Grub and Switch: the way to stay in fish in Northern California waters

The Northern California surf frequently makes fly fishing difficult because of large swells, large hydraulic forces and large scale of the beach structures. The large scale requires long casts to reach the fish-holding edges. A grub and switch strategy has transformed a marginal fair-to-good fishery to one that is consistently good-to-excellent for Barred Perch.

The idea is to search and find large populations of perch using grubs with spinning or bait casting gear then switch to flies when they are consistently within reach. I believe that you get a more complete understanding of beach structure and where you can find surf fish because with conventional gear you can cast further. Your comfortable casting range will be extended from 70 to 80 feet to 100 to 150 feet with the proper tackle and rigging. The best fly fishermen I know are also excellent grub fishermen.

Line control is usually easier using a grub fishing rig because the weight is concentrated at the egg sinker and the diameter of line is much smaller. The hydraulic forces acting on the line are smaller and have less of an effect on presentation of the grub.

If you have never grub fished see rigging as recommended by Hippo Lau. I use a leader length of 3 to 6-feet, an orange bead, and Berkeley 14# test Fireline. Fireline has very little stretch compared to monofilament lines. The most challenging skill is strike detection and Fireline amplifies any dynamics at the end of your line. It is wonderful for a novist fisherman to learn to feel perch hits. I like Shakespeare gear for grubbing: Shakespeare Intrepid Titanium IM-7 Graphite SP 3086 2MH 8' 6" and Shakesbeare Intrepid Reel Model 3035. They provide excellent value, performance and durability for surf fishing.

Early in the season (March, April, May and June), I am more likely to be carrying both my fly rod and my spinning rod. I have a lightweight sand spike to hold the rod and other gear that I am not using. Both rods are rigged and ready so I can switch back and forth by merely switching rods and wearing or removing my stripping basket.

Later in the season after the swells calm and the fish are probably within range all day, I will go out exclusively with fly rod and if by chance fish go out of range, I go back to my car to switch.

Typically, one of our fishing partners is exclusively a grub spin or bait casting fishermen. When he is with us, he serves to be a point of reference for the reachability of fish. Often, the better water for him to fish is bigger and not ideal for fly fishing so we have to plan to meet occasionally to compare notes.

I recommend fishing exclusively with grubs until you learn how to find fish then transition to grub and switch strategy. I feel that I am a much better fly fisherman because of my extensive experience with grubs and that my experience in finding fish has extended to the 150-feet range that light spinning gear provides.

Links to other articles about grub fishing for barred perch:

Questions or Comments Contact: Glenn Yoshimoto
Los Gatos, California

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