January trip to Carpentaria State Beach finds Perch
In early January, my wife�����������������������������s sister invited us to join her hiking group for a few days of camping/hiking at Carpentaria State Beach just south of Santa Barbara near Highway 101. Having just read Jerrold Paul Sheldon’s article in California Fly Fisher magazine (Nov-Dec.2008) on fishing opportunities there, I was anxious to re-acquaint myself with the beach. The South facing sandy beach can provide ideal conditions for the wading fly fisher. Moderate wave action, a gentle slope, and a surf line mostly free of strong off shore currents allow fly fishers to cast accurately to fish holding areas. Barred surf perch, halibut, spotfin croaker, and corbina are caught here. In the winter months, perch are the most common fish in the surf here. At dawn on Wednesday January 14, 2009, I walked over the low bluff in back of the camping site to the beach. First- look at the waves for a few moments- nice and low -2-4 feet with lots of space between sets. The water is clear and no kelp! Now check for troughs, holes, currents and “Nervous water”. Troughs are flat areas between breakers. A hole can be identified as a calm place in an on coming breaking wave. Because waves normally break in shallow water, the calm area in the wave denotes deeper water. Troughs and holes can be identified by “Nervous Water”. This is a water surface condition that looks like tiny wavelets that don’t break but shimmer and shake. I cast my trusty Orange #6 Bristle Worm fly near some nervous water and it was immediately whacked by a scrappy 8 inch perch. I caught and released 6 fish over an hour’s fishing. The beach started to load up with joggers and visiting shell collectors. No need to start a major disaster with my back cast, so I went back to our camper for breakfast. The next morning I was up before dawn, and again found the surf perch eagerly biting my Orange Bristle Worm. Had 9 fish released by 9a.m. All fish caught over the 2 day trip were small-in 6-9 inch range. An unusual thing happened the second day. I got snagged in one of the holes where I had caught fish. Strange! I remembered what Ken Hanley said in his surf fishing class: “If you see lots of debris like kelp on the beach that is what is in the surf.” I checked the beach and there were lots of round rocks the size of softballs with air holes in them in the sand. The rocks had not been there the day before. Sure enough I casted again, and lo’ and behold, I pulled in a rock with my fly stuck in an air hole. Move down the beach!
Weather: always check your printed or computer source for the forecast. I don’t fish the surf if the breakers are 6 feet or greater.
Tactics: Fish dawn and Dusk. Fish can be caught off and on (all day), however the people load makes it a dicey situation. I fished low tide and had success.
Equipment: For the conditions, I was a bit overloaded with my 9wt. outfit. A 6-7 wt will do for the mild conditions there. Jerrold Paul Shelton used a 6 wt rod, large arbor reel, with a fast sinking 250 grain integrated shooting head which has a floating running line, and a 4 foot section of fluorocarbon tippet material for a leader. He has great success with the Razzler fly tied by Dean Endress. He also recommends Gary Bulla’s Gremmie fly. Anything orange or red should get you some action.
Logistics: Get off Highway 101 at Linden Ave, and follow the signs to the State Beach. Camping overnight with or without hookups. Reservations suggested. Santa Rosa section has hookups and quick beach access. Motel 6 is close (805-684-8602). Lots of restaurants and shops within easy walking distance. Winter mid-week is a good time. Also if you’re budget-minded, park on the city street, walk in and fish dawn or twilight.
Flies: (Gary Bulla.com) Gary has a wide selection of orange and red flies that work in the surf. Buy or get the recipe from the website and tie your own.
Recommended reading : Jerrold Paul Shelton “Carpenteria Beach” Nov-Dec. 2008 California Fly Fisher.
By Andy Malovos