Surf Perch, Think Crappie on Steroids

nickBy Nick Curcione, TFO Advisory Staff

 

Churning waves and rip currents with undertows that suck the bottom from your feet like a giant vacuum give new meaning to the word turbulence.

It’s no wonder then that confronting these conditions with fly gear can seem downright foolish. However, as with most challenging endeavors, with proper technique and equipment, fly anglers can successfully fish any surf zone.

The following discussion will concentrate on Southern Calif., and its vast and virtually unrestricted beachfront.  The primary species is the barred surf perch. Think of it as a crappie on steroids. By saltwater standards it is relatively small but its abundance and readiness to strike a variety of artificials serves as an ideal adversary for the light tackle fly aficionado.

Surf perch can be taken on various fly patterns in sizes from 1 to 4.   Photo Nick Curcione.

Surf perch can be taken on various fly patterns in sizes from 1 to 4.
Photo Nick Curcione.

 

Geographically they range along a considerable stretch of the Pacific coastline from Bodega Bay, (approximately 70-miles north of San Francisco) all the way south into the area around San Quintin.

 

Productive perch fishing can be had from beaches at both the northern and southern limits of this range, but, for this article the area from Oxnard south to San Diego will be the focus.

 

Most of these fish are in the ½ to 2-pound range, but are hard striking and strong fish. They are designed that way to survive their daunting habitat. Unlike the tranquil environment of their freshwater cousins, they live and feed in a very dynamic, turbulent water system. So, while they are not line burners, they’ll put a good bend in the rod and resist you for every inch of line you strip back.

 

Catching barred perch can be a year- long proposition, (one of my largest close to the 3-pond mark was taken in mid September) but the best months typically run from Dec. to April. Jan. is usually the month when you can expect larger specimens in the form of females that come into the surf from deeper water in preparation for spawning. They also come to feed, primarily in the form of sand crabs, which make up approximately 90 percent of their diet.

 

Study the tides and surf

As in all forms of surf fishing, feeding habits of the perch are closely tied to tidal phases.

Strong tidal currents like those associated with full and new moon phases act like a giant mixer churning up the bottom stirring up food sources, ( like sand crabs). Perch key into this so, time fishing o coincide with periods of optimum water movement. Generally this means you should try and fish during incoming or outgoing tides. However, not all beaches fish the same. Some will yield the best action on an incoming tide while others are best fished on an outgoing.

In most cases the bottom may not be visible, so reading the waves is imperative.  Photo by Nick Curcione.

In most cases the bottom may not be visible, so reading the waves is imperative.
Photo by Nick Curcione.

Just as trout anglers know that all sections of a stream are not equally productive, so it is with the beachfront.

To the uninitiated all beaches may look relatively similar, but as experienced surfers and veteran surf anglers there is an important variation. Surfperch like other predators are programmed to feed in habitat that will yield a maximum payoff of food with a minimum expenditure of effort. Fish will congregate in places where there the food source is abundant and readily accessible. In the case of their principal food source, sand crabs, anglers need to quickly identify areas in the surf line where the crabs are most likely hold. These areas are a function of bottom confirmation. Holes and troughs in the surf are places where sand crabs are relatively abundant. Whether they frequent these places by design or are simply washed there by the current, no one can say for sure. It’s enough to know that these are areas where you want to present your flies.

In most cases the bottom may not be visible, reading the waves is imperative.

Waves tend to break over shallow areas; they tend to roll over deeper areas such as cuts and troughs along the bottom.

For example, if you observe a relatively flat area of water washing toward shore with waves breaking on either side of it, that’s a sign that there is a bottom depression directly beneath the flat section of water. This deeper water will tend to hold fish like perch because that is where bait sources are likely to be concentrated. Sand crabs and small baitfish that are swept into these calmer pockets where they become easy prey for likes of perch.

Bottom depressions are prime areas to direct your casts but you also have to exercise an extra measure of caution when wading particularly if water visibility is compromised. In the event you are having difficulty identifying these spots (repeated trips to the beach front will sharpen your skills) do not despair. The truth is perch can be taken in all kinds of surf conditions so the best practice is to walk the beach and try to cover as much shore front as possible.

Tackle Choices

 

I opt for the 6/8-weight TFO Mini Mag rod.

It is a hybrid combination of S-Glass and carbon fiber. It’s only 8-feet, but it will throw all the line you need to reach perch, (most casts don’t need to be longer than 60-feet). This rod weight could be considered the heavy end of the scale for this type of fishing and it’s a good choice if the surf is especially violent and you have to throw heavily weighted flies.

Two good choices for two-handed anglers are the Pandion 6-weight and the 7/8-weight TiCr X conversion kit. With both of these sticks I use a Skagit line with a fast sinking tip.

Shooting heads are the way to go.

The leader set up is very simple and consists of a single section, (5 to 8-feet) of 8-lb test mono. Fasten an end loop in the mono (make it about 8 to 10-inches long) by means of a six-turn surgeon’s knot, (this is an overhand knot where you go through the overhand knot six times). Take this loop fold it over itself and tie a surgeon’s knot, (a double overhand knot). This gives you a double line loop in the leader that you interlock with the loop in in the tag end of the shooting head.

