Fly Fishing on The Moon

In the Spring and Fall, my favorite thing to do is chase bull trout in the Kootenay River, I usually fish the bigger middle stretches of the river accessing them with the jet sled. The Kootenay is really only fishable in the fall and spring. The water is low and a gorgeous clear aqua blue. By mid-spring, its banks swell with silty grey glacial run-off and it is nearly impossible to fish. 

In the Summer, as the Kootenay River’s waters rise, and a dam in Libby Montana creates the international waterfront playground known as Lake Koocanusa. By mid-winter, this massive and deep lake is transformed back into a typical glacial river. It is also the winter home to a healthy population of what may be the largest bull trout in BC. These fish are migratory and travel up the river and deep into its tributaries to spawn in the fall. They return to the lake, or whats left of it in winter. My thought was that with the water that low all those huge bull trout milling around eating everything in sight waiting for the water to rise to start them on their spawning journey would be easy pickings.

Tom is my usual co-pilot on Kootenay trips and he agreed with my thoughts on finding bullies in Koocanusa. It’s quite stunning to see the transformation caused by the fluctuating water level. The river cuts through what now looks like a lunar landscape. The lake bottom is surrounded by steep, gravel-lined cliffs a hundred feet tall. Vast flat sections made of mud, rocks, gravel, and the occasional tree stump that refuses to let go of the lake bottom. We navigated this seemingly alien terrain in the Tahoe for a good while before finding a suitable placed to launch the boat. A flat rocky beach with a little bit of a steep bank to negotiate to access it.

The new modifications to the jet sled have been working great. With gear all stowed I ripped on the cord and the jet fired up and we peeled around downstream right into a 40km headwind. “Oh, It’s gonna be one of those days” I yelled to Tom above the whine of the engine. He just nodded his head and pulled his hood. a little tighter. Waves kicked up by the wind buffeted the hull and made for an uncomfortable ride. I awkwardly had to counter steer the boat into the wind to stay on course.

We were headed to where the Elk river dumps into the lake. 45 minutes later we arrived and the confluence was just muddy shallow veins cutting through the silty bottom of Koocanusa. I decided to save some wear and tear on the jet’s impeller by not attempting to head up one of these veins. We found a few nice looking runs to fish in the main stem of the river.

Two weeks prior the water was clear but the Kootenay is a sensitive river and when run-off starts it turns quickly. The water wasn’t quite that ugly shade of chocolate milk that epitomizes a blown out river but it was going to be tough water to fish. The wind was nearly impossible and forced us to wait in between casts for even the slightest lull so as not to wind up with a streamer hook stuck in the face. Then, of course, the snow came. That was fun. Then 45 minutes of some of the heaviest rain I’ve ever fished in. Ok, we didn’t actually fish in it. We just had enough time to throw on some down and the rain jackets before being assaulted by a sideways rainstorm. We hunkered down in the boat with our backs to it and hoped to wait it out.

The rain ended and the sun came out for a little before the wind and rain returned for another round. It went like this for a few more rounds and by 6pm we called it quits and were motoring back upstream with a nasty bank of clouds following us closely back up river. Another fishless day. Well, Tom caught a couple of suckerfish but I’m pretty sure he is telling everyone he got skunked too.

It has been a long tough fall to Spring season of fishing. Few fish and some of the nastiest conditions. Everything has been a challenge. It has been tough to find fishable water. It has been tough to access it and it has been tough to fish in. I am so ready for summer to get here and those long warm days of easy fishing.

Getting My Ass Handed to Me on The Columbia River

For years I have heard about and seen pictures of massive rainbows that inhabit the depths of the mighty Columbia. I love big rivers and chasing big fish so the Columbia has definitely been on the list. It’s a 4-hour drive from my place and most of the rivers in the region are closed to fishing till June 15th so I figured now was a good time for a quick fishing trip.

I hooked up the jet boat; packed it with camping gear, food, and beer and hit the road at 6am. The scenery makes driving in BC an experience in its self. For the most part, it is easy. The only trick is keeping your vehicle glued to the road while enjoying it and keeping an eye out for other drivers failing to do the same. It was snowing hard on Kootenay pass but clear and dry at the lower elevations as I rolled into Trail. I had the boat in the water and was heading downstream by 10:30.

