I remember Nicky Vu when he was a little kid casting his fly rod over the waves at the One Surf Fly with his dad back in Huntington Beach and San Diego. Well, Nicky grew up, and has turned into a fine young man and angler. He just sent me a few pics of this monster Corbina he just landed in San Diego that ate a large sand crab in four inches of water. The fish measured at 26 inches and he estimated this fish at close to 7 pounds. WTG Nicky, we are all very proud of you.
Campeche is located on the west end of the Yucatan peninsula. The temperatures during the mid-summer are warm, tropical and humid, ranging in the nineties with similar ranges in humidity. I never felt it was unbearable, there was always a breeze and in the afternoon, thunderstorms always cooled it off. The rains usually last ten minutes, cooling off the city, making the nights very pleasant to stroll through the city streets, grab dinner, shop and relax.
We stayed at the Ocean View hotel located directly across from the gulf where our flats skiffs awaited us in the early am. The hotel was air-conditioned, clean and served a really great buffet-style breakfast each morning.
The prime area we fished while we were there was the Los Petenes Biosphere Reserve located to the north of the city along the coast. The reserve is approximately 120 miles of pristine mangrove coastline. It would take us anywhere from a half an hour to 1.5 hour boat ride to get to the specific areas our guides wanted to fish for tarpon in early morning. The early morning bite was best. In low light, I loved throwing a surface popper, gurgles or slider and watching the tarpon explode on it.
We would start our day fly fishing early around 6am, sometimes earlier, around 5am, if our guides wanted to make a longer run deeper into the reserve. We would quit around 1pm and be back at the dock at 2pm. Freshen up at the air-conditioned hotel, grab a few beers, then get picked up at the hotel by our tour guide Felix, who was Mayan and spoke perfect english. Felix was a historian, actor, musician, singer, and radio personality; it seemed like everyone knew him. I endearly called him the Godfather of Campeche, LOL
We visited Mayan ruins, learned about the diverse history and culture of Campeche, had walking and bus tours through the city and visited museums and many churches. There is so much to see in this old seaside European colonial city, it can make your head spin. The pirate history alone is dark and fascinating. Campeche is a walled off city, with five outposts that once fended off the pirates in the late 1600 to 1700s. Its a beautiful, colorful city, a true photographer’s paradise.
After our touring we would meet up with Alejandro from Campeche Tarpon and we would all eat at a different restaurant. The food in Campeche is incredible. We ate at five star restaurants and small mom and pops, all equally delicious.
Then we would get back to the hotel around 8:30 and hit the sack for early tarpon fishing the following day. It all worked and I never felt like i was missing anything, the fishing and the culture were blended into one fantastic experience of people, place, great food and fly fishing. I would go back in a heartbeat.
Visit Campeche Tarpon and ask for Alejandro, he was a wonderful host and made us all feel like we were family. Tackle: EP peanut butter, black and purple & olive and white worked best for us. Size 2, small flies. sliders, gurgles, black, red/white, and tan, size 1/0. I took 2, 8 wt & one 10 wt rod (for bigger migratory tarpon) I fished the new Rio flats pro lines, loved them. I up lined by one, so a 9wt line for an 8 weight rod seems to work really good for me. Leaders: straight epic of 40# to a shock tippet of 50#, 9 foot total. These fish abraid leaders easily, always check your leader, even if you just jump a fish and not land it. Always cast your setups before going to any destination, get your equipment dialed in, and bring extra lines and reel in case something happens. The last thing is have fun!
I had the pleasure of flyfishing with two old buddies yesterday, John Whitaker and Capt. Vaughn Podmore of SaltyFly Charters
The day looked to be epic, with perfect size baits in the well, calm seas and a good tidal swing on the horizon. We worked hard to find our target species of yellowtail. It was a grind, jumping around to different spots, searching for these crazy fish. We were fortunately occupied with a solid calico bass bite at almost every stop we made. They were chewing the paint off the red crabs flies Vaughn had tied up for us. The fish were pretty solid specimens in the 2 to four pound range. We had a steady pick of bass all day long. Thank god!
