South Carolina Fly Fishing

Seasonal Overview of Saltwater Fly Fishing in South Carolina
Beginning in early Winter and throughout the colder months until March, it is not uncommon to see huge schools of Redfish grouped in numbers reaching into the hundreds. The water gets very clear this time of year. Sight fishing to these large schools of redfish is exciting. This can be some of the best fishing of the year.

Beginning in Spring, extremely high tides, called “tailing tides” by locals, take place at the new and full moons of each month. These tides, which average from 6-18 inches above the mean tide, enable the angler to access the flooded Spartina grass. Redfish are now feeding on bottom-dwelling marine life, especially crabs. As they feed, they appear to be doing “head stands,” exposing their tails tike a waving flag, almost seeming to welcome anglers.

As Summer temperatures rise in the Lowcountry, the warmer local waters lure in additional species. The angler can see great action during these months, with Spanish Mackeral, Bluefish, Ladyfish, Cobia, and big Tarpon making their way in and around Charleston’s harbor and jetties. Reds and Sea Trout continue to be caught, while schools of potential IGFA world record Jack-Crevalle enter our waters and remain into September.

In the early Fall, the water temperature begins to drop, and the Reds begin to school in great numbers on shallow water mud flats. They can easily be spotted by birds flying above the schools as the Reds gorge on shrimp. This is the time of year that we commonly catch redfish on poppers. The size of the fish and school will usually vary, however, it is not uncommon to see teeming schools consisting of 25, 50, or more fish. They also can be sighted pushing large wakes. The large spawning fish which run twenty to sixty pounds can also be targeted in the surf and structure just offshore. Large numbers of Speckled Trout can be caught this time of year as well.

Places to Look for Redfish – by Jamie Dickinson
Along the coast of South Carolina, from the Savannah River in the south to Winyah Bay near Georgetown, there’s a superb fishery that is continually being developed and discovered by the fly fishers of the Low Country. The bays and estuaries along the Intracoastal Waterway-where the black waters of the Edisto, Ashley, Cooper, and Santee Rivers meet the Atlantic-create a perfect environment for the “puppy drum.”

When I moved to the Carolinas in the early 1990’s I was distressed that I was leaving behind the recovering striped bass fishery of New England. After my first visit to Charleston, South Carolina my fears of not having good saltwater fly fishing nearby were quickly dispelled. Mike Abel of Haddrell’s Point Tackle & Supply in Mt. Pleasant, just across the river from Charleston, introduced me to the teeming marshes and creeks of the Low Country-and to the redfish. The most notable thing about this fishery is that it will produce redfish 365 days a year, and there are three or four other species to be found in the same waters. This fishery is every bit as good as its more famous cousins to the north and south. The wonderful sights and sounds of Charleston, with its history, unique bed and breakfast inns, and dozens of superb restaurants, are a perfect base for a foray into the waters that surround the city.

I met Mike Abel in 1991, and in the fall of that year he informed me that the redfish action was about to start picking up. This seemed unusual to me because at this time of year the saltwater fishing in New England is beginning to shut down. But off we went into the creeks and salt marshes behind Isle of Palms in the kind of flats boat you’d expect to find in Florida.

That first trip was spent chasing schools of redfish that were up in the spartina grass due to an extreme high tide. As the water fell out of the grass the fish moved out onto mud flats and cruised the edges looking for bait. The most effective flies were those that had some weight-Clouser Minnows, Bendbacks and Seaducers with lead wire underbodies-and flies with a lot of sparkle as well as rattles. The most important thing I learned on that trip is that redfish look down. Mike and his friend Gary Visser were out-fishing me two to one until I figured out that if your fly is not down on the bottom you’re really not fishing. After I changed to a heavily weighted chartreuse and white Clouser, and bumped it along the bottom, things improved dramatically.

The next few excursions to Charleston were during the late fall and winter. As with any fishery that runs through the winter, you have to keep one eye on the Weather Channel. Avoid the cold fronts that will shut down the fishing if the water temperatures drop too quickly, or stay too cold for an extended period of time. The one thing that sets this fishing apart from what you’ll find here in the late spring, summer, and early fall is that the water has really cleared up. This means that there’s a great opportunity for sight fishing. There will not be a lot of tailing fish, but there will be schools of fish cruising the shallows. If there are a few days of warm weather the fishing can pick up dramatically.

