Category Archives: Stories

Hola, Señor Bass

I live in the Canadian province of Manitoba, a land blessed with hundreds of thousands of lakes.  However, in the whole province, there is only one lake with a reasonably catchable population of largemouth bass.  It’s certainly not a huge population and – judging by my catches – it’s a selective one.   I actually think the bass in that lake are not far removed from steelhead or musky – fish of a thousand casts each.   Being only forty minutes from my house, I paid the lake six visits last summer and caught a total of two bass.

Enter Lake El Salto, a bass factory (Dare I say a big bass factory?) just outside of Mazatlan, Mexico.  High numbers of bass and higher daily temperatures lured myself and my partner Deb there over the Christmas holidays.

Below is a brief look at the trip…

IMG_0091THE LAKE.  El Salto is a reservoir about 2 hours from Mazatlan in the Sierra Madre Mountains.  It was created in the 80’s and stocked with Florida strain largemouth.  Hordes of tilapia help keep the bass fat and happy.  With scattered mats of floating hyacinth against a backdrop of forested peaks, El Salto is also a gem to look at.  Adding to its visual appeal are an amazing number of herons, egrets, and coots.

THE LODGING. We stayed at the Angler’s Inn, right on the lakeshore.  A lodge van picked us up at the Mazatlan airport and dropped us off at a Mazatlan resort three days later.  The room was very comfortable and the food was outstanding. To make sure we made it through to supper, as soon as we got in from evening fishing, an appetizer and a drink were pressed into our hands.  All drinks and food were included.  Filet mignon and barbecued ribs are examples of items on the dinner menu.

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THE FISHING.  The fishing day was split.  The boat left shortly before sunrise at 6 AM and returned to the lodge for lunch around 11 AM.   A hearty meal and the accompanying margaritas induced a short siesta, then it was back on the water from 2 PM until dusk at 6 PM.

Dawn and dusk saw me working poppers around very bassy-looking cover.  When the sun was higher, I threw a Gummy Minnow to the same types of spots.  Weedguards were helpful in retrieving less than perfect casts.  Occasionally, I used a fast-sinking line to probe deeper water.

THE BOAT AND GUIDE.   The boat was a fast and stable Bass Tracker with fore and aft seats for fishing.  The lodge supplied a stripping tub; with the forward seat removed and the stripping tub in its place, the bow casting deck became very fly fisher friendly.  There were two comfortable seats amidships for high speed runs between spots.

IMG_0077Juan, our guide, had been working at the lake for twelve years.  El Salto has many arms, coves, and islands; he ranged all over the lake and showed us a lot of good-looking water.  Jaun was also an expert at using the electric trolling motor to keep the boat in perfect casting position.

Although Jaun generally guided folks with conventional gear, he was certainly comfortable with a long rod on board.  He was adept at recommending flies, lines, and leaders.  And he also understood the need for backcast room.

THE WEATHER.  Keep in mind this was the end of December…. At dawn, the temperature would be in the 50’s or 60’s, which made for some chilly boat rides even while wearing a fleece and a shell.  During the day, it would climb into the 70’s or 80’s and even a lightweight shirt felt downright hot.  Nevertheless, having just escaped a Canadian winter, it was a good kind of heat.   At dusk, as the fishing day ended, the temperature would get comfortably cool once more.  There was never even a hint of rain.

IMG_0139THE CATCH.   I fished three morning sessions and two afternoon sessions and caught about 15 bass.  They ranged in size from 1/2 pound to 2 pounds.  I used fly tackle exclusively and also caught a portly tilapia on a popper.  Deb fished only two afternoons and used spinning tackle; her numbers were about the same as mine but her fish were larger, boating a couple of three or four pounders.

Overall, the fishing was spotty at best but good enough to keep us anticipating the next cast.  Most other boats at the lodge had similar results, although a couple parties had sessions where they caught tons of fish, including a 6 and 7 pounder.  I think the weather was actually too good and the clear blue skies put the bass in a negative mood.  As well, high lake levels gave them more water to melt into.

