Cedros Outdoor Adventures – Saltwater Fly Fisherman’s Paradise

by Rowan Randol

April 2, 2018

If you like to saltwater fly fish – near shore for Calico Bass, California Yellowtail, Dorado, Halibut, White Seabass and various varieties of Tuna, Cedros Island and Cedros Outdoor Adventures (COA), is the place. Run and gun fly fishing – chasing fish pushing bait and diving birds, plus boiler rock and kelp line fishing, to drifting reefs and beaches, offshore and fishing structure.

I have been lucky enough to travel to Cedros Island at stay at Cedros Outdoor Adventures annually for the last 5 years, and have fly fished with their skilled local Pangeros who know the island and vicinity intimately. Sometimes I have travelled as part of a group of fly fishermen and sometimes solo.

COA‘s rooms are super comfortable, there is always a nice ocean breeze to keep things cool during the day and very comfortable at night at the lodge. Spotlessly clean rooms, plenty of hot water and home cooked meals to fuel you up.

Cedros Island has recently installed 2 sea water conversion systems, so fresh water for showering is abundant, with bottled water for drinking always available at the lodge and chilled bottles along with soft drinks and maybe a cold brew or two on your Super Panga.

Meals are served family style for breakfast and dinner, with lunches are on the boat (you order your sandwiches or burritos the night before), or you can stop in to the lodge around mid-day for lunch and a possible siesta before getting out back on the water. Breakfast is served at 5:30am, with everyone down to the boats by 6:00am, and you literally have until 6:00pm before you have to be back at the dock, if you can make it that long!

Calico Bass fishing has always been my main focus and at Cedros, and it is dream bass fishing on the fly. Salt water fly fishing in Southern California for Calicos, is either along the coast or at one of our Channel Islands. At Cedros, you can literally fish spots that have seen little or no fishing pressure, fishing super tight to the island and shore, in conditions that you only dream about at home in Southern California. Along with the option to fish tight to the shore, you can throw flies at boiler rocks, underwater reefs, kelp lines, and sometimes you have the opportunity to drift beautiful white sand or pebbly beaches. Another awesome opportunity comes when bass are pushing bait toward the surface, which happens usually multiple times a day all around the island. Your Pangero will spot the surface disturbance and pilot the boat to the area, and you can literally cast your fly right into the breaking bass that are chasing the bait, just like a tuna boil at home. When fishing boiler rocks or tight to structure or the island, you have to be prepared for huge strikes that you can’t give an inch on, or the fish will rock you every time. There is no time to get a fish on the reel here, it is a war of brute strength- you stripping vs a bruiser calico trying to get back to its structure. You will have unlimited fishing options each day, weather permitting you can fish the west side of the island, or if the wind is blowing, fish the east side, starting far north and working your way back throughout the day. There is also always the option of fishing at the large Salt Plant shipping docks south of the lodge for the big bass that live around the structure there too.

I have not ever had a day of bass fishing at Cedros that I have caught less than probably 35 fish, with some days topping 100 plus fish. There are monsters down there, with catches and reports of the elusive 10 pound and larger bass not being uncommon.  Bass fishing is consistent year round, I have found summer being a bit better for more bigger fish and the fall and spring catching more fish overall, but for many species you might see a slight bump also during the summer months. At Cedros, like back at home I release all the bass I catch, practicing CPR with the larger models.   If you are going to keep a few Calicos this would be the place, and there is nothing tastier that after a long day of fishing than some fresh calico sashimi prepared by the excellent kitchen staff.

You will be fishing in from a Super Panga, with your guide, usually it is 1 to 2 fly fishermen per boat, and COA does not mix fly and conventional fisherman on a boat, and sometimes with conventional anglers they will fish 3 per boat, but when fishing the fly it is at most a 2 person situation. One angler can take the bow area, and one the stern, maybe rotating a few times throughout the day. There really is no bad spot – bow or stern, since your Pangero can maneuver your super Panga any way you would like to present the best casting opportunity for the angler. Don’t bother bringing a shooting line basket either, it will just get in the way, your loose or shooting line is fine on the deck of the boat, just be prepared for the strike when it comes.

As I have mentioned Yellowtail, White Seabass, Halibut and Dorado can be found year round at Cedros, with Tuna showing up later in the summer. Yellowtail are the most consistent near shore gamefish, and like calicos are available year round. The Pangeros are in constant radio contact with other the guides and will let you know if you should head to a different area where a spot of fish has come up.  You can expect everything from surface action or soaking the fly deep and stripping in fast (you can’t strip too fast). The yellows like the bass can be bruisers and battling a big yellow on fly gear is not for the faint of heart or unprepared. Most of the yellows and tuna you can get on the reel, since those fish are usually located out in deeper water. But be prepared, there are some shallow spots south of the island that are a considerable distance from the island but still are fairly shallow and I have seen fish lost in the kelp a number of miles off the island.

