Yep, the lingcod are here in the ocean off Pacific City and ready to eat flies anytime the surf and swell allow my friends to launch their dory boats. Spring is the best time to flyfish for lingcod because they are inshore to spawn and it is more reasonable to present a fly at 40 – 60 ft depths than at 100 ft depths on a fly line.
Some of these fish are as shallow as 20 ft too, and those are the best. Our fishing was spotty but engaging, Each of us fishing flies hooked at least one ling and our gear fisher companion hooked something like 5 or so. Two very large fish were hooked on flies and both, sadly, were lost.
Gear: we fished 8 to 10 wt rods for lingcod, not so much because all the fish are huge (they are not generally), but to accommodate the stress of fishing sinking fly lines in the 500-700 gr wt class. We fished RIO Striper line 550 gr and the AIRFLO Depth finder Big Game 700 gr lines. The Striper line has a sink tip in the 22 ft range and the AIRFLO sink tip is about 30 ft long. I fished RIO Alloy Hard leader because it is very abrasion resistant, and fished 16 lb tippets. Ed fished Maxima 15 lb Ultragreen leader.
Rods: ECHO 3 SW and PRIME (one piece), SAGE Salt.
Reels: Hatch 9; Nautilus NV 10-11.
Flies: Clousers, naturally, 3-5″, with white, chartreuse, pink, and blue Steve Farrar’s blend materials plus Mirage Lateral Scale.
Leader Length: Hummm. I was fishing 6-8 ft leaders and these were, in retrospect, too long. Why? The line sinks faster than the fly even though the fly is heavily weighted. As a result, there was, I think, slack leader when I was working my fly at depth, because I got my fly “bit” often by fish of assuredly large proportion, but NEVER FELT THE BITE.
So. I hereby resolve to use shorter leaders next time out and see if it helps strike detection.
There were a few other boats out last week and they seemed to be doing quite well fishing jigs and herring. We all caught black rockfish in addition to the lings.
Evidence: I was getting my fly “bit” by fish that I never felt, and this was apparent because my fly was fouled as the material will be when a fish takes it into its mouth and chomps on it and then spits it out. I would fish my fly for 5 minutes or so and then bring it up to take a look and find it in a messy wad of material, but had never felt the take. Meaning the fish were eating on the drop and spitting it just that fast too.
We found a group of working birds on some sort of bait but it did not produce fish for us even though these events are always enticing. There were probably fish under the birds but we got no proof so that’s that.
The big ling story is a bit of a mystery. Ed hooked a monster, then I hooked a monster, then the two fish got fouled together. Or his fish ate my fly. Whatever, we were surely fouled together and then it all went slack, his fly pulled free and my leader broke. We can’t be sure what happened but it was exciting for a while. Lingcod are great tasty fish and they pull harder then a black rockfish so that is part of the challenge, and I’m still hoping for one of those 30 – plus pounders one of these days.
Hope to get out again in the next week or so, and find more of these beasties and figure out how to avoid the sneaky eat habits they apparently are working to perfect.
Meanwhile, there are steelhead out there to be caught even though the water is low and clear. Yesterday (24 Feb), I hooked a kelt on the swing and it literally jumped into my boat! Had to scramble around and grab the silvery hen and put here back in the river ASAP.
Some people may be so cool that they do not appreciate a kelt. Not me. This was my fish of the entire day, I saw the take on the swing and got a nice adrenaline rush plus the excitement of the into the boat leap. Not quite qualified for the NFS contest, but not my fault. Anyway, strange things happen and this fish was my day brightener. I’ll be out after them again, hoping for a bigger chroma fish but enjoying the hunt no matter what comes my way.
Best Luck to all of you as you venture forth.
Jay Nicholas, February 25, 2015
Dory fly fishing charters are available though Pacific City Fly Fishing and Capt. John Harrell. Contact the Caddis Fly Shop if you have questions about tackle and such and I can promise you will have a great trip out there if you decide to go.