IMG_0085MISCELLANEOUS. The rainy season is from July to October and Lake El Salto fills up.  During the remainder of the year, the lake is drawn down.  The boats can often be docked a half mile from the lodge when the lake is low.  Juan said that low lake levels concentrate the fish and improve fishing.  He considered May and June to be his favorite months and said the bass spawned in March.

Optimistically, I took a lot of BIG flies and brought along a 9 weight rod. Given the size of the fish caught and flies used, anything from a 6 to an 8 would not be out of place.  I used a Sage Largemouth for top water work and it excelled at this.

IMG_0135OTHER ACTIVITIES.  Although Lake El Salto is just about the fishing, nearby Mazatlan has great resorts, a picturesque old town, and all kinds of non-angling activities.

WOULD I GO BACK?   Yes!!!  I definitely think it deserves another shot.  Or perhaps Lake Picachos – a nearby lake that Angler’s Inn recently built a lodge on.

 

Thoughts on 2015 From The Fishwest Staff

With 2015 only hours away we here at Fishwest have had a chance to reflect on a great fishing year but also look forward to the new year and new adventures. Below you will find our thoughts on the year and goals for 2015. Enjoy!

Morgan – Fishwest Shop Manager

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2014 was a great year for my fly fishing career. I was able to travel to new places, pursue new species and I was even able to catch the largest fish I’ve ever caught on a fly rod. For 2015 I would like that trend to continue. This year, my focus will be on getting to a saltwater destination for the first time. I love streamer fishing and the thought of a hard fighting, large, predatory fish has got me excited. It was 15 degrees on my drive to work this morning and the idea of shorts and going barefoot in the sand doesn’t sound so bad right now. I would also like to make to Montana to see for myself what everyone’s raving about. Steelhead are on the list again as well. I’ve got high hopes for 2015.

Richard  (AKA Maui Jim) – Web Team / Shop Staff

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2014 turned out to be a great year of fishing for me. The goals I set for myself last year were for the most part accomplished, with the exception of landing a striper on the fly. With 2015 knocking on the door it is time to set some new goals for the upcoming year. The biggest goal I have for 2015 will be to get out steelheading for the first time, after hearing stories and seeing photos from co-workers and customers alike steelheading has been creeping its way into my mind.

It’s not just the chance of catching a large sea run salmonids that intrigues me but the difficulty of bringing these creatures to hand and the destinations you have to travel to that really inspires me to target these fish.

Along with that goal would be to continue to target toothy critters on the fly, 2014 was the first year I tried to target Tiger Muskie and Pike at all, and being fortunate enough to have success catching both species on a fly this past year, lets just say I have been hit with the Esox bug, so larger and meaner pike and muskies are definitely on the menu for 2015.

JC – Web Team Manager / Shop Staff

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I had a ton of fun fishing in 2014. Another trip to hang out in the Bahamas and landing my first Tiger Musky amid the countless trout brought to hand had to top the list of personal accomplishments for the year. The thing I enjoyed the most was spending alot of time on the water with the two other jokers who contributed to this article.  Any time on the water with “Maui Jim” (aka Richard) and Morgan is bound to be a fun time and full of a lot of laughs.  We all collectively spent a ton of money in gas on all these adventures but it was well worth it. Having the chance to be part of the adventure and to see Morgan and Richard both land their first Muskies was pretty dang cool.

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As for 2015 a personal goal for me has got to be to learn how to use a two handed rod. I cannot emphasize enough how much I would love to swing flies for anadromous fish. I now finally have all tools at my disposal I now just have to put tools together and just get out and do it.

Lastly I would honestly like to just keep my goals very simple. Spending a lot of time fishing and sharing the water with new and old friends alike seems like a great way to spend my time.