 

Fly Patterns

Fly patterns for surfperch can also be simple affairs but they should incorporate three basic features. They should be durable, they must not have any tendency to foul and should be tied in such a manner that the hook point rides up.

On practically all my surf flies I incorporate some type of weight either in the form of bead chain or dumbbell eyes. Any fly that bears a resemblance to their principal diet source, (sand crabs) will draw strikes. Color varies from grey to tan. Anglers should incorporate a clump of orange chenille to simulate the roe sack on female crabs.

Practically any bonefish pattern tied on size 1 to 4 hooks will be productive.

All-female team of anglers compete in TPST

The Tres Pescados Slam Tournament, (TPST) that was held this past  Aug. was another success, as anglers from around the world participated in the three-day tournament.

As the original and only current Central American fly fishing slam tournament, the end goal in this yearly event is to help raise funds to preserve  local fisheries. 

Photo courtesy Courtney Marie Martin.

Photo courtesy Courtney Marie Martin.

TFO friend and hardcore fly angler Courtney Marie Martin finished tenth out of 20 teams in the event, spending most of the tournament fishing her BVK 8-weight and Mangrove Series 9wt.

Courtney fished with Capt Lacey Kelly as part of team BelizeFly.com. Competing as the only all female team, Courtney and Lacey fished mostly 15-foot leaders with 16-pound tippet. Hot flies during the event were mainly shrimp and crab patterns

Here is the report from Courtney:

“The people of Belize and Honduras are some of the most impressive fly casters I’ve ever met, I was so consumed with their culture they are amazing,” Courtney said.

“Our guide, Rojo Lara, put us on fish everyday wading and casting off the bow. All fish were sight casted in tailing schools. Tarpon were skittish because of the wind and didn’t want to come out from the mangrove hammocks they schooled up under.

I hooked one monster permit on the second day just playing around in a deep canal that ran threw a flat full of bones, I was stripping my line back in to recast and it just stopped, I paused for a second because it almost felt like I was and bottom but I knew there was no way. I strip set the hell out of him, he hauled tail straight at the boat and I stripped my line as fast as I could, as soon as he saw the boat he took a hard right on the surface and you could see his dorsal and tail plain as day. He took off, all the stripping flew out pretty, I brought my left hand up to double hand the rod and my finger caught the line on the way up and gave enough pop to bust the leader in half. I will literally have nightmares for the rest of my life… I’ve been invited back next year to fish the tournament.”

Below are some awesome photos of  Courtney during the event.

For more information on the TPST and their work in conservation, tail on over to http://belizefly.com/tpst-tournament/ 

Photo courtesy of Courtney Marie Martin.

Photo courtesy of Courtney Marie Martin.

Photo courtesy of Courtney Marie Martin.

Photo courtesy of Courtney Marie Martin.

 

Photo courtesy of Courtney Marie Martin.

Photo courtesy of Courtney Marie Martin.

 

Photo courtesy of Courtney Marie Martin.

Photo courtesy of Courtney Marie Martin.

Photo courtesy of Courtney Marie Martin.

Photo courtesy of Courtney Marie Martin.

Photo courtesy of Courtney Marie Martin.

Photo courtesy of Courtney Marie Martin.

An Every-Man’s Rod With Real Talent

Journalist and photographer Memo Stephens may have said it best when he did this write-up on the Temple Fork Outfitters Professional Series rod.

“With simple, decent materials, and no glitter; TFO has managed to build an Every-man’s rod with real talent.”

That’s his take on the 9′ 5 wt. Pro Series rod, and here is his blog post for The Patagonia Journal on discovering that his “back-up” rod, is much more than just a back up.

read the full post here, at http://goo.gl/ZAuYG. 

Memo Stephens 

*Memo Stephens is an Adventure Photo-Journalist who resides in Argentina, for more information, please email:   managingeditor@patagoniajournal.com

Photo courtesy of Patagonia Journal and Memo Stephens.

Photo courtesy of Patagonia Journal and Memo Stephens.

Lefty Kreh with The Outdoor Wire at ICAST/IFTD

Release courtesy of The Outdoor Wire

Editor’s Note: During ICAST/IFTD 2013, the folks at The Outdoor Wire spent nearly 90 minutes in conversation with “Lefty” Kreh. 

During the 2013 ICAST/IFTD show in Las Vegas this year the folks at The Outdoor Wire were able to spend some quality speaking with Temple Fork Outfitters Advisory staff member and fishing legend Lefty Kreh. Below is an excerpt of some of their conversation.

For the full write-up, check out theoutdoorwire.com.

Lefty getting in some bass fishing on a south Texas lake. Photo by Temple Fork Outfitters.

Lefty getting in some bass fishing on a south Texas lake. Photo by Temple Fork Outfitters.

“Many Outdoor Wire readers know Bernard “Lefty” Kreh as the legendary man who changed the fly fishing world with his casting techniques, and as the man who taught countless anglers to fish for saltwater species on TV and through his newspaper and magazine articles and books.

