Tips and Tricks from Will Mundhenke
“You don’t have to be a Hunter to care about Wildlife, but you have to be a Fisherman to care about Fish.” This quote is from my friend Will Mundhenke of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, and Chair of the South Carolina Native Fish Coalition. For Will, the fight and preservation of fisheries and the outdoors is more than a passion. Will has built a life of service towards this cause, but it is not one that can be fought alone. As I sat down with Will to learn more about fly fishing for redeye bass and hear his story, pouring out of him was an invitation to get involved and to do better. It was not in a condemning way, it was more of an encouragement to come alongside. My hope is that Will’s advice and expertise spurs you along to get involved as well! His expertise, advice, tips, and tricks will allow you an opportunity to hit the rivers and streams nearby to target redeye bass, as well as other river run warmwater species, and hopefully jump in to protecting these native fish!
Rod & Reel Setup:
The size rod and reel best suited to target redeyes depends on the size of the water body. For smaller streams and creeks, it is recommended to use an 8-foot 4 weight rod and a basic 3 to 4 weight reel. The shorter softer rod allows for soft presentations and helps when casting around or under overhanging trees. Will prefers his C. Barclay’s “Redeye Special” fiberglass rod as the fiberglass allows for a slower presentation and more feel when it comes to playing the fish. Additionally, with “Redeye” in the name, it’s hard to think there is a better suited rod for this application. When fishing larger water bodies, whether it be the upper tributaries of lakes and reservoirs, or larger streams and rivers, an 8- or 9-foot 5 weight rod and matching reel will help with longer casts, and fighting fish in the faster current. In terms of fly line, a weight appropriate floating fly line works in all these situations. To make the outing more fun, pick up a click and pawl reel or back the drag all the way down on your setup, and enjoy the finesse of these small but mighty river fish!
The native range of redeye bass are the southeastern United States, exclusively Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and some regions of Tennessee. They can be found in creeks, streams and rivers above the Fall Line in the Savannah, Chattahoochee, and Mobile Bay drainage basins. The “Fall Line” is a geological feature that separates the coastal lowland areas from the upland regions. Rivers and streams where water temperatures remain cool, even in the summer heat, are good places to seek out redeyes. They are a black bass species, and like their larger gamefish cousins, these fish orient around structure. Be it overhanging trees, submerged rocks and stumps or rocky shoals. If you are a trout angler, in the later spring and summer, return to the rivers and streams where you fished for trout and, odds are there will be redeyes and other warmwater species inhabiting the same stretches. Around this time of year, the water should be warm enough for you to ditch those waders.
Food & Forage:
One of the most enjoyable aspects of redeye bass fishing is that these river bass hunt from below and target food in the upper water column or surface of the water. These fish will take a topwater fly regardless of time of day, providing even more of a visual enjoyment to catching these fish. Their diets include terrestrials, large nymphs, small baitfish and the occasional small crawfish. Poppers and Terrestrial flies are your best bet. Size 4 and 6 flies are best suited for the larger rivers, then scale down to a size 8 to 10 fly for streams or creeks. Some proven fly patterns include a Boogle Bug Popper and a Sam’s One Bug.
Will shared with me his sequence of color patterns for flies through the warmer month:
- May and June, utilize white, yellow and chartreuse flies
- July and August, utilize blue and orange flies
- September and October, utilize black and green
Grab your wading boots, 4 weight, small box of flies, hand net and go pound some gravel nearby. Tight lines and see what’s out there!