Fly Fishing the Surf In Southern California
with Gary Bulla
We are fortunate to live on the edge of an abundant and diverse fishery known as the Southern California Bight. Bight refers to the sudden change in the coastline direction from north-south to west-east. The gorgeous beaches formed by this geographical anomaly have become a premier fly fishing destination.
At our November meeting, we will learn about reading this water, its currents and tides and the methods for casting and choosing rods and lines, leaders, and flies for catching a wide variety of fish. We will learn about the best SoCal locations and how to effectively roam the coastline of this accessible and yearlong fishery. Come to this meeting and you’ll learn about the challenges of fly fishing this rare marine habitat and the opportunities that are available in our very own home waters.
As you will see, the perfect guide to show and explain all this is Gary Bulla. He will share his beautiful photographs of this unique terrain and its many fascinating facets, along with the knowledge he has gained during more than 30 years of exploring the surf.
Gary grew up on the beaches and waters of the southern California coast. From when Gary was a toddler, his father camped, hunted and fished with him. By his early 20s, Gary had learned to scuba dive and then free dive and spear fish in the Channel Islands and southern Mexico and was exposed to fly fishing while backpacking in the Sierra and living in the mountains of Colorado. By age 23, Gary had returned to the foothills of southern California to make his home.
In 1989, his friend Yvon Chouinard introduced him to the concept of casting a fly into the surf. Gary found that saltwater fly fishing perfectly combined his lifetime love for the ocean and his passion for fly fishing. In those days there was not a great deal of information about targeting Pacific saltwater species, but Corbina seemed to hold the possibility of becoming an exhilarating and challenging fish for southern California. So Gary began observing and experimenting on the shoreline. He spent many mornings and evenings patrolling the beaches, paddling the kelp beds in his kayak and developing flies and techniques for the salt. He combined his knowledge of the tides and beaches with his observations to understand how to catch not only corbina, but also halibut, yellowfin croaker, perch and striped bass. All these were found in the surf near Ventura and Santa Barbara. Today fly rods are a common sight on these beaches -- a dream come true for Gary.
Also, in 1989 Gary began accompanying his wife Theresa, a teacher of marine biology, on trips with middle school students to Baja’s Magdalena Bay, Loreto and La Paz areas. He brought his fly rod and was astounded at the incredible fly fishing available so near to southern California. Thus began a second quest and more years of experimentation.
Today Gary teaches local surf and saltwater casting clinics, as well as guides clients in the surf. He has caught more than 150 saltwater species on the fly and has guided and fished the Channel Islands, Belize, North Carolina and the Bahamas. But his home waters are the California surfline, where he first wetted his line in the salt.
Idylwilde Flies signed Gary as one of their "Signature Tiers” and has been distributing his saltwater flies since 2008. With his “family” of captains and large groups of repeat clients/friends, Gary is constantly developing and tweaking new patterns and methods for the multitude of species in the salt. When he hosts his many trips, Gary coaches his clients and often fishes with them, constantly adding to his knowledge. Articles about his trips and his photos have appeared in Patagonia catalogs, California Fly Fisher, Fly Rod and Reel, The Drake, Saltwater Fly Fishing and Fly Fishing in Saltwaters.
His website is www.garybulla.com where he has an e-store for flies and an active discussion board on saltwater fly fishing.