With time running out we ended up going back to our first stop. Threw some live sardines to see if anyone was home and nobody came to the door. Then Vaughn jumps up and looks straight back towards the front of the boat and yells yellowtail on the surface, get ready! There were bearing straight down on us. The school was around thirty deep, breezing along the surface. He throws another scoop of sardines and the ocean exploded all around us, with big fish sending sardines to heaven. All of us frantically and in the unison of a ballet threw casts in every direction, stripping back our flies with mach speed retrieves, but no love. The school didn’t eat the flies, they sank out, with an occasion strangler blowing up the surface. I had on a small anchovy fly. Vaughn managed to see a fish, breezing the surface, he make a good cast, the fish ate and blew up his leader of 25 pound tippet in a nano second.
I was kind of bummed we all missed a great opportunity to get a big yellow on fly. So Vaughn says we got a couple more scoops of sardines, lets use up the bait and stay another half hour before heading home. Well they were around so keep at it. I changed my fly to a my big deep sardine “bend up” fly and proceeded to make long casts and giving the fly go deep sink before retrieving super fast like a fleeing baitfish. On my third cast, the fly came to a violent halt and a yellowtail was off to San Clemente. I let her take a long run, then beared down on her, taking back as much line as she would give. In around ten minutes she was netted and laying on the deck, fly in mouth. A couple of high fives later we were heading home with some Catalina gold. A tenth inning yellowtail end up making the day for our target species. Remember it only takes one cast, one eat and its always better to be lucky than good. Don’t give up till the fat lady sings…
Well, I just got back from a week long, family vacation in San Francisco, got to work and started to plow through all my emails when i stumbled onto this cool email from Justin McGruder. This made my day and is why I love to fly fish and share my experiences with others… WTG Justin, so happy you will be able to pass this wonderful gift of fly fishing forward, you made me proud!
I just wanted to take a second and thank you for always being so willing to share you insights and knowledge to us aspiring fly fishers. I really have enjoyed following you and all your adventures over the years. I remember clearly back in ’08 I created my Fliflicker account and reached out to the community to help me get started. You were the first to hit me up, you gave me your number and we briefly spoke and you welcomed me to the fray. I also hit up your photo shop class years ago at your work I believe. Man the more I think about it, you have been a huge factor in my growth over the years, from fishing, tying flies and photography. I can’t begin to thank you enough for that.
Anyway I really wanted to share a few pics from this weekend down in Oceanside. We are here for a week on vacation. My son Bruce is 13, and really starting to get into fly fishing. We have been Bean hunting everyday since we have been down here. We’ve seen dozens more than I have ever seen in the last 10 years down here. I was able to get out early before the weekend crowds and I got lucky and stuck one just south of the Oceanside pier. I was so stoked they are so much fun on a fly rod! Bruce has had a few good shots (you can see in the 2nd picture he was close) but no grabs yet. After I got one I put down my rod and I am just working with him. I have to admit, it is so much fun passing on the passion to someone else, and as many did for me I can now begin to pay it forward. Al I just wanted to say thank you and share a bit of my story, feel free to share if you’d like. Oh yea Bruce was asking about tying flies so were going to try to ty up some of your Holy Moley’s I was the one who hit you up for a step by step. Keep up the awesome work Q!
