That's one of my favorite lines from Jaws, and a fitting celebration toast!
A last minute decision to take a trip out to the Southern California Surf had me checking tide charts, and consulting a friend and guide for the area Lee Baerman of Fly Fish the Surf on some good places to start. Intel in hand I packed the Impala and set out westward at about 11pm Friday night. Fighting to stay awake, making a few stupid Facebook posts along the way, I made it to my spot about 5:30am and started to rig up...
All geared up I headed out and down to the spot where I have had some luck in the past. I immediately hooked up and for the next 2 hours or so I hooked into 8 Shovelnose Guitarfish and landed 6. A couple of them were hooked close to the mouth, but one was a perfect fair hook and was the largest of the lot. I had paused my retrieve to deal with a tangle in the running line and all of a sudden the line started to pull back out, I stripped in and the line went taught and the fight was on. He ran me down the beach a bit and into my backing before finally coming in and getting his picture taken.
Like I said, I've been out here a half dozen times now over the past couple years and this trip things felt "right"... I was seeing structure, doing better timing casts with the lull in the surf, and tossing the whole 110ft of head+running line when I felt like it. It had finally clicked and it didn't feel uncomfortable or "weird" anymore. The area I was fishing was nothing but structure, channels, troughs, and an inlet, there were fish everywhere in the low minus tide.
As the tide was coming back up, I was on the wrong side of the inlet as it was filling up, but I was anxious to fish a trough that was starting to fill up, it just looked fishy. As I was walking up the beach spying the trough, I caught a glimpse of 3 long shadows. My adrenalin went up and I readied a short cast just ahead and past them, too short... Second cast, strip... pause... I saw the middle shadow turn its head, stripped, and BOOM! he bolted and the fight was on!
This felt a lot different than the Shovelnose I had been catching all morning, it shot up the beach and started to head out taking me well into my backing very quickly. I made a quick sprint up the beach and gained some line on it only to have it shoot back out a few more times before coming in where I could tail it.
In my hands was what I had been coming to the surf to catch, a shark! A beautiful sleek Smoothhound Shark. After dropping my gear on the beach, I walked it back out and waded in about knee deep letting the shark get some oxygen over its gills and I got to watch how it took in water and pushed it over its gills for a few moments before being pulled back out for a few pics.
After catching my unicorn, I made it across the inlet quickly to avoid having to swim back across and sat down with some Beef Jerky and a bottle of water and had a mini celebration sitting on the rocks sharing with the local crustaceans. It was time for a real meal, and Tommy's was calling my name so I started to make my way back to the car when I ran into another fly fisherman working the shore for Corbina. We chatted for a few and he gave me some great tips on getting a shot at some Corbina, he was a cool dude, I think his name was Tim... Thanks Tim!
After a proper meal I hit a 2nd spot that Lee had shared with me and finished off the evening with about 2 dozen Surf Perch. These things are like Bluegill of the surf, the fight almost feels the same, good hard pull and a lot of shaking. I had a few that felt really big for a bit, but they made it off the hook pretty quick unfortunately.
The afternoon had brought some wind off my casting side, and an unfortunate bobble on a cast and a gust of wind ended up with a Checkerboard fly in my ear. Quick selfie to find out how it was oriented and I was able to crimp down the barb and slide the hook right out. Surprisingly it didn't hurt even the next day it was all good. A few people have said I should have left it in, very SoCal rockstar look I guess...
Sunday brought some bigger surf, and it seemed to make the fishing go a bit slower. I managed to pick up a Stingray, and a couple more perch before deciding it was time to start making my way back home. Any trip to SoCal for surf fishing is not complete without stopping by Fishermen's Spot in Van Nuys to say hi to Dean and dive into the clearance bins. It was good seeing you again and BS'ing for a while, we'll have to get out and fish next time.
Until next time SoCal, thanks for the selfie!