The Columbia is absolutely huge. Its powerful jade green waters flow over a bottom made up of round rocks ranging in size from basketballs to school buses. The water is mostly flat but it is a flowing mass of powerful shifting currents, boils, and swirling football field sized eddies. Even at its lowest flows most of the river is at least 20 feet deep. It is obvious that a mistake on this river and you could be in a lot of trouble quick. I was glad for the experience I gained running and fishing the Peace River when I lived up north. The Peace is a massive rive with similar features but the Columbia is a different animal, not only in features but in how it fishes. As I was soon to learn.

I was excited to spend a few days hucking big flies and dredging the deep waters with my 13′ 7wt spey rod. For this trip, I set it up with an intermediate Skagit head and a t-14 sink tip. The first day I spent a good amount of time exploring the river looking for what I thought would be good runs to fish. At one point I may have violated international law when I noticed an American flag flying on a building about 20k downstream from Trail. I quickly turned the boat and headed back up river before an armed gunboat full of border patrol agents could apprehend me. 

So far the day had produced no fish and shortly after my border crossing I was fishing a run when some dark clouds rolled in and the wind really began to howl. Last time I was in this situation I decided to fish a little bit longer. That made for a terrifying 15k boat ride. This time I quickly packed up and throttled upstream out of there. Too late. Within 10 minutes I was in the shit getting pounded by rain and wind. I had planned on camping on the river but now I had no idea where a good spot would be and the thought of trying to set up camp in weather like this was not too appealing not to mention spending the evening in it. I wussed out and made a harrowing run for the boat ramp. An hour and a half later I walked into the Best Western Plus still in my waders and rain gear leaving a puddle on the floor while I checked into a room. 

Sunday was a nicer day but still yielded no fish. Everyone who fishes gets skunked. It happens. Sometimes it’s like a curse. Everyone else on the river is catching fish but despite everything you just can’t bring a fish to hand. This was not one of those times. As much as it pains me to say it “I blew it.” I won’t say I did everything wrong but I certainly didn’t do enough of the right things. Long story short I spent two days fishing underneath the fish. And when I felt like I needed to change tactics I just kept trying to get deeper. It’s a pretty sound approach as that is where most of the fish are except when their not. It never even crossed my mind to change my presentation and fish higher in the water column. Instead of trying the faster water I just kept looking for the slower runs of which there aren’t really a lot of on the Columbia. I swung weighted flies through the enormous back eddies convinced there were fish at the very bottom. 

I, of course, could have gotten all the intel on fishing the river before I left and when I got it after getting back I was feeling pretty stupid. Not so much because I didn’t ask my sources but because I couldn’t make the adjustment myself on the river and for being so narrowly focused on what I figured was the best approach despite the evidence that it wasn’t working. (Isn’t that the definition of insanity?) I think it’s just human nature to go with what we know. And when it isn’t working to double down on it. (Kinda makes you wonder a little bit about human nature huh?) There is a lot to be said for tenacity but at some point, it’s time to get creative and try something new. You can always go back to what you know. Sometimes you have to have your ass handed to you before accepting new methods, techniques, and gear.

There is a saying, “You learn more when you lose than when you win.” This aptly applies to fishing. We get stuck fishing a certain way because we have had success with it or even just a great day and are now convinced that this approach is the cat’s meow. Spending two days fishless on a river with an estimated 500 fish per mile is my definition of losing.

 

The Jet Sled 2.0

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I’ve had the jet sled for a year now and it has been put through the paces on several rivers scattered around northern and southern BC. After a year of use and a long  fishangry  (this means angry about not fishing enough) winter, I came up with a few more modifications for the boat. When I  got the boat I did a few modifications to it to make it usable. You can read about that here. Jet sled 2.0 would have some significant upgrades.

