I belong to a lot of groups on Facebook revolving around fishing.  In one of these groups recently, I came across the picture below from Ryan McDonald…


I’ve seen guys flyfishing off the sand before.  I’ve heard of some great catches flyfishing off the sand.  There was that striped bass caught in North County San Diego last year for example.  As far as what I’ve actually observed though, it’s only been surf perch.  Surf perch was the first species I gained any proficiency with catching off the beach, so it wasn’t much of an enticement to learn any more about surf flyfishing…but a halibut?  I must know more.  So I reached out to Ryan and he was kind enough to share some knowledge with me.

DSCN06781) How did you get started surf flyfishing?
I started fly fishing at Lake Crowley about ten years ago. A few years ago the craving to go back more often was getting stronger and stronger so I had to improvise. I remembered one of my teachers in high school fly fished Seal Beach and Long Beach. He would show me pics after he found out how much I loved fishing. (I’ve fished since childhood.  I’m a lifer.) I live in Huntington Beach not too far from the water, so it was a no brainer. I also fly fish the harbors and open ocean for bass and pelagics but the beach is so close I can cruise down for an hour before or after work to scratch the itch If need be.
2) Why do you enjoy doing it?
The tug is the drug man, the tug is the drug. Once I hooked my first fish on the fly that was it.  There’s no going back.  When you’re stripping in your line by hand and it comes tight and straightens your arm…that’s the stuff!  You can feel every bump, thump and tail beat.  I also started tying flies around the same time I started fishing the surf.  It’s a great feeling catching fish on something you made.  On the surf side, you’re mostly going to catch perch and generally smaller fish. With smaller fish you can just strip them in. I wear a stripping basket to put the line in to keep it from washing around me while wading.  I probably fish the surf 50 days a year.  I think the two most important factors in fly fishing the surf are being able to cast a fly well and reading the water.  Fly selection and other factors are secondary.
3) What’s a good setup to get started?
A 6-8wt with a sinking shooting head and reel with sealed drag will work well in the surf.  The prices of fly gear seems to have gone down in the last few years.  I wouldn’t use anything hoity toity in the surf because salt and sand are no bueno for tackle.  I personally use an 8wt Cortland rod that feels like a 6wt with a Lamson Konic reel and Rio Outbound Short 250gr line.  A lot of times the onshore wind comes up a bit and I like the 8wt for shooting line through the wind.  On a windless day a 4/5wt is fun. My favorite pattern is the Surf Rat.  It’s basically a beefy, weighted woolly bugger with a little flash.  I like darker colors for gravelly beaches like Bolsa Chica and lighter colors at fine sand beaches.  Most of the surf fish will hit anything that moves and the contrast helps with visibility.  I’ve caught fish on clousers, Merkins, shrimp flies and many others I’ve forgotten, but the surf rat is an easy and fast fly to tie that catches most local surf species.  I’ve caught halibut, yfc, sfc, queenfish, barred and walleye perch, bat rays, shovelnose guitarfish and a lone short wsb all on fly gear from the surf.  My biggest surf caught fish so far is a 26″ halibut that I caught a few days ago.
4) What goals or aspirations do you have for surf fishing?
I’d like to continue to catch fish and keep the variety coming but that’s about it. A legal wsb would be nice, so would a bigger halibut but I won’t be dissappointed if it never happens. I like the challenge of overcoming ever changing conditions. There have been reports of bonita caught from the surf recently and I’ll be chasing them tomorrow. That would be pretty awesome!
5) What’s one tip you have for someone wanting to get started doing it?
Practice your double haul casting. Learn to read the water. Check out scsurffishing.com and fliflicker.com to read reports and learn from the articles.  Also, check out flyfishthesurf.com to book Lee as a guide.  He’s a great guy with a lot of knowledge to share.  When I started fly fishing the surf I never really fished the surf before. I had a lot to learn about reading the water and figuring out good tides for fishing at different spots. If you’re a decent surf fisherman all you need to learn is the cast and you’ll be golden. If you’re a decent fly fisherman, but never fished the surf…Buddy, you’ve got a lot to learn.
Thanks Ryan!
There you go guys.  Sounds like fun.  Now is a great time to start fishing from the sand.  The beaches are less crowded so you can just fish and not have to worry about all the swimmers and other people around you.  If you connect, send us a pic and I’ll post it on the Facebook page.  Tight lines!

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