By JC Weeks
Blue water fly-fishing was something that I have heard about for many years but never thought that I would have the chance to do. My two days in the “blue desert” were eye-opening and even though I experienced a little success that trip has me definitely wanting more. With that being said, I can tell you that I was fantastically under prepared and under gunned for what we experienced. Here is what I learned from my first offshore blue water adventure.
Before I get to ahead of myself big thanks and shout out goes to local offshore guide Alex Cady for sharing his knowledge of the San Diego fishery with me.
Open Water Means Big Tackle:
I packed for this trip not knowing what to expect whatsoever. Frankly, the largest rod that own is a 10 weight. Little did I know that for this type of fishery I was massively under gunned. The hardest thing to prepare for was the laundry list of species that we may find at any given time in this fishery. However, I will touch on that in much greater detail later.
Blue water means serious business starting with terminal tackle used. Depending on what species we chased we fished mainly 10 to 12 weight rods with heavy sinking lines and bomb proof saltwater safe reels. The line of choice for this adventure was the Hatch Outdoors Full Sinking line in the 400gr. this is due to the fact that it has a quick sinking 30-foot head with an additional 120-foot section of intermediate sink running line. This made an ideal line for casting into boils or in the general vicinity of any floating debris or kelp beds. Attached to the line was a straight three-foot section of Hatch Outdoors Saltwater Tippet in the #30lb class. Any fish that we found and were lucky to interact with meant business.
Fly selection was much simpler than I anticipated. As always the old adage of “matching the hatch” still applies to blue water. However, in this case the “hatch” means little baitfish like shiners, mackerel, and anchovy, ect. Flies like clouser minnows, deceivers, mushmouths and gummy minnows and game changers are all awesome choices on the menu.
The most successful fly by far was the Gamechanger. With the right combination of color from a collection of accompanying sharpie markers it can be made up to look like any of the forage fish that are present in the area.
Blue Water Is Extremely Diverse:
Like I said earlier, the open ocean is a huge blue desert. Locating the fish in open water was not the easiest however. It is certainly one of the most intriguing fishing situations that I have ever come across. A majority of the time was spent in the open ocean looking for kelp paddies. This could get extremely discouraging and boring at times but when these beds were found they were generally an indicator of great things to come.
The kelp paddies that we found from time to time were one of the single most amazing things that I have ever seen in my time as an angler. These paddies could range in size from a trash can lid to the size of a garage door. The forage fish the area would use these kelp beds or “paddies” as cover from the sun and other predators. Naturally the presence of these forage fish attracted many different species to the area.
Each paddy was like a little miniature ecosystem within itself while they were all similar in nature they were also very different. The diversity of fish that call these paddies home temporarily was fascinating. In any given paddy location we saw Bonita, Yellowtails, Dorado, and Skipjack however we were also told about the potential of yellowfin tuna as well as the occasional billfish within these areas.
Blue Water Fishing Mean Business:
As I continue to interact with new species on a fly I continue to be amazed at the power and tenacity of some of the fish I come across. The various species that I encountered in the San Diego area are no exception. Every single one of those fish put a solid bend in a 10 or 11 The Yellowtail or Bonita that I encountered packed a serious wallop in the fight department to prove it I even had a few rods that are currently going back for warranty as we speak.
One example of this would be the yellowtail pictured above. After tracking a game changer for roughly 50 feet this guy decided to put an 11 weight rod to shame and cleared 150 ft of fly line and 40 yards of backing within 10 or so seconds. Luckily, he decided to run away from the kelp into the open water. So long story short is that these fish are capable of blistering knuckle bashing power. So whatever you do hang on and keep your hands clear of the reel.
For anyone looking for a completely out of the box fishing adventure I would urge you to consider going off shore. It is definitely worth it. On that note, I will leave you with this last piece of advice. If you get seasick please remember these three things, stay hydrated, eat well, and don’t forget your Dramamine
Now that I’ve had the opportunity to check off my first open water ocean fly fishing trip, I can say that I’ve crossed off another amazing adventure this year. I hope to make it back to experience this wonderful fishery again. Comment below and tell me what you thought and where you want to head on a destination trip.