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Guided flyfishing trips in cuenca

Guided fly fishing trips in Cajas

The best fly fishing guide in cajas, cuenca

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                              Angling On The Equator

                                                                                 Wrritten By:  James Drummondo                                                 B

 

                                       So, just what is the fishing like in Ecuador?

 

 The country of Ecuador is divided into four geographical regions:

  • The Andes  (La Sierra)

  • Amazon (El Oriente)

  • Coastal Zone  (La Costa)

  • Galapagos Islands

 

The angling (aka fishing) possibilities to some extent can also be categorized according to these regions. For the purpose of grouping I’ll include ‘Inshore Saltwater’ with Coastal and ‘Off Shore’ Deep-Sea Big Game with the Galapagos Islands.

As a native Californian, relocating to Ecuador in 2009 and experiencing the great variety of landscape and climates reminded me much of back home. California has the Sierra Nevada mountain range which alone holds thousands of natural lakes and streams, a 840 mile long coast line, the 8 Channel Islands off the Southern Coast , the Farallon Islands off the Central Coast, the magnificent coastal redwood forests, vast deserts and everything in between. Along with these different regions came a great variety of angling possibilities which I did my best to take advantage of during my life there. Now it’s time to explore and fish Ecuador. I think the overall picture of fishing in Ecuador is good but you’re going to have to explore and pay your dues or better yet, just go fishing with someone who already has.

 

The following is a brief overview of what I have learned and experienced regarding the fishing in Ecuador.

 

For all the variety of angling possibilities there really isn’t much reliable (which is the magic word here) information available on the internet or in travel books compared to most other countries where fishing is a popular recreational pastime. Most avid anglers just don’t spend thousands of dollars to come to the center of the world to fish as they would Brazil, Argentina or Chile. You’ll find the generic information about the existence of trout fishing in the Andes and the great marlin and tuna catches off Salinas and of course the piranha fishing with bamboo poles at the jungle resorts. There are numerous YouTube videos if you can bare to get through them, most are in Spanish and there’s not much in terms of information anyway. There are a hand full of websites of very expensive coastal charter services in Salinas and Manta, which many are outdated and there are the Amazon outfitters who may or may not still be in business. Getting bare fact reliable information to just go and fish is not easy. Being new to a foreign country makes it quite intimidating just to set out on your own and find fish, and not having your own vehicle makes it even more difficult.

 

Ecuador I think for the most part is still an unchartered map in terms of fishing possibilities, mainly due to the fact the recreational fishing as we know it (with the exception of the saltwater big game charters) is still in it’s development stages.

In order to develop and/or maintain a sustainable fishery in any country and for any species there must bemanagement, education, regulations and enforcement, and unfortunately all of these are lacking or just nonexistent. The concept of catch and release isn’t even a thought by most nationals who fish. Most local fishermen want to eat what they catch and possibly make a few dollars selling their catch, which I fully understand, but there is a need for some change in order to preserve their fishery. The good news is that Ecuador has lots of water, and fish like to live in water.

 

Fishing in the Oriente (Amazon)

 

                                                                      Tucunare (Peacock Bass)

 

 

The prized game fish of the Oriente (Amazon) is the tough and colorful Tucunare or Peacock Bass and it’s close relatives, which actually are not bass at all, they’re members of the Cichlid family and can reach up to 20 lbs. Other sought-after exotics are various species of large catfish, pacu, paiches (arapaima gigas), aruama, payara and many more.

Many an angler has forked out thousands of dollars and banked countless travel hours in pursuit of these magnificent peacocks just to experience the violet strikes and airborne leaps. Brazil and Venezuela have long been the prime destinations for trophy peacocks and other Amazon exotics and these countries host some very high dollar fishing operations. Ecuador does have a few Amazon fishing operations and they also are not catered towards the frugal angler. The dry season (fishing season) is very short in the Oriente so the outfitters need to make their money in a very short window, plus the fact that most excursions require a lot of logistics, travel time by land and water, gas and man hours which all add up. On the positive side, the overall experience of an Oriente fishing excursion is much more than just a fishing trip, with the diverse wildlife and culture it’s an adventure right out of the pages of National Geographic.

 

Many of the easier accessible rivers in the Oriente that look ‘fishy’ just aren’t due to continuous harvesting with nets, long lines, poisons and dynamite. My buddies were fishing a good looking stretch of river down by Sucua but without a bite. They met a local guy and inquired what method of fishing he used and his reply was, “dynamite”.