In the current configuration, the boat was lacking two key ingredients: storage and a place for cold beer. After doing a couple of multi-day trips it was clear that piles of dry bags on the floor wasn’t going to cut it any longer. And having no place for beer was unacceptable. 

For the first part of the project, I enlarged the bow casting deck and built one over the rear seat in the stern. The two new casting decks did several things for the project. The rear deck created a bilge so I installed an automatic bilge pump. A bilge pump in a boat is never a bad idea. The deck also gave me space to recess a 48-quart cooler in it for beer, food or dry storage. I recessed another cooler in the bow deck as well, and an anchor pot to store my chain anchor. There is now plenty of storage under the bow deck for tools, ropes, repair kits etc. This freed up storage under the center seat to be used for things more directly related to fishing. The last thing I did was to put a kill switch at the end of my tiller extension so I can kill the motor instantly and not have to reach back and fumble with the switch behind me. The kill switch would be put to the test a couple times this weekend as things got a little skinny on the Kootenay River. More on this later.

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We had some pretty good days catching bull trout on the Kootenay River last fall before the sky started puking snow to usher in winter. I had been itching to get back to chasing those bullies all winter long. On Saturday a buddy and I took the newly improved jet sled and some new gear out to the Kootenay for a test drive. I put a Hardy Salmon 1 on my Winston Micro Spey and I got a 450gr Airflo F.I.S.T. intermediate skagit line for my 7wt loop Spey rod. Between the jet boat upgrades and the new skagit line, I was pretty sure the bull trout were fucked. It’s good to be optimistic.

Upon getting to the put-in at the Skookumchuck bridge we faced with a slight stumbling block. The cut in the bank to get to the river is normally very rutted and steep. Today it was still steep and rutted and now icy and in a few hours, muddy. After some hemming and hawing, we did the grown-up thing and went to look for a more user-friendly place to launch. We drove another 20k to Canal Flats to try and put in there. The river was frozen solid there so we drove back to Skookumchuck and slid the Tahoe and boat down the cut to river’s edge. No problem getting down. We rigged up, put the boat in the water, and left the Tahoe and trailer at the water’s edge. Getting the boat in the water was not the hard part. Getting back up the cut was the real worry.

The water was low and I soon forgot about getting back up the bank as I swung the jet boat back and forth across the river hunting blue (deep) water. The boat will run on-step in about 4” of water. It was easy to hit the right lines going upriver. A couple spots I knew were going to be trouble on the way back down. The sun was out. The wind made it a little chilly but still a gorgeous day to be on the water.

We fished every spot that looked good and spent the entire day doing it. The beer stayed cold. Lunch was warm and the boat stayed nice and organized. I was pleased with how all the modifications to the boat worked. I love the new Hardy real and the Intermediate skagit head casts well and definitely, gets the fly deep. It was a little disappointing to not hook into any of the massive bull trout that inhabit the river but we did catch some meat-eating cutties and a rainbow.

Now for the fun part. Remember those tricky sections I alluded to previous? Yup, they were tricky and we beached a couple time after missing or failing to see the right line. The kill switch worked like a charm and prevented any damage to the impeller. The only way to really know how skinny you can run is to beach it so I’m glad I got that out of the way. We were back to the put-in around 6:00pm. The ramp was now basically a muddy waterfall. The ice had turned into a fluffy mud. The ramp is steep, to say the least, and the first section which is nearly vertical was a oozing water and mud. This is not the first time I’ve put myself in this kind of situation. The problem is the outcomes always go one of two ways. They either become no problem at all and I feel a little silly for even dreading the situation, or, they turn into a total shit show that takes years for the scars of failure to heal. This had the makings of the later. We were at least two hours from anybody we knew that could come help us and it would be dark by the time we could get anyone out there to help.

Clayton scoured the beach for flat rocks to build up some of the ruts while I jockeyed the truck and trailer into position to take a run at it. Visions of all that could go wrong were running through my head. Truck stuck. Boat and trailer jackknifed upside down. Gear and parts strewn everywhere. 