When fishing in tight to the island for Calicos especially along some of the sandy or pebbly beaches you also have a legitimate shot as perhaps catching a White Seabass, Halibut, Sheepshead, and any number of other species on the fly.  Simply put, I have ever experienced a “bad day “of fishing Cedros on the fly.

Your fly gear should be salt water size, with the focus on primarily 9-10 weight rods for bass and 10-12 weight rods for Yellows and school type tuna.   I also have some glass rods in 9-12 range and they are a blast, but be prepared for possibly an extended fight on the glass. One year I only brought glass rods and it was a work out, the rods being heavier and slower than comparable graphite weights, and now having done it once was enough, now I mix in a glass rod to my assortment, but graphite rods are the primary rods I bring.

Reels should be matched to the rods, generally speaking I would recommend large arbor reels, with sufficient gel spun backing spooled on it. As far as backing ratings, 60lb should be plenty and make sure you have at least a 300 hundred years at the minimum, you don’t need that much for bass obviously, but you will get into your backing on yellows, Dorado, and Tuna. These larger offshore species will take you deep into your backing, and there have been more than one occasion where my Pangero needed to start the boat and chase a fish, to avoid being spooled.

As far as fly lines, I opt for a sinking line, or a sinking shooting head on a quality running line. You can go with Cold Water or Tropical line types, based on the water temps. Keeping in mind Cedros Island and its water and climate, do not see the higher temps both in and out of the water that other more tropical locations might see. I bring both types, but realistically will fish something like a Rio Striper line most of the time for bass, and a more tropical line or something like a Rio Leviathan offshore. Line weights will vary from about 400gr sinking, to up to a 600gr shooting head, almost all of them some sort of sinking line, faster sink is better than slower for most cases. I generally will fish the 400gr-450gr on my 10 weights and go up in weight in accordance to the rod I’m using, maybe 475gr-500gr for an 11 weight, and 500gr and above for a 12 weight. You also may get the opportunity to cast a surface fly occasionally and in that case it does not hurt to have a spare spool ready with a floating or intermediate on it. I bring a spare spool for each reel, usually wound with something slightly different in grain weight than the main reel I am fishing, and bring them also on the boat for the day, just in case of a broken line or a quick switch is needed. In the evening you will have plenty of time to swap lines and make repairs if needed. I always bring a few spare lines just in case, it always is safe to have a few backups in your room if nighttime changes are needed.

Leaders can be stacked or tapered, but honestly most of the casts at Cedros are probably going to be 50 feet or less, so usually I just use a straight length of about 30lb flouro, somewhere between 6-9 feet. I’ll run a loop to loop leader connection for the leader and main line to facilitate quick leader changes if needed and usually use a no slip loop know leader to fly to give the fly a bit more action.

Fly selection is along your standard west coast saltwater types For offshore if you can bring an assortment of weighted saltwater Clousers, something along the lines of pacific ocean/west coast baitfish patterns like mackerel, sardine, mullet, caballito, plus some anchovy and flying fish for the offshore gamefish, and maybe a few really large models and a few squid renditions. For Bass, I like a skulpin or fish skull type fly, in reds and oranges, browns, and maybe some greens few shades of green. The red fly is particularly effective when red crabs are common, with the flies in browns also a good choice. A weedless fly is also a good way to go, especially when casting toward walls, boiler rocks, reefs and kelp lines, so expect to lose some flies and the ones you keep will see some wear and tear over the days. If you are not losing an occasional fly, you are not getting it into the structure where the bigger models live. Catalina Fly Company – catalinaflycompany.com has some awesome patterns and fly types that can get you started if you don’t tie like me!

Nippers, finger socks or gloves and some good polarized glasses and a good hat will round out your immediate gear. Refer to the other sections elsewhere on the COA web site for clothing recommendations, and don’t forget a buff, sunscreen and your camera. You are limited as far as the amount of gear you can bring, on the plane, by weight and quantity, your first 2 rods are free with more than 2 being an additional charge. I usually bring an assortment of 5 or so rods to the island, 2 – 10wts, 1 – 11/12wt and 1 true 12wt, and maybe a glass model or shorter bass rod. I usually take 3 rods a day with me, a 10wt, 11wt/12wt, and the specialized rod each day. As I mentioned above, I always will travel with a spare spool for each reel just in case.

Fly fishing at Cedros and staying at COA is the ultimate near shore West Coast style of salt water fly fishing, with the opportunity to fish numerous types of bass environments and near shore and pelagic species all in the same day. Sign up for a trip and you will not be disappointed.