The cool water temperatures may make it necessary to slow down your presentation and retrieve. If you move the fly too fast the fish simply will not pick it up. But if you can get the fly in front of the fish they’re usually in the mood to eat. Also, if it’s extremely cold you’ll need to pay attention to reviving the fish before releasing them. If you simply drop the fish back in the water it is probably not going to survive.

The next serious attempt we made at fishing for reds was in June in the Ashley and Cooper Rivers surrounding the peninsula that is Charleston. During the months of June and July, jack crevalle show up in Charleston Harbor, and fish up to 40 pounds have been caught on fly rods. That was very interesting, but what really got my attention was that these fish were being caught on poppers! The plan was to fish two or three hours of falling water for reds, our primary targets, then move out into the bays to look for the jacks, finishing the day with a few more hours of fishing the edges for reds.

After a 20 minute run from the boat ramp we arrived at the first mud flat. It was 200 yards long, and 100 to 150 yards across from the grass to the main river channel. At the north end was an old broken up rock jetty, and the south end was marked by a grassy point with three oyster bars extending out towards deeper water. The largest one had a few old pilings sticking out of it. Between the two ends of the flat the water was 10″ to 20″ deep. We moved up onto the flat near the rocks and immediately saw a few fish milling around in the shallows. We picked up a couple of spunky small fish near the edge of the grass, but it wasn’t until we were half way down the flat that things got really interesting. A wake from a boat in the main channel moved up onto the flat and as it did it startled a school that must have had 200 fish in it.

There were actually too many fish. There were singles, cruising pods, tailing fish, and groups chasing bait. With the morning sun at our backs, we could see into the water quite well enough to count spots on tails and see tags on fish behind their dorsal fins. As we moved down the flat we kept spooking fish, which in turn spooked more fish, and it finally got to the point where fish were swimming in circles scaring each other! The fly of choice was again a medium weight Clouser Minnow. The technique that really worked was to let the fly sink a couple of seconds before making deliberate 18″ strips with a short pause in between each one. The redfish on this flat were in the mood to eat. When a fish charges the fly it’s important to keep stripping until you can feel him, and then set the hook by stripping and sweeping your rod to the side.

That afternoon, as we unsuccessfully searched for the schools of Jacks, Mike explained an interesting technique to use when the reds are feeding on crabs. When you find a fish, pod, or school that is tailing and rooting around in the grass, cast your crab imitation relatively close to the fish. When the fish hear the fly hit the water with a gentle “plop” they’ll swim over to investigate-and you simply do nothing. Just make sure that there’s no slack in your line. The fish will look at the fly sitting on the bottom, and when it doesn’t move, stick his head down in the mud and eat! This works because a crab’s natural reaction to a predator is to hunker down and try to look like the bottom. Think like a crab, and don’t move your fly.

As we moved down the flat we kept spooking fish, which in turn spooked more fish, and it finally got to the point where fish were swimming in circles scaring each other!

The pioneers of this fishery can be found in and around Charleston and Hilton Head Island. In the Charleston area the most complete fly fishing outfitter is actually in Mt. Pleasant, just across the Cooper River. Haddrell’s Point Tackle & Supply (803-881-3644) is located on the way to Sullivan’s Island, where the new I-526 connector meets Ben Sawyer Boulevard. Some of the best guides in the area work out of Haddrell’s Point.

In the Hilton Head area there’s a new store that actually isn’t on the island, but has one of the most interesting product mixes I’ve seen. Low Country Outfitters (803-837-6100), run by Tavers Davis, is on the left before the bridge onto the island. Here’s a place where you can talk fly fishing or bird hunting, and top it off with a high quality cigar!

