Friday, March 6, 2015

Two Signature Flies for Barred Surfperch

     Ranging the Pacific coast between central Baja & northern California, barred surfperch, the basic ingredient in fish tacos, are the ubiquitous kings of the California surf – handsome & brash, with powerful shoulders, a crusher palate, & the muscle needed to hunt mole crabs in the turbulent surf zone. In my own estimation barred surfperch are a world class sport fish & pursuing them contains all the elements that add up to world class fishing: beautiful scenery; moving water begging to be read; good quantities of hard fighting fish willing to take the fly.

Clouser or bonefish styles are the most effective & popular designs for barred perch, though, with a much shorter tradition, I don’t know of any ‘signature’ patterns having emerged to general recognition as we see in the bonefish tradition with its archive of recognized getters like the Crazy Charlie & other old favorites. Seems like everybody you meet on the California beach has their own take, including myself. In thirty years of fishing barred perch & designing flies for the purpose, I’ve made a few helpful observations, & probably most helpful the knowledge that barreds show a general preference for the colors red, pink, rootbeer, & purple, & these serve as reliable trigger colors & the basis for effective attractor patterns. The two flies featured here are a couple I consider signature patterns, refined to maximum efficiency & consistently reliable, they represent color combinations & material choices informed by the condition & the fish, & can be fished with confidence when surfperch are present.

More about barred surfperch & California surf fishing, Here: 

 Rootbeer Shrimp

Hook: #2-#4 (I prefer #2) with dumbbell eyes – I pre-tie the dumbbells, affixing them with pink UNI 3/0 thread – coat the thread with penetrating head cement then coat with a thick cement

Thread: wine UNI 8/0

Tail: pink calf tail – about the same length as the hook

Body: red diamond braid – lay down a coat of thick cement before winding the body
Toppings: In order tied in: pinch of red bucktail, extending slightly beyond the tail; 2 strands of copper flash; red calf tail, extending almost even with the tail; rootbeer calf tail, extending almost even with the tail; 2 strands of copper flash; pinch of yellow-dyed squirrel tail  - & finish ~

Purple Shrimp

Hook: #2-#4

Thread: wine UNI 8/0

Tail: purple calf tail

Body: red diamond braid

Toppings: pinch of red bucktail (or try a version with electric-blue bucktail); 2 strands of pearl flash; purple calf tail; 2 strands of pearl flash; purple-dyed squirrel tail – & finish ~  


  1. With limited fresh water to fish in SoCAl, you've become a "Saltie"? Nice ties, Steve. Where are you throwing these? What type of set up are you fishing with? Ron & I were wondering about you this past week while we were fishing the Owens drainage.
    Hey, if you get a chance, drag Ron out in the surf with you.


  2. Keith, I am a saltwater junkie. Been a good run of barreds this year. Fishing Carpo, south to Guadalupe. A lot, between MB & Cayucos. Using a 12' switch rod with 9wt full-sinking line -- it delivers the goods. Been thinking about Uncle Ron. I'll see if I can get him out there for the next round when the tides are good again. You too, if you want to go.