First New Species of 2021 – Yellowtail On the Fly

by | Mar 7, 2021 | fly fishing for California yellowtail | 5 comments

California-yellowtailThere aren’t a ton of common game fish species out there I haven’t caught on the fly.  Most I’ve had the good fortune of adding to my list over the years.  But there are a few I haven’t and one that I’ve come close with a couple times is the California yellowtail (Seriola dorsalis) not to be confused the yellowtail snapper or the yellowfin tuna.


BajaThe yellowtail is a badass found from Southern California to the bottom of Baja Mexico.  They stretch further than that too and I in fact hooked my first in New Zealand on the way home from a trout fishing trip in 1996.  I had a lot less experience back then and when I hooked that fish he smoked me and wrapped me up in a channel marker so fast it wasn’t funny.


Baja-AnglersI hooked another on my first trip to Baja in 1998 and got schooled again. And most recently Sammy and met a few in Magdalena Bay but couldn’t get them to eat the fly.  So when Sammy and I had to reschedule this week’s Baja trip with our friend and guide Grant Hartman from February till now, catching a yellowtail was the first thing that crossed my mind because March is prime yellowtail time.


BajaI emailed Grant about chasing yellowtail two weeks ago.  Grant has caught plenty in his day but admitted that he’s by no means the master – especially with the fly.  But in fishing, sometimes things go your way.  It turns out the fishing village we arrived at yesterday is amidst the peak of the yellowtail run and the boatman Grant arranged for us to fish with today knew where to find them.


yellowtail-fishingOur boatman’s name is Riccardo and he’s a whopping 21 years old.  Riccardo fetched us around 7 AM in his dad’s panga.  Grant and I were just finishing our coffee after chatting through a fabulous sunrise.  We loaded up then made a crossing from our village to an outer island and bay.  There were six panga’s already there and they were locals catching yellowtail for income.


Fish-MexicoThe bay was gorgeous.  For those who have never been to Baja it’s a mountainous desert surrounded by stunning blue ocean.  The landscape is dotted with giant saguaro cactus, others I can’t name and scrub.  Occasionally you spot wild goats and cows and there are numerous quail, hawks, vultures and song birds.  The ocean itself is teaming with pelicans, cormorants, boobies, gulls, porpoise and whales.


MexicoIt turned out we didn’t come to this first place to fish but rather to catch sardines for teasing.  For the most part yellowtail are deep water fish and you must tease them to the surface in range to toss a fly.  Riccardo went to work tossing his net and he captured heaps of the small fish.


fly-fishingMy 9-weight Winston Air Salt was already rigged and ready.  I didn’t have my best choice of reel.  Instead of one of my trusty Bauer RX Reels I had a Bauer CFX 5.  This is a great reel too and one of their original saltwater reels.  The only issue is it doesn’t hold a lot of backing.  I was using it because it’s a cool old classic and it so happened to be rigged with a Scientific Anglers Sonar Titan Bigwater Taper 350 grain sinking line ready to go from home.  I only added the straight 60lb Fluorocarbon.


Jeff-CurrierWhile Riccardo tossed his net, Grant, chatted up a storm.  Sammy admired the tossing of the net and I was certain I saw the school of sardines split from and attack below.  That’s when I picked up my rod and went to work.


I kid you not, I went tight in less than ten casts.  At first the line cleared slowly but in a blink of an eye I was clenching my rod for dear life and my bright orange backing was already shooting into the deep.  I was hooked to a speedster and 99% sure it was a yellowtail.



Both yellowtail I lost over the years dragged my line into a snag – the New Zealand fish a channel marker and the Baja fish broke me in the rocks.  I wasn’t sure where this fish was headed but we were along a beach so I hoped there were no hoops for me to cross this time.


Jeff-Currier-YellowtailOnce at ease there were no snags the next issue occurred, I was running low on backing with my old CFX.  I excitedly shouted, “Start the motor we need to chase this fish”, showing my emptying reel to Riccardo.


We chased and ten minutes later I was straight above my fish.  He ran a ¼ mile but after running him down we were close.  I hoisted upward and reeled down repeatedly.  In came the backing.  Then my fly line and soon we saw the fish.  Minutes later Riccardo tailed my first yellowtail of my life.  First new species of 2021 for the list!


Jeff-currier-BajaAfter a few photos I slung the heavy fish over the side and gripped the tail.  There was plenty of fight left.  I admired the 40 plus inch fish and let him go.  No doubt, that was the first time Riccardo ever saw a yellowtail released.  He seemed to love it!



Sammy got ready to make some casts as well but Grant was quick to inform us this wasn’t our fishing spot.  As a one never to leave fish to find fish I found the move strange but off we went 45 minutes further out to sea.


big-fishWe arrived at an amazing piece of this earth.  Standing high above the blue ocean was a towering rock island.  It was littered with birds and one of my least favorites, sea lions.  There were also several other fishing boats.  While a few were locals, several had actual clients like us.  And there were yellowtail busting all over!


Samuel-Vigneri-fishingLong blog short, Sammy and I had one of the most epic Baja fishing days of our life.  We each caught a half dozen 20-30lb yellowtail on flies.  The flies were nothing fancy, most of mine were on a chartreuse and white Clouser, Grant had Sammy on a variety of patterns, all of which worked well.  Honestly, had I not taken breaks and enjoyed the scenery and company, we could have caught plenty more.  But as it is, my arms are happily tired.


fish-it-wellIt was a long but beautiful drive back to our village.  The ocean is oddly calm for March.  But we’ll take it.  Glassy seas made it easier to watch the whales jump from miles away.  That’s all for now.  We kept one small 20lb yellowtail for dinner.  We split it into three methods, sashimi, ceviche and grilled the rest.  We’ll be back out there for more in the morning.


Watch for more on my Instagram – @jeffcurrier65 !


Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing


  1. Bigtom

    Right on, mate!
    Yellowtail, California or Southern, are awesome fighters and, like their cousins the Amberjacks, are fine tablefare.
    Congratulations, Jeff, on harnessing a true dogfighting noble speedster of a fish.

  2. Jeff

    Thanks Tom! A nice one to have under the belt finally

  3. Dave Harper

    Heck Yea! Sounds like you are getting them away from the shallows. I lost 3 Yellowtail and even more big snappers in a row one time in Bahia de los Muertos, never had time to put any heat on them before they rocked me! They can be humbling…..

    Looking out the back door of my House in Victor at the snow melting…Baja sounds pretty good!!!

  4. John Ashley

    Those are LEGIT yellows that would tax even gear fishermen! I’ve caught little 5lb rat yellowtails off of Mag Bay on a 10wt that had me wondering if I’d end up with a broken rod – I can only imagine the fight with those bruisers was like. Super killer – love the Baja posts and can’t wait to see how the pargo/cabrilla/grouper outing works out for you.

  5. Jeff

    Thanks everyone for tuning in. Love the chats and appreciate you all reading the blog. More to come!

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Contact Jeff

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!