The Snapper That Got Away

by | May 5, 2019 | fly fishing for snapper | 3 comments

Jeff-Currier-Barred-PargoNo doubt the few days where I’ve landed huge roosters off the beach (biggest in 2016) are my best Baja fishing days.  But one of my most memorable was in 2010 when I landed my first barred pargo off the rocks.  The pargo, the meanest snapper of the snapper family, pound for pound was one of the hardest pulls I’ve ever experienced.  That snapper actually won the initial battle but I made a dangerous swim and untangled him from the rocks and pulled him in by hand.


Baja-MexicoToday, Grant organized a boatman to drop us off at the same remote area.  This area cannot be reached by car.  This meant leaving Sammy’s condo in Cerritos at 6 AM so we could meet our boatman at 8 AM.  He took us in his panga for about an hour then dropped us off at this place.  We hiked and fished miles of rock and beach all morning then fished from his boat in the afternoon.


flyfishing-for-snapperThe Sea of Cortez was calm and the temperature rose quickly as we made the scenic boat ride to the location.  By the time our boatman dropped us off it was 9:30 AM.  I jumped off with two rods.  My 10-weight with a huge mullet imitation and my 9-weight with a size 1/0 Clouser for species hunting.  There was a beach and a rocky point.  Grant took Sammy to the beach for roosterfish and I took the rocks.


fish-bajaIt didn’t take long for me to encounter the upper-echelon of the rocks.  I casted my mullet fly to a rock about 75 feet out.  It was a heck of a cast due to a cliff behind me with a palm tree growing from it.  I stripped my fly away from the rock expecting an instant grab but there was nothing.  But then a shadow appeared.


snapper-fishingThe water was clear where my fly landed but as it got nearer to the beach water clarity fizzled.  Here the waves break against land and take beach back with them.  So as retrieved my fly it was harder and harder to see.  But the shadow was an immense snapper.  I could see that much.  And unlike the vicious attacks I experienced with the bohars in December this guy followed the fly like a big lazy bass for more than ten feet while my heart pounded.


Jeff-Currier-MexicoTwenty feet from shore as the scenario was about to vanish in the murky water, the gigantic snapper finally made his move.  The toothy fish ate my fly as gentle as a trout sipping a mayfly.  I braced myself for the usual snapper surge where they take off with such force they hook themselves.  But that never happened.  He turned and swam away with my fly like there was no hook.


This was weird and I knew then I needed to set the hook myself.  I gave two vicious strip sets and went tight.  The weight of this fish was unreal but he remained unphased that he held a fly not a real fish.  Finally he felt the tug-o-war and ran.  I lifted my rod to do battle and the hook pulled.  No!!!!!!!!!!!!


That was the biggest snapper I’ve ever watched eat my fly in my life and I lost him with the hook pulling out.  If he broke me off in the rocks it would’ve been far more acceptable but the hook pulled which means I didn’t set hard enough.  A brutal start to my day.


flag-cabrillaThere had to be more I thought to myself as I fished methodically through those rocks.  I was possessed for the next two hours.  But all I pulled out after the hook up with the beast were a few of these flag cabrilla.  I blew my chance with the snapper of a lifetime.


Sam-Vigneri-roosterfishFishing was in general quite slow.  I caught up with Sammy and Grant and they’d caught one small roosterfish.  He came on a random blind cast.  They tangled with a few cabrilla as well, but all in all are entire morning was slow.






In the afternoon we asked our boatman if we could try fishing from the boat in some rocky areas that were so treacherous we couldn’t fish from shore.  He was good with the idea and I was quickly into a Pacific jack crevalle.  These nice jacks are another of my Baja favorites and I landed two over the next hour.


ladyfishIn addition to the fun jacks we hit a school of ladyfish.  Ladyfish may not look like much but are extremely feisty.  They slam a fly then jump repeatedly almost like baby tarpon.  We caught several these from big schools.  We likely could have caught fifty but after a few we went back to the search for the big dogs.


blue-and-gold-snapperAfter 2 PM the wind kicked up and we had to work our way back.  We hit one more spot from the boat and picked up a few more ladyfish.  We had our shots at more jacks but for some reason they were finicky.  I kept my Clouser near the bottom searching for something cool  Sure enough I added a new species to my list.  This is the blue and gold snapper (Lutjanus viridis).


todos-santosDay 2 was a good one.  Especially after our slow day on the beach yesterday with the roosterfish far and few between.  We stopped for a great dinner in Todos Santos on the way home and caught some hockey and the Cubs game.  Tomorrow its back to the beaches and hopefully there will be some roosters around.


Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing


  1. Janet Holmes a Coury

    Such beautiful fish. Sadly can’t come to Wy. anymore as Dr altitude too high for my heart
    Very sad as I love seeing lovely people like you and dear Grannie xoxoxo xoxoxo

  2. John

    Awesome/heart breaking story about the lost pargo. Chasing those beasts in the SoBaja rocks haunts me, SoBaja gets under your skin (I know where you’re at – won’t divulge the name but getting dropped off is a cool way to do it out there). Just donkeys, those pargo. If you’ve got the time, the small esteros of South Baja are epic. All the usual suspects (sight fishing corbina is my latest mangrove fixation) AND chunky pargo ghosting around. I’ve seen them in the 3 – 5lb range and I have NO idea how to get them to a fly. Would love to see a little write up (with photos) of the flies you like down there – tan and white clousers, or tan and white half-and-halfs are two of my go to flies. Love the reports – thanks for taking the time!

  3. Jeff

    Thanks for reading John! Sounds like you’ve seen a few big snapper yourself. That brown and white Clouser should be the ticket. My Clousers are similar. Been tough today.

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I started fly fishing at age 7 in the lakes and ponds of New England cutting my teeth on various sunfish, bass, crappie and stocked trout. I went to Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Naturalist Degree while I discovered new fishing opportunities for pike, muskellunge, walleyes and various salmonids found in Lake Superior and its tributaries.

From there I headed west to work a few years in the Yellowstone region to simply work as much as most people fish and fish as much as most people work. I did just that, only it lasted over 20 years working at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, WY where I departed in 2009. Now it’s time to work for "The Man", working for myself that is.

I pursue my love to paint fish, lecture on every aspect of fly fishing you can imagine and host a few trips to some of the most exotic places you can think of. My ultimate goal is to catch as many species of fish on fly possible from freshwater to saltwater, throughout the world. I presently have taken over 440 species from over 60 countries!