Surf Fish Northern California Beaches on the Fly

Michael Carl surf fishing a California beach.

My first thought (both your mom and your dentist will appreciate this) -- don't use your teeth to break monofilament line. I get it, nippers go missing and it's the only choice. Just try not to make it a habit.

Surfperch can be found off most Northern California beaches and can be caught fly fishing.

When is the best time of year to fly fish for surfperch along the beaches of Northern California? Two factors help answer that question. First, the larger adults migrate close to shore when breeding. Typically the first cycle for adult surfperch runs from November into late February. The winter months can be productive for the larger adults for sure, but it comes with a catch - extreme swings in ocean conditions. Winter storms drive much of the variants. Toss in the arrival of King Tides, and you see days with high tides over 6 feet, swells over 15 feet, and winds blowing 20 MPH. Probably better to stay home and catch up on some tying.

The low light around sunrise can be excellent time to surf fish the  Coast California.

Winter storms (as described above) not only keep most anglers off the beaches, but the surfperch as well. With heavy surf, the shoreline proves a bit too rough for feeding and spawning. The surfperch typically more to deeper water. The redtails retreat to depths over 100 feet, and barred surfperch find depths of 200 feet to be safe.

Surfperch caught fishing along the California Surf with a fly rod.

Even with a tame swell, the surf is tumultous. Over millions of sunrises, sunsets and tide changes, surfperch have become masters of living in their domain. Evolving both physical features and a life history fine-tuned to the tough and tumble surf zone. Take their mouth structure -- it's ideally adapted to "sucking" up food in a fast moving world. The mouth works like a small vacuum. I've had many a small fly pattern vacuumed fairly deep into a perch's mouth to know this. With poor visibility and little time to react, a surfperch vacuums in whatever it believes to be a meal.

Fly fishing in the California Surf requires a lightweight stripping basket to manage your line.y

Surfperch will happily take flies in the surf. Barred surfperch are most common species found in the surf colored olive green to yellow green on the back becoming silver below; with bronze, brassy or yellow vertical bars and spots on the side. This surfperch is one of three living off sandy beaches with similar color markings; however, it can be distinguished from the other two (calico and redtail) by its lower jaw being slightly shorter than the upper and by the absence of red or reddish color on its fins.