One of my favorite things about the Pacific Northwest is the diversity of fish you can go after. Every day of the year you can go after some kind of fish on the fly rod no matter the condition, and you can have success going after them. This brings me to the jetty. The Oregon coast is a rugged environment that isn’t the most hospitable for the fly angler, but a place that is probably the lower on the list for treacherous places is the numerous jetties that dot the entire coast. So here I’ll break down what you’ll need to be successful out there so you can catch fish when the rivers are blown or too hot, or the lake is too crowded, or you just end up on the coast with a couple hours to kill.
The rod is pretty important in this fishery. There are guys that use rods as light as 5 and 6 weights but for someone just getting out on the rocks I would stick to at least a 7 weight but an 8 weight, even now, is my favorite. There are some big fish out there on the jetty like cabezon, lingcod, salmon, black rockfish and various sculpin species that pull hard and you really need to put the wood to them and in some cases may require a 9 weight or sometimes even more. I like a fast action rod like the Echo boost blue or the Redington predator. These rods are perfect entry level rods for those who are just dabbling or only hitting the coast a handful of times in a given year. The Echo EPR is perfect for a mid range level. Then finally something like the age old Sage Salt HD will be a top of the line option. Of course there are other rods out there that fit the need of an a fly angler out there these are just the ones I have experience with.
The reel is the least important part of this set up. You can’t go super cheap because you’ll need some durability and counterbalancing features. I like Lamson a lot, but Redington has a reel that has been really good to me, the behemoth. It’s been my smallmouth and salt reel of choice for a few years now and I really like it. I never put fish on the reel when I’m in the salt but the drag system is pretty nice if you end up getting a fish that is a runner. The other note I would say, with a reel, is you need to rinse it in fresh water before you put it away. Salt water is pretty harsh on equipment and a reel is the most vulnerable to the salt and grit.
The line is something I harp on constantly. People love to try and get away with the cheapest line they can buy or they try and rig a line from T-whatever bulk sinking material to backing or mono. And yes that will get you down to the bottom and be super affordable but, it’s trash to cast and has an unpredictable sink rate. Please get a good line. You’ll cast better, you’ll be able to fish better, and they’ll last longer. I like the triple density lines offered from companies like Orvis and Scientific Anglers. Mine is a 1/3/5 line that I love. The taper is great, so it casts great on my rod. There are times you can get away with less dense lines like an intermediate and floating but the best all around line is a type 4-6 line. Also remember salt water is more dense than fresh water so lines sink at a slower rate than advertised on the box.
Tackle and Flies:
Leaders baffle everyone no matter if they’re euro nymphing to dry flies to bass to salt. You can use just straight fluorocarbon from fly line to fly but there are better ways. I would stay away from mono just because of how soft and stretchy it is. You want to keep the breaking strength below the core strength of the fly line. I’ve had buddies break off the fly line because they snagged a fly and tried to break it off but the main line broke instead of the leader/tippet. Most fly lines have a core from 25lbs to 30lbs, some have 50lb cores. I like to use 25lb to 12-15lb to fly. I also like throwing a swivel into my leader. This reduces line twist from casting, helping present the fly and maintain the longevity of the fly line. I like the product invisa-swivel, but any small swivel will do.
I discussed in a past post about fly design (HERE). There are a few flies that work better than others. Recently when going out and fishing off the jetty I’ve found 2 styles of flies that really stand out amongst the crowd. For me the number one fly is a clouser. No matter how you cut it, a clouser is the perfect rockfish fly. I tie mine with both bucktail and synthetic fibers. The synthetic ones are a personal favorite when tackling the salt. They last longer, the material is more consistently dyed, and the material is easy to work with. To help with durability I use brass eyes lashed down with 140 thread. The rest of the fly is tied with mono thread and lots of super glue. The glue helps weld the mono to the fibers, like a plumber using PVC glue to weld pipes together. The next fly is a finesse gamechanger. I really like these when I can clearly see fish moving bait or when bait is present. They key into this fly on the pause like no other fish I go after. If you want some really solid eats that buckle your 8 weight I recommend a gamechanger.
Safety and other gear:
Even though the jetty may be safer than the natural rock formations or the beach, it doesn’t mean it is a safe place to be. The danger level increases every step you head out on to the jetty. I personally stay pretty far inland when I go out. There is plenty of back cast room and virtually no waves. I kind of go all out when it comes to safety. Sometimes it’s an overkill but I rather have more than what I need rather than not having enough. I wear a PFD 90% of the time I’m out there. I have never needed it but one wrong foot placement or extra big wake from a commercial fishing boat and I’m toast. I also stay away from waders for the same reason, if I fall in and those fill with water I’ll definitely be swimming with the fishes. I wear studded boots for the added grip on the slickest rocks. I keep a jacket in the water proof backpack I carry and I have medical tape just in case I do get a cut or scrape that needs to be bandaged up. The last few things I keep for safety is a whistle, glow stick (chem-light), and a knife, these should really be the bare minimum when venturing out on the jetty.
The bare minimum fishing gear you need is a backpack and stripping basket. Some people make their own stripping basket but store bought ones are so cheap and work so much better. The Ahrex one is so low profile and the standard one that’s sold everywhere is so cheap. I use a waterproof backpack as I mentioned above that’s just because I want to minimize salt exposure as much as possible on my gear. I also carry a pair of saltwater fishing pliers, a comb, a hook file, two different nippers, a UV flashlight, fish grips, and of course a headlamp. They all have their place in the pack and some are on zingers attached to my belt loops. All these tools I bring with me are useful in so many situations. I should probably add a small first aid kit and paracord just because you never know what may happen on the jetty.
Being out on the salt is really an enjoyable experience. It’s great if you want to fish with other people because there is plenty of room or you want to get away from them for the same reason. It’s also a great catch and keep fishery. Be mindful and don’t keep more than you need or can use, even if the legal limit for size and quantity says you can harvest more. These fish are so slow growing and unique to the west coast that we don’t want this resource jeopardized or harmed. If we harvest sustainably then the fish will get bigger and the powers at be will be able to allow continued harvest. It’s a blast on a fly rod and totally worth giving it a go. Sometimes it can be a real grind but when you do stick a big rockfish or whatever else you might catch out there, it’s totally worth it.
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