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The Ultimate Guide to Fly Fishing in Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina, boasts an impressive array of fish-harboring ecosystems, providing a rich habitat for an equally impressive group of gamefish. Estuaries, tidal creeks, rivers, and the Atlantic Ocean are all well within reach, making for an abundance of productive fishing spots. Plan your next trip with one of AnyCreek’s local licensed guides to discover the many possibilities that make Charleston a prime fly fishing destination.

A flood tide redfish caught fly fishing near Johns Island, South Carolina.

A flood tide redfish caught fly fishing near Johns Island, South Carolina.

This article covers:


Charleston gamefish species

Between Charleston's inshore, nearshore, and offshore fishing opportunities, anglers have the chance to explore spartina grass flats, nearshore reefs, as well as the Gulf Stream. In each of these unique ecosystems, you'll be targeting a different set of gamefish– for more information on each of these species, check out our home for Charleston fishing charters.

Charleston inshore fishing

Redfish fishing is an experience that keeps fly anglers coming to Charleston all months of the year; spend a day sight-fishing for tailing redfish, and you'll see why it's so popular in Charleston. In the tidal creeks and grass flats where redfish are targeted, spotted sea trout, flounder, black drum, and sheepshead can also be caught on the fly.

Redfish, Ace Outdoors.
A healthy South Carolina redfish being released. Courtesy of Ace Outdoors 

Charleston nearshore fishing

Get a few miles off the shore, and your guide will help you navigate artificial reefs, structures, and shipwrecks that provide a home to many larger gamefish. Expect to target cobia, jack crevalle, amberjack, and more on your Charleston fishing excursion. 

Charleston Offshore fishing

Offshore fishing trips in Charleston will take you to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. Buckle up-- mahi mahi, wahoo, and tuna call this water home and rank among the most powerful fish in the ocean.

Charleston fly fishing seasons

While Charleston boasts excellent fly fishing opportunities year-round, there are seasonal differences to keep in mind when planning your trip. Whether you're looking for a chance at the eagerly-awaited tarpon that migrate to Charleston during the summer, or you want to catch redfish in their pre-winter feeding frenzy, local guides can give you a sense of the right time to fish.

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A summer tarpon in the Lowcountry. Courtesy of Slack Water Expeditions Guide Service

Winter (December - February)

Few fly fishing destinations offer a winter season like Charleston does. Lower water temperatures make the shallows and creeks gin-clear; from December to March, anglers can target redfish schools that cruise during low tides with the best clarity of any time of the year.

Spring (March - May)

As temperatures rise and water warms, redfish move into the shallows and feed actively. Cobia start to show up in Charleston's waters as they migrate along the coast, offering nearshore anglers opportunities to catch these opportunistic eaters.

Summer (June - August)

Summer marks a period of serious gamefish activity in Charleston's waters. Early mornings and late evenings are prime times to fish; redfish feed in shallow waters, while migratory tarpon search for baitfish around jetties, bridges, and inlets.

Fall (September - November)

Fall months aren’t quite as productive for offshore fishing, but Charleston's inshore fishing thrives. When temperatures start to cool off a bit, it's time to get serious about redfish fishing; large schools of redfish gather to feed in shallower water, offering plenty of sight-fishing opportunities.

Regardless of the time of year, Charleston's fly fishing opportunities are dependent on tides that change the way gamefish behave and where they are likely to be found. On incoming tides, fish often move closer to shore for feeding opportunities; as the tide recedes, they tend to move to deeper channels. At certain times, tides are strong enough to exceed the banks of the salt marsh, moving inland and covering vegetation beneath a steady supply of incoming water. Check out how to catch redfish on a flood tide.

Charleston fly fishing gear & tactics

Depending on the species you're targeting, the gear that you use-- and the way that you use it-- will differ. Check out our guide to performance fly rods to get a sense of how the right gear can improve your fishing.

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Courtesy of Jack Collett

Inshore fly fishing gear & tactics

Inshore fly fishing in Charleston requires gear that is light enough to cast easily but strong enough to land hard-fighting redfish-- an 8-weight rod and reel achieves this balance. Be sure you have a saltwater reel, as brackish water will quickly eat away at most freshwater reels. Stick to a leader between 9 and 12 feet; if it tapers down to 15 or 20-pound tippet, you'll have plenty of strength to bring in most redfish.

Inshore fly fishing is best done with colorful redfish flies, casting from a flats skiff; these boats can reach waters that are just inches deep, which is often necessary when tracking down schools of redfish. Local guides' knowledge of local redfish activity, as well as their ability to spot redfish tails, provides invaluable assistance on these trips.

Nearshore fly fishing gear & tactics

As you get a couple of miles out from the shore, gamefish tend to get larger. For these larger species, it makes sense to fish with a 9 or 10-weight rod and reel. For nearshore trips, a leader that tapers down to 20-pound tippet is a good option.

In this deeper water, game fish will typically be looking for smaller fish to eat. Saltwater baitfish imitation flies, retrieved in short, quick strips, are the ticket for attracting the attention of target species on Charleston nearshore trips.

