3rd Times the Charm - Surf Report

surf 7-2013-00aI've made 3 trips to the California Surf in pursuit of something salty on the fly, and the 2 previous tips have ended in total skunk. This trip I managed to catch 2 different species from each of the 4 beaches I fished!

We decided to hit California and just bum around for 3 days over the holiday weekend, and I packed the saltwater gear in hopes of being able to fish the early mornings at whatever coastal area we were near. The first beach we hit was Santa Monica, and within 20 minutes of hitting the water I popped my saltwater cherry and picked up my first Surf Perch. It was pretty uneventful, but felt great to get a tug on the end of that line after so many failed tries that wasn't a ball of seaweed. He was about 9 inches and pretty lively. I fished for an hour or so more and had a couple short fights with fish that got off. Later that evening we ended up in Carpinteria and I fished an easy access beach for and hour or so before sunset and picked up another perch before calling it quits.

The next morning I woke up early and hit another beach in Carpinteria that has a saltwater marsh inlet and some really nice troughs on the beach. I immediately started seeing a bunch of Shovelnose Guitarfish coming in with the tide and swimming through the troughs snacking on the sandcrabs popping out the beds. I saw one come high up in the surf near me and when it saw me it spooked and shot to the far side of the trough I was fishing. I put a few casts to where I saw it head, and on the last I saw him move towards where my fly had just sank, I started to strip it in, and the line got heavy, I stripset and the fight was on! I was concerned I was going to lose him as my running line had twisted itself up into 2 knots and I couldn't let the fish take anymore line. Luckily I was able to get Crystal to push the line through the knots and get them undone and I could fight the fish.  He pulled pretty good, ran me around the trough for about 5minutes before I could finally get him beached.

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surf 7-2013-02 Shovelnose Guitarfish are like a cross between a Ray and a Shark, using their tail to propel them, so the fight is pretty good, and they really move out when they want.

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I continued to fish the troughs and inlet side for an hour or so, seeing a ton more fish, a few rays, and then I started to see the Corbina coming in shallow, milling around feeding. I made a lot of attempts, had a few follows, but wasn't getting them to eat. I changed up flies and went from a small sandcrab pattern to a much larger sandcrab pattern. I waited till I saw a pair of Corbina just to the left of me, cast out about 6ft past and 3ft in front of them, and started to strip it in. All of a sudden the line goes tight, pulls out of my hand and starts flying out of the basket! The line stops and hits the reel fast, rod bends sharply and POP! As fast as it started it was over, the fish broke me off at the perfection loop and took my whole tippet and fly, what a rush! I tried for another hour or so before giving up, I couldn't get another Corbina to take.

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One of the complaints I've had each time I've fished the surf with the stripping basket I have is the constant tangles when casting. It could have cost me my first good fish in the surf and I needed to come up with some kind of solution in a pinch. I hit the local Home Depot and picked up some Zip Ties and the Lid to a plastic shoebox container. About 30min in the hotel room that night and I added it to the bottom of the basket with the ends of the Zip Ties sticking up in the basket to hopefully keep the loops from getting in knots.

The final morning I woke up and was on the beach before sunrise, solo this time in Huntington Beach by the pier. The tide was a negative tide and way out. I setup and put an hour or so into trying to catch a perch. I had something small on briefly but nothing to hand. The quick basket fix was working GREAT, no more huge ratnest tangles when trying to shoot line. I'll have to make a more elegant fix when I have time later, but for now it was working perfectly.

As it got lighter I started to see a lot of small rays and a few Shovelnose Guitarfish cruising around in the rising tide. I tied on a pink Surfin' Merkin which is a local favorite fly, 2nd cast and I was into another Shovelnose Guitarfish! This one fought me quite well, taking me into my backing twice before finally getting dragged up onto the beach for a quick photo.

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After this guy I got into another one that came unbuttoned after about 2 minutes of fight. The rays were out in force, 2 or 3 always in view with each incoming wave, I was shuffling around to avoid an accidental trampling. As my time to leave was quickly approaching, I started to see the Corbina moving in but couldn't get one to commit before having to make the trek back up the sand to the car. My 3rd trip to the surf was the charm! Fish on every beach I fished in 3 days and 2 more species crossed off the list. Next time I'm sticking a Corbina, those things are rocketships!




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