Like any wise angler I don’t advertise where I’m going fishing when its one of my sneaky favorites. If I get caught on the way and someone asks where I’m headed I usually make up something fast. But at 6 AM yesterday when on the way an acquaintance yelled out, “Hey Currier where you going?” My mind was short on coffee and I spouted out – “Texas“. We’re headed to Texas”. I guess I’ve been traveling too much of late because he simply responded, “Nice! Good luck. Hope you catch some big bass. See you when you get back.”
June 22, 2012
I’m very limited on time for writing so today will be short and sweet. We got a nice early start. Along the way Grant spotted a dead rattlesnake in the road so I took this close up of his diamond pattern – kind of cool. We’re always careful when cutting through the bush for the beaches because there are a ton of rattlers around here.
I ended the session on our first beach by casting to a disturbance on the edge of a mud line created from waves breaking on the beach. I expected another ladyfish. Luckily I was back to using my 10-weight because first strip through that mud and up came the cone of a 25lb plus roosterfish. My heart jumped a beat and I hit the deck and picked up the speed of my fly. Wham! I had him and fifteen minutes later I landed this awesome fish. Glad we got him – that was about it for our day.
June 21, 2012
Roosterfishing off the beach down here in Baja is incredible. I love the hunt. I love the difficulty. I love everything about chasing this exotic looking saltwater fish. But nothing excites me more than tossing flies over coral heads and rocks through frothing surf for big snappers and grouper – nothing! These fish will rip line from you more viciously than any other fish on the planet. Then they will bust you off so fast you can’t see straight. If you miraculously hold on long enough, then it’s likely your fish will burry and tangle you in deep water around the rocks they live in. Any time you hook one (even if it’s only a 5 pounder!); you have a very slim chance of getting him to hand. But when the stars line up and the fish Gods are on your side and you do land one, you may have one of the most spectacular looking fish of your life.
Sammy and Grant aren’t into this day like I am. They work an area hard for about and hour then seek out a short beach where they might find a rooster. Today that gave Sammy just enough time to land a flag cabrilla and this gorgeous little Panamic Grasby. If you want to get a true nice snapper you need to work all day. I never stop working it. I walk one direction all day and take the terrain nature gives me.
To fish for snapper with the fly I recommend a 10-weight. Today I was using my new Ross Rx 9’ for a 10. This rod has the needed backbone to potentially stop a good size snapper. You don’t need a reel with lots of backing capacity because if a snapper gets that far from you you’re likely to lose him anyhow, but I do like a good drag to crank down. I use Ross Momentums or their new F1 #5. It would be nice to fish down deep at the base of the rocks, but the deeper you go the more likely the chance you will get snagged and frustrated. I use the Scientific Angler saltwater floating line with the intermediate sink tip – WF10F/I. I cheat on the leader. Rather than worry about catching an IGFA record on 20lb class tippet or less, I put on a straight 4ft length of 60lb shock tippet. Straight 60lb is risky because if not handled right you could shatter a rod or snap a fly line. But it’s this strength that gives me a good chance of surviving the first couple runs into the rocks and actually landing the fish. That is if he’s not too much bigger than 10lbs. If you hook a 20lber, your 60lb tippet may as well be 7X!
My day started challenging. Even with my stout rod the wind and big waves were causing me grief. My casts were shortened not only because of the wind by also my excess line was constantly stuck in the rocks. I’m not much for the stripping basket roosterfishing off the beach but today the tool may have been perfect. I went about an hour before getting my rhythm and finally landing this beautiful flag cabrilla.
Once you catch that first fish, things generally improve. I picked up a few more cabrilla and then this gorgeous little yellow snapper. Even though this snapper is the size of a 2lb smallmouth bass, it was a good pull on the 10-weight.
For about thirty seconds I considered my rod in danger. Then it was definitely about to explode. I had to give in a little or there would be graphite flying everywhere. So I dropped my rod tip slightly and then just before my fly line was likely to break I let a very small amount of line slide out before clamping again. This tug war went on for a good two minutes when finally I started to feel my unseen fish tire. The one thing you do have going with snapper and grouper is that if you can survive the big surges for a minute or two they give up completely. That’s exactly what happened and from then on I horsed my snapper to the beach. I landed a spectacular barred pargo!
