Saturday, April 2, 2016

First Surf Perch On The Fly & The Post Vacation Blues

Tide Pool Adventures

For the past three days the missus and I have been at Patrick's Point on one of the longer camping trips we've planned together. She and I both love the North Coast: the empty beaches, the waves, the redwoods, the wildlife, and everything else that can be found up there. It was good to get away for a while but an epic vacation comes with the case of the post vacation blues. Blah, reality. Writing is supposedly good therapy so there I go.


The last time we were in the North Coast was in January. We had timed our trip during a post-storm which made our stay cold and wet. Although we got a lot of what we wanted to do done, I failed to do what I wanted to do; catch my first ocean fish off the surf on a fly. During that trip, the swells were between 7ft - 10ft high which made wading out into the surf a bit too risky. Not only were the conditions out of my favor, I also didn't know what I was doing.

Surf's Up

After coming home with the skunk, I researched how to fly fish the surf. The problem with researching and reading is that doing is completely different. I've read lots of fascinating stuff but without being out there on the surf and trying it out, I still had completely no idea what I was doing. Swells, tides, troughs, beaches, and rips...? ...there are a few new vocabulary words for you.

Surf fishing is extremely challenging but very rewarding. Surf anglers need to be extra vigilant of their surroundings and consistently judge whether or not to take a few steps back if the waves get too high. The surf is a crazy place to try and throw flies; you'll look like a fool out there with a basket attached to your waist but damn is it fun.

This trip I came prepared. 15# fluorocarbon for my leader material, tons of different saltwater flies, and an idea of what I need to do and look for. With a warm 60° forecast and 2ft - 4ft swell prediction, the odds were in my favor this time.

Agate Beach

A beach right off the campground? Sounds too good to be true!
Agate Beach is off Patrick's Point campground where we stayed. This beach is where I first threw my fly line into the ocean. As someone who has never surf fished before, this beach looked okay. As someone who has tried fishing this beach once and got skunked only to research why he failed, this beach was not ideal for surf fishing. Why is that?

Agate Beach is too steep. If I were to try and wade to the spots were the food is getting washed up, I call these the "trenches", I would get sucked into the trench myself. I knew where I needed to get my fly but getting my line that far would be near impossible. Once I realized this, I told the missus, "We need to go to a different beach."

After we had lunch we hopped into the car and drove down to Mad River Beach which was about 15 minutes away. One cool thing we noticed about the coast is that everything was within 10-15 minutes apart from one another, how convenient!
As we parked and stepped over the dunes to check out the beach, I immediately told Amanda "This is it!" The beach was slightly sloped/wadeable and full of sandcrabs, a crustacean that I did not find on Agate Beach. The main diet of surf perch are primarily sandcrabs and with so many around, there had to be fish in the surf. I found the food but where were the fish?

Match The Hatch

Reading the surf is very difficult for someone who has never done it before. Everything out there looks the same: waves, waves, and even more waves. However just like fishing for any other species, we need to look for areas where fish can rest and feed comfortably. In the case of the surf, I needed to find troughs and holes where the waves didn't break.

After a few hours working the surf, I found a hole and threw my fly in it right as a wave rolled over the strike zone. I made a few strips and felt a nibble but no take. The next cast into the same hole and it's fish on!

First Ocean Fish Ever!

This is the moment where I found that surf perch don't fight very hard but have some weight on them. Since these fish need to be quick about catching their food before the next wave comes in, the surf perch inhaled my fly completely which gave me the edge in landing my first. This was my only catch on the beach but it was a good one.

Beautiful Red-Tail Surf Perch

Later during our trip we found some time to go explore another beach in the evening where I caught two keeper red-tailed surf perch (minimum size must be 10.5'') for dinner. After frying them up at home, I now conclude that these fish are freakin' delicious.

Tide-Pool Crabbing

Explora Dora
Big Tree - Coastal Redwood

I had finally caught my first ocean fish and Amanda got to do what she wanted to do the following day. Our camping trip was completed.
The next time we head up the North Coast we are going Razor Clam digging and I am going to try and target a different species of ocean fish that live in the surf.
I feel much better now.

Back At It Again

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