Millions have developed a love of fly fishing reading his work and watching him, and when his book “Fly Fishing in Saltwater” appeared in 1974, he became a worldwide phenomenon. At least two books have been written about him, and he penned an autobiography, “My Life Was This Big: And Other True Fishing Tales.”

Kreh has fished with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Fidel Castro, baseball great Ted Williams, singer Huey Lewis, broadcaster Tom Brokaw, several presidents and many dignitaries, to name a few.

He is largely responsible for the development of modern light-tackle, big game fly fishing, and his name is revered among fly anglers across the globe. He has spent an impressive number of decades as a journalist for the St. Petersburg Times, Baltimore Sun, and other publications.

But there is much more to this unpretentious man with a perpetual smile and quick joke.

Despite his advanced age, Kreh is always willing to stop and show someone at a trade show his casting technique, or share his life story with an admirer. And there always seems to be a long line of such admirers wherever you find Lefty. One can’t spend time with Kreh without laughing, listening and admiring the man.

Lefty as passionate as ever about teaching the essentials of the fly cast. Photo by Temple Fork Outfitters.

Lefty as passionate as ever about teaching the essentials of the fly cast. Photo by Temple Fork Outfitters

Indeed his life looms large, like title of his autobiography, and if kindness, brilliance, attitude and achievement count, his life is tantamount to a world record.”

For the full story, check out theoutdoorwire.com

Tenkara Bum reviews the TFO Soft Hackle

Tenkara rods, for all of the simplicity and history associated with them, they can still be something of a mystery.

With all of the information, (and sometimes misinformation) out there, it can be difficult to understand what all of this tenkara talk is about.

However, the folks at Tenkara Bum have taken the time to break down tenkara rods, specifically the TFO Soft Hackle rods.

©Temple Fork Outfitters.

©Temple Fork Outfitters.

According to a recent post,

“In a way, it all makes perfect sense. The rod is clearly a tenkara rod but TFO didn’t drink the Kool-Aid. It is not an extreme rod. It will be a smaller step for American fly fishermen to take. The TFO Soft Hackle feels a little more familiar (more like a fly rod), the line is quite a bit more familiar (more like a fly line), and when casting, it feels A LOT more familiar (an awful lot more like casting a fly line with a fly rod). And you know what, it’s even simpler. There’s no 5:5, 6:4 stuff. No unfamiliar Japanese line sizes or confusion over whether to call it a line or a leader. This is not a “one fly” approach that a lot of people don’t quite get. It’s a “one rod, one line” approach that a lot of people will like.

The most asked question in tenkara is “what rod should I get.” At TFO the answer is “You can get the short one or the long one. Get the short one if you fish narrower streams or the long one if you fish wider streams.” You can’t make it much easier.” 

For the full write-up, head over to TenkaraBum for more.

©Temple Fork Outfitters.

©Temple Fork Outfitters.

TFO Introduces Blane Chocklett – Newest Advisory Staff Member

TFO oval logoBy TFO

Please join us in welcoming the newest member of the Temple Fork Outfitters advisory staff, Blane Chocklett.

Photo courtesy of Blane Chocklett.

Photo courtesy of Blane Chocklett.

For the past 30 years, Blane has lived his passion. He grew up fishing the small mountain streams in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, starting a guide service as a youngster. In the late 90s, Blane opened Blue Ridge Fly Fishers in Richmond, Virginia– one of the most respected full service fly shops in the region. About a decade ago, he returned to his river roots as owner/operator of the New Angle Fishing Company, specializing in float trips targeting the regions predatory fish from Musky to stripers and smallmouth bass.

One the most enthusiastic and cutting-edge fly tiers in our sport, many of Blane’s inventive fly patterns are produced through UMPQUA Feather Merchants. He has served on the board of the American Fly Tackle Trade Association (AFFTA) and has worked as a consultant to several fly fishing companies.

Blane is creating a series of patterns that has all the subtlety of flies and the strike-generating action of conventional lures. We believe that his new patterns combined with our commitment to make the right “Affordable – High Performance” delivery tools will compel many conventional tackle anglers to try fly fishing.

“We welcome Blane Chocklett to the TFO team. He is one of the most innovative fly tiers and wonderfully creative fly fisherman I know. Blane will be an excellent member of the TFO family.” Lefty Kreh

Blane represents the best of young stars in fly fishing, and working with the likes of Lefty Kreh, Ed Jaworowski, Bob Clouser, Nick Curcione, Flip Pallot and Gary Loomis, will help us lead the next generation of anglers into our sport.

Photo courtesy of Blane Chocklett.

Photo courtesy of Blane Chocklett.

Tenkara Fest 2013

Interested in expanding your Tenkara knowledge?

Just want to know what the heck that long, goofy looking fly rod is all about?

TFO rep Dick Sagara has all of the answers.

Check out the 2013 Tenkara fest, on June 15, where Sagara, along with other Tenkara experts will be explaining the Japanese sensation that is converting anglers to the way of the long rod.

For more information on Tenkara Fest 2013, please check out: http://www.flyfishusa.com/newsletter/041513/ 

Photo Illustration courtesy of Dick Sagara and The Fly Fishing Shop.

Photo Illustration courtesy of Dick Sagara and The Fly Fishing Shop.

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