South Carolina Fly Fishing Articles
12 Flies
This list is only intended as base point of reference for the fly angler traveling the southeast coastline.
A Few Reds
by Farrow Allen
Charleston, South Carolina A Guide to Fishing Areas — Access …
Charleston, South Carolina A Guide to Fishing Areas — Access Charleston
Chattooga River description
Chattooga River description
Finding Jocassee’s Big Black Bass
Lake Jocassee can be a tough nut to crack for anglers, but those who figure it out can catch a black-bass grand slam.
Five Best Trout Waters
Whether you like mountain streams, tailwaters or lakes, the Palmetto State’s cold waters offer something for your trout fishing pleasure. Here’s a close-up look.
Five Carolina Saltwater Best Bets
From top to bottom and inshore to offshore, saltwater fishing in South Carolina offers something for everyone.
Four Top Options for South Carolina Bass
Jocassee to Keowee to Murray to Russell — each offers some excellent angling in the summer. Here’s how and where to fish ’em.
Hooked on Fly-Fishing
from Discover Charleston
Jack Cravale in Charleston Harbor
January Chattooga Trout
The Chattooga River on Georgia’s northeast border has a reputation as a good winter fishing destination. Has that changed? Join the author as she explores the river.
May’s Monsters: Stripers on Carolina Lakes
With bait and big stripers coming shallow, spring offers some of the best striper fishing of the year in South Carolina.
South Carolina Dept. Natural Resources
Fishing in South Carolina
South Carolina Fishing Guides – South Carolina fishing guides …
Site listings for South Carolina freshwater fishing guides, South Carolina flyfishing guides.
South Carolina Fly Fishing
Year-round Inshore fly fishing and light tackle fishing charters from Charleston to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina.
South Carolina Flyfishing
Flyfishing and Light Tackle Fishing From Charleston to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
South Carolina Game & Fish Magazine
An outdoorsman
South Carolina Hunting Guides and Fishing Guides
The South Carolina Hunting Fishing Guides Directory is a directory of information about hunting guides, fishing guides and outfitters operating in South Carolina.
South Carolina Lakes
information on virtually all the lakes in South Carolina
South Carolina Redfish Tactics
If you’re looking to add a little pop to your redfish action, here’s a local’s techniques for taking advantage of South Carolina’s improving redfish population.
South Carolina State Parks
South Carolina’s Best Winter Saltwater Fishing
The end of the year doesn’t mean the end of saltwater fishing along the coast. Here are tactics to take top winter species in South Carolina.
South Carolina’s Saltwater Mecca
by Jamie Dickinson
The Lowcountry Angler!
By Capt. Chris Chavis
The Wild And Scenic Chattooga River
Three Rivers for Carolina Largemouths
Don’t overlook moving water in your quest for South Carolina bucketmouths. These three rivers all yield fine fishing for anglers who know how to approach them.
Top Winter Bass Lakes in South Carolina
Bass anglers know it never gets too cold to catch bass in South Carolina; however, some lakes do produce better cold-weather action than others. Here are some top picks for 2005.
Wildernet – Fishing – Books – North Carolina
Fly-Fishing the South Atlantic Coast

South Carolina Fly Fishing Boat ramps
Abbeville County Boat Access Areas
Tidal Fish Saltwater fishing forums

South Carolina Fly Fishing Maps
Chattooga River map

South Carolina Fly Fishing Reports
Bay Street Outfitters fishing report
Charleston Area Fishing Report
Charleston fishing reports
Fishing South Carolina: Lake Thurmond Fishing Report
Fishing South Carolina: Lake Thurmond Fishing Report
Haddrell’s Point Fishing Report
Lowcountry Guide Service: Fishing Report
Reel-Time: Fly Fishing the North Carolina & South Carolina Coast
South Carolina Fishing
South Carolina Fishing Reports

South Carolina Stream Flows
South Carolina streamflows

South Carolina Fly Fishing Forums

Outer Banks Fly Fishing Forum

South Carolina Fly Fishing Shops

Bay Street Outfitters
815 Bay Street, Beaufort SC, 29902, 877-501-5001
Haddrells Point Tackle & Supply
885 Ben Sawyer Blvd., Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464, 800-881-5201
The Charleston Angler
654 Saint Andrew’s Blvd, Charleston, SC 29407, 843-571-3899
Dk Littleton Outfitters
2227 Augusta Rd · Greenville, SC 29605 · (864) 370-3474

One Comment “South Carolina Fly Fishing”

  • David


    Thankfull for the good helpful information for a new to the area and the sport. blackloon


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