California Yellowtail on a Popper

by | Mar 8, 2021 | fly fishing for California yellowtail | 4 comments

YetiIt was another beautiful morning with a Yeti full of coffee here in the boonies of Baja.  Our boatman Riccardo arrived earlier than 7.  When I saw him, I headed for our shack to make sure pals Grant Hartman and Sammy Vigneri were getting ready.  After yesterday’s insane day fly fishing for California yellowtail, I didn’t want to waste a minute.

 

BajaAs we gathered our stuff, Riccardo gassed up his panga.  We are so remote that the most difficult thing is finding gas.  I may refer to our little hotel as a shack but the service is great and they control all the supplies around the bay.

 

saltwater-flyfishingThe ocean was crazy calm.  Warmer than yesterday also.  We drove straight across the bay to the cove with the sardines.  Instead of heading far out to sea again we decided to fish around the sardine schools in order to spend less time traveling and more time fishing.  It was a good plan because when we arrived the yellowtail were busting the surface and the birds were going berserk!

 

yellowtail-fliesSammy and I went right to work.  Sammy took the bow with a fast sinking sonar line.  I was much bolder.  I fished my 10-weight Winston Alpha+ with a floating Amplitude Saltwater line.  With fish smashing the top I took it a step further and tied on a popper.

 

 

crazy-fishingBefore I could set my feet firmly from the center of the panga Sammy hooked up.  It had to be no more than his third cast.  I watched planning to stay out of his way but several yellowtail smashed the surface 30 feet from the boat.  I launched the popper and chugged it hard and fast.  A wake appeared behind my topwater fly and then one of the most memorable popper eats of my life happened.  A 25lb yellowtail jumped out of the water and came down on my fly.  Sammy and I were doubled up!

 

When you and your buddy double up on any fish you need to be careful your lines don’t cross.  But when you have two California yellowtails screaming out backing – you’re flat out terrified.  If our backings crossed no doubt each would sever and we’d be out two big fish and our entire fly lines!

 

fish-fighting

Sammy and I did some jockeying to avoid catastrophe.  My fish dragged me to the front of the boat with Sam and then both our lines were headed the same direction and close.  It appeared both our fish were running together.  But then we got lucky and mine split to the right and we swapped sides of the bow.

 

Yellowtail-fishingThe craziness went on for a good five minutes before we got our yellowtails under control.  I got mine up to the surface before Sammy and Riccardo grabbed the tail.  Seconds later Grant grabbed Sam’s and both handed us our fish.  Thus, one of the most amazing double fish photos I’ve ever been a part of!

 

catch-and-releaseAfter we released our beauties the yellowtail continued to bust on sardines all around us.  Sammy was hooked up again within minutes.  I kept the popper on figuring it was gold being it only took five minutes to hook up, but I guess it was a fluke.  I dropped that popper on feeding yellowtail 25 times in the next two hours but never had another eat.  I finally took it off and got back in the game with Sammy.

 

fish-bajaOnce again, we caught a lot of nice yellowtail.  Back to back days.  For all the tough saltwater fly fishing weather I’ve hit the last two years, this is payback.  We took one 20lber home again and returned to our little fishing village around 4 PM to beers, sashimi, ceviche and yellowtail steaks.  What a trip.  It’s a cold one tonight for Baja.  But that’s ok.  Tomorrow we will mix it up and try for snapper and grouper!

 

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing

4 Comments

  1. Tad

    Jeff,

    That is a great day of fishing!

    Tad

  2. Mike Faulkinbury

    Poppers in the salt, nice, very nice!

  3. Dan Yeast

    They look like Pacific Amberjack. Very nice

  4. Jeff

    Dan, yellowtail are first cousins with amberjack. Very closely related. In my observation, yellowtail are slightly thinner all the way around – like a torpedo!

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I started fly fishing at age 7 in the lakes and ponds of New England cutting my teeth on various sunfish, bass, crappie and stocked trout. I went to Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Naturalist Degree while I discovered new fishing opportunities for pike, muskellunge, walleyes and various salmonids found in Lake Superior and its tributaries.

From there I headed west to work a few years in the Yellowstone region to simply work as much as most people fish and fish as much as most people work. I did just that, only it lasted over 20 years working at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, WY where I departed in 2009. Now it’s time to work for "The Man", working for myself that is.

I pursue my love to paint fish, lecture on every aspect of fly fishing you can imagine and host a few trips to some of the most exotic places you can think of. My ultimate goal is to catch as many species of fish on fly possible from freshwater to saltwater, throughout the world. I presently have taken over 440 species from over 60 countries!

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