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Saltwater Fly Fishing - Oregon Coast Rockfish and Lingcod on the Fly 

by Zach Parker  

One of the main reasons why I love living in Oregon so much in regards to fly fishing, is the variety of opportunities. You can go from chasing anadromous salmon and steelhead on the coast, to technical spring creek dry fly fishing, to world class carp fishing. The most captivating element in fly fishing for me is putting in the time to learn and understand new and exciting fisheries in my home state. So often you can get caught going back to the same river, same hole, same fly setup. Pushing myself to explore new fisheries that our state has to offer is what keeps me going in this sport. Fly fishing for Pacific Black Rockfish and lingcod on our coastal jetties is a unique fishery that demands the attention of the predatory fish minded angler. 

I will preface this article by saying that this type of fishing is certainly not for everyone. It is physically extremely demanding; scrambling on all fours around Toyota Prius size boulders that can be slick as snot, while double hauling large flies with a screaming wind in your face. You finally position yourself on a flat (ish) rock, and make the right cast, when you find your excess fly line at your feet has wrapped underneath a barnacle strewn boulder surely destined to cut your line in half. If I haven’t already lost you with these initial realities of jetty fly fishing, then I’d advise you to continue reading as this could be a fishery to add to your arsenal. 


The Inside Scoop :

Jetties are man made piles of large boulders that extend out into the ocean from the mouth of coastal bays to protect the shoreline from erosion caused from tidal currents and waves. They also create a safe channel for ships coming in and out of the port. What they also do really well is create amazing fish habitat.The most common species of fish you’ll find on these jetties are kelp greenling, rock perch, black rockfish, lingcod and cabezon. There are jetties all up and down the coast of Oregon and Washington that all hold fish. Utilizing google earth and finding any major river system that enters the Pacific, is a good starting point to find out where to go. (hint: Siuslaw River, Umpqua River, Columbia River).


The Gear:

This is a fishery that requires stout gear. I’ve been using my new Gloomis NRX+ Salt 9 weightthat I’ve been absolutely loving for this fishery. 8’s and 10’s have some play as well but you want something with some power to pull these big powerful fish out of the rocks where they live. The Redington Predator is a great option too at a more affordable price. 

When it comes to reels, you don’t need anything too special. A machined aluminum saltwater safe reel that matches your rod is all I am looking for. Most of the time you are strip fighting these fish in anyway so the reel is really just acting as a line holder most of the time. I am currently using a Galvan Torque T10. 

The line system is probably the most important element to your setup. You want a full sink line in the 5-7 inches per second sink rate with a fairly aggressive and short head to help turn over and deliver large flies at 40-50 feet. I use RIO’s Outbound Short I/S3/S5. This line has a 30’ foot long head that goes from an intermediate on the back quarter, integrating into a sink 3”/sec section, which then integrates into a sink 5”/sec section which is what then connects to your leader and then to your fly. I like fishing lines that have multiple sink rates integrated into one line because it allows your fly to hang over the rock ledges better resulting in fewer hang ups on the bottom. 

Leader material is simple, a short 2-3 foot section of 20lb maxima ultragreen straight down to your fly tied on with a non slip mono loop knot. 


Nice ling caught on a Redington Predator 9 weight and Orvis Hydros reel with the RIO Outbound Short.

The Flies: 

One thing you must know about black rockfish, lingcod and cabezon is that they are predatory fish. If a lingcod decides to eat something, it dies. Squid, octopus, kelp greenling, and sand lance make up a majority of their diet and it’s not uncommon for lings to cough up their meal as you reel them in so you can figure out what they’re eating. 

Sandlance that a ling coughed up when landing, and the fly that it ate. Matching the hatch!

Any kind of large clouser or baitfish pattern with large dumbbell eyes works great. I tie a fly called the Lingcod Candy that resembles a baby octopus that frequently gets eaten. The method of fishing is straightforward, I make a 40-50 foot cast and give it a 20 second pause to allow my fly to sink, then just a nice even strip back. You can give the rod tip some pops in between strips to give your fly some life. 


Lingcod candy flies


Spring is the time to go for lings and weather. Big females come into shallow water to spawn in the winter/spring months and the nests are guarded by smaller males who kill anything that comes close.

Be very mindful of weather conditions for this type of fishing. Only go if it is forecasted to be completely dry. When those jetty rocks get wet they turn into greased bowling balls and make hiking on them nearly impossible. Swell is another highly critical thing to pay attention to. If the swell is too big, it will make fly fishing difficult as there will be waves crashing onto the rocks that you need to be standing on. A predicted swell of 1-2 ft is ideal, 2-3ft is good, 3-5ft is okay, and anything bigger than 4-6ft, I don’t go. You can find swell forecasts at formerly known as magic seaweed. 

Tides are another important aspect. I prefer fishing an outgoing tide into the low tide. The reason for this is because at low tide on a calm ocean day, I can get right down on the water's edge and feel safe and be tight to my fly as I am stripping in. High slack or low slack is generally what you want for fly fishing. If you’re fishing an incoming tide on the bay side, the current can get ripping too fast to effectively fish.


Author Zach Parker holding a Black Rockfish caught on a large clouser fly. 


A couple other quick pieces of information to help your success out on the jetty. You don’t need waders. Hiking pants with vibram rubber bottom hiking boots work just fine. Another piece of gear that really helps your success is a stripping basket. Without one, your line will get wrapped and tangled in all the sharp rocks below you and can damage your line. 

Black rockfish and lingcod make some mean fish tacos. My favorite way to cook rockfish is shallow frying in my cast iron with an inch of oil breaded in Panko bread crumbs eaten over rice. The limit for black rocks is five fish, no size limit. Lingcod is two with a minimum size of 22 inches. 

Stop in the shop for any gear, questions or if you want to just talk fishing. We’re here for you and look forward to seeing you!

Paul Snowbeck
Paul Snowbeck

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