I have been in contact with a new fishing operation in the northeast region of Ecuador but have not had the chance to make it up there yet. Kingfisher Fishing Tours caters to eco-tourism, sport fishing and scientific research. Diego Monteros is a licensed naturalist and fishing guide with substantial experience working in the Cuyabeno Wildlife reserve and throughout Ecuador. Their operation seems very professional and I am very much looking forward to my first visit. I highly recommend checking out their website.

 

Saltwater Fishing in Ecuador: Off Shore Big Game & Galapagos Islands

 

                                                                                                                                      

 

 

 

 

Having success fishing the coastal waters greatly depends on the prevailing currents. The Humboldt Current flows up the South American coast and brings it’s nutrient-filled cold water. This current runs into the El Nino current, which comes down from the north bringing in warmer water. This collision of currents changes the water temp on a daily basis, which in turn affects the fishing conditions. Success is all about finding that right water temperature. Where this current lays on any given day will greatly affect your boat travel time.

The granddaddy fish of them all is the great blue marlin which average 300 to 400 pounds but can reach a 1000 pounds. Black marlin and huge sailfish are also possible catches. Many world records have been set off Manta and Salinas. Striped marlin run smaller but are much more plentiful. Big wahoo and tuna are right up there with the marlin for great fighting fish and there can be plenty of dorado at times for great sport and table fare as well.

A charter boat for up to 6 passengers (6 pack) can range from $600 to $2000 a day depending on your taste and budget. Smaller boats can run from $30 to $50 an hour. The fishing gear on the higher end boats are usually good quality but you’re taking your chances with the gear on the smaller boats. It’s heartbreaking to lose a nice fish to faulty gear or old line.

Pangas (smaller wooden and fiberglass fishing boats w/ a skipper) can be rented right off the beach for a few hours to a full day, and depending how far the current is off the coast that particular day, you could hit some great fishing. One of the best locations for doing this would be Puerto Lopez or Salinas. Isla de la Plata (Poor Man’s Galapagos) sits about 20 miles off the coast and these are great fishing waters.

Sport fishing in the waters off of the Galapagos Islands is world class at times but mucho mucho plata (Big $) and very regulated and seasonal. One can find local fisherman to take them out for the day.  The going rates varies from $200 to $400 a day.  The skipper will fish with you and of course keep everything you catch for resale at the local fish market.

 

Fishing Inshore in Ecuador: Surf fishing, Reef and Shallow Waters

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quality surf fishing can be found along a good section of the Ecuadorian coastline, one just needs the means and time to explore, or again, just go with someone who already knows the area. Many of the beaches near coastal towns are fished fairly heavy by independent commercial fisherman in their pangas so finding the less fished areas is necessary. Having a 4×4 vehicle is sometimes a must to access the more remote areas. Corvina and Robalo (Snook) are the prize catches from the beach. Many anglers prefer night fishing for the Robalo. The Salinas area with its long stretches of sandy beach can produce some outstanding catches of Robalo during the peak months. Fishing off of rocky points gives you a shot at many reef fish, such as 

snappers, pargo and various other species.

Hiring a small fishing panga for the day from one of the local fishing towns can produce quality catches of reef fish, corvina, robalo, dorado (mahi mahi), smaller tuna, jacks, even possibly wahoo if the right current is not too far off shore. Rates can range from $15 to $40 an hour and the quality of fishing tackle and safety gear (life vests, fire extinguishers and radios) varies as well. I was in Salinas in September and wahoo averaging 70 lbs. were being caught within a half hour’s boat ride.

Inland Coastal: Along the coast there are a few locations which hold inland saltwater mangrove estuaries. Over the years many of these have been modified or used in some way for shrimp farming. The largest area is in Guayas, the other two are in Esmaraldas and Manabi.

Fishing in inland bays and estuaries can be quite productive for a variety of species such as corvina, robalo (snook) snapper, pargo, catfish and others. Knowing where and having the means to fish these areas is difficult. Having a experienced guide or fishing buddy is a must. I have never fished these areas but they’re on my list.

 

Fly Fishing Trout in Ecuador’s Andes

 

There’s an old saying, “Trout don’t live in ugly places’and that holds true in Ecuador. Rainbow trout thrive in the high altitude equatorial climate. I haven’t fished for rainbows anywhere in Ecuador where the scenery hasn’t been anything less than stunning. It is cold at times, but the scenic value is worth the numb fingertips.

