Tuesday, May 31, 2016

California Surfperch?

As soon as Sharon and I leave Nevada we will be heading west to the coast of California specifically Morro Bay. This wasn't even a stop we had on our minds until I got a request from the editor of a certain fly fishing magazine to research doing a story on fly fishing for surfperch and other inshore species at Morro Bay. Always the eager beaver I jumped at the chance to broaden my angling and writing horizons. It's not an official assignment yet but things are shaping up nicely for a good story.

It works out pretty well for us because we have friends and family located north and south not far from Morro Bay- too bad none of them fish. The only thing that gave me the slightest pause is how little I knew about surfperch at the moment the story request came in. But thanks to some serious internet research and a few friends reaching out on my behalf the information has been coming in. The only minor hitch is that I can not find any specific information on Morro Bay fishing. That is probably why I got the story request in the first place, there's not much out there for fly fishing the surf at Morro Bay, CA.

At any rate I am getting pretty pumped up about the opportunity to give this a shot. For the most part it seems to be a lot like the surf fishing I've done in Florida with my son. The main difference will be the flies to throw and the leader set-up used to throw them. In a certain way a few things seem to be coming together at a convenient time. Since fishing Florida last spring I've been wanting to try a specific technique that has been very successful for me in the past on a favorite lake in northwest Wyoming. I'm going to be using this same technique at Pyramid lake this week. The practice on a big lake without the surf surging in and out will be helpful in getting the feel down before heading into the surf.

The technique in question uses a fast-sinking shooting head on a floating or monofilament running line. The sinking head gets the fly down quickly. In the case of Pyramid Lake, or other lake fishing
it's just a convenience of expediency getting the fly down faster. In the surf it's a matter of getting the line below the roll of the surge so the line doesn't get sloshed around quite as much as say an intermediate or floating line. Once the sinking head is on the bottom the retrieve begins with either quick, short strips or a slow crawl. The idea is to drag the fly along the bottom actually stirring up the mud or sand and making a bit of noise. You can only use this technique in areas where the bottom is free of vegetation for obvious reasons. Pyramid Lake and the Pacific coast surf are perfect places to employ this little trick. But I like to add a twist.

The twist is to also employee what the British refer to as a Booby Fly. Now an actual Booby Fly is similar to a wooly bugger sans the hackle with the addition of an over-sized pair of eyes made from a short section of foam cylinder. In short the general idea of the Booby Fly is to drag the line along the bottom while the Booby floats suspended above the bottom on a short leader. When paused the Booby floats upward then dives when the line is stripped. Though you seldom hear of this technique being employed by US anglers (Pyramid Lake being the exception) British anglers have been employing it for many decades with tremendous success. As a quick side note the British Booby technique using a single fly is an awesome way to fish a low growing weedbed without hanging up.

Using the Booby twist an angler is able to cover two "feeding lanes" at once. The leader setup is the key to being able to cover both lanes. When I first started using this technique I simply tied a section of tippet off the bend of the anchor fly hook and attached the Booby like the dropper off a hopper. This always presented a problem with the leader wrapping up in whatever material formed the tail (or claws on a crawfish pattern) and destroying the back of the anchor fly. After some fiddling around with different methods of attaching a dropper above the anchor fly my new setup came into being. I can't take credit for it since it came up a couple times while researching surfperch fly fishing but it did come honestly.

Instead of solidly attaching the Booby fly dropper to the main leader form a loop in the main leader line 2 feet above the anchor fly and attach the dropper using a handshake/loop to loop connection. Doing so gives you complete control over the leader including the dropper tippet sections.  You can remove and replace the dropper tippet at will. Multiple fly changes and dropper lengthening or shortening are a breeze with the loop to loop connection.

My online research has turned up several patterns that should work very nicely with this technique to catch surfperch and hopefully a few other species that are present in and around Morro Bay. Basically I'll be throwing either and over-sized Clouser's Minnow or an over-weighted crab pattern (I have one in mind-something like this) on a size 1-6 hook as the anchor fly. Off the dropper I will attach either a foam back crab pattern (something like this sans the brass eyes) or a straight up Booby on a saltwater hook.

This is really all so new it may or may not work out but sometimes you have to step out on that limb and test it. When Sharon and I hit the road over a year ago one of the goals of our journey was to be challenged along the way. I read somewhere recently that "if you don't feel uncomfortable with what you're doing once in a while you're not doing it right". The jest of that statement in the context of what I was reading amounts to: not being challenged leads to boredom, boredom leads to stagnation and stagnation eventually leads to death. I'm not ready to die just yet. There are far too many roads to travel, too many things unseen and too many fish to catch.

These are the times when you find out what kind of angler, researcher and writer you are. I'm always up for a challenge. We shall see and I will certainly let you know how it all turns out. Who would have thought I could be challenged by a California surfperch?

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