Fly fishing in Hilton Head Island with top water flies is probably the most exciting way to fish Hilton Head's inshore waters and despite what many other anglers believe can be done all year. Just seeing the fish looking at the top water flies, deciding whether or not to eat it, can be a real treat. It is the ultimate test of an anglers' skills to make a fish that is an opportunistic feeder change into an aggressive reaction feeder. We've had many successful days throwing topwater on the skiff, but one thing I have noticed is that even the self proclaimed experienced fly anglers have trouble putting the proper action on the top water to get the fish fired up enough to eat it.
When trying to get the top water bites on flies with redfish in Hilton Head you want to keep the fly line as straight as possible between the tip of the rod and the fly(no slack) and keep the rod tip in the water while you strip the fly. These two tips will cause the fly to react when and how you want it to.
Stripping the fly the correct way can be the difference between you giving up on the topwater, and getting the type of eats that we all hope for. It is not the normal mindless angling that most people want fishing to be like. During most of the year the noise and the spray that the fly makes is what attracts the redfish in Hilton Head. There is a reason they call flies "gurglers" and "poppers", it's the combination of the noise and spray when fished correctly that gives them that name. Because the fish are shallow and often finicky, the strip should be smooth and subtle. A hard fast strip will often times spook a Hilton Head redfish. It does not normally have to have a rhythm until the fish starts following it, just the right noise and spray while the fish is looking at it.
The "pause" is the key. After stripping the fly correctly in front of a Hilton Head redfish it will often times get the fish fired up enough to come give it a look. Pausing after a correct strip is when most bites will happen, if it does not give it another proper strip to keep the redfish's interest up.
The most difficult thing for most anglers that are inexperienced in top water fly fishing in Hilton Head is keeping their cool when they see the fish come up and crush their fly. Just let them eat it and don't set the the hook until you feel them. If they miss which they often do, since they are designed to be bottom feeders, keep your cool and keep stripping the fly correctly. They are already fired up and angry that their prey is still swimming, if you use your head they will eat again.
Finally, none of this works unless you are seeing the fish correctly. When fishing topwater for redfish in Hilton Head you are going to spend your time looking into the water to see the fish correctly and not casting until you are casting in the right place. If you are guessing and casting then your are not being productive and if your head doesn't hurt form looking into the water when you get back to the dock then you didn't catch them.
Check out this old clip from a few years back while throwing the gurgler during the low tide shufflehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6XnpF-OVZc