Santa Barbara: Learning to Flyfish at Alisal 100-Acre Lake

After my horseback riding adventure at the Alisal Ranch (and a hell of a good night’s sleep in front of the fire), I woke up early and headed over to the private, on-site 100-acre lake. There are loads of activities in and around its waters – sailing, boating, archery, and riding – and I signed up for a fly fishing lesson.

Yours truly snagging a fish after my lesson.

I’ll be the first to admit that I always imagined learning upon the shores of a Colorado stream, maybe with a few wine bottles keeping cold in the water while I reel in my dinner (my friend, for example, just went fly fishing in Iceland).  But I’ve found that you have to take opportunities when they come your way, even if you might do it differently in a perfect world. The longer you wait on something, the more likely it becomes that you’ll miss it entirely.

It may not have been a cold Colorado stream, but there I was in the mountains, the sun still hidden behind them. On the short shuttle ride, we caught glimpses of deer (we saw two of them sparring), and we were lucky to witness an episode of extreme bird watching (we got it all on tape, see video below). I wouldn’t say the location of the lake is “remote” – it’s a short walk from the property and the roads – yet I was surprised by how much wildlife there was to be seen (Conundrum Hot Springs, for example, is remote). When we were on the dock, a group of deer passed within 30 yards of us. You just don’t get that experience every day.

Alisal employs a professional fishing guide, Jason Grupp, to teach guests the craft. I only had two hours before I had to head back to Santa Barbara, and I really only planned to throw the line in the water a few times, mess around. But Jason was a really cool guy and a good teacher – I caught my first fish in no time. Fly fishing is a very rhythmic process, and I really would recommend grabbing a lesson or two before heading out for the first time, wherever it may be. It’s all about letting the line out smoothly as you whip it back and forth – it’s nothing like casting into a lake with a spindle. Your form – not your power – is what will control the distance and accuracy of the cast. Those who like the idea of fishing but have always found it boring might want to give fly fishing a shot as it is much more active and engaging (not to mention you get to sport some waders and stand in the water if you want… which is where the romance of the Colorado stream comes in).

Jason was the one who filmed the eagle attack video below – be sure to stop in and see him when you’re on the property. He charters trips to Mexico and Alaska via Break Water Tours if anyone is looking for a recommendation on a guide for a bachelor party or guys’ getaway. Ask him to tell you some of his stories.

Here are a few photos of the lake from my fly fishing and horseback riding experiences at Alisal:

Private Lake at Alisal Ranch near Solvang, California
Private Lake at Alisal Ranch near Solvang, California.
Yours truly snagging a fish after my lesson.
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