Fishing the Surf

California has hundreds of beach to surf fish.

I'm never sure exactly what I'm going to get. As I turn west off the Coastal Trail, however, in one long gaze, the conditions come into focus. Even with detailed sea conditions available on the Internet, it's like most things on the Internet - not the whole story. That said, I wouldn't wader up and head to the beach without first seeking out critical information like: the tide, swell direction, wave height, wind direction and speed. I'm not getting out of bed early for days forecasted for either high surf or high winds. For extreme conditions, it's an easy process of elimination.

Fly reed with a  meal for cruising surf perch.

On the other hand, I circle days with four foot waves, light winds, and an incoming tide in the morning or late evening. Going over the tide tables, and weather forecasts is like studying for a test. You prepare well, then the teacher decides to throw you the question from hell (e.g., how many light years is the Earth from the Butterfly Nebula). Mother Nature can be that kind of teacher when it comes to the surf zone. Somethings she's subtle in how she decided to change the contour of the beach. And other times she's dropping a bomb in the form of a rogue wave.

A barred surf perch caught fly fishing a California beach.

Fishing the surf is a much different game from stillwater or working a stream. The goal is the same - locate the fish, but the conditions will change with each cast. Target a rip and shoot line just beyond the incoming wave. The line sinks, begin stripping. Success in my mind, is less about contacting a perch or even something bigger. Sure that's the ultimate reward, but the surf is not always that kind. Success on one day for me, might be not getting rolled over by the sea (e.g., getting the question from hell). Other days, I take joy in putting my fly in slowing moving water and just knowing it's going to get an eat. In other words, I take whatever it wants to serve me.

Walking the sandy beach surf fishing the Coast California.

Fishing the surf, for some, is irritantingly and uncharacteristically uncooperative. For me, it's been a slow process of letting go, and accepting something much larger is in control. (And for future reference - it's 3800 light-years to the Butterfly Nebula. I Googled it.)