Once again I would like to thank everyone from our faithful readers to our wonderful contributors for making 2014 a success for us here at Fishwest and the Pisciphilia Blog.  As long as you guys keep reading we would love to share our stories and insight. From all of us here at Fishwest I would like to wish you a Happy New Year and a wonderful 2015!

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays From Fishwest

Well it’s here, the time of the year when you dust off the ugliest sweater you own, spend more than you would like to admit on gifts, and to take long trips to see the family. Although it is the time of year for family, that shouldn’t stop you from getting out there and hooking into some fish.

This is a great opportunity to share your passion with others in your family, take a short trip to your local community pond or stream and toss around some flies. Show the youngsters how to catch fish with a rod and not a PlayStation controller. Show that in-law why you spend hours upon hours on the river every year, the tranquil state it puts much of us in while out exploring the water. Show them secret, or special spots, to allow them a little glimpse into “Your World”. They might then understand why you dedicate so much of your time to this sport.

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This isn’t just a great time to share your passion for fly fishing but can also be a good time to explore old or new fishing spots. If you are heading back to your hometown, take time to see how the river has changed and where the fish have moved to. For me this is a trip back down memory lane. I spend time reflecting on the reasons I picked up a fly rod in the first place, those feelings or experiences I had while learning the sport, and an opportunity to hook into those large ones that got away from me last time.

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This can also be a great opportunity to head out to water that you have never explored before, whether its in your hometown or in a relatives community, this time a year offers a great chance to have the water mostly to yourself. It doesn’t have to be a technical trip with tons of gear, just the rod, reel, few flies, and a cheap pair of waders (if necessary) from your local sporting goods retailer.

Whether you do make it out this week or not, we here at Fishwest wish you and yours a safe and joyful holiday season. Fill your bellies and get your yearly fix of The Christmas Story, we will be here getting ready for 2015 while you work your way out of that holiday fog.

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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!

The Twelve Days of Fly Fishing!

On the first day of fishing, the riffle sent to me; A Brook Trout on a Dry Fly.

On the second day of fishing, good fortune sent to me; Two Fishing Buds, and a Brook Trout on a Dry Fly.

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On the third day of fishing, the map revealed to me; Three Spring Creeks, Two Fishing Buds, and a Brook Trout on a Dry Fly.

On the fourth day of fishing the river gave to me; Four Brown Trout, Three Spring Creeks, Two Fishing Buds, and a Brook Trout on a Dry Fly.

On the fifth day of fishing, the Fishing Gods sent to me; FIVE WILD STEELHEAD!, Four Brown Trout, Three Spring Creeks, Two Fishing Buds, and a Brook Trout on a Dry Fly.16302_10152715995327845_553873061178782886_n

On the sixth day of fishing, my ears revealed to me; Six Reels-a-Zinging, FIVE WILD STEELHEAD!, Four Brown Trout, Three Spring Creeks, Two Fishing Buds, and a Brook Trout on a Dry Fly.

On the seventh day of fishing, the flats showed to me; Seven Bones-a-Cruising, Six Reels-a-Zinging, FIVE WILD STEELHEAD!, Four Brown Trout, Three Spring Creeks, Two Fishing Buds, and a Brook Trout on a Dry Fly.1958013_10152327045182845_509034368_n

On the eighth day of fishing, the river awarded me; Eight Steelhead Runs, Seven Bones-a-Cruising, Six Reels-a-Zinging, FIVE WILD STEELHEAD!, Four Brown Trout, Three Spring Creeks, Two Fishing Buds, and a Brook Trout on a Dry Fly.

On the ninth day of fishing, the water gifted me; Nine Fish-in-Hand, Eight Steelhead Runs, Seven Bones-a-Cruising, Six Reels-a-Zinging, FIVE WILD STEELHEAD!, Four Brown Trout, Three Spring Creeks, Two Fishing Buds, and a Brook Trout on a Dry Fly.

