|My Southern California fly-fishing pals, the likes of Glenn Ueda, Kesley Gallagher, Al Q, Jim Solomon and others have been tantalizing my angling sensitivities all summer on Face Book with photos of beautiful Catalina Island fly-caught pelagics – yellowtail, bonito and home-guard Calico bass – some of the yellowtail and bonito going 10-pounds or better. These are extremely tough critters and even the 2-pounders pull like they weigh 5-pounds or better on an 8-weight.|
I’d never fished the Catalina Island fishery and it’s long been on my BL so I booked three days with guide extraordinaire, Captain Vaughn Podmore - Salty Fly Guide Service, Huntington Beach, to fish the Island. Tim Anderson, San Jose buddy, shared the boat with me. We flew down to John Wayne airport Tuesday of last week, rented a car and drove less than a half hour to our hotel in New Port Beach, the Best Western Plus right on the coast highway. Nice hotel, great service although a bit pricy but worth it.
Great fishing and a good time with Captain Vaughn notwithstanding, both Tim and I agreed that meeting Glenn Ueda at Duke’s in Huntington Beach Tuesday evening for a drink, superb dinner and a wonderful BS session exchanging great tales, some going way back, was the highlight of our trip. Hope to share a meal, dinner and hopefully fishing with Glenn in the not-so-distant future – Maybe on the delta since Glenn has never fished it.
We met Captain Vaughn at his gorgeous skiff, one serious fishing machine (one of the best I’ve ever fished from) at 5 a.m. Wednesday morning. We were heading for the bait barge before sunrise, picked up about four scoops of live sardines to chum with and were heading across the channel to Catalina Island about 5:30 a.m., arriving about 6:45 or so, just as the sun washed the western horizon with brilliant hues of red, orange and pink. Stunning! Seas were glass with just a slight swell making the run over very pleasant. We were into fish almost instantly, with a small Calico coming to Tim’s fly on the first cast; his first Calico on fly.
We caught plenty of fish that first day, a mix of yellowtail, bonito and Calico bass, more than enough to make us happy and a bit sore, with some rod-butt belly bruises to prove we’d been bent on strong fish.
Catalina Island is incredibly beautiful with a stunning shore reminding me of fishing the coast of Isla Carmen out of Loreto, Baja. Lots of wildlife, including a buffalo sighting; we could have done with fewer fur bags though…
We bagged it around 2:30 or so in the afternoon heading for the harbor happy and tired, but grinning outside and inside about how well things had gone that first day.
This was the routine for the remaining two days of fishing although we had a bit of wind on Thursday which made the fishing a bit tougher and the ride home like riding the mechanical bull at a country western bar… Captain Vaughn and his skiff handled the surly, capping 3-footers extremely well though. Friday the wind was down and the ride both ways wasn’t bad at all. We had a very decent morning bite that last day but the bite shut down when the tide slacked – typical – no run no fun. We headed back around 1:30 to beat the wind.
Tim and I couldn’t have been more pleased with our trip and time spent fishing with Captain Podmore. Vaughn is one of the best guides I’ve ever spent time with, totally professional and helpful; and keeping his skiff in perfect position for both casters to work the chum and fish. He is a fun guy to be with who knows how to make his anglers feel at home. We learned a ton from him.
I brought my own gear and flies down; Tim used Captain Vaughn’s excellent gear.
My two primary outfits included a new Edge (TFO) 8-weight with a TFO Atoll I real, loaded with a RIO Outbound Custom Cut T-14 line, cut to 28-feet. I am very impressed with the Edge rod. It cast the heavy line and flies brilliantly; and it handled those strong fish as well or better than any 8-weight I’ve ever fished. I’ve used the Atoll I reel for awhile now and on some pretty impressive fish and I don’t think there is a better reel for the money out there. I also had an Orvis Helios set up with a RIO Outbound Short floater for tossing Crease Flies and that outfit combo is superb. Time and I both got yellowtail on top; some of the blow-ups were hilarious. My big gun was a Sea Level Stealth 10-weight, Atoll II reel loaded with a Custom Cut T-14 line with a 30-foot head. Leaders were 8- to 9-feet of 20-pound fluorocarbon.
Top flies were yellow/olive sardine patterns about size 1/0. I did pretty well with my jig hook FT flies in similar colors but did very well with a 2/0 white/yellow/brown jig hook Face Mask pattern similar to my Darting Jig Hook Sea Habit. Truth is, you don’t really have to bring any flies (or tackle) since Captain Vaughn has all you need.
By the way, Captain Vaughn provided great breakfast muffins and super sandwiches for lunch… We lacked for nothing.
I highly recommend booking a trip with Captain Podmore of Salty Fly Guide Service (if you can get some days since he is pretty busy). You can find his details on my website Coast-to-Coast Guides page and he also has a Face Book page. Check him out.
Thanks again for a fantastic experience Captain Vaughn – great memories I won’t soon forgets! See you at the Sugar Barge, Bethel Island, in a couple of weeks; looking forward to have dinner with you and Captain Bill Mathews.
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