This year, with all the rain the West coast has had, it seemed like every day that I had off resulted in gray skies, resulting in less than ideal fishing conditions. Confined to the great indoors, I exhausted my Wi-Fi with endless amounts of fish porn across several social channels. The lack of fishing and over stimulation of watching others doing what I love left me itching to get back out on the water, so I booked a trip to Baja in late May to help me get through the gloomy winter.
With May quickly approaching and a few months of rust built up on my casting arm, I figured it was time to get out on the water to practice, but spring time in Southern California leaves anglers with few options. One could go after bass at one of the local reservoirs, chase finicky carp, or make the trek to the Eastern Sierras for pre runoff trout. Without having a boat or the time to make the drive North, I opted for the beach scene to shake the rust off and possibly get a shot at an early season Corbina, Halibut, or whatever else might be swimming by my fly.
I got a tip from one of my good friends that the Leopard Sharks were starting to show. It’s no secret that the California coast is littered with Leopards most of the year, the secret is getting them to eat a fly. Leopards can be sporadic. One day you sight these illusive giants sliding around in the surf, and the next 10 times on the same tide, you’d be lucky to just see a sand crab.
With very little information from the internet and local shops, I began slowly piecing together a game plan and felt fairly confident from my previous experience with shark fishing. After picking a location and a tide I felt was right, I began whipping up patterns that mimic what these creatures tend to eat in the surf. The plan came together and seemed almost foolproof, just as long as the sharks cooperated on their end.
My homie Seth Blackamore who is just as crazy about casting a fly in front of a large fish as I am was in town visiting family. It took almost no convincing to get him to join me and head out to the coast to find a Leopard. The next day, waking up at the crack of noon with a hangover, Seth showed up right on time, only about an hour and a half late. We grabbed some “breakfast” and some beers before heading down to San Diego. With 10 weights in one hand and a beer in the other, we set out scouring the shore expecting to see a fish behind every wave. What we actually saw was a whole lot of nothing.
9/10 Uncharacteristic to match the personality for those who fish the unusual.
At this time, we managed to walk a mile or two up and down the beach only to catch a sunburn and work off some of the hangover from the night before. Defeated and dehydrated we headed back to the car to crack another beer and try to figure out what the hell went wrong. A couple beers later we caught ourselves staring off at a helicopter traversing the hillside working its way down the shoreline. As the helicopter flew overhead we noticed a silhouette of leopard Shark cruising the surf.
It was as if there was a sign and a switch was flipped. We began spotting fish after fish cruising the surf, or at this moment the lack of surf, making it easier to see both size and direction of the shark. Being able to sight fish, we quickly ended up using the higher ground behind us as a vantage point, allowing one of us to hit the beach running while, the other called out the fish and lined up the shot from above. During the chaos, it dawned on me that I was less than a month out from my trip down to Baja.
We easily saw over a hundred fish cruising the surf. Many, if not most of our casts, ended up in rejection. Some cast resulted into a follow, just to have the fish turn away at the last second, but a handful were lucky enough to want to party with us.
… And as quickly as they were there, they were gone.
Having gone back during similar tides, I have managed to spot a few from time to time, but nothing like that day, with Seth, trying to cure a hangover and shaking the rust off for Baja.
All photos by Seth Blackamore