On the tenth day of fishing, the Keys displayed to me; Ten Leaping Tarpon, Nine Fish-in-Hand, Eight Steelhead Runs, Seven Bones-a-Cruising, Six Reels-a-Zinging, FIVE WILD STEELHEAD!, Four Brown Trout, Three Spring Creeks, Two Fishing Buds, and a Brook Trout on a Dry Fly.

On the eleventh day of fishing, the tail-water showed to me; Eleven Boats-a-Drifting, Ten Leaping Tarpon, Nine Fish-in-Hand, Eight Steelhead Runs, Seven Bones-a-Cruising, Six Reels-a-Zinging, FIVE WILD STEELHEAD!, Four Brown Trout, Three Spring Creeks, Two Fishing Buds, and a Brook Trout on a Dry Fly.

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On the twelfth day of fishing, the Kenai presented to me; Twelve Casters Casting, Eleven Boats-a-Drifting, Ten Leaping Tarpon, Nine Fish-in-Hand, Eight Steelhead Runs, Seven Bones-a-Cruising, Six Reels-a-Zinging, FIVE WILD STEELHEAD!, Four Brown Trout, Three Spring Creeks, Two Fishing Buds, and a Brook Trout on a Dry Fly.

 

Fly Fishing Film Tour 2015

The 2015 F3T is right around the corner, and we at Fishwest can’t be more excited. The trailers are out and by the looks of them it will be another great event, here’s the trailer for Those Moments; a film by Kokkaffe Media’s Peter Christensen, supported by Orvis and Deneki Outdoors. The tour will be swinging through Salt Lake City February 19, 2015 at the Depot, tickets will be sold here at Fishwest starting January 2, 2015. If you have never made it to F3T before I highly suggest you do your best to make it to this years. It will be an all ages show, so bring the family!

 

Diary of a Baby Tarpon Addict

I’ve been to a fair number of baby tarpon spots but I finally got a chance to spend three July days chasing them in Campeche, Mexico.  Here’s a sample…

5:35 AM:  The hotel van driver drops me off at the pier in total darkness.  I’m a little worried ‘cause the parking lot is completely empty.  Where is the guide’s vehicle?IMG_0018

5:43 AM:  Ah-ha!  The drone of an outboard answers my question and the guide pulls up in his panga.

5:55 AM: We’re driving through complete blackness at what seems like full throttle.  The only immediate illumination is the guide’s flashlight.  It is my second day fishing and the guide is taking me to the very edge of the usual fishing grounds.

6:09 AM:  The sun begins to peek over the horizon.  With a bit of light, the boat speeds up.  I’m quite relieved that we weren’t going as fast as possible through the dark.

6:50 AM:  The guide pulls up to where a creek pours into the mangrove shoreline.  The channel is about five feet wide.  With the first day jitters behind me, I get a fly tied on and my first cast off reasonably quickly.IMG_0027

6:54 AM:  Fish on!  A tarpon cartwheels to the left into the mangroves.   And it’s gone…

6:57 AM:  Fish on!  A tarpon cartwheels to the right into the mangroves.  And it’s gone…

7:01 AM:  Fish on!  This one  remains cooperatively in the middle of the creek and I land about a 3 pound snook.  I’m pumped!  It’s only the second snook I’ve ever caught.IMG_0046

8:21 AM:  I haven’t seen anything since the snook.  But my casting is dialed in.  I’m actually feeling rather smug.  I haven’t snagged a mangrove in at least half an hour.  I’m dropping my fly in every juicy little pocket that presents itself as we pole down the shoreline.

8:22 AM:  The guide calls out, “Tarpon!  By mangroves! 11 o’clock!”  I see a couple dark shapes in the clear water.   Naturally, my casting ability instantly implodes and the fly ends up in the mangroves about 4 feet above the tarpon. The tarpon simply melt away.