I popped it into 4wd low and basically punched it. All that stress and worrying for nothing, the truck popped and bounced its way up the cut with the boat following faithfully right behind. I could see Clayton in the rearview mirror arms stretched upwards in relief that he wasn’t going to have to spend the night in Skookumchuck, Put one in the “I feel silly” column but at least we will be home before dark.

 

They Call it Snow Valley for a Reason

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Winters are tough for me. Opportunities to do what I love to do are extremely limited. As the days go by without any time spent on the water I get cagey and cabin fever starts to set in. There are things to do to keep it at bay when my spare time can’t be spent chasing fish. This blog is one of them but its success really is dependent on me getting out and fishing. My trip to Baja was a nice break from the snow and cold that hampers my fishing but since getting back I had not been out.

When I got up Tuesday morning the snow was still falling and there was at least 30cm on top of my Tahoe. The head muckety-mucks at work called a ‘powder day” and everyone went to the ski hill along with the rest of the town. I don’t ski anymore so while everyone headed to the hill I decided to do what I always do when I’m not working and go fishing.

The Elk River is deep in the grips of winter. Much of its waters are buried deep under snow and ice and its banks are surrounded by mountainous piles of snow. I headed out to a section I knew had some open water and place to park not too far from the river. Big heavy wet snowflakes were falling adding to the already stark white landscape but the temperature was right at freezing. Pretty much as good as it gets for January in Snow Valley. That’s what the Elk Valley is called during winter.

I parked the Tahoe and climbed over a 10’ pile of snow to start the 200-meter journey to the river. Halfway there, stuck in snow up to my crotch, I began to question the sanity of this venture. The thought of turning around this close to water was crushing so I trudged on huffing and puffing from the effort of having to lift my feet over my head to take a step. I eventually found the river’s edge. Its banks were lined with 5 – 6 foot walls of snow and ice. Should it really take snowshoes and ice climbing gear to go fishing? I managed to slip down one into the water. An unsettling feeling crept over me as I found my footing on the river bottom. There was a very real threat of a titanic sinking chunk of ice breaking loose and running over me. There would be nowhere to go. The best case scenario would be a life-threatening swim. Worst case would be drowning, pinned underneath an iceberg. Not that it helped but I “cautiously” made my way to the head of a pool out of the current and felt okay to cast from there. From this spot I could cover a lot of water and didn’t have to worry about icebergs. After several hours of swinging a fly from every vantage point possible, I had thoroughly covered all the open water. My efforts produced a nice meat eating cutty and  I crawled my way out of the river and back the through the snow drifts and called it a day. My cabin fever had been medicated but not cured.

If having cabin fever isn’t bad enough, The condition is made worse by the fly fishing industry as retailers use print and social media to bombard us with tantalizing offerings of the upcoming season. Their Facebook posts of leviathans caught in clear waters surrounded by blue skies and lush green backgrounds creating an anguishing impatience. Magazines offer teasing write-ups of manufacturers latest and greatest  gear offerings for the upcoming season. My unfishable hours and days are occupied by falling victim to the industry and researching gear and dreaming up more modifications for the jet boat. Which wouldn’t be so bad if I could actually implement them but the jet boat is encased in a tomb of snow.

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Just looked out the window and it’s snowing again.

 

 

 

Baja – Recap

So far most of my time in Baja was spent chasing roosterfish on the Sea of Cortez side. For my last few days, I decided to surf and fish the rocky points to the north of Playa Cerritos. The surf was pretty closed out and some locals told me that the waves haven’t been very good since the hurricanes and tropical storms that pounded Baja in early September. Seems they did a little remodeling to the sandbars. A typical scenario with beach breaks. Other locals had told me that there was very good fishing in the area and suggested a few spots. The Pacific side, while chock full of fish presents a different approach.