The Andes mountain range in Ecuador is loaded with rivers and lakes with most holding rainbow trout, with a few brown trout in the mix. Knowing which lakes and rivers to fish and getting there can be challenging. I have only fished the areas around Cuenca, mostly the El Cajas and a few locations east of Paute. El Cajas National Park alone has approximately 300 lakes and streams with many more outside the parks boundaries in the Saldados region. I have heard stories and seen photos of trout the size of a man’s arm. These lakes are natural and many are stream fed, very deep and there is no reason why a trout would not thrive in these waters. A high mountain lake is a high mountain lake and a trout is a trout no matter what country they’re in.

 

                                                                                                                                  

There are the many private ‘Pesca Deportivas’ which translates to ‘sport fishing’ and these are basically small private ponds, some just being small concrete pools filled with trout ‘la trucha’ or tilapia in the warmer Oriente regions. You pay for what you catch and your fishing rod is a broom stick with an eye screw at the tip at best. Still great for the locals and kids but really doesn’t fulfill the ‘pursuit of the elusive’ calling of angling which most fisherman desire and continues to haunt me.

I do visit certain Pesca Deportivas when fishing with a novice client or just need to bend the rod with a few friends. I compare it to a golf driving range, just keeping up the skills. I’ve found a few private lakes (some man-made which are stocked but very natural looking with great fishing, but they also can be a little challenging at times. These fish tend to look, behave, fight and taste more like wild fish due to their more natural environment. I really enjoy fishing these lakes because of their quick and easy access, plus the chances of catching a larger fish is very good. They are also are excellent locations to learn to fly fish and test out new fly patterns. One can practice casting in the park all day but that’s only part of the picture.                                                                                     

 

Traditional fly fishing is becoming more popular through out Ecuador. Most trout fishing in Ecuador is done with bait or casting spinner lures. Fishing with a plastic casting bobber with a fly trailer is also popular. Now be careful, because this is what some locals (including some tour outfitters) regard as ‘fly fishing’.

 

A Quick Story:        

When I first arrived in Cuenca, Ecuador I hired a fishing guide through a very reputable tour service. My fishing equipment hadn’t arrived yet and I was dying to test the waters in El Cajas. I did have my 8 wt. fly rod which I was using in Manta prior to moving to Cuenca but that was definitely too heavy for trout. I was very specific with the office manager that I wanted to go fly fishing. We discussed fly fishing for a bit and how there are more and more gringos coming here who enjoy fly fishing. I asked if the guide had good fly fishing gear and much experience and the reply was, “Of course, he’s our main guy”. I paid $120 for the day. During the drive I was asking the standard questions trying to get to know the guide and his experience. He was a very nice guy and very knowledgeable about El Cajas. I asked him what type of rods he uses (as far as a manufacture) which is a typical question a fly fishing client would ask, but did not get an immediate response. I inquired again and he said, ”Well, in Ecuador we fly fish a little different”, I asked, ”How different?” he then proceeded to tell me about his plastic casting bobbers.

I politely asked him to pull over and open his trunk. The rod he had for me was a telescopic spinning rod with a broken tip and the reel was taped to the rod seat. There wasn’t a fly rod within 50 miles. He did have some flies and the plastic bobbers to go with them. I immediately called (and woke up) the manager and asked why I was mislead and he gave me the same answer, “Well, That’s how we fly fish in Ecuador. “Not for a $120” I replied. He asked if I wanted to turn around and cancel the trip. I felt like a little kid having his candy taken away.

 

We were already in Cajas, it was my first time and I really wanted to experience what I’ve heard so much about this beautiful region. We agreed that paying half would be fair so we continued on our way. I was paying basically for the transportation and a hiking guide.

 

So traditional fly fishing was out of the question. Once at the lake the guide and myself both broke out our lures and flies and discussed what may work best. I passed a few flies and lures his way to keep as his supply looked a bit sparse. I hooked up a nice little trout on my first cast so the day looked promising and it was for the most part. It wasn’t fly fishing but at least I finally made it up to Cajas. I took a few videos that day and my last video was of my guide fishing by himself on the other side of the lake. That’s when I saw the need for a quality guide service. I have since started Fintastic Adventures Guided Fly Fishing Excursions in Cajas and Cuenca.

So I am on a quest, a journey which I’m sure will take many of my remaining years to map out quality angling destination throughout this diverse little country on the equator.