This was the second barred pargo of my life yet this one was equally as exciting as the first. These fish are striking looking with there deep round body and bright white stripes. They also have the most amazing mouth full of teeth including two big canine like teeth in their top jaws. For both pargo I’ve been by myself and had to pull off some self timer photography. Considering the surf, size of the fish and making sure I didn’t hurt him I think the photo came out ok.
Sammy and Grant searched for roosters most of the day with no luck. I admire them for their determination for an even bigger rooster. But me, I was glad I stuck to my plan and enjoyed another great day in Baja. Between Sammy and me we’ve now landed three great fish and there’s still two days left. Stay tuned. . . .
Now that Sammy and I both have big roosters for the week we have very little pressure on us. Grant Hartman drove us a long way today to some unknown beach as kind of an exploratory day. The dirt tracks were beyond rough and the roadsides showed just how hostile this Mexican Baja desert can be.
When we got to Grants spot we scanned the shallows off the beach for cruising roosters from a high vantage point. A 20lb speedster caught my eye immediately and rather than charge down the hill after him I watched. He busted two different bait balls then ran into another smaller roosterfish. That was enough. I strategically crept down to a spot where I expected their next ambush and sure enough they came. In one confident cast I laid my fly in the zone and the smaller fish devoured my fly. After a couple smoking runs I landed him, a respectable 10lber.
You’d’ think the day would be unreal based on the way it started but Sammy and I had only a couple more casts all day. The coolest thing was however that I spotted one from the truck while driving up the beach. Sammy and Grant ran down to cast and by the time they got near the waters edge they couldn’t see him. I still could and from the roof of the truck with beer in hand I directed Sammy and his cast right on the money. Fifteen minutes later he landed this 15lber.
We’ve had some awesome fishing so far. It’s been a lot of years and trips coming. Remember our last trip back in March to Ecuador was a complete bust. This is good payback to the fishes!
With my hawg rooster behind me I stayed low today in hopes Sammy would get his. I didn’t want to do anything to lessen his opportunity. At 2 PM after a very slow windy morning on the beach, Sammy got his fly right in front of a dandy. 30 minutes later, I shot this photo of Sammy with a tank roosterfish of his own. We can officially say this is our best trip to Baja together! A special thanks to Grant Hartman who takes us to the fish and points us in the right direction.
I’ve been coming to Baja for almost twenty years now. I love to catch all kinds of cool fish, but the main target is generally roosterfish. I take roosterfishing a step further and go for my roosters off the beach – sight casting only. It took me eleven days to catch my first quality rooster off the beach back in 1996. When I say quality, at that time quality was a rooster over 15lbs.
Back then was a learn as you go process. Roosterfishing was just getting popular and there wasn’t a lot of info on how to catch them on fly. Knowledge of roosters and strategies to catch them have improved greatly and 15lbers are now common. My friend and guide for the week, Grant Hartman, happens to have developed many of these techniques. Grant says it’s catching a 30lb plus fish off the beach that puts you in the elite club these days.
I have about 60 days of roosterfishing under my belt now. I’ve walked well over 100 miles of Baja beaches. Catching small roosters is easy and I’ve caught a lot more 15lbers. But for the last few years I’ve been in search of the monster. This pursuit hasn’t been easy. You don’t see the big guys often. When I have, I’ve screwed up plenty of casts. I’ve pulled the fly away from a few, spooked a bunch and the list of “why I didn’t connect” goes on.
When I woke up today I knew something was different. Often times there’s a “here we go again” lack of confidence feeling. But that wasn’t my thought today. When Sammy, Grant and I arrived on the first beach it was breezy and scorching hot. I was calm and cool. I immediately spotted four big roosters working just outside the surf and I knew I was going to catch one.
