Third times the charm in California

I had the opportunity to travel to California for work and stay for 8 days, with 4 days of personal time at the end of the trip.  Despite a bum knee from running an ultramarathon the week before, getting sick on the way out on the plane, and having a lot of work to accomplish, I did get out and do some fishing in the San Diego area.  Now my surf fishing blood is really pumping!

Next week, we head for Ocracoke, NC for a week of vacation, and I'm hoping to have some great reports for you to read from there!

So here's my Cali experience.

This is my third time in 8 years visiting SD and every time I've gone I've gotten sick: I don't know why.  I think it's the plane ride.  But also, I have always fished.  The first two years I didn't have a ton of time to fish, but I did get some in.  The first year I had no idea what I was doing and fished areas that I now think were really stupid.  I saw one ray attempt to pick up my shrimp once and that's it.  The second year I used only lures and actually had a bunch of hits from surf perch off Coronado Island.  But, being a striper fisherman, I was not prepared to catch sunfish/perch sized fish and didn't have any hooks small enough.  It was very frustrating: I wanted a Pacific Ocean fish SO BAD!  To have dozens of hits, almost every cast for a while, and not be able to hook them...I was using 1/0 and up size hooks and essentially you need #6 size to catch them!

So this year I was prepared.  I went with my 8wt fly rod and intermediate line and a load of bonefish/flats flies I thought would be perfect.  I also got a new Tsunami 7ft 1/8-1/2oz rated rod, so I didn't have to use my 5 piece 6.5ft rod that was only good to about 1/3oz and cost me $14 on amazon.  It actually isn't that bad, but not suited for casting in any kind of wind with any kind of weight.  The Tsunami (3 piece) was great (very nice, $80) and worked very well with lures up to 1oz, and down to 1/4oz jig heads with 3" swim shads and such.  I brought a variety of lures from 1/8oz jig heads and 2" curly tail grubs, to a Tsunami 5" talkin' popper, lots of swim shads in 2-4" range, and a few yo-zuri hard baits and sluggos and kastmasters/tins.  I used a 3000 size battle spooled with 20lb spiderwire stealth and used a 12lb flouro leader.  Overkill, but I didn't want to lose anything.  Which I did, as you'll read.

Sunday afternoon, despite being sick, I took an Uber ride over to my friends place in Mission Beach and we headed to Torrey Pines State Park.  I fished there in amazing surf and structure for about 90 minutes.  I had one hit from something that pulled my little rubber shad off the hook.  I was using a combo of a 1/3oz jig head and then a teaser about 24" in front of that with a curly tail grub.  But I was feeling really crappy and we decided to quit early and head for home.  I saw two other guys fishing, but both stated they had no luck, and both stated this was strange as they usually do well here.  They walked the whole beach, they were using some form of hard bait minnow type lure looking for Halibut.  Fished last of the incoming tide if I remember correctly.

Monday morning I dragged myself out of bed super early to fly fish on Coronado Beach.  Again I took an Uber ride over, and I was super confident because I had fished here 4-5 times before and this is where I had the hits in 2014.  I had read a bunch about fishing here, and all my tackle was geared around fishing there.  But then, I decided to bring my fly rod, and I was guessing again.  It was incredibly fun though.  I fished for about 3 hours and had no hits.  I walked the whole beach.  Once I had a very small (5"?) brownish fish follow my small shrimp fly to my feet.  I wished I had a sinking head of line because it was tough to keep in contact, but doable.  I quit feeling like rubbish with a sore throat and terribly fatigued.  Fished the outgoing, apparently this isn't ideal.  It was well worth the time though, as I haven't had the fly rod out yet this year.

I didn't get a chance to fish again until Thursday afternoon.  I can't say where, not even vaguely, because it's private and I have a serious inside connection.  This is the day I finally landed a Pacific fish.  On small swim shads, darker color worked best, and jig head/soft shad body combos, I landed 8-10 "bass" of various kinds from 12"-24"- Kelp Bass being the largest.  It was a blast.  I was fishing this rocky out crop that was attached to a sandy beach.  After some experimentation, I found the fish were stacked up around structure right at the transition from beach to rocks.  The 24" bass, pictured, fought like a champ, putting a serious bend in my rod and taking drag.  I broke off something much bigger as well, and lost a ton of the small sized stuff, probably like 8 more of those.  Several small fisher bit the tails off stuff, and a few broke me off in the rocks.  If you didn't get them out of the rocks immediately, even the little guys could break the leader on the rocks.  Later, as I walked the rocks more, I lost something also much bigger after it CRUSHED my 1oz Kastmaster which I was zipping across/just under the surface.  I mean, crushed.  Hit it so hard I almost lost the rod and then the drag was screaming, and then nothing!  I was so upset!  My friend was laughing, she thought the whole thing was very amusing.  I walked back down the shore line and had 1 more fish on a swim shad, and then the next cast had something large latch on that felt very different.  Very well could have been a Halibut, as it felt like a flounder hit to me!  Then the next cast something bit off the tail of the swim shad, and I could tell my friend was bored, so we called it quits.  I was a very happy man that evening at dinner!

Friday I made one more surf trip when my schedule changed and I had about 3 hours to kill.  I fly fished Mission Beach from basically the amusement park to the jetty.  There are amazing holes, cuts, and rips all through there, but the surf was pretty big and I just couldn't keep in contact with my fly- really needed full sink line.  Man, what beautiful surf though, amazing structure.  I should have just run back to the car and grabbed my spinning outfit.  But I didn't.  I got lots of questions from beach walkers, and it was fun talking to some teenage boys and explaining what I was doing and why I had a wash tub bungy corded around my waste!  I only fished for just shy of 2 hours because I was headed to Joshua Tree National Park for the next two days and wanted to avoid traffic.  I did have 2 small fish follow my fly in again, but no takers.  I had to be careful with the back cast as there were a ton of people around.

So it was a fun trip, and Joshua Tree after was INCREDIBLE (see pictures below).  I know next time (when will that be?  Maybe not for a long time) I'll be more prepared.  I really want to catch a surf halibut.  Apparently there's surf Stripers out there too, but rare, and smaller- although every year a few to 30lbs are caught, but anything over 25" is considered huge.

Oh.  And I'm predicting a normal spring run with normal timing [I WROTE THIS BEFORE I HEARD THE NEWS BUT AS OF 4/13 THERE ARE NEW SCHOOLIES IN RI, AND ON THE VINEYARD.  THIS IS A LITTLE EARLY!  HOPEFULLY A GOOD OMEN!].  I'm hoping to be into my first fish by May 8th.  We'll see.  I've got it on good authority the bass are in heavy on the west end of Long Island/New Jersey.  So...we're close.