I will try to do step by step, got a lot going on this summer, LOL The Holy Moley is a pretty easy pattern to tie, that’s why i like it so much. The original way I tied it is using a Gamakatsu SL11-3H or Diaichi 200R hook. I am trying these new 60 degree jig hooks from Umpqua, they are super sticky. Still need to field test them, so stay with the longer shank Gamas for now, I know they work. I don’t like to fish complicated flies. It tracks well and sits up high in the sand allowing the Corbina to track it easily. It is narrower and taller than the standard “Surfin Merkin” which is in my opinion one of the best Corbina patterns originated by my buddy Paul Cronin. All the Ep fibers are stacked on top of the shank like a Joe Brooks, high tie. I like to strip this fly fairly quickly with no pauses. I have had had some epic outings this year with the Holy Moley, I hope you give them a try and send me some pics of your Corbina with Holy Moleys stuck to their faces…
This morning it seemed to all come together for me. I am a believer that if you pay your dues, the universe will throw ya a bone once in a while. lol Last night, I observed the tides and paid close attention to the water table. It was perfect for the area I was looking to fish. I wanted one to two feet of water to be in a spot where I knew the sand crabs would be and the fish had to crawl to reach them. It was going to be an early deal but that works perfect for a working-class guy with a family and short opportunity. The magic window was going fall between 5:45am and 7am. I was ready, got the equipment ready and got down to my spot in the early light, there was no-one around, it was perfect. As I walked along the beach I saw tell tale sign of nervous water and v wakes working in low light. I stayed way back on the beach. My third cast came tight and I had my first bean on the sand. The action didn’t stop until around 6:30, when it was over I looked back and realized in a forty five minute window, I had landed 5 faired-caught beans, lost two fish to user error (didn’t strip hard enough as they came straight at me) and released another that was foul-hooked under the belly. The moral of this tale…its better to be lucky than good and always better to be it the right spot so you have the chance to be lucky… #corbinapatrol
The water temps hit the magic mark and the beans are crawling. In the last two days, my buddy Jon Nakano and I landed 8 fish on fly. Four a piece. We each had a few bust off as well. This morning for kicks Jon busted out the spin reel and landed another four within a forty five minute window on live crabs. Pretty sick sight fishing. I have been fishing a slightly different fly pattern than the standard tied surfin merkin I usually fish with confidence. The surfin merkin is wide, they can be trimmed but overall flat in nature. I am making my EP sand crabs a little slender, more of a tear drop shape and taller in profile by stacking the fibers in a hi-tie style and they are getting eaten pretty well, so as they say if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, I am staying with it. I got one fish a week ago on a white, the others all on grey and pink. Grey and pink work equally the same, i have no preference. Size 6 hook. Use a thin wire hook to stick em. My advice for beginners is don’t give up, this is a hard game, one if not the toughest in flyfishing. I have been on it for over twenty years and it still drives me crazy. Spend more time walking and looking for groups of fish, they are your best shot, if you haven’t gotten one on fly yet. Make the cast count, anticipate their next move, think like a corbina, watch the nervous water…and try to continue to breath…lol
This morning me and my buddy Jim fished one of our favorite local spots. There were no other anglers around except for a few football players doing drills in the sand. We had an idea where some fish were going to be, given we have been tracking them the last few weeks. It is all about getting enough water on the flat so they could get up and over onto the secondary sand crab flats. We fanned out, Jim sat in the honey hole, I went north looking for signs of life. On the way back, I see Jim’s rod bent, so I scurry back to take his pic. The flat had filled in. He landed a beautiful bean and had her on the sand. I took a few pics and began to fish. He waved me in and said there was a mystery pod, working very shallow, right at the edge of the waves, to fish right there and not to cast to far. I saw some dimpling on the surface which indicated fish but never saw a back, fin or tail. I changed my fly from grey to pink. Made a soft cast as the wave began to push water over the flat and continued to strip the fly until it hit dry sand. On the second cast just before the fly was a foot from coming out of the water a bean rushed and ate, she shook her head as to say WTF! I saw the whole take, it was sweet. Just as Jim predicted, she ate right on the doorstep. I landed her in short order, we high-fived, Jim took a nice pic and off she went back with her friends…
Moral of the story, it is always refreshing to fish with a buddy that doesn’t have an ego, willing to call ya in when the fish were working right in front of him. He wished my fish on me. I wouldn’t have gotten a fish this morning if Jim didn’t show his experience and sportsmanship. I didn’t have to write this, but I feel it is important because this used to be a normal occurrence. Something changed. I see anglers today, that only care about how many they caught and will throw over your back to catch them. If you hook a fish they run right up to where you are and start casting before you even land your fish. That wasn’t the case this morning. I will take one fish, out of kindness, to forty. It should be fun not competitive. Thanks Jim! Tight lines and have fun out there…