Big Sur, Monterey County, California, July 2010
Copyright photo by Lawrence for
A report by Lawrence for
I had a truly amazing kayak experience a couple of weekends ago. 

I fished with a team called the Big Sur Commandos. I went to bed at 12:30am and planned to get up at 2am for the drive down but was so excited about the trip, I could hardly sleep. The plan was to meet in Carmel at 4:30am. They were half hour late, so we met at 5am, and proceeded south, down past Lucia.     

The launch involved wheeling the kayaks 300 yards down a dirt path, then lowering the boats down a little cliff. We lauched from a rock garden, being careful as we passed various boiler rocks on the way out. Someone remarked that they once saw
a whale breaching out further. Another guy remarked one has to try not to catch fish here, and even then it is impossible not to. 
Since only my fly rod was rigged, I thought I would need all the good luck I could get from this spot. But, just in case, I brought my conventional gear for back up.
We paddled out into about 75 feet of water and I made my first cast. When I felt the fly had descended the right distance, I started stripping it in. Whammo!  Rod bent over big time, and I could feel something heavy pulling line. Finally, I surfaced a nice
Copper Rockfish around 2 pounds.  Next cast brought up a little dink rockfish. On the fourth cast, another 2 pound Copper.   

The guy fishing next to me suggested we move because these Coppers tend to school up so we might end up catching Coppers all day. That didnt sound so bad to me since they hit the fly hard, pulled like the dickens and were a lot of fun to catch. This was really fun. But, he reminded me our time was limited, and we needed to get out and catch some big fish. I hated to leave when the action was so good--five casts, three fish, nice fight.  

I decided to make a few more casts before packing up. Next cast, and the tip of my 9 weight rod buried deep underwater and my rod was bent in a 'U'. I lifted from the butt, but the rod remained deeply bent, as the fish below took line out on a short burst of speed. I lifted and gained line, more line, and then gave back a little from sudden bursts of dogged determination. Finally, I surfaced a nice Vermillion Rockfish, my first one ever. It was bright orange/red colored and exactly the fish I had hoped to catch. It weighed about 3.5 pounds. The next three fish I caught were also
Vermillion Rockfish.    

The fish were coming into the kayak pretty fast and it seemed every spot held fish. Then the fishing slowed down for almost an hour. I paddled over to join four of the other kayakers from our group of seven.    

As I approached, the guy on the right hooked up, then the guy at the left. The 14 year-old son of one of the anglers was directly across from me when my jaw dropped open as I suddenly saw a HUGE triangular fin surface and cut through the water  right behind him, silently and unhurriedly. He didnt even know it was there and kept paddling. We yelled for him to stop paddling. When he turned around, he saw a pointed, teeth-filled snout right behind his boat.    
Copyright photo by Lawrence for
The fin was about 3 to 4 feet above the water and about 12-15 feet behind the boat. We told him to stay calm and not get excited--yeah, right. The fin continued to glide silently behind him and then it submerged, but not before I snapped off a picture of it. When the fin disappeared, a thought crossed my mind. I didnt want anything nibbling my toes, so I raised my feet out of the water and placed them inside my kayak.    

As we sat there stunned, we started wondering who was the owner of that large fin. Whales don't have dorsal fins, and dolphin fins dont look like that. The son said he saw a mouthful of teeth on the pointed snout, and a two-toned color-- dark on top, lighter on the bottom. The dad said he saw a tattered trailing edge on the dorsal, a characteristic of
Great White sharks. But, it was so huge, much larger than I ever imagined a shark fin could be. Suddenly, not more than 40 feet from me a huge splash broke the silence. I turned my head just in time to see about 15 feet of huge tail diving down. The tail was unmistakably that of a whale. OK, we saw a huge shark fin, then minutes later, a whale breaches next to us. Did the whale breach to escape a large predator below?   
When all of us came to our senses and realized fully what had just transpired, we were left with a feeling of awe and amazement. What a treat to be able to experience first hand and up close such power and grace. We were struck by just how small we were in that big ocean, and how utterly powerless we were in the presence of that shark. If the shark had decided to take a few bites out of the poor kid, there is nothing any of us could have done, not even the father, who sat watching in sheer panic. Visions of what his wife would say if her kid got chomped sent chills of sheer terror into the very core of his being. Fortunately, it never came down to that. Finally, we all came back to our senses, and the two guys who had fish on their lines proceeded to reel up their catches. 
Truly, haven’t we all dreamed of encounters with sharks, and secretly wished we could see them in their own environment? When it really happens, you are never quite sure whether you should be so happy. I guess it all depends on how things turned out. 
We fished for a couple more hours, before we decided it was best to get out of the water. I caught 19 fish that day, all on the same fly.    
It was truly a day to remember. Besides the fishing, the scenery along that rugged California coastline is really world class. Every time I get on the water out there near
Pebble Beach, Big Sur, I just feel so privileged to be out there in such awesome beauty.  Fishing is really just the icing on a most bountiful cake. That is totally odd, coming from a person driven to fish, where the normal perspective is that everything exists to serve our fishing needs. I bought the kayak to help me catch fish but it has become an end in itself, a source of pleasure equal to the fishing. Fishing from a kayak is all about adventure and camaraderie--where you rely on each other for survival, especially in the wild, deep blue ocean, where you really never know what to expect.