Zen Fly Fishing: Winter 2004/2005 Surf Gallery

The reports are in reverse chronological order with the last report on top. Click on the pictures to view a larger version. I usually publish reports (in my sleep deprived state) very late on the evening of my trip. I frequently make a few changes after sleep recovery.

On March 17, 2005, the tide's high was 4.61-ft at 2:37 am and low was 0.53-ft at 10:30 am. I was on the water by 5:45 am with a 3-ft outgoing tide and fished until 10:30 am. The surf was a lot calmer than it has been (waist to 5-ft) and there wasn't much surging - depth held almost everywhere. At times, there were almost no waves. The day started really great, my second cast (5:50 am) resulted in a big grab and a nice male Barred surfperch (close-up). I had several big grabs today:
  • There were a few more large males in the same area - more big grabs!
  • At 7:21 am, the 14-inch, 1-lb 13-oz female Barred Surfperch (BSP) shown hit hard and fought hard (close-up). She couldn't be horsed in and I had to give and take in sync with waves to get her in.
  • At 8:51 am, a nice male BSP. He hit immediately after I made a long cast to a usual sweet spot in a cut that had formed.
  • At 9:30 am, another nice male BSP (close-up)
  • At 9:41 am, a nice Female (close-up) that was part of a Silver Surfperch/BSP double. It was a sight to see the silver dangling in the air as I beached the heavy female on point. That was a heavy load!
  • At 9:52 am, another feisty male (close-up)
I got into large fish schools early and after 8:50 am. I ran into schools about 5 times and got multiple fish in the general area. It wasn't obvious how to fish given areas because irregularly shaped structure and complex currents. It took playing around with different drifts/retrieves until you could consistently catch fish. Some of the schools were smaller fish. I ended up with 37 Surfperch (mostly Barred Surfperch with 3 Silver Surfperch). More than half were 9-to-14 inches. Most of the fish hit Surf Miki 3s (with red prism tape eyes). The Zen Worms on drop worked well too.
It was a great day! It felt like spring fishing! The surf was easy to wade. Line control wasn't difficult and the fish were there and readily hitting flies. I saw a lot of sandcrabs with bright orange roe moving within first breaker. The swells are building into the weekend so I expect things will change. It is amazing how everyday is different and how fast conditions change.
On March 14, 2005, the tide's low was 0.29-ft at 7:19 am and high was 3.72-ft at 1:49 pm. The swells were better today: smaller with less surging so water levels were maintained better. There was a lot of water that looked like it could hold cruzing schools but they have not collected yet. I caught a small Barred Surfperch on my first cast at 6:00 am. I found occasional stragglers over the next 2 hours and ended with 6 Surfperch at this beach. My thrill of the day was the heavy grab of the large Walleye Surfperch shown (close-up). Walleyes are showing their motherly way now. My biggest Barred Surfperch was a nice male (close-up). The first hour was best and the bite slowed to nothing so we moved 3-miles South to checkout a different beach for the first time this year. There was some structure forming and we found a few smaller barreds there. I caught 3 more. Moving on, we headed North to the South Santa Cruz beach of my recent trips. I caught a small barred on my first cast there. It provided the best action of the day for Dennis Tunstall - his thrill of the day was a large 12 1/2-inch female Barred Surfperch (1 1/2-lbs) (close-up). I had been fishing an area where waves were bouncing off of a rip-rap slope and I moved out because a bunch of seaweed drifted in. He stuck with it, made one cast and got a strong grab . It was the best fight he ever got from a barred. This perch rivals his all time best!
It was an active day having cast for 6 hours with 80-ft routine casts. I'm more relaxed now. It turned out to be a decent day. I ended up with 15 Surfperch on Surf Miki 3s (with red prism tape eyes) and Zen Worms on drop.
On March 11, 2005, the tides started lower (than the day before). The swells were also down from 2x overhead to 6-ft with swell periods decreasing too. I wanted to fly fish! The tide's low was 0.78-ft at 4:52 am and high was 5.25-ft at 10:55 am. The typical water was not good (shallow with long foamy flats). I was on the water at 6:00 am. There were occasional areas that might hold fish so I worked North fast and covered them. There were no signs on life for a long time. Finally 1-hr into the day, I cast into a slightly deeper (wash-board bottom) area (close in) and got an aggressive hit and caught the nice male 11-inch Barred Surfperch shown (close-up). It turned out to be the only one in 2-hours of fly fishing. I didn't feel like grub fishing today so I drove North to find better water. I fished two beaches North and didn't get one hit after 1-hour of casting. I moved further North to the South Santa Cruz beach (that I've fished a few times) and found better conditions. The beach was steeper and wave interactions with rocky areas created currents and topology (see typical water behind perch). I caught 3 more barreds before 11 am: one baby, one hand-sized and another aggressive 11-inch male (close-up). Another tough day, but I'm satisfied that I fished well and ended up with 4 on flies. I used a Surf Miki 3 (with red prism tape eyes) on point and Zen Worm on drop (both took fish).
