Sunday, August 1, 2021

Tails of the Lowcountry: What's the Skinny on Flood Tides
By Captain Peter Lawson-Johnston

“The Lowcountry” is a term traditionally used by South Carolinians to describe the beautiful marshy coastal regions of the state. This region has long captured the hearts and minds of artists, sportsmen, and naturalists alike. With year-round fishing and hunting opportunities, it’s no surprise that many refer to the South Carolina Lowcountry as a Sportsman’s paradise.

For the fly angler, the opportunity to target tailing redfish in extremely skinny water makes this region particularly unique. While not a daily occurrence, flood tides usually occur around the top of a lunar cycle, when the tide brings water in the estuaries up and over the spartina grass-covered river banks.

With the right skiff, or wading access, an angler can stalk fish making their way through the spartina grass looking for crustaceans in a few inches of skinny water. While Louisiana and other destinations may offer more opportunities for larger redfish, South Carolina is unique in the quantity and quality of flood tide fishing that it offers anglers.

From about April through the end of October, each month South Carolina experiences a set of higher tides associated with the moon phase. When the tide rises and floods the spartina flats, hungry redfish anywhere from 15″ up to 35″+ can be found scouring the mud for crabs and baitfish

Tailing refers to how fish tip their tails above the waterline as they dig around in the mud looking for prey. It is one of the most beautiful displays of feeding fish behaviour and is the most opportune time to delicately present your fly.

Sometimes when a fish has been spotted and the angler needs to get that extra inch of reach, the captain will suggest stepping off of the skiff to chase these fish on foot. Landing a Redfish in this in-between world of land and water is a truly unique experience.

Captain Peter Lawson-Johnston is a longtime resident of Charleston, SC, photographer, naturalist, and guide at Lowcountry Premier Fly Fishing. Captain Lawson Johnston runs a 2019 Maverick HPX Skiff. Having a boat like this that is capable of floating in mere inches of water is key when targeting fish in skinny water.

Peter has captured some beautiful shots of flood tides over the years, and we encourage anyone who hasn’t already experienced this form of saltwater angling to check out his work.

Photography by

Captain Peter Lawson-Johnston