The Sea of Cortez lacks the swell of the Pacific which makes it a prime destination to fish from shore. Fishing from shore on the Pacific side… Not so much. From the beach, you will have to avoid getting smashed by waves that can quickly rise up to 10 feet and then crash right on shore. Even if you can dodge them casting over their towering mass is impossible. The alternative is fishing from the rocks. While the added height of the rocks does provide an elevated casting platform, you have to constantly monitor the waves rolling in and quickly dance your way back from the edge to avoid getting swept off the rock by the breaking wave. If all goes well you still have to deal with the waves integrating you fly and line into the sharp rocks when the roll into them. If you want to fish from shore on the Pacific side get a mask and a speargun and go under the waves. Using a fly rod is a fool’s errand. I continued to explore the area looking for places I could fish but I mainly spent my time hanging out with friendly locals learning about fishing and life in Baja.

Fishing on the Pacific side is almost exclusively done from boats. Pangas are the preferred style of boat and there are old timers that use them to catch 300 pound plus marlin, handlining. Kinda puts things in perspective. I go out with $3000 dollars worth of gear to catch a 20″ trout and these guys are catching 300-pound marlin by hand with a coffee wrapped in mono. I can only imagine what they are thinking when they see some guy standing on shore waving a fly rod around. The bottom line is the waters around Baja are teeming with just about every kind of fish imaginable. And fishing is a way of life in the coastal towns of Baja. So much of life there centers around fishing.

Fishing provides jobs and income for locals. Tourists pay good money for a chance to land one of the many trophy class fish in these waters. But there is more to it than that. Fish are like the Bitcoin of Baja. Nothing is more valued than fish to the locals. You can procure any goods or services with the correct offering of the daily catch. Anything from fixing a flat tire to paying your rent can be accomplished with a payment of fish. In some cases, even a promise of a payment in fish can get you what you need.

There is a different ebb and flow to life in Baja than north of the border. . Baja is isolated and for the most part, very poor. These two realities develop a culture of neighborly ingenuity. Retailers and professional services don’t exist but there are plenty of resources if you know where to look. To live here, people create creative solutions to everyday problems. Everyone is willing to help each other and that includes total strangers. The karma of living here says you will need help so you help others.  I watched a guy trade two different and well-used tires to a guy for a functional rim and tire to replace his rim that had finally run out of hammer and weld fixes. To get the two tires he needed for the trade he promised some fish to an old man for the two tires.  On the way there we picked up another guy that was trying to get to Todos Santos and gave him a ride that got him a little closer to his destination. This is how it goes in Baja.

I will definitely return to Baja. It offers so many opportunities for a fishing junkie like myself. A marlin on the fly sounds like more fun than anyone should be allowed to have and now I know just who to go see when the time comes. In the meantime, I just have to get through another couple months of cold and a few more feet of fallen snow and then I’ll be chasing bull trout in the jet sled. Soon summer will be here and all thousands of kilometers of gorgeous rivers in the East Kootenays will be open and ready to explore..

Baja – Day 9

Will rolled up in his side x side just as the sun was breaking the horizon, casting an orange hue across the still waters of the Sea of Cortez. As I was stowing my rod and gear in the machine the sea seemed to come to life. Whales were breaching 500 hundred meters off shore.  In the blue water, 200 meters out large baitfish were being pursued. Judging by the wake following them it was something enormous. And in shallows right in front of us, small bait balls began to appear.

The rods came out and we each took off opposite ways down the beach looking for whatever was stirring up the baitfish. I waited patiently for signs of a roosterfish. With the sun so low it was difficult to see into the water. I was looking for a wake or the tell-tale sign of a rooster; his trademark comb. After a while, with no concrete sign of a predator, I would throw out a few casts hoping there was a fish out there that I couldn’t see.  We followed the bait as it moved up the beach and eventually as I was stripping in a cast A wake began to close in on my fly. Something was pushing water at the surface and then a comb went up and then just as fast it was gone. There were roosters here!

Over the next several hours we chased fish up the beach and I managed to get combed a few more times but never hooked up. Seeing that comb come up is heartstopping. Watching it vanish for good without taking your fly is heartbreaking.

Around noon we found ourselves at a rocky reef. Will tied on a popper and after a few casts managed to pull in a small jack. Not a rooster but maybe the next best thing. We fished around the reef for about another hour but no more fish. We headed back to my camp.

