Autumn ushers in some of the best fishing of the year on saltwater flats along the South Carolina coast. During this time of year, redfish become aggressive feeders, and the expansive grass and mud flats are the most-productive locations for hooking up with these favored gamefish.

Fishing from the comfort and convenience of a boat while casting bait or hardware may be the most effective method for catching reds, but for me, the very essence of fishing the flats is wading and fly-casting to tailing fish.

Although technically considered fishing, this pursuit is much closer to traditional hunting. Most angling methods involve casting to favorable areas where fish might be located, but the fly fisherman stalks individual fish, determines their speed and direction, and stealthfully maneuvers himself into position until the target is within range before placing an accurate but quiet cast.

As a lifelong mountain trout angler with the long rod, this type of fishing feels comfortably familiar.

Redfish reside in secure, deep water, but they come to feed on these shallow, exposed flats during high tides. They are aware of their vulnerability and rely upon finely tuned instincts to shield them from danger. For the wading angler, this elevates the practice of stealth to a premium. From posture to approach to executing an soft, quiet cast, the angler and his actions must not be detected.

For this reason, I believe wading the flats gives you some distinct advantages that fishing from a boat does not.

A wading fisherman will keep a much lower profile than one sitting high upon a boat's casting platform. This lessens the chance of being seen by the fish, which in turn allows the angler to approach closer and make shorter casts. As a general rule of thumb, fishermen who can double haul and deliver an accurate 40-foot cast with a fly rod will have prime opportunities to catch fish.

Shorter casts translate into more accurate casts - and fewer sloppy ones that will be least likely to put fish down.

An angler in a boat must also consider both the movement of the fish and the boat when attempting an accurate cast. Wind is constantly pushing the boat in one direction or the other and must be taken into consideration when estimating casting distances. Wading anglers are stationary, so making accurate casts is easier as well.

The following are some tips that I have learned from flats wading that can really help a fisherman willing to try this type of fishing.

* Fish move onto the flats with the incoming tide. Be sure to get there early during the low tide so that you can be in position and wait for the fish.

* Do a lot more observing than casting. Unnecessary casts spook fish and waste energy. Only cast when a fish has been spotted and you have a reasonable chance of a hook-up.

* Walk as little as possible. Walking and wading around a flat will spook fish, so stay as stationary as possible and move into position only after spotting tailing fish.

* Line yourself up such so the fish is approaching you head-on before casting. Cast to the side or in front of the fish, then retrieve with short strips. If the fish sees your fly, he'll probably take it.

* When casting into the wind, throw small loops forward and large ones on your backcast; when the wind is at your back, do the opposite.

* On calm days, throw large forward loops and bring your rod tip down close to the surface during the cast. This will allow your line to "roll out" and land your fly on the water without extra noise or splash.

* Wear a small hip or shoulder bag for carrying polarized sunglasses, pliers, fly boxes, a line cutter, extra tippet, insect repellent, and sun protection.

* A stainless de-hooker such as the X-Tools E-Z Release is relatively inexpensive and well worth carrying. The small flies normally used are often difficult to remove from the mouth of a redfish.

* Do not wade the flats with bare feet. Wading shoes or even a pair of old tennis shoes should always be worn to protect your feet.

If you haven't yet done this type of fishing, I would recommend giving it a try. There is a rush that's hard to describe as you sight-cast to feeding fish with your feet planted firmly in the mud.