9:15 AM:  A small barracuda grabs my fly.  Luckily he doesn’t bite me off and I unceremoniously strip him in.  When he is ten feet from the boat a gang of three tarpon show up.  They are large for babies – about 20 pounds each – and look like they have mayhem on their minds.  At least as far as the barracuda is concerned…IMG_0050 2

9:20 AM:   The barracuda is unhooked and back in the water.  Somehow, the tarpon don’t notice as it darts away.   They are circling about 30 feet from the boat and they still look like a bunch of thugs.

9:30 AM:  Evidently, the tarpon are shrewd thugs.  They ignore two or three different flies and drift into the mangroves. IMG_0108

10:45 AM: The guide poles us by a large tree that has toppled into the water, extending well beyond the mangrove shoreline.  I crawl a Seaducer along the length of the tree.  Blow up!   A tarpon clears the water three or four times.  He is still hooked; I’m hopeful that this could be my first tarpon to the boat.

10:50 AM:  Yes! It makes it to the boat for a picture and a release.IMG_0045

11:45 AM:  After eating lunch further down the shoreline, we return to the fallen tree.  It’s a good call on the guide’s part because another tarpon inhales the Seaducer and comes to the boat.  But not quietly, of course – thrashing and churning all the way.

1:05 PM:  We’re on a large flat covered in turtle grass.  Every few minutes or so a tarpon comes within range.  It’s like this for about an hour and a half.  These tarpon are pretty cagey and I get mostly refusals.  Nevertheless, three or four end up leaping skward with my fly in their mouth.  But – sigh – all but one fall back down to the water with the fly indignantly tossed aside.  I have to admit I’m used to that.

2:35 PM:  We start the run back to Campeche.

4:00 PM:  I’m in the neighbourhood bar, enjoying a superb Margarita.  Life doesn’t get any better ‘cause I’ve got one more day of fishing left….

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Here’s a few notes about Campeche and the fishing…

Campeche is a great place to take a partner who doesn’t want to spend everyday in the boat.  It is an amazing city with stunning and historical architecture.  There are lots of comfortable hotels and good restaurants. IMG_0021

An 8 weight rod with a floating 9 weight line was perfect for Campeche’s baby tarpon.  I found a leader that was 11 or 12 feet long led to more grabs than the standard 9 footer.  Puglisi patterns, Seaducers, and Mayan Warriors a little better than 3 inches long worked well.   There was a lot of blind casting but a fair bit of sight fishing to both rolling and cruising tarpon.

The tarpon were generally between 5 and 10 pounds.  They were plentiful and grabby.  I never seemed to have to wait very long for my next shot.  Most baby tarpon locations seem to suffer a definite slow down during the heat of the day but the action in Campeche stayed reasonably consistent.  On an average day, I would get at least 10 or 15 strikes.  For the sake of brevity, I left out a few grabs in my diary above.

The diary also left out a couple noteworthy spots that were fished on another day…  Quite close to Campeche, there are some beautiful mangrove islands that seemed to hold rolling tarpon all day.  There are also hidden lagoons tucked into the mangrove shoreline where I literally watched schools of baby tarpon swim laps.  Although my partner never caught a fish, she fished those spots with me and had a great time just soaking up the scenery.

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Although he didn’t speak much English, the guide was great.  As well, he had a good panga with a casting platform.   My outfitter for the trip was Yucatan Fly Fishing Adventures; they also have operations at Isla del Sabalo and Tarpon Cay Lodge.

**Editors Note: Fishwest hosts a yearly trip down to Campeche Mexico with Yucatan Fly Fishing Adventures. Spots on our 2015 trip are still available however they are going fast. For further details please contact us at support@fishwest.com or visit the “Destination Travel” page of Fishwest HERE** -JC

 

 

 

Catch Magazine Season 6 is Almost Here

Get ready for season 6! I am always blown away by the quality of videos Todd Moen and Catch Magazine are able to put together while dealing with varying weather conditions in remote places. It’s the combination of footage and complementary music that set great videos apart from the rest and  by the looks of this season’s trailer he has knocked it out of the park once again. This season they travel to Argentina, British Columbia, and Montana’s backcountry to name a few. Season 6 will be available for purchase after December 10th and the staff here at Fishwest are very excited to watch this video in it’s entirety. Hope you enjoy the trailer as much as we did!