While I didn’t catch any fish I took solace in the fact that I was able to find some roosters and at least got them to think about eating my fly. Will headed back down the beach to take his family to some waterfalls in the mountains. I heard there were trout up there and suggested he take his fly rod. You never know. I staked out the beach for a couple more hours and then packed up and headed back to El Pescadero.IMG_0357

Will and his jack crevalle.

Baja – Day 8

I was up before the sun came up and had a spot on the beach staked out. Roosters (the kind with feathers) seem to be up and crowing around 3:00am here. Applying that logic to roosterfish I hoped to find some feeding early in the morning as the sun came up. There was a slight breeze out but the water was still pretty flat. Conditions were good and the only limiting factor was the glare of the sun on the water.

My logic was correct and I found a rooster feeding on some baitfish. He wasn’t huge but big enough to get the heart pumping and I made a quick dash into the surf to cast to him. I stripped as fast as I could and he followed my offering only to refuse it at the last second, do a 180, and in a flash, he was gone, headed back to the deep. No second opportunity with this one. I blame my short arms for not being able to strip fast enough. I think to be a good roosterfish fly angler you need at least eight-foot arms.

I staked out some other spots on the beach for the rest of the day. There were a few baitfish around but no roosters. I called it quits around 5:00 and walked back to camp. On the way back I met a guy in a side x side named Will. Will was from Oregon, in Baja on vacation with his family. We shared some brief fishing experiences from Baja and Will suggested we go out early the next day in the side x side. An excellent idea and I agreed.

It was New Years Eve. In an attempt to be festive I decided to go check out Los Barriles. The sun was down and the town was preparing for New Years festivities. A band was playing In the center of town and everyone seemed to be out. Even the cows had come out for the celebration and were wandering through the town mixing with the revelers. The bars and restaurants were in full swing and I settled on a little cantina just down the street from where the band was playing. After an exceptional pastor burrito with these delicious roasted peppers on the side and a few beers, I was contemplating my options: Stay in town for the party or head back to camp. I had some doubt about negotiating the dirt roads through the desert and finding my back to camp. That, and throughout my history with New Year’s Eve, I tend to overindulge. I’m older and wiser now and opted to have just one more beer and head back to camp for a good night’s sleep.

I should have known better. Latinos are technicians when it comes to a celebration. The whole area partied all night long and some locals living behind where I was camped finally turned the music off at 6:00am when Will rolled up in the side x side. The New Year was here!

Baja – Day 6 and 7

IMG_0355I was back in El Pescadero. After a nights sleep in a bed and some breakfast, I drove into the famed Todos Santos to check it out. It was full of guys sporting big manicured beards who normally wear skinny jeans and lots of flannel. I may be overstating things here but the vibe I got was it was a trendy hipster vacation hangout. It wasn’t really my kinda place. I headed back towards El Pescadero and spent the rest of the day surfing at Playa Cerritos.

The next morning I got up early and headed to roosterfish mecca — Los Barriles. The drive from El Pescadero transports you through some very scenic and quiet mountain towns before descending into Los Barriles. The area has become a very popular vacation spot and finding a remote area to access the beach to fish and camp was difficult. The fishing all along the beach is supposed to be good but I wanted a more quiet place to camp and not fish with large beach houses in my backcast. I eventually found what I was looking for a little ways south of Buena Vista to the south of Los Barriles.

The stretch of beach I was fishing had a series of sandbars all along it that broke any waves and created calm pools behind them. Perfect places to spot cruising roosters. I walked a good ways up the beach without seeing anything. On the way back I stopped at a spot that offered a good vantage point to see fish and plopped down in the sand to stake it out. A couple hours later I spotted a fish. I jumped up began the ritual of running, stripping and false casting as I ran towards the water. I made a cast and a small rooster turned and made a run for the fly but I ran out of water as \i was stripping in. I quickly made a short cast. Strip, strip, bump and he was on. Another baby rooster. A little bigger than my first. Things were going in the right direction so I was pleased. After releasing the little peanut I walked back to camp. I decided to stay here for three days and play the waiting game. Pez Gallo is bound to show up here.

