Monday, July 28, 2014

Fly Fishing for Rockfish at the 2014 Albion Open

By Bio-Bil1

While all fishing interests me, anyone who knows me knows that my passion is fly fishing. I have spent the last 3 years honing my craft in a kayak. This year I signed up for two year long competitions through Nor-Cal Kayak Anglers: Fly Angler of the Year and Angler of the Year. As I write this I am currently in 2nd for Fly Angler of the Year and in 17th out of 80 for Angler of the year. I am solely fly fishing for both competitions. It is safe to say that I am fully immersed in kayak fly fishing.

Last week my boss (Dan Arbuckle of the Headwaters Kayak Shop) said, " So, want to go to Albion?" My reply was an emphatic yes. I had been wanting to go to the coast for weeks to see if I could score some points for Fly Angler of the Year, but safety dictates the buddy system for fishing out of a kayak in the ocean, and I had not found anyone who was off on Mondays like me to go fishing, let alone fly fishing. Dan mentioned to me at the end of the week that I had been in a particularly good mood ever since learning I would be attending Albion.

I left Lodi Friday afternoon for Albion, California, full of anticipation. There were four possible categories that I could score in: Rockfish, Lingcod, Greenling, and Surfperch. I would be happy with a quality fish from any of these categories.

I arrived at 9pm and the wind was blowing and the fog had not come in. Not good signs for the next days conditions. I spoke with several people that Saturday may be too rough to go out. I stayed hopeful that the weather would change. I awoke the next morning with high hopes. I loaded all of my gear into the kayak, and headed out. As I paddled out with the tide I could see sizeable swell rolling into the cove. As I got further out not only was the swell sizeable, but the sets were close together creating a lot of confused water; water going in all different directions. I was not going to make it out of the cove. Fortunately there is still fishable area inside Albion Cove, and given the direction of the swell the north side of the cove was the most protected, so I headed over there to try my luck. My first stop was a series of wash rocks, which are rocks that protrude up out of the ocean and "washed" by incoming waves. There is often kelp near them and rock crevices for rockfish to hide in. The other nice thing about wash rocks is the habitat that they create is shallow, making it easier to target with a fly rod, since even a quickly sinking fly line sinks rather slowly in comparison to a 6-10 ounce jig bar or swimbait.
First Rockfish of the day.
Biggest black rockfish of the trip.

After about 20 minutes of fishing, I hooked up. Nothing huge, probably just a small blue or black rockfish, which are very common among the type of habitat I was fishing. Then ,"wham," my rod doubled over. I reeled in to find the small black rockfish I had caught with a hitchhiker lingcod attached. Often times when a small rockfish is hooked, it frantically swims around trying to free itself and ends up acting as bait for larger rockfish like lingcod. Unfortunately I had no net, only Boga Grips, so it was unlikely I would land the lingcod, but I tried anyway, to no avail. I kept working the rocks, hooking small black rockfish here and there. So far not a bad day. After about an hour of fishing, I cast out my clouser minnow right next to a large wash rock. I did one strip of the fly and then needed to reposition my kayak, so I backpaddled a couple of strokes. My rod then double over and the drag on my reel sounded with the "zzz" that all fisherman love to hear. I battled with the beast for about 5 minutes waiting with anticipation to see what it was. Finally I got it to the surface. Lingcod! A legal size one to boot. Now the next problem was landing it. I had my Boga Grip, to grab the fish by the lip, but for those of you who have seen a lingcod, you know that they have a lot of big teeth. Also I had hooked the fish squarely in the jawbone, so it had full use of its jaw and it was not happy to be hooked. On about the fifth attempt to grab its lip with the Boga Grip, I finally got it without the fish snapping at me and then diving. "Wahoo!" The 4 anglers around me were congratulating me, impressed that I had caught a lingcod on a fly rod. I snapped several photos, dispatched the fish and put it in my hull for fish tacos later.

All in all I ended the weekend with 15 blue and black rockfish and three lingcod. What a weekend!

Biggest lingcod of the trip.