Patagonia Presents a Stoecker Ecological and Felt Soul Media Production: DamNation

Some folks see dams as a source of energy, a creator of recreation, or even the protector from seasonal floods. This can be true but during the early twentieth century there was an obsession to put a dam on any river or stream they felt could be beneficial to human progress and not considering the environmental damages that could be caused during and after the build. Thanks to the partnership of Patagonia and Felt Soul Media, they have produced this amazing video depicting the negative effects caused by dams and the impact they have on native fish populations. This video was an eye opener for everyone here at Fishwest, each and everyone of us learned something new from it and we encourage anyone who hasn’t seen it to view it.

How Run Down Does The Man Get?

I watched the trailer for “Running Down the Man” and I was hooked.  I like wading for bonefish.  I like running for fitness. What could be better than sprinting down some beach after a large, exotic-looking roosterfish?

After a fair bit of research, I booked a trip with Grant Hartman of Baja Anglers in Los Cabos, Mexico. Out of all the guides available, he had the most experience at beach fishing for roosters. He generally does week long trips, but I nabbed him for 3 days as his prime season was winding down at the end of June.

He met me at the Cabo airport and we hopped in his pickup for the hour long drive out to Los Barriles, a small town on the East Cape of Baja – north of San Jose del Cabo on the Sea of Cortez. As we drove, Grant’s passion for roosterfish, especially on the fly and from the beach, bubbled up. He compared them to permit and maintained that even a single big one, or “grande,” in one trip was a real accomplishment

Los Barriles is a very comfortable place for tourists and visiting fishermen, with good restaurants and a variety of accommodations.  A beautiful, white sand beach stretches the town’s entire length.  Grant dropped me off at my condo at the Villas de Cortez. (Note:  On the East Cape, booking a condo through a site like HomeAway is a great alternative to a hotel room.) “See you at 9AM tomorrow and don’t forget to wear something drab,” he said.

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At 9 AM the next morning, we were in Grant’s truck again, bouncing down scenic back roads through cacti and low hills. After about 20 minutes, we pulled up at a fairly deserted beach; a couple of vacation homes were the only things around. Immediately, we started rigging up my 10 weight. Before knotting on one of his custom 10  inch long flies, Grant asked me how much backing was on my reel. “About 225 yards,” I replied confidently. “Better use this,” said Grant, and he handed me his personal reel with about 400 yards of gel-spun.

What followed was a crash course in Grant’s highly refined tactics for beach roosterfish – the approach, the cast, the retrieve, and the hook set. I’d love to describe them but I’ve been sworn to secrecy!  It was all based on wading the shallow surf and spotting the fish before it spotted you. One thing I can mention is that the line of choice was a tropical Outbound Short with an intermediate head.

The preliminaries took about half an hour and then we were walking along the beach looking for roosters. After about 15 minutes, the first one showed – a dark shape I’d get quite familiar with over the next few hours, swimming parallel to the beach and maybe 60 feet out. Grant had done a great job at prepping me but I don’t think anything can really ready you for that first shot. My running line got tangled in my feet and my fly got impaled in my pant leg; there were no more chances for that fish.

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Nevertheless, another fish showed minutes later and my second shot fared slightly better. The running line and the fly both steered clear of body parts but the latter was a disappointing 15 feet short of the target. I frantically stripped in line and started to run down the beach for another cast. And promptly tripped, tangled in the running line again.