IMG_0356Camping on the beach in Baja is amazing for a lot of reasons but the one I enjoyed the most was the lack of grizzly bears. Being able to cook and eat in your tent is delightful. It is a big no-no where I live as the area is kind of infested with bears. I enjoyed not having to deal with bears. The view of the full moon over the ocean was a close second as was falling asleep on soft ground to the sound of waves rolling on the shore.

 

 

 

Baja – Day 5

I was up early and packed up. I went into La Ventana and had breakfast at a little taco stand. With my nutritional requirements satisfied for the moment, I headed to Punta Arenas. It was an easy drive down a smooth dirt road surrounded by private land on both sides. The road ends on the beach just behind the lighthouse on the point. Arenas is an expansive beach with the deep water very close to shore. But before I could get too excited about the prospects of finding roosters here the wind conjured up huge waves that churned up the sandy bottom and that was the end of that. I knew the wind was coming but I had hoped I would be able to fish there before it did. I had a backup plan — Ensenada Muertos. IMG_0346

Ensenada Muertos has mountains on each end of the bay that provided wonderful shelter from the W. There was clear blue water everywhere absent of even a ripple. It looked like a great spot to find roosters but I suspect it may be hit or miss depending on the timing of the local fishing boat fleet that uses the beach and calm conditions to launch their pangas. There were nice rocky points at each end of the bay and I decided to walk to the southern one hoping to find a rooster on my way. No roosters by the time I started negotiating the rocks to start fishing for whatever variety of fish that lurked among them.

I made my way through the rocks casting as I went and picked up a few cabrilla. These fish are shaped much like largemouth bass but are brown and have iridescent blue amoeba shaped blotches on them. The highlight of the day was watching a big dorado chase a huge school of baitfish into the little cove just to the left of where I was. The speed of these fish was mindblowing. As they streaked by went into a near frenzy trying to figure out how I could get close to them in that cove to get a shot at a dorado. As fast as they went by they disappeared. No sigh of them. Not a splash, a ripple, or a wake. They were gone. The brief encounter was still exhilarating.

 

Baja – Day 4. Success, Sort of.

I woke up early to relatively calm conditions. There was no wind onshore but a little ways out it was making small waves so on shore it was a little choppy. Not too bad but it hampered visibility in the water a little. I set off down the beach scanning the water for signs of baitfish or roosters. About two hours in I spotted a rooster. He disappeared in the waves but I took a shot at him by quickly firing off a cast in the direction he appeared to be moving. It was a good cast and as soon as the fly landed I began stripping in line A few strips into the retrieve I saw the fish flash and take the fly. A few seconds later he gave it back. I really don’t know what I did wrong but after a few moments of heartbreak, I laughed at myself for thinking I would be that easy.

 I continued down the beach feeling pretty determined after my close encounter with Pez Gallo. The rays were still around playing in the surf. Assuming they may be feeding on baitfish and that would bring in more roosters I stayed with them. I made a few cast to a few baitfish skipping across the surface hoping to find a rooster but kept my casting to a minimum so as not to spook any roosters that may show up. I wanted more definite evidence there were feeding roosters and baitfish fleeing for their lives. I eventually came to a point with a rocky reef and decided to cast among the rocks and see what other species were around. I very quickly hooked a rather large cornetfish. These fish look like pipebombs with fins and can swim backward as fast as they can forwards which makes landing them interesting. They are easy to catch and after catching a few I moved on in search of roosters

About an hour later I spotted another fish in the surf very close to shore. I made a cast. Stripped and nothing. I quickly recast and as I was stripping in a baby rooster nipped my fly and just Like that, I had caught my first rooster. “Baby” makes this fish sound big but it was a rooster and even the small ones are stunning to look at. Shortly after that, like someone flipped a switch, the wind turned on and conditions became pretty miserable. Heavy shore break made it impossible to see anything in the water. Casting was nearly impossible and after a few flies whizzed past my head I packed it in.IMG_0348

I set up camp again in La Ventana with plans to check out Punta Arenas and Ensenada Muertos in the morning. Arenas may be windy like Ventana but Muertos was supposed to shelter from the wind.