                               

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

James Drummondo is a fly fishing guide with FINTASTIC ADVENTURES de ECUADOR Fishing Excursions, located in Cuenca, Ecuador.

  • Fly Fishing / Spinning  / Conventional

  • Trout / Saltwater Fly & Light Tackle / Deep Sea Big Game

  • 46 yrs. Angling Experience

  • C0-Founder of the Cuenca Fly Fisher’s Club       

  • Retired Fire Chief / Safety Specialist

  • 20 years experience as an instructor in Advanced First Aid & CPR

  • Wilderness Survival Instructor

 

ALSO OFFERING: Custom Hikes and Day Outings

                        CONTACT INFO:

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                      THE ANGLING REPORT

                                                       Newsletter Serving the Angler Who Travels

 

 

                                                                           Found! A Place to Trout Fish in Ecuador

                                                                     Written By:  Dave Shorret


                                                                                                    (posted August, 2013)


Anglers who want to get way off the beaten track for trout could do worse than link up with an American ex-pat by the name of James Drummondo, a Cajas fly fishing guide who currently lives in the city of Cuenca in the highlands of southern Ecuador.  A retired fire chief from California, James will pick you up in Cuenca, drive an hour through spectacular scenery to a 13,000-foot-high parking spot, and then lead you on a 20-minute walk into Cajas National Park, where you can fly cast to trout in a newly developed Catch-and-Release fishery named Lagunas Biscochos. This land hosts 5 small lakes and  6 crystal clear shallow ponds, all natural and holding both rainbows,  browns and red trout or trucha roja (aka in Ecuador as salmon)  He charges a very reasonable $190  for this service, and it includes all needed equipment, instruction if desired and plenty of warm clothes. 

A highly trained EMT, James will make sure you don’t have any problems adjusting to the altitude. On my trip with him, he cooked up some local tea from a herb which grows along the trail that took away any altitude adjustment problems I had and actually made me feel great and open to enjoying the scenery, which was spectacular. A longer walk to the lake would have been just fine with me.

 

The area we fished was on private property. James told me he is working 
with the owner to create the first Catch-and-Release fishery in Ecuador. The 
potential of the area around Cuenca is great for both lake and stream 

trout fishing, as the climate and terrain appear ideal for trout habitat.

The best fishing in the area currently is in remote parts of Cajas 
National Park.  Fly fishing only restrictions may be in posted, but they are clearly not enforced, as 
locals seem to fish any way they want inside the park and catch and keep 
as many trout as they can. That does not mean there is no quality 
fishing in the park. If you are game, James will take you far into the 
wilderness interior, where there is no significant fishing pressure. 
That has allowed some monster trout to grow old and fat, he says. James 
will also take you for an overnight camping/fishing trip, if you are up 
to it, or a long, full day of hiking and fly fishing.

The lake I fished was quite small. It took us only 20 minutes to walk 
completely around it on a good path. Clearly, you could fish the entire 
lake in one visit. Just be aware that it can be windy and cold, clear, 
and cool, and even warm – a bit of everything in a single day. When the 
wind dies, the rainbow trout rise and can be caught quite easily with 
dry flies. At other times, when the wind was blowing, we used either 
Wooly Buggers or an attractor/nymph combination. There were plenty of 
opportunities to catch and release rainbows from eight to 24 inches.

After a few hours fishing in the lake, I told James I wanted to walk 
around the area to see more of the beautiful landscape and maybe some 
birds or wild llama. On our walk, James took me over to a small, narrow 
pond where there was a very large trout cruising, taking an occasional 
insect, and charging tadpoles under the surface. By approaching on my 
knees, I was able to sight fish for this trout much as one does in New 
Zealand.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cuenca is one of the most interesting cities I’ve ever had the privilege 

to visit. The fairly large, old section of the city has a European feel 
to it, with many plazas, magnificent cathedrals, French-style 
architecture, balconies, excellent museums, great walking areas, and 
parks. My wife described Cuenca as a miniature Paris in Ecuador, but 
with colorful indigenous markets and native Ecuadorians dressed in their 
traditional clothing, doing artisanal work, carrying and selling 
vegetables, and cooking food on the street. Cuenca has a spring-like 
climate year round, with great hiking available within 30 minutes to an 
hour from the city. The Ecuadorian food served in Cuenca is great. If 
the area and the fishing intrigue you, James Drummondo can be reached by 
e-mail at  fintasticadventures.ecuador@gmail.com   His fly fishing guide service in Cuenca is Fintastic Adventures de Ecuador.