On March 7, 2005, the tide's high was 5.78-ft at 7:16 am and low was -0.91-ft at 2:24pm. We started fishing by 6:25 am with extremely high tide, head-high swells with foam all over. The swells kept water pushed up but most of the water was too shallow to hold fish. There were some big surfperch today. Dennis Tunstall caught a 12-inch Barred right away (close-up). There was a chance of succeeding with flies but I didn't get one hit in two-hours. That was enough casting under these tough conditions - I was tired! At 8:30 am, walked back to the car to switch to grub gear. Fishing was still tough - I didn't get my first until 10:30 am after walking North 1/2-mile then working back. I caught most of the fish in a wash-board bottom area. It took long casts with spinning gear most of the time. The perch were from 7-inches to 9-inches. The bigger ones were scrappy mating males. Finally at 12:20 pm, I felt a solid grab. I played this one carefully and landed the huge 12-inch male Barred Surfperch shown (close-up). It was great to end the day this way. I caught a total of 11 Surfperch on grubs: 10 Barred and 1 Walleye (close-up). This area seems to fish better with lower tides now and low tide structure is starting to look good.
On March 3, 2005, the tide's high was 5.17-ft at 2:41 am and low was 0.25-ft at 10:15 am. I wanted to see the same beach that I fished on Monday near low tide again so I was on the water at 6:15 am with a 3-ft tide (and going down). I didn't find my first one until 6:50 am (close-up), a nice male. I caught another at 7:07 am (close-up), it was a little bigger but has a chewed-up tail. I found another male at 7:12 am (close-up). These came out of the same area (the North edge of the biggest hole around). This was nice action - finally! But the action slowed, so I worked North to find marginal waters (I should have stayed put). Finally at 8:26 am, I caught my largest of the day, the 11-inch male Barred Surfperch shown (close-up). Later, I caught another smaller one to make it 5 for the morning by 9:00 am. The swell period was around 12-second which kept water pushed up better than on Monday. Depth still varied and good holding water was hard to find. I left to fish the same South Santa Cruz beach that I fished on Monday. It was null tide around 0.25-ft while I was there. It had a steeper off-shore beach - the swell would break closer to shore but the swash zone beach was flat which just a few small deeper areas. Anyway, this area must be for juveniles - I caught 5 more - all around 8-inches including 1 double. The fish came out of the deeper areas of the swash zone flats. I used a Surf Miki 3 (with red prism tape eyes) on point and Zen Worm on drop. I'm happy with this day! I worked hard under tough conditions. Swells were up to 3-ft over head but not as chaotic as Monday. The early fishing was good on nice mid-sized Barred Surfperch - mostly aggressive males. I got experience at a new beach under different conditions and ended up with a total of 10 Barred Surfperch.
On February 28, 2005, the tide's low was 1.01-ft at 7:03 am and high was 3.73-ft at 1:07 pm. I went South this time to a steeper beach. I thought might have deeper low tide water and better structure. I was on the water by 6:15 am. I covered a lot of water and caught my first after 1/2-hour. It was an aggressive baby barred. I noticed some drag and upon roll casting I saw a little silver surprise. Soon after, I caught the 9-inch Barred Surfperch shown on the left (click for close-up with view of water). I also caught another smaller one for a total of 3 barreds this morning. The Surf Miki 3 (with red prism tape eyes) took the fish. Dennis caught a monster sand crab. The surf was up to 3x overhead today. Tow-in surfing was exciting! There were some large holes but we had a surging swell pattern. Three waves would come in succession, flood an area the area then it would drain completely dry. We stayed for a couple hours then moved North. We left to fish another Northerly beach. It had smaller swells but still had the extreme surging swell pattern. I scouted a couple more beaches in South Santa Cruz and picked up another small barred. I caught a total of 4 Barred Surfperch today. It was the slowest day in a long time but all we need is better swell patterns for better fishing.
