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One year into fishing Calico on the Fly

About this time last year all I wanted to do was to catch a calico on a fly pattern. Unfortunately by the time I started obsessing over this goal, the summer boating season was ending, and my attention was slowly turning to duck season, and winter fly fishing on the rivers. I have realized I don’t know a lot, but from a beginner’s experience, here are some things I have learned.

The What:

Heavy Rod/Reel, heavy Line, heavy flurocarbon leader, heavy fly

· 8W or 9W rod and reel set up. I personally use a 9 weight rod/reel, for a little extra casting power, and opportunity for bonito and possibly small yellowtail. While it is totally doable to catch a calico on an 8w, I think the 9w is a better option with a little bit more strength to fight the fish.

· Multiple companies make fast sinking lines, with a shooting head. Orvis Depth Charge, Rio Outbound Short are good starters at about 400 grains but Hatch Sinking lines with T-14 440 grain, T-20 600 grain or Scientific Angler are better options because they are even heavier. Your rod can handle a heavy line and if you look up Calico Syndicate on Youtube you will find that they splice their flyline into the 700-900 grain weight. Not only does this get your fly down into the right zone quickly, but allows you to shoot your line out quickly, without doing hardly any false cast. The more cast you do, the more tired you will get, so its better to shoot your line out with the shooting head, loading your rod up on false cast.

· Use a stronger fluorocarbon. After looking at most fly shops, the strongest fluorocarbon I was able to find, which I thought would be ok, was 12lb fluorocarbon. Most conventional calico fishermen use 50-80lb fluorocarbon, and for good reason. I don’t think you need exactly the same weight of line, but the best size would be between 20-30lb fluorocarbon which will most likely need to be bought at your local tackle shop focusing on ocean fishing. You only need approx. 3-5ft of an un-tapered leader.

· The DV Thunderbird is the best fly to use. This is a clouser style pattern, with extra heavy lead eyes, hook up and a weed guard tied on (so hopefully it won’t get snagged as much on the bottom or kelp, because that is the worst!!) This fly is highly visible with great contrast. The best color combinations are red/brown, chartruse green/pink , black/pink/white. The fly has a wide body profile, unlike most streamers that are streamlined, this fly is made for calico. These fish whether on the kelp stringer or on a boiler, calico’s eyes face up and look for an easy meal above them, therefore your fly pattern needs a wide body.

The How:

The Calico bite needs current

o If the fish aren’t biting, you want to move to where you can find current. This honestly is something I have been learning more and more from conventional fishing, but will apply also for fly fishing. If you are fishing a spot after a few cast, but haven’t caught anything, just like a trout stream, move on. Most often it is because the place you are fishing has no current. When the current picks up, the fish start burning calories and like clockwork the fish will start feeding.

· You can find Calico on stringers, boilers and the shallows

o Calico find themselves on stringers, facing where the baitfish are, and will shoot out from the kelp for an passerby. When the current is moving and baitfish are around, swing your fly out and strip it quickly in for an instinct bite.

o Calico find themselves on boilers. Boilers are where the waves/swell/ tide work together to wash over a shallow pinnacle of the reef. Big calicos won’t travel far from their territory of a boiler where they have made themselves king. Throw your fly out onto the boiler and let it slide off the boiler into the deeper water. A hungry calico will be waiting for disoriented baitfish.

o Calico find themselves in the shallows. The closer you can get your fly to the rocky coastline, calico will be scouring the shallows as eager hunters. 5 feet / 3 feet from the shore where it instantly drops to about 5-10ft deep where there is some swell/water moving is the best place to fish.

· Calico like to be chummed.

o Running from stringer to stringer, boiler to shallows is fun, but still a lot of work, and if you are going to be in an area fishing for awhile, chum the calico with live bite. The best/ and most fun method I have found is while you chum the water with cut up fish is to flyline your bait and turn on the bite. If you cast out your live bait, and within a few seconds of your bait being in the water, it is being bit, that is the perfect time to throw a fly. If you have your live bait in the water for more than 30 seconds without a bite, it will be extremely hard to catch a calico with a fly, because most likely the bite is off, and while the fish are there, they are living in a bait vacation and waiting for something to change.

I will be honest, I fly fish for trout, because I believe that fly fishing for trout is the best and most productive way to fishing for them. I love tying flies, I love catching fish on stuff I have made, but I do not know if catching calico on the fly rod is the most productive. BUT I still want to do it. I want to catch calico on both conventional set ups of live baits, hard baits, surface irons, weed-less or on fly patterns. The more you understand these fish, where they are, and how/why they bite, you will have more and more fun fly fishing. I want to do both fly fishing for calico and conventional set ups because fly fishing is extremely tiring with such a heavy line/ fly I believe it is best to use both set ups in a day for the most fun.

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