Cajas Fly Fishing Guide James Drummondo

Guided Fly Fishing in Cuenca, Ecuador

 

 

 

                                                                      Avoiding Trauma With A Llama

   My name is James Drummondo and I operate Fintastic Adventures de Ecuador Guide Service.  I’ve been guiding treks and fly fishing outings in the Cajas region for the last four years and have come across many a llama and I’d like to share two personal experiences. Over the years of trekking through El Cajas    I’ve witnessed births, mating rituals, matches between bulls for those mating rights, carcasses and skeletons, start to finish you might say.

 

Llamas were reintroduced into Parque Nacional Cajas around 1996. They’re free to roam the park but for some reason just love to hang out along the road.  Llamas are very curious animals so maybe they’re just tourist watching.   Mama llama is probably telling her wawa (that’s Quichua for baby), “Now don’t get too close to the humans, they’re not too intelligent and very unpredictable.  Remember mi wawa , they’re wild animals.

 

A few months back I was driving across Tres Cruces, which is the continental divide in El Cajas. This section is the most western part of the continental divide of South America.   At the top of the divide there is a roadside parking lot lined with wood railings, stairs on one side of the road and a rock wall on the other.  On this particular day the largest herd of llamas I have ever seen, at least twenty, were just hanging out on the road.  Above us, atop a rock cropping, was the alpha male overlooking his heard.

   

Here’s the scenario I saw happening in my head, and yes I do usually think the worst, I guess that’s just always been part of my job description while in the fire service.  The weather was wet and cloudy as it sometimes is at 4,167 meters (13,123 feet). There were a few cars stopped hazardously along the road and the drivers were out taking pictures of the heard.  Nobody bothered pulling into the parking lot.  A dozen or so llamas were gathered between the roadside cliffs, moving and parked vehicles and wood railings.  The only escape route for the llamas was through the group of iphone snap happy humans.  Many of the llamas had their ears folded back which is a typical sign of distress, aggression or nervousness for many large mammals.  I had a fireman partner who had ears so big, even his would fold back when he felt endangered.  Pay attention to the ears.

   

   I had already parked my vehicle in the lot to begin our hike and we quickly found ourselves in the midst of this potential llama mishap.  After waiting a minute and getting a feel for the scene we quickly made our way along the road side around the gathering without any incidents.  Like most mammals, once one gets spooked it’s contagious.  All it could have taken was for just one llama to get spooked and it would have been a mass exodus through the crowd and approaching vehicles.

   

On another trek with clients we had an encounter with one large, aggressive, very horney  male llama. This confrontation developed quickly and could have become muy peligroso. The llama spotted us from a distance, ran up the narrow path, brushed against the four of us as he jolted passed, turned around and engaged us with an attitude. Heading down the path I was in the front but now I was the furthest from the llama with my clients in between.  I immediately told the other three to get behind me and start heading down the trail.  The two gals gladly obliged but by then the llama was already trying to mount Jim from behind.   Jim is a big guy and quickly threw an elbow which connected rather sharply to the llama’s snout.  The llama backed off for a few seconds but came at us again.  After waving and slapping my jacket, throwing my backpack at him and then using my walking stick to put some distance between us, he decided to back off.  All makes for amusing tales afterwards while enjoying fireside cervezas back at the restaurant but we were lucky. This was a rare incident but it did happen and luckily no one was injured.

   

The mishap potential is there no doubt.  Cajas is not a petting zoo and the llamas are wild animals. Enjoy the Cajas, be smart, don’t push your luck when trekking through El Cajas because El Cajas will push back I promise you that.  Tips for the day:  Give the llamas their space and carry a walking stick.  With today’s photo technology and zoom capabilities there’s no need to get too close. If you are not familiar with a hiking route hire a guide (that would be me).    If you are interested in hiking or fly fishing within the Cajas region please visit my website at www.flyfishingecuador.com

 

 

 

 

 

FLY FISHING, HIKING & MORE

Guided Fly Fishing

The story behind Fintastic Adventures de Ecuador

By Ian Ropke

 

Retired and energetic, James Drummondo and his family touched down in Ecuador in late 2009. Before Ecuador, James was a fire chief in California and the owner of an international home inspection franchise. But he was also a passionate nature enthusiast and an experienced fly fishing angler. In Cuenca he found a new landscape and saw opportunities. His business, Fintastic Adventures de Ecuador, offers both world-class fly fishing experiences.