On February 24, 2005, the tide's low was 2.19-ft at 4:22 am and high was 5.17 feet at 10:04 am. I went back to the Northerly area of my last trip and was on the water by 6:00 am (wanting more fly fishing action). Fishing in the dark was slow - I caught a small one by 6:30 am. It was a thrill anyway after having no signs-of-life in 30-min of casting. The swells were long-period and surging so holding water was hard to find (Click to see a typical deeper area). We worked northward searching the better looking spots. Finally by 6:45 am, I felt a nice fish and landed it. The action picked up! We didn't find schools but there were areas that held more than one fish. The thrill of the day was the 12-1/2-inch female Barred Surfperch shown on the left (close-up). I hooked her just after an 80-ft+ cast. The set felt mushy because of shooting line stretch and surf forces but the closer she got the bigger she felt. Her last violent, pulsating run made my heart jump. I used a Surf Miki 3 (with red prism tape eyes) on point and Zen Worm on drop (both took fish). Dennis Tunstall caught some nice fish today: his first. bigger (close-up), and biggest (close-up). I caught a total of 14 Barred Surfperch today by 10:00 am. Half were 1/2-lb or larger. A great day under tough conditions! I found fish in areas that best-maintained-depth from 20-ft to 80-ft out. By late morning, the surf made line control impossible.
On February 17, 2005, the tide's high was 4.94-ft at 4:33 am with a low of 0.44-ft at 12:30 pm. I fished the outgoing tide. I was on the water at 6:30 am fly fishing (with 4.5-ft tide) at the same Southerly beach of my last trip. I had an hour of good action and caught 10 Barred Surfperch by 7:30 am. I used a Surf Miki 3 (with red prism tape eyes) on point and Zen Worm on drop (both took fish). Most of the perch were small. My largest on flies was an 11-inch male (close-up). I caught all of them on the inside edge of troughs/holes. The surf was small for most of the morning. Fishing was slow for the rest of the day - caught only occasional stragglers. We moved North to scout other beaches, eventually found some decent looking water (1, 2 & 3) but the tide was approaching low and much of the accessible water was too shallow. Dennis Tunstall started catching some nice Barred Surfperch (close-up) with long casts using grub gear. Since I had only two more perch for a total of 12 Barred Surfperch on flies by 10:30 am, I walked back to the car to switch to grub gear. It continued to be slow but I picked up a few nice fish including the 12 1/2-inch, 1 1/3-lb female Barred Surfperch (with mating colors) shown at the left (close-up). I caught a total of 19 Barred Surfperch today. We spot checked three beaches today over a 10-mile span of Monterey Bay. The big differences in water clarity and beach slope and structure was amazing. In the areas with good structure, it seems like we should be getting more fish. Good fishing might be just around the corner...
On February 10, 2005, the tide's low was 1.87-ft at 05:05 am and high was 5.93-ft at 10:57 am. I wanted to fly fish and I was on the water earlier this time by 6:30 am (with 2.5-ft tide) at the same Southerly beach of my last trip. Surprise! I had decent action and caught 9 Surfperch by 8:10 am. The nice fat male shown at the left took a Surf Miki 3. I caught other nice males at: 7:16 am, this one is dripping milt (close-up), and 7:41 am (close-up). The surf was generally calm and periodically there were no waves. The rest of the fish were hand-sized and bigger barreds except for the first one today, a small Silver Surfperch (close-up). I used a Surf Miki 3 (with red prism tape eyes) on point and Zen Worm on drop - they both worked well. There was some large structure but I was working the inside edge of a smaller cut and an area between two holes. I would find a school working theses areas from time to time. As the tide rose, good holding water disappeared so I decided to spend the rest of the day scouting new water. I drove to Marina State Beach to fish it for the first time and found big water there. Even so there were periods of almost no waves. The beach has coarse sand and is very steep and dangerous. You have wade with vigilance. There were wrap-around waves and exploding waves even with the smaller swells today. I don't think it is a good fly fishing beach. Grub fishing with calm surf, I could only fish the inside edge of deeper water and foamy flats between holes. I caught 4 more barreds here for a total of 13 surfperch including the biggest today, 12-1/2-inches. Overall a nice day - it was great to get decent fly fishing action!