Offshore fly fishing gear & tactics

Once you get out to the Gulf Stream, it's time to start thinking about a rod and reel combination in the 11 or 12-weight range. For these larger fish, you'll want a leader that tapers down to 30-pound tippet. Not many anglers venture far outside Charleston's grass flats and creeks, but, with the right gear, catching monster mahi mahi, wahoo, and tuna on the fly is an attainable and unforgettable experience.

Like nearshore fishing, baitfish imitation flies are the name of the game for offshore fly fishing; when fly fishing offshore, don’t be afraid to go big. Large, weighted flies move a lot of water and sink quickly, two attributes that are crucial for targeting big fish in deep water.

Charleston's best fly shops & sources for flies

Before hitting the water, it’s always worth asking around to find out which flies work best where you’re fishing. Regardless of the species you're after, these local fly shops and fly tyers will help you find the gear you need for a successful trip.

Rivers & Glen Trading Co.

Located in Mt. Pleasant, Rivers & Glen has all the rods, reels, flies, fly lines, leaders, and tippet you could need for a successful Charleston fly fishing trip. Their first store opened in Augusta, Georgia in 1999, and their newest location in Charleston has been keeping fly anglers stocked up since 2022.

Haddrell's Point Fin to Feather

West Ashley is home to Haddrell's Point, a fly shop that offers a great selection of flies, as well as monthly fly-tying nights and seasonal fly casting classes. Since 1983, Charleston fly anglers have relied on Haddrell's Point to prepare for their fishing trips.

Bend It Flies

Bend It Flies is all about creating redfish flies designed for the South Carolina Lowcountry. Named on our list of best redfish fly tyersCapt. Robbie Powell offers charters in and around Charleston, in addition to tying high-quality flies. Book a trip with him to see his great selection of flies in action.

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Redfish fishing with Capt. Robbie Powell

Focus Fly Company

Another from our list of top redfish fly tyersFocus Fly Company produces flies that are favorites among Charleston guides. Local favorite "Low Tide Larry" flies are a must-have for any Lowcountry redfish fishing trip.

Best fly fishing spots in Charleston

Shem Creek Park

Shem Creek Park, located in Mt. Pleasant, should be high on any angler's list for creek fishing in Charleston. Views of Charleston Harbor and its surrounding marshes, as well as a number of shoreside restaurants and bars, make Shem Creek a popular fly fishing destination.

Pitt Street Bridge Park

Pitt Street Bridge, just a few miles from Shem Creek Park, offers more great creek fishing opportunities. For anglers interested in casting from shore, the pier at the end of Pitt Street Bridge is a productive spot to target several inshore fish species such as redfish, black drum, and more.

James Island County Park

James Island County Park offers kayak rentals, allowing anglers to access tidal creeks from designated areas. The 643-acre park has picnic areas and miles of walking trails, well worth checking out after fishing.

Isle of Palms

Isle of Palms has become a popular vacation spot, well known for its beaches and restaurants. There is some great redfish fishing to be done, as well. Check out Fly Fish Charleston for access to local knowledge of Isle of Palms and its surrounding waters.

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Birds-eye view of South Carolina marsh around Isle of Palms. Courtesy of Fly Fish Charleston

Where to stay in and around Charleston

AirBnB and VRBO both offer affordable lodging options with easy access to boat ramps where you can meet your guide. You can always check with your guide on where to stay to make the most of your time fishing the Lowcountry around Charleston.

Kiawah Island

Kiawah Island is a barrier island located about 45 minutes southwest of downtown Charleston. Known for its beaches and world-class golf courses, it also offers great access to several nearby boat ramps.

James Island

Only a 15 minute drive Southwest of downtown Charleston, James Island offers plenty of water access. This is a great central location for anglers visiting Charleston, and offers a quick access to great marsh fishing out of Sol Legare, Pleasant Park, and  Battery Island Boat Landing.

Johns Island

Johns Island is a residential island community about 20 minutes south of downtown Charleston. The Limehouse boat ramp  is a popular launch point that offers access to inshore creek and flats fishing on the Stono River and Wadmalaw River.

Mount Pleasant

Located just 6 miles from downtown Charleston, Mount Pleasant is a family-friendly, suburban area. Shem Creek Boat Landing is easily accessible and offers plenty of dining options nearby.

Isle of Palms

Isle of Palms, located about 30 minutes north of downtown Charleston, has its own boat ramp used by some resident guides — in addition to beautiful beaches, golf courses, and vacation rentals.

Folly Beach

Folly Beach, about 20 minutes Southeast of downtown Charleston, features Folly River Boat Ramp, which provides access to its scenic waterways and inshore fishing spots.

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Birds-eye view of Folly Beach waterway. Courtesy of Hawkins Fishing Charters

Preparing for your trip to Charleston

Licensing

If you’re fishing solo or without a licensed guide, take a moment to purchase a fishing license online. Any angler over the age of 16 must have a valid South Carolina fishing license, whether you're fishing from shore, a kayak, or on a boat. Head to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources website to purchase a license quickly and easily.

Your next fly fishing adventure in Charleston

Charleston guides have a lifetime's worth of local knowledge– maximize all of Charleston's excellent angling opportunities with a guide by your side. Take the time to connect with your guide in advance of the trip; they can give you a sense of what to expect on the water, as well as what to wear and bring so that your Charleston fly fishing trip will be an unforgettable one.

Frequently asked questions about Charleston fly fishing

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