My son Blake has been itching to try the Baja beach roosterfish gig. I told him that it’s the toughest thing you can do in fly fishing. I told him that roosterfish can make permit look like inbred aquarium drones. I told him about friends (accomplished anglers) who have made 3-4-5 trips to Baja without catching one. I told him about the sprinting and tangling and flogging and cursing and sweating and huffing. And I told him that the best way to handle the rejection and frustration of roosterfishing is to go there expecting defeat.
On August 3rd, Blake and I walked into the bar at Rancho Leonero where his eyes immediately locked onto the mounted rooster hanging above the neon Corona sign. I could see the wheels turning in his mind and I hoped that the iniquitous idol of painted fiberglass wasn’t sending him solicitous vibes that would taint his carefully groomed expectations.
With clouds hanging over the East Cape on our first two days, guide Jeff DeBrown suggested that we hop a panga and noodle about in deep water. “No point fishing the beach when you can’t see,” he said. With rods rigged for pelagics, we had a great time trolling meat and lures with fly rods at the ready. On our first day we got into a mob of bonito hanging around the squid boats and wrapped it up with a big bull dorado that snuck in while we were fighting a smaller one on a trolling lure. When Blake dropped the fly in view it was blasted on the surface and taken away at high speed.
On the second day we rigged for billfish and trolled teasers but a honking south wind finally stacked up the swells to the point of abuse. With a tank full of live caballitos we decided to swing inshore to try and raise a rooster on the trolling rods. With the day winding down and the hotel in view, a gallo grande picked up Blake’s bait and he got to hold and admire the fish that would taunt him for the next two days.
Days three and four dawned clear and still and hot as a kiln. Roosterfish conditions. The first one that we spotted was slow-dogging down the beach and gave Blake plenty of time to set up and take a good shot. Of course the bastard didn’t eat. From there things took a typical turn. Over the next two days Blake had lots of shots. Some were tight to the sand, others at the fringe of his casting range. Most were hauling ass. He got tangled and winded and hot and flustered, but he kept at it and the learning curve finally began to flatten. I wish I could tell a story about a heroic victory in the final minutes of the last day, but it didn’t happen. Jeff worked his butt off to get us on fish; and Blake made a lot of great shots, turned several fish, and got an eat from a big one, but the ultimate prize remained inches out of reach.
In the airport, waiting for our flight back to Austin, I asked Blake what he thought of roosters on the beach. “I hate the f#$%ers, but I’ve got to come back and catch one…”
To see more images from this shoot, please click here.
Rancho Leonero at daybreak
Loading the cruisers
Santos looking for the bait boats
Blake bowed up
His big bull at boatside
Lots of bonito around
The stage is set; viz for miles
Jeff spotting, Blake shooting
(L) Roosterfish about to not eat a fly (R) Hopeful angler
But, they will eat a livie
Hasta luego, Leonero