On February 3, 2005, the tide's high was 5.41-ft at 04:20 am and low was 0.22-ft at 11:56 am. We were on the water by 7:00 am with tides at 4-ft. A large hole was right below us but with long period waves it was not possible to reach the best holding water. Anyway, on Dennis Tunstall's second cast, he caught a nice mid-sized barred surfperch and with that we were expecting a better day but it turned out to be generally slow. I fished with grub gear again. I caught a total of 14 Barred Surfperch fishing from 7:00 am to 2:30 pm. One third were nice mid-sized barreds. My largest is shown a nice 1-lb plus, 12-in male Barred Surfperch (close up). We got a few baby barreds today. I had 11 fish before noon and the action died completely so we moved to another beach (way to the south) and found some nice large holes and troughs. The swell patterns today were long period surging waves again. The waves were not large but some waves exploded in the swash zone and there were many surging sets that force fish to keep moving. This beach looked much better but fishing was as slow except one time when we had small school moving within a large hole. I hooked up. Dennis did too. I also got 2 more nice mid-sized perch in that area. I think that conditions are so variable that fish are always moving and that there are not very many within reach now. I should be fishing only once a week until fishing gets better...
On January 24, 2005, the tide's high was 5.55 -ft at 09:00 am and low was -0.46-ft at 04:21 pm. Early lower tides would have been better but I wanted to see what higher water would produce. It was overcast until mid-day and sunny-and-cool into the afternoon. The beach was still mostly flat with long period waves and foamy water. I fished with grubs again. There was not any good holding water all day and I caught a total of 6 Barred Surfperch fishing from 7:00 am to 2:00 pm. My largest is shown, 1 1/3-lb, 12 1/2-in female Barred Surfperch (in mating colors) (close up). I caught another barred larger than 1-lb on the next cast (close up). These were caught in foamy flats. Dennis Tunstall caught 8 Barred Surfperch. Dennis' largest was about 1-lb (click for another view showing the water behind him). All of the larger perch were wearing mating colors (the dark underside). The swell patterns today were long period surging waves and conditions were chaotic. I experienced my first knock-down in a long time. Thank goodness for my fully-zipped, waterproof parka that I had belted at my hips. I was knocked on my butt and managed get on my feet using my left arm. I was only wet on my left arm and continued fishing comfortably all day. I was happy to finally get into large fish today! I still expect conditions will improve week-by-week but swell patterns make a big difference. The results were funny today. Dennis has a really slow morning having caught 2 while I managed my 6 but then that was it for me and he ended with 8. Every area that we fished had difficult conditions. Early in the day, I was really focused and knew I would find fish but got tired and defocused later. Dennis' experience was reversed - he got beyond his slow start and got into the zone late. Interesting...
On January 18, 2005, the tide's high was 5.38-ft at 04:38 am and low was 0.72-ft at 12:06 pm. It was sunny and cool all day. The beach was mostly flat with long period waves and foamy water. I didn't even try to fly fish today. I could not cast far enough to reach holding water even with spinning gear. We were on the water by 7:30 am and the early fishing was tough. I managed two including the walleye surfperch shown and Dennis Tunstall caught what turned out to be the largest fish of the day. After fishing 1-hour under tough conditions, we left to check a beach further north in search of calmer waters and more fish. It was slower there for us. We ran into Ron Martin there who had caught 4 nice mid-sized barreds and continued to catch a few more while we were fishing with him. Fishless after an hour (wondering why...), I wanted to fish the earlier beach near low tide so we headed back and found some decent water. I found short persistent bites a few times. We didn't find fish in the large holes. They were in the smaller troughs. I got a total of 16 surfperch (to 8-inches). They were all Barred Surfperch except for the walleye. We fished past low tide until 1:00 pm. I was happy that I caught more fish than my last trip. The perch were not real active. The hits were soft and perch were hard to hook. I still expect conditions will improve week-by-week.
On January 13, 2005, the tide's low was 2.51-ft at 6:15 am and high was 5.71-ft at 11:58 am. It was overcast and cold all morning. The swells were really small for this time of year. I couldn't find any concentrations of fish. I was on the water by 7:30 am. I fly fished for the first hour and got two hits - had a nice one on and got it half way in. I switched to grubs with my spinning gear and fished until 11:30 and got a total of 9 surfperch (biggest was 9-inches). They were all Barred Surfperch except for one Redtail Surfperch. I fished from 3 ft to 5.5 ft tides. Fishing might be better at lower tides. The beach was flat (no discernable structure). Most of the fish were beyond fly casting range. The surf was easy to wade today very regular gentle waves. Fishing could be better with more wave action. Anyway, I expect conditions will improve week-by-week.

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Glenn Yoshimoto
Los Gatos, California

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