As part of his dream, James co-founded the Cuenca Fly Fisher’s Club in April 2011. In 2013, he realized his vision of establishing Ecuador’s first catch and release trout fishery.

For world-class fishing and hiking in the majestic Cajas region, get in touch with James and see something truly different!

Fintastic Adventures de Ecuador offers these services: 1) Guided Trout Fly Fishing in Cajas (spinner gear also available) 2) Custom tied flies 3) On The Water Fly Fishing Clinics 4) Hiking adventures in the Cajas National Park area.

 

“Guided Fly Fishing for rainbow and brown trout is what we do best. Want to learn the art of fly fishing? On the water fly fishing clinics are also available for beginners.

 

“And for hikers we offer breath-taking guided nature hikes on private land where you will visit paper tree forests, sparkling lakes, crystal clear ponds, cascading streams, dramatic sheer cliffs, waterfalls and wild llamas. These hikes are unique and customized just for you. After your outing, enjoy an authentic Cajas fireside trout lunch. Outings are limited to only 4 people. We can accommodate larger groups if desired and provide one guide per every 4 hikers. Most importantly, my main goal is to have each and every client have a safe and memorable experience.  For additional information and testimonials regarding any of the hiking or fishing outings please visite our website    Winner of Best of Gringo Post — Best Fishing and Hiking Guide 2015, 2016 & 2017

Voted Best Fly Fishing Guide

Fly Fishing Guide in Cuenca and Cajas

Guided Fly Fishing for Trout

 

                                             The Benefits of Walking High

                                                          By:  James Drummondo

 

Many of us who have relocated to Cuenca have lost something in that process, inches

and pounds. It’s no secret that living at higher altitudes increases one’s metabolism

and because of the lower oxygen content this makes your heart work just a bit harder

doing everyday tasks such as walking, thus burning more calories.

   

If you’re concerned about your health, energy level and just all around feeling better, then it’s all about a healthier diet and exercise.  The healthy diet part is easy, just start eating healthier,

but the exercise part takes a little more effort. Don’t think that you’re too

old or too out of shape to start, it’s never too late. To quote 80 year old Deshun Wang, a late comer to

fitness, “Potential can be explored. When you think it’s too late be careful you

don’t let that become your excuse for giving up. Get out there and walk".

 

 Many of my hiking clients are in their seventies and my oldest to date was 85 and he fished at 13,000 ft.  Walking around town is great until that big blue bus comes barreling down the

street leaving that toxic lingering black cloud in its wake. The riverwalks throughout

Cuenca are pretty and provide safe scenic paths along the river but there is still the traffic and other urban distractions.

 

Time to get up into the Cajas above that 10,000 foot mark. It’s easier and more enjoyable than you may think, no matter what the weather is like. Everyday is different in the Cajas. All four seasons in one day, one hour sometimes.

 

 To quote Mark Twain, Climate is what you prepare for, weather is what you get."

 

The trick to enjoying what Cajas has to offer is going prepared for nature's elements.

On cloudless days the sun can be intense, on cloud swept sky days there is nothing more beautiful, then there are the others; wind, rain, hail, fog, drizzly mist, low flowing cloud days, but you know what, it's all Todo Bien, soak it in and enjoy it.

 

I’ve been guiding fishing and hiking outings through out the El Cajas region for

years and the most common thing I hear from clients when the day is done is, “Boy

am I going to sleep good tonight” or “I’m sure going to feel this tomorrow”. What

I really enjoy is bumping into past clients and hearing that they

actually felt great the following days after the hike. There are reasons for that,

It's called fresh air, movement and nature.

 

We are fortunate to have the Cajas National Park  --Parque Nacional Cajas--

right in our backyard. The name Cajas is derived from the indigenous Quichua

word Cajasas; meaning Gateway to the Clouds or Snowy Mountains. The Quichua

also refer to El Cajas as ‘The Balcony of Heaven’, my favorite.

 

There are many different hiking options available within the Cajas. There are easy stream side walking trails at lower elevations to more strenuous higher altitude ridge hikes and many more in between,  When you’re in Cajas you are in fact experiencing one of the most unique national parks in the world, that's a true fact. The scenery is stunning and the weather ever changing.  Being prepared means not only a light rain jacket or poncho but gloves, scarf and wool beany cap for the cold and also a sun hat.  The sun is intense and you will get burned even on cloudy days.

