July 9, 2023
More Rockfish Fly Fishing!
"Red sky at night, a sailor's delight"!
Wow, the evening at Depoe Bay was gorgeous promising the next day to be just as calm! The marine forecast over a 6-day span was the calmest I've ever seen in my 23 years of fishing out of Depoe Bay! Seeing 3 days of flat ocean is pretty special but 6? That's a miracle! For fly fishing out of a boat on the Oregon coast, you couldn't ask for better conditions and even the fish cooperated as well. I hope days like these are not far off for the rest of the year.
It didn't take very long at all as I found a nice shallow reef when fly fishing friend, Dave Kilhefner, hooked up. His fly rod more than doubled, and I knew right away it was not a black sea bass! Dave managed his rod perfectly without breaking it or the leader to keep the deep critter from going back into its rocky hole. Only two fish pull this hard and that is either a lingcod or a cabezon.
After going back and forth on the reel, a good sized, cabezon (aka cabie) finally revealed itself. With those giant pectoral finds and broad tail, they possess incredible pulling power! Much to my surprise, Dave's cabie is the first one I've seen caught on a fly. But then again, lingcod eagerly take flies, so why not a cabie? These are delicious table fare, a bugger to fillet but are well worth it!
The fly fishing was pretty consistent and the fish were spread all over the water column from 10 feet below the surface to the bottom. We fished in 30-45 feet of water. The sonar showed good numbers of suspended blacks which eagerly take a fly when you drift over them. Big schools of black rockfish typically means a fish every cast as long as they're under or around your boat. However, if you want a shot on catching a ling or cabie, you have to wait a bit longer for the fly to reach near the bottom before you start your retrieve. One technique to reduce casting is, once you strip your line in and you come to the fast sink tip portion (usually 30'), you can just start stacking your fly line back into the water and as you drift, the line will straighten out and likely be near the bottom.
The ocean was like a like a lake!
We used the same flies as last time, all white with flashabou; works very well. My friend, Dave, fly fished with a 9-ft., 6 wt fly rod using a 300 gr Airflo Depth finder and easily held his own on hooking up. But if you have a 7, 8, or even a 9 wt fly rod, I would go a little heavier. A short, 20 lb test leader, four feet long works great. It also allows you to handline the fish into the boat easily. But you should have a larger, salmon size net just in case you hook a big ling or cabezon! I actually experimented with a steel leader attaching a Mustad quick connect to change flies instantly. The leader worked great but eventually the end became kinked but that didn't stop the fish from grabbing the fly.
I spend a lot of time researching the marine forecast. No one likes to fish in a rough ocean or waste a trip over only to find you can't get out and you certainly don't want to miss a good ocean. I like to use several websites and apps. www.weather.gov/portland gives you the NOAA forecast. Type in the location in the upper left hand corner. Then scroll down to the little map and click a spot offshore from the destination you chose. You should get a forecast on marine conditions but it only gives you about 4-5 days out. This forecast is typically on the aggressive side. Another one I really prefer is Windy.com. Get the Premium subscription. This will give you 10 days out on the marine and weather forecast. I also use tides4fishing.com and the app called NAUTIDE. These have many tools to use for ocean conditions and fishing.
As calm as it was this last week, I wouldn't have hesitated to take out a 14-foot boat. But also keep in mind that Depoe Bay is very popular with the kayakers, although I don't know how feasible it is to fly fish from one in the ocean. Just make sure you a have marine radio which is required for exiting and entering the harbor!
Hope you give this fishery a shot, it's a blast!
Best wishes on your fly fish pursuit!