
The critical factor according to both, is that the fly sink and doesn’t snag so that you can strip right along the bottom in the strike zone. Levi prefers short deliberate strips.
“Again, going back to the ‘scrimpish’ theory, you want to kind of hops and skips across the bottom. Black drum aren’t going to chase the fly like redfish.”
Setting the hook is another matter.
“When reds bite, you don’t really have to worry; They eat and run,” says Gorichky. “But the black drum continue moving forward and a lot of times they’ll eat and spit the hook before the angler can set the hook.”
I am living proof of that, having had nearly a half-dozen eats and being unable to come tight on any of them. I guess there’s a reason that the black drum is one of the few species of fish I’ve yet to take on fly.
But the fun is all in the chase.
Red and black drum are cooperative targets that won’t break the bank when talking fly tackle. For around $200, anglers can get in on the flyrod fun. Its a great starting point down the road of fly-fishing obsession. A beginner outfit from Redington or Temple Fork Outfitters is perfect, and anglers can spend up from there.
This is the dominion of the 6- to 8-weight outfit. A 9-foot, fast action fly rod allows anglers to carry line off the water when making longer casts both wading or fishing from a boat.
Reels should hold 50 to 100 yards of braided backing, and little if any drag is necessary. A basic weight-forward, floating fly line like those from Rio, Cortland or Scientific Angler are perfect for delivering the “scrimpish” patterns. Because they’re heavily weighted, a 9-foot knotless leader is the best bet, tapering down to 16-pound tippet at the terminal end.
When All Else Fails
Don’t want to get into the fly fishing scene? No problem. Redfish and black drum are equal-opportunity pleasers that readily respond to soft plastics or natural baits like shrimp and crabs pitched on spinning rods with 8- to 10-pound braided line.
Gorichky’s go-to plastic is the Sinister Swim Tail from Slayer Lures out of Jacksonville. He likes to rig them on a short 20-pound fluorocarbon leader and a weighted keel hook. Colors should represent the naturally occurring baitfish and shrimp in the area you’re fishing.
Although black drum don’t respond as well to artificial baits, both love fresh shrimp and crabs — especially when cast in front of them and allowed to settle. Gorichky uses the same rig that he uses for soft plastics, allowing him to switch gears quickly and make the most for his clients.
“There’s definitely a lot of action to be had as things are warming up,” says Gorichky. “There’s plenty of fish around and the weather is getting better and better. Its one of my favorite times of year!”
To book a trip with Capt. Alex Gorichky, call 321-480-3255 or visit his website at locallinescharters.com.
Original Source; Sportsmans Lifestyle.com