A third rooster showed up and I finally managed a good cast – right across its line sight. The fly had absolutely no impact on the fish and it kept motoring down the beach. So I stripped in my line and sprinted to get ahead of it. The next cast was also shunned. More stripping and more sprinting led to a third cast… And a third refusal.

I was about 200 yards down the beach from my starting point, breathless and sweat-soaked. (Remember, this was Baja in the summer!)  Mercifully, the rooster had disappeared to deeper water.  Grant seemed like a speck on the horizon and I trudged toward him.

Then another fish appeared… That meant three more reps of casting, stripping, and sprinting. Now I was three hundred yards from where Grant stood. When I finally got back to him he grinned broadly, “Some good casts, bro, but I think those last three were to a milkfish…” I very quickly learned to make out the characteristic tube shapes of milkfish and ignore them.

The action was quite consistent that first day.  We visited several beaches, ranging from completely pristine to somewhat populated.  Sometimes we walked along the beach.  Sometimes we drove.  Sometimes we just waited at a likely spot.  I probably had shots at upwards of a dozen roosters.   They often just swam past me – no running required.  But some needed a burst of speed – along with the requisite heavy breathing and perspiration – to overtake the fish and get in position. Roosterfish are not like bonefish, meandering along and rooting around here and there.  Most roosterfish seem to have a pace that is unfailingly linear and brisk.

The end of the day came around 4 PM, due to the lack of a high sun for spotting fish.  I had experienced nothing but refusals, but a couple of them were spectacular…

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One “grande” – that Grant estimated at fifty pounds – broke from its flight path and closed the distance to my fly in an instant.  I stripped frantically, desperately trying to move the fly, move as fast as possible.   The rooster tracked the fly perfectly, always an inch or two behind it.  When the leader was a couple feet from entering the guides, all I could see was the mouth of the roosterfish trailing my fly.  It looked enormous, like it could swallow my fist whole.  I was on my knees in the shallow surf, trying to stay invisible to the fish.  As the leader entered the guides, the fish abruptly swam off.  I was almost shaking with excitement and didn’t even try for a second shot.

Not too long after, a rooster of about 25 pounds peeled off towards the fly and followed it from about three feet back, staying deep enough so that all I could see was a dark shape.  When the leader was almost in the guides, it accelerated towards the fly and its spiky dorsal fin, or comb, broke the surface.

To me, the comb is what gives a roosterfish rock star status. When I saw it bristling out of the water, I braced myself for a hit and thought, “Strip strike… Strip strike.”  And then the fish vanished, leaving me with no more than a permanent image of its comb in my brain.

The second day of fishing dawned much like the first.  The sun was bright, perfect for sight fishing.  But the wind was howling, making the water on the turbid side.  Grant said it would be a tough day and he was right.   We tried most of the same beaches but saw absolutely nothing.  Grant even tried teasing some from the deeper water out of a fly rod’s range. He used a nine foot spin rod to bomb a hookless surface plug about the same distance as most golfers hit a five iron.  Then danced it back into shore. My job was to throw the fly in behind the plug when it came into range. Regardless, nothing showed itself.

Finally, about an hour before quitting time, we staked out a spot where a couple near shore troughs ran towards each other and met on a shallow bar. A roosterfish swam out of one trough and onto the bar, close enough for an easy cast. Unfortunately, it ignored my fly and quickly made its way towards the blue water. This happened twice more, in quite rapid succession, before we called it a day. I had been quite discouraged but the flurry of action gave me a shot of optimism for the next day.

My third and final day looked pretty hopeful. Grant took me on an isolated highway through the mountains and the sun shone brightly. Although the road was paved, it was still very much an adventure.   We stopped to help three young locals with a flat. “Never pass anybody in need in the desert,” said Grant. Their spare wasn’t the proper size, so Grant gave them his aerosol tire sealer and inflator.

