It was a typical cold and wet December in the PNW, and Allison and I were fortunate enough to get to spend a good 9 days in Long Beach CA visiting family and friends. As a seasoned trout fisherman, I am always curious when it comes to the salt. Sufficed to say, when traveling anywhere within 100 miles of the ocean, I always bring fly rods. Technically I don’t own any salt gear so steelhead single hand 7wt does the trick the majority of the time. Now, if I was going after game fish that needed a bigger stick in the 12 wt. zone, I’d be with an outfitter that has that caliper of fish horsing rods anyway.
Our arrival into the smog ridden outskirts of Los Angeles was just as I had expected. Both of us had been chomping at the bit to get down to weather in the high 70s and luckily, that was what we got the whole time we were there. It didn’t matter how much trash there was on the on and off ramps between LAX and Long Beach, or the amount of polluted particles per 1000 we were ingesting with every breath, it was time for shorts, Chacos and sun… glorious hot sun, the week before Christmas!
Two days in, and we had found ourselves a fly shop (the only one within a 50 mile radius). Bob Marriott’s impressive shop in Fullerton was similar to the shops up north in terms of knowledgeable staff and gear selection. The only difference was the bugs! This is one of my reasons for having such an interest in salt fishing. Everything is different! The guessing game is two-fold – casting an unfamiliar bug into the sea, and then having no idea what you’ve caught once you do feel the tug. Is this a shoreline halibut, or a 4ft blue shark? This is how we fished when we had few clues and were sleepily wandering up and down the Alamitos Peninsula with the sun barely breaking the horizon.
The trick, in my experience, is always timing. I had a 10ft piece of T-8 on the end of a steelhead indicator line with about 6 ft of 15lb fluorocarbon leader, finishing off with a rad little barbell eyed sand shrimp (a recommendation from Marriot’s awesome staff) on the end of it all. Wading out into the relatively calm ocean, I remembered the shop guy asking if we had waders and when we said, “No,” he was adamant that we try not to get cut or have any open wounds while in the water.
Timing… it really matters while casting into a serf. I had determined, after a few casts had piled up at my feet, to “duck n’ chuck” as the largest wave hit my knees, which was usually every third wave in each series. Let it sink to the count of almost 10 and slowly twitch strip on the retrieve, keeping the rod tip higher than normal and out of the grasp of waves 1 and 2. A few hours later, the sun was high in the sky and suddenly… tug, tug, tug. To my complete surprise, Fish On! This is the part I had referred to earlier, I couldn’t see what this thing was I had caught! Did I need a special pair of pliers for something toothy, what if it was some kind of electric fish?
After consulting two hard-core early-morning fishermen we ran into on the beach, it was confirmed that the fish I had hooked was a nice 24”, relatively elusive California Corbina. Thrilled and satisfied with our experience, we boogied out for a well-deserved and delicious brunch (and legendary fish-bowl sized brass monkey “schooners”) at Schooner or Later down the road. Just goes to show, you don’t have to know it all to catch an epic fish…. Even in the LBC.
Until next time, my friends, Fish On!