Fly Fishing the
Southern California Surf
with Gary Bulla
Thursday, November 13, 2014
San Marino Masonic Lodge
To the uninitiated fly fisherman, surf fishing may appear to be a rather simple affair compared to other forms of the sport. Trout fishing is for skilled anglers like you and me, not the yayhoo-bubbas who fish the salt. You pick any odd fly, stand at the edge of the waves, and cast as far as possible, out past the breakers where the big ones must lie. There obviously can’t be any fish feeding in the crashing surf at your feet.
If you grew up reading articles in Field & Stream and Outdoor Life in decades past, Frank Woolner and Curt Gowdy were catching huge stripers and bluefish, effortlessly throwing their plugs hundreds of feet out to the feeding frenzies. It took me years to realize that all those articles were set on the east coast, in the Atlantic Ocean. When it comes to surf fishing, the only commonality between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans is that the water is wet—period.
If you don’t accept that surf fly fishing in the Pacific Ocean is entirely different than anywhere else, and is a relatively modern sport, you’re wasting your time. Wait until a cold wave coats you and your equipment with sand, as you waste energy casting out past the breakers, without seeing a single fish, and you’ll understand humiliation.
To save you the agony and defeat, this month we welcome back Gary Bulla, local hero and dean of Southern California surf fly fishing. If anyone is qualified to teach you about SoCal surf fly fishing, it’s Gary.
Gary grew up on the beaches and waters of the southern California coast. By his early 20s, Gary had learned diving and spear fishing in the Channel Islands and southern Mexico, and fly fishing in the Sierra and mountains of Colorado.
In 1989, Gary’s friend Yvon Chouinard introduced him to the concept of casting a fly into the surf. Gary found the mix of salt water and fly fishing irresistible. In those days information about targeting Pacific saltwater species was sparse, but corbina seemed to offer the ultimate challenge in the southern California surf, with many other species available for a surprise. Gary spent endless mornings and evenings patrolling the beaches, paddling the kelp beds in his kayak, and developing flies and techniques for the salt. He learned to catch not only corbina, but also halibut, yellowfin croaker, perch, and striped bass. All these were found in the surf near Ventura and Santa Barbara.
At our November meeting, we will learn about reading the water, its currents and tides. Gary will discuss casting, and choosing rods, lines, leaders, and flies for a wide variety of fish. We will learn about the best SoCal locations and how to effectively roam the coastline all year around. With our freshwater fisheries evaporating away, it’s high time to diversify if you want to continue wetting your fly line in this state.
Today Gary teaches local surf and saltwater casting clinics, as well as guides clients in the surf. He has caught more than 150 saltwater species on the fly and has fished everywhere. But his home waters are the California surf, where he first wet his line in the salt.
Gary has been a "Signature Tier” with Idylwilde Flies since 2008. With his “family” of captains and large groups of repeat clients/friends, Gary is constantly developing and tweaking new patterns and methods for the the salt. Gary’s articles and photos have appeared in Patagonia catalogs, California Fly Fisher, Fly Rod and Reel, The Drake, Saltwater Fly Fishing, and Fly Fishing in Saltwaters. I highly recommend visiting his website at www.garybulla.com which is chock full of info on saltwater fly fishing, as well as hosting one of SoCal’s most active discussion boards on saltwater fly fishing.
Join us this Thursday evening, November 13th, at 7:30 p.m. at the San Marino Masonic Lodge, 3130 Huntington Drive, San Marino 91108.