The Black Rocks are on top, my friend Tom told me. They were boiling and feeding all around us, he said. We got our limits and released fish constantly, sometimes we had triples on at the same time, he said, with a straight face. You are going to have a fantastic day tomorrow, he said.
Well, it was a clear example of how to make sure that things won’t quite go the way you think they or should, or might, or could.
I met my friends, Jack and John Harrell, at their home in Pacific City at 7 AM, a nice civilized hour of the day. I had been up and telecommuting since 4 AM. Four Blacktail (3 does and a young spike) wandered through the yard around 6, and when I sat down on the front porch to slip my waders on, the sun was up.
John had the Dory hooked up already, and Jack was running the outboard in a tank of water to get it warmed up for the morning. I slid my two fly rods into the port side channel along the gunnel of the Dory, with a couple of John’s rods on the starboard side. We piled into John’s brown Ford Pickup, strapped in, and headed down to the beach at Cape Kiwanda.
The ocean was good that morning, with modest swells of maybe 3-4 ft to greet our launch in the surf. Jack got us pointed in the right direction, then pushed us off and slogged back through the water; he had work to do ashore that Sunday, so he sent John and me off to our anticipated Rockfish rendezvous.
Let’s just get it out. The “easy” Black Rockfish were anything but easy that day. Plenty of fish on the graph, some as shallow as 12’ and some as deep as 40’ where we fished. Only the rare fish splatting the surface, and very few fish willing to take our flies. Under calm grey skies, we coaxed only a few grabs this day, where yesterday the fish must have been rushing to take the fly on most every cast.
Not to worry, even if the fishing is sloooooow, because every day on the ocean is a marvel, and simply launching a small boat in the surf is excitement in its own right. We fished and fished, finding an occasional Black to take our Clousers, and we changed flies and experimented to see if we could find the key to consistent fishing. The fish above is what John calls a “Sea Trout” and one never quite knows what might pull on the fly next cast.
I was fishing an Echo 3 Freshwater rod, 7 wt. – 10’. My winter steelhead single hander, with an Airflo 40+ Type 3 sink tip loaded on an ION fly reel. The outfit cast well, and the slow sinking line was altogether sufficient to get my fly down to the fish-holding depth, based on the graph, even though only now and then did a fish prove that the graph wasn’t a big joke on us.
On one of these casts, I hooked a fish. As my friends know, I am often messing around with a camera in these situations, doing my best to find ways to ruin yet another (camera) with immersion in salt or freshwater. This fish was pulling hard and I tried for the rod-at-arm’s-length shot that shows the excitement of the pull through the arm. At some point, my line seemed to slack a little, and the pull felt much lessened.
I put my camera aside and resumed my retrieve, finding the strain now much heavier than before. I’m in the kelp, I thought. No. There is a fish wiggle. My river-perfect rod was bent more than it ever has, and my thoughts shifted to Bull Kelp again, but the fish wiggle was still there, so I kept pulling as hard as I thought reasonable. OK, maybe a little more than I thought reasonable. Sorry Tim, I just pulled and pulled for the sake of pulling.
Eventually, there was a fish shape apparent in the depths. The shape was, I thought, much too big: a long brown shape with maybe a half-Rockfish still hanging out of its mouth. This discovery was followed by a fair amount of confusion, excitement, instructions being issued, falling down (on my part), reaching (on John’s part), and a quick swipe with a far too small gaff-hook.
Goes to show, you never quite know what the ocean will bring you when you drop a fly under the surface.
Thanks John, for another great day in your Dory out on the Pacific.