Last year while speaking at the Simms Ice Out in Bozeman, Montana I met Alex Ramirez, a fly fishing guide and instructor. Last night while speaking to The Sespe Fly Fishers in Ventura, California Alex surprised me by showing up. He’s since moved from Montana to the Ventura area and catches a lot of fish in the local surf. Naturally I quizzed Alex about the current surf action and out came the words, shovelnose guitarfish.
I forgot to mention while fishing the surf down in San Diego on Monday I saw some of these crazy shovelnose guitarfish. They appear to be half shark and half stingray. I cast to them but couldn’t get them to eat. Can you get them to eat a fly? I asked.
Alex has gotten the shovelnose to eat his fly before but was honest in telling me that you more often snag them by accident. He went on to tell me however, that there were a lot of the bizarre critters around and that if I joined him this morning we just might get lucky. Naturally I wasn’t going to pass up such an opportunity.
I had to travel today to San Fernando Valley, California so I could speak tonight to Sierra Pacific Flyfishers. With the potential bad traffic between Ventura and here I gave only one hour to fish this morning. But as luck has it, one hour would be enough to get my hands on a shovelnose.
I met Alex at 10 at the Ventura beach. We each tied on Clouser type flies and began casting to the waves. We let our flies sink to the bottom and slowly stripped them in. Shovelnose are true bottom feeders so to have any chance at all your fly must be in the sand. Within minutes Alex was hooked into something big.
We were using 7-weights. I had my Ross Rx and my Evolution 3. As I watched line clear off Alex’s reel I wondered if I was under gunned. But before long Alex began to gain on his fish. Sure enough, in came a shovelnose guitarfish hooked in the tail.
Snagged or not snagged I didn’t care. I couldn’t wait to check out this unusual creature. They really are ray like. The eyes are on the top and the mouth is on the bottom. They are perfectly designed to cruise along and extrude crabs out of their holes in the sand.
After a few pics I got back at it and within ten casts I hooked up. I could tell right away I’d foul hooked a guitarfish of my own. You can tell when a fish is hooked funny by the way they fight. Often the fight is much harder than normal and this shovelnose was getting the best of me with my light saltwater outfit. I remained patient and kept steady pressure and five minutes later I surfed in my first shovelnose guitarfish.
Although I will not add today’s catch to my species list because he was fouled, it was a thrill to hold on to my first shovelnose guitarfish. They are truly a sight to behold.
A special thanks to Alex for taking me out this morning so I could experience this cool new fish. I’m most certain we’ll be doing this together again next time I’m down here. I promise, some day I’m gonna make one eat!