Words: Matt Rose
Photos: Mike Borchard
In any quest there is a moment of uncertainty.
With any crazy idea, the question of “are you sure?” finds itself tugging at your core.
Fishermen and women are defined by the constant tug-o-war between elation and dismay, feast and famine, curse words and joy-filled laughter.
I have a friend who says, “I come into fishing with the very highest expectations, only to have my dreams completely crushed.” Instagram is really good at making it feel as though everyone is catching fish—except you.
The sad truth is that act of fishing has, in many ways, lost its art—and I’m not talking about a Scottish fly fisherman throwing beautiful salmon flies on a foggy morning.
Fishing has turned into a grip and grin at arm’s length.
An over-saturated, disconnected photo brag.
Have we have lost all creativity, connectedness, and the simple art?
A few months ago, my fishing world got a lot smaller. Being in Southern California, we were asked by our neighboring fisheries to kindly stay away—for the purpose of virus safety.
All I wanted to do was fish, but I was stuck at home, unable to access the rivers I was so familiar with.
I redirected my focus and took to the art of tying flies. I filled my fly box with the dreams of fishing trips that awaited me someday soon. While I couldn’t go to the rivers anymore, the pause in the routine helped me realize that ocean was in my backyard. I found myself increasingly curious about the possibility of fly fishing for Calico Bass in our local waters.
I had seen videos and photos of saltwater fly fishing, but they always seemed to be located in tropical locations for Tarpon, Permit, Giant Trivally’s etc… but fly fishing for Calico… that was something entirely new and unfamiliar to me.
I started dreaming, and quickly became obsessed with the idea that this would become my new passion. Marrying together my love of fly fishing, tying flies, and the Ocean. It became like backyard fishing all over again. I had to begin again—start from scratch. When fly fishing for trout seemed like a somewhat promised experience, now I was the greenhorn.
One of the things I love the most about fly fishing is how involved you are with every step. I feel present when I’m fly fishing, focused on that moment and nothing else. Whether I’m on a river watching my flies drift past me, or now the ocean stripping streamers in the chaotic dance of a bait fish.
It’s not just catching fish that matters, but the presentation, the fly, the movement.
A few years ago I began tying my own flies and found total elation when trout started taking flies that I had made. And it only keeps growing. I went from tying tiny flies, to now tying big streamers flies that imitate bait fish.
In just a few short months, my eyes have been opened to a whole new universe—rooted in the elation I felt the first time I caught a trout on a fly I had tied myself. I have now shifted my focus to a new aim—Pacific Pelagic fish on the fly. While I am just beginning my adventure, I have seen enough to know it is possible—from Calico to Corbina, Bonito to Yellowtail, Blue Fin Tuna and Sailfish.
Not only is it possible to catch these fish on a fly, they live right outside my back door in Southern California. I heard someone say once that "the best place to hunt deer is as close to your house as possible." I am taking that same sentiment and applying it to fly fishing.
I haven’t caught a large Pelagic fish yet, but I am committed to the quest, learning, being humbled, and refining my approach.
Maybe I won’t catch a fish today, but over the last few months my knowledge of fishing and fly fishing has expanded in ways I wouldn't have imagined. So I will keep tying flies for yellowtail, and working on my stripping technique for Calico bass. Calico fishing may never be as popular as fishing for Redfish down in the Gulf of Mexico, but it has a hold on me and it's a pursuit worthy of all of my attention.
Interested in Matt's saltwater hand-tied flies? We have a collaboration in the works, coming later this Spring.