 

A day in the Cajas will recharge both your physical and emotional batteries, clear your head, open your eyes and ears, dismiss any stress , sooth your soul and make you happier, I promise. Take it slow, take it easy, pay attention to what your body is telling you. Do a little research on high altitude sickness just in case.

 

I specialize in offering custom hikes based on your fitness level and desires.  My main goal is to have each and every client have a safe and memorable outdoor experience.

 

I’ll put this out there now, I’m not a doctor and I know that living and/or walking

at higher elevations is not beneficial for everyone so before you take me up on my

advise about ‘walking high’ I recommend that you consult with your physician.

 

For additional information please contact me via my 'Contact Me' page.

 

My father always ended his toasts with the same five words,

“To Health and Happiness, Cheers”

                                                                        JEWEL OF THE CALIFORNIA SURF

WRITTEN BY: JAMES DRUMMONDO  1994

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She cruises the shallows  searching for those delectable morsels to satisfy her palate.  Working the current with her broad fins and tail, the light tones of her body blending perfectly with the smooth sand on which she glides, her shadow even more visible than her streamlined body built for power and speed.  She’ll appear suddenly, only to quickly disappear, leaving a long sand cloud in her retreating path.   If bonefish crosses your mind then you're thinking a bit to tropical.  I am however referring to California’s own bonefish, the elusive corbina . . . The Jewel of the California Surf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not to be confused with their larger croaker cousins the corvina, corbina inhabit sandy beaches, bays, harbours and coves from Point Conception, California down through Baja California Mexico.  They spend much of their time  cruising along the shallow surf line foraging for sandcrabs, which make up about ninety percent of their diet. 

 

Techniques  There are two basic fishing techniques for corbina, blind fishing and sight fishing ,water conditions and clarity will determine which.  When the water is calm and clear, I love nothing more than to wade the shallows with either a six pound spinning set-up or fly rod searching for this elusive adversary.

 

 

 

Corbina are probably the only fish on the California coast that can be sight-fished from the surf.   If you think searching for bonefish on a tropical flat is tough, wait until you try stalking down a corby in the continuous surge of the surf.  Very often you have only a few second window of opportunity to spot the fish between the waves and dissipating foam.  When the sun shines overhead the shadow of  the fish is often seen first.  Polarized sunglasses are an essential tool for sight fishing.  Once the fish is spotted hold your position.  I’ve spooked fish just from positioning my rod to make a cast.  Determine which way the fish is heading and then make a gentle cast at least ten feet in front of the fish..  This will not spook the fish and it will give you a few seconds to position the bait if you have over cast.  If you really want to spook a corbina land your cast behind it.

 

Like most fish, corbina spend a large portion of their time simply milling about.  They frequently feed by locating a sand crab cluster, sucking up mouthfuls of sand and crabs and then discharging the sand out through their gills.  They also sight feed and this is when they fall prey to our false offerings. 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of offerings, there is a bait corbina cannot refuse,  a newly molted soft-shell sandcrab.   

When digging with my hands for crabs on the beach  and I happen to come across one of these these gems, a  smile comes across my face as I carefully place it in a separate zippered pouch in my fanny pack.  These guys are pure gold.  When guiding on the beach I’ll save these prime bait for the lone toad , a toad being four pounds and up.  Soft-shells are preferred but and any smaller sandcrab with roe  will do the job. Fresh muscle, ghost shrimp, clams and bloodworms also make great baits.  (Warning:  if you happen to use sunscreen, make sure your fingers are clean before handling the bait.  Corbina have incredible sniffers and the scent of the lotion will taint the bait.)

 

Tackle:  As far as rod preference, I prefer fiberglass spinning rods.  A seven-foot light action rod with a bit of backbone and delivers a nice bend, even when fighting smaller fish.The longer rods enable you to raise your line above any waves, which promotes better line control, a must in the surf.    The bend also helps absorbs a lot of shock from wave surges. 

 

Line: High visibility line is an advantageous tool in the surf, and if you use a four-pound low visibility leader there will be no need to worry about the fish seeing the line.  The rig to use is a simple Carolina rig with a swivel and egg sinker.  I usually use a quarter-ounce sinker, but if it is extremely calm an eighth-ounce sinker will do.