I was throwing my 9-weight Ross Rx rod. Normally I’m armed with a 10 however I stupidly broke that rod earlier in the morning trying to photograph ladyfish by myself. The ladyfish freaked out and took off at a bad angle with my rod laying in the sand and snap! My reel was an old standard Ross Momentum #6. This reel has been all over the world with me and caught a lot of good fish. Ross makes numerous improved reels these days but I’m attached to this one. And my line was a Scientific Anglers Saltwater Clear tip WF10F/S.
These roosters were patrolling about 100 feet out from the beach. Every once in awhile they turned in and swam within 60 feet of the beach. I can cast that far even with a huge fly so I tied on the biggest fly in my box, a 5/0 fly tied by my friend Mark Kuhn (milkfish). On my first few opportunities I landed short with my cast. Then on my fourth shot I landed my fly five feet in front of two of the roosters. When they got three feet away I gave three hard strips. Then stopped and three more. To my delight one fish raised his comb and turned on my fly.
I’ve had followers many times. Roosters are finicky but I kept stripping. Then just when my fly was getting too close to me the fish inhaled it. I strip set but felt nothing. I could see the rooster however and I knew he was coasting towards me likely tasting the hook. I stripped again and jabbed my rod to his opposite side. The rooster was on!
I bolted backwards up the beach to get high for a good angle. I wanted to see as much as I could to control the first run. It was a massive run peeling at least 100 yards into my 30lb backing. Then the fish stopped and swam parallel to the beach in the direction of Sammy and Grant.
Ten major drag testing runs and 30 minutes later I was still fighting my fish. By now Sammy and Grant were at my side cheering. Sammy, Grant and I have been together for the big rooster quest the last few years. I wouldn’t want to catch my first monster without them.
Like landing any monster fish, the final seconds are the toughest. It was a chore getting the hefty rooster up on the beach in the heavy surf. Scariest of all, several times he faced me directly and jumped all while head shaking violently. I was very afraid my fly was about to fly back at me and I’d lose him. After several tries I finally surfed him up and Grant grabbed him by the tail.
Roosters are one of those fish that actually look smaller in the water than out. I knew I hooked a good one but I was not expecting him to come out of the water this big. The striking looking fish was so big he was tough to handle. My first hold was nothing more than a bear hug. I couldn’t believe I had my monster. Then I got a good grip and after a pile of photos I released the long awaited fish.
As far as I’m concerned, my trip is complete even though it’s the first day. I can live with this roosterfish the rest of my life. I don’t care if I cast again the rest of the week. The only thing I want now is for Sammy to get a monster as well. Then this would truly be an incredible trip!
Well known guide Grant Hartman of Baja Anglers picked up Sammy Vigneri and me at the Los Cabos airport in Baja Mexico amongst heavy security this afternoon. The G20 meetings are taking place here. President Obama and other leaders from all over the world have come to discuss Global Economics. Lucky for us our flights arrived just before Air Force 1 and we were in and out of Los Cabos San Lucas airport heading north to our fishing waters without any security hassles.
June is not the normal time for Sammy and me to be doing our annual roosterfishing trip to Baja. We normally go in May. In fact we originally scheduled this beach hunt for May, but Sammy got booked up with work and we had to change it. The change was a tough one for me. As you could probably tell from all of last weeks blogs, I love the Henry’s Fork in June. It was tough to leave there. But just like on the Henry’s, I’m here in paradise with great friends, and fly fishing the salt for the next six days. I think I’ll live. And plus I’ll be heading back to the Henry’s next Monday night.
We are presently drinking beer by the pool watching Grant tie up some flies. Life is good!
I left home around 7 AM in order to get a couple hours of fishing in on the Henry’s Fork before I did my presentation at Henry’s Fork Day. When I arrived the weather was calm and warm and I walked about a mile into the Harriman Ranch before spotting two quality risers. With limited time I knew I had to get one of them to keep my “streak” of a nice big rainbow everyday this week. Sure enough, I fed the first one my Pale Morning Dun. The massive fish ate the roughed up imitation and I set but nothing. I missed him. That made the other riser extremely important. I regrouped and after about ten minutes of working him with my PMD I hooked and landed the gorgeous 18” trout. I met my goal for the week!