A little further up the road, sections of roadside pavement were missing. The only thing taking their place was a steep drop down a cliff. After about an hour, the “highway” transformed into a rocky track through scrub and cacti. I was glad Grant drove a 4X4. Eventually, we steered off the rocks and headed down a sandy path toward the ocean. After about 100 yards of this, we emerged onto a very isolated beach. It was rockier than those we fished the last couple of days. As well, the hills seemed to be crowding it into the ocean. Although there was one beach house off in the distance, I got the impression that we had somehow left civilization far behind.

Geographically, it seemed like an ideal place, but meteorologically, things had gone down hill. It was completely overcast and the wind was howling. The water was choppy and dirty; sight casting was impossible. To be honest, back casting was also impossible. The wind had a fierce tendency to blow my fly into the back of my head with every forward cast. The only thing I could do was lay the fly line down behind me on the beach and launch it without a backcast. (You have probably heard of water-loading a forward cast. … This was beach-loading.)

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Nonethless, Grant had me blind casting and working my way down the beach.

And then I got bit! Strip strike! Rats, I missed it… Then another hit and another miss on the same retrieve. With the next cast, 18 inches of silver torpedo rocketed half a rod length out of the chop. “Ladyfish!” yelled Grant. I grinned. It sure felt good to have a fish attached to the line.

And so went the day. The ladyfish action was incredibly entertaining and almost non-stop. Every so often we lost contact with the school; however, with a bit of moving around, we always found it again. I have now seen why ladyfish are sometimes called a poor man’s tarpon; they are amazing leapers. They are not big but they certainly are fun. Grant cut back the 10 inch roosterfish fly to a ladyfish-friendly 4 inches. “Careful,” he warned, “Roosters like to snack on ladyfish and that fly is still big enough to tempt a rooster.”

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The certainty of a jumping ladyfish and the possibility of a hulking rooster kept me busy all day. The wind and the clouds never disappeared but they did not bother me in the slightest. As we drove back to town at the end of the day, I thought about the last three days. I had not caught a roosterfish but the trip was still a success in my mind. I had seen a rooster’s comb bristle at my feet and also caught a bunch of ladyfish. For me, both were firsts…

The trip still was not quite over. The next day was spent snorkeling at Cabo Pulmo, a marine preserve south of Los Barriles. The tropical fish below the water and the stark headlands above the water were both beautiful. Even though I didn’t bring a fishing rod, I have to admit that I kept glancing around, looking for the dark shape of roosterfish gliding alongside the beach…

I Turned My Wife On……to Fly Fishing

I previously lived 15 minutes away from a trout paradise known as the Platte river in Wyoming.  Then I found myself married and moving back to Iowa where my wife and I both grew up.  It only made sense since both of our families are here.  Obviously the trout fishing is not as lucrative, but the hawkeye state has some great areas to fish.

DSC02035My wife knew nothing of fly fishing until we got married.  After a few outings with our fishing crew and a couple of backpacking trips out west, we finally convinced her to give it a shot.  It didn’t take long and she was asking tons of questions.  She was hooked like a driftless brown taking a juicy hopper in September.

We started her off with the basics, putting a rod and reel together, stringing a rod, the difference between fly line, leader and tippet.  She found it interesting how much their is to know before a fly even hits the water. DSC_0610

We even spent time on the tailgate at home practicing knots with string just to make it easier to learn.  Through the spring and summer she has fished in Wyoming, Colorado and Iowa.  She is now proficient at reading water and has an understanding where the fish tend to hang out. She is quickly learning and  the different ways to cast and mend her line to get that fly where she wants it.  After our last trip to northeast Iowa, her favorite two fly combo is now the hopper dropper.  It is fun to watch her progress in her knowledge and skills.  I find it as exciting as she does when she hooks up, and share in her frustration and laughter when she misses. DSC_0616

After a great day on the stream we find ourselves back on the tailgate talking about the day and enjoying our favorite craft beer.  She always has one last question, “when do we get to go again?”