 

Hooks:  When it comes to hooks for sand crabs, I use a different type of hook than most.  My favorite is a #10 salmon egg hook made by Gamagatsu.  Just the right hook for sand crabs, with very little shank, a wide gap, and an offset eye for better hook setting.

 

Finally, two other useful pieces of equipment are a fanny pack and a pair of hemostats.  The fanny pack holds the bait and extra tackle and the hemostats are excellent for hook removal (especially for smaller surf perch.) 

 

When you are lucky enough entice your target into accepting your offering the take might be a slow steady pull turning into an impressive run once the hook is set.  Their powerful tails and broad shoulders make them capable of numerous runs.  By keeping a sharp eye on your line, you might see the pick up before actually feeling it.  This is when the high visibility line proves invaluable. 

 

On occasion, corbina feed quite aggressively and might be induced to hit a small chrome spoon, plastic or fly.

 

On The Fly:  If  you really want a challenge try flyfishing these wary creatures.  Any avid flyfisher can be easily humbled.  I was once asked ,”What was it like flyfishing corbina in the surf” and my reply was “It compares to flyfighing bonefish only a bit more difficult and a bit more frustrating.   A sand crab pattern, small clouser minnow, or a number of bonefish patterns might do the trick.

 

Another important factor that is crucial  to understand when fishing corbina is knowledge of the currents and tides.  Developing the skill to read the surf will increase your catch success ratio dramatically.   Because surf conditions not only change daily, but hourly with the tides, you will need to become familiar with a tide book if you want to be a successful surf angler.  Tide books can be found at your local tackle shop or just check the daily paper.

 

 An upcoming tide is my favorite, and minus tides (depending on what beach you fish) can be awesome.  Minus tides expose the troughs and holes in the sand and this can lead to some exciting stalking once the water starts to rise.  Finally, always try to find the mild surf.  Mild surf is best because it enables the water to clear up, giving both you and your quarry the extra sence of sight hunting.  I’ve fished corbina in local water so calm, clear and shallow that I needed to remind myself I was only a mile from my home in Orange County, which is centered between Los Angeles and San Diego.  Along this hundred-mile stretch of beach, there are dozens of productive spots offering free parking and easy beach access.

 

Sandy coves will attract large schools of corbina, anywhere from ten to twenty fish.  Sizeable muscle crusted rock, pier pylons, deep holes or troughs will also create a productive holding spot.  When the water retreats back against rocks or pylons it creates an eddy around the obstacle throwing our tasty tidbits free for the taking for waiting corbina.  While wading in a foot or two of water, I cannot tell you how many times a corbina has brushed up against my ankles.  Standing perfectly still, my legs become an obstacle, a place to search for food.  I once even had a corbina grab on to my toenail; most likely hoping it was a pinkish sandcrab.

 

Let’s talk season and time of day.  The months from May to November are the most productive, but the warmer months of July to October are the best.  During these months the water warms and sandcrabs multiply by the millions.  They can easily be found and scooped up when you see  tiny 'V' patterns or ripples in the sand.   It is also during these months that more corbina begin to cruise the shallows.  Sunrise and sunset are always beautiful times to fish, but priority should be paid to the tides.

 Some anglers tell me that the hours of darkness are the most productive.  My views of fishing in the dark is, Why?  Half the beauty of surf fishing is the scenery.  Tan, long-legged beauties sunning their….I mean, tall swaying palm trees reaching for the sun set the scene.

Sight fishing corbina is some of the most peaceful and challenging fishing I have ever done, not to mention the cheapest and most accessible.  The fishing is free, the bait is free, the beach is the limit, and all you need is a license.  There is currently no size limit on corbina and I have seen many a bucket holding smaller fish that has not yet had a chance to spawn.  Corbina make excellent table fare, but I wager you will get much more satisfaction practicing “CPR”. . .Catch, Photograph and Release.  Dealing with the waves and the outgoing white wash, the left and right currents, floating seaweed patches and a variety of other hazards, you will be hard pressed to find a more challenging type of fishing anywhere.  Especially this close to the city.   Good-luck and good angling.

 

Menticirrhus undulates (Girard, 1854); from the Latin words menticirrhus (chin barbel) and undulatus (waved, referring to the wavy lines on its sides). Alternate Names: Whiting or Californiawhiting, king croaker, corbie,

 

 

 

JAMES DRUMMONDO

FINTASTIC ADVENTURES GUIDE SERVICE

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