We started out the first day of our 2011 trip with a great rooster fish on one of our three boats, a large skipjack tuna on the second, and some really nice jack cravalle on the third. We were off to a fantastic start! It is amazing how willing folks are to get up really early in the morning when fish like these are waiting for us.
Throughout the day everyone seemed to be catching lots of the golden-painted lady fish, skipjack tuna, and long-nosed cornet fish that can hardly open their little puckered mouths. Racking up the numbers, we also managed to cruise through an unbelievably large school of spawning manta rays and watch the whales perform. An area known as Punta Pescadores seems to always have a display of manta, but it appeared to be unusually large this year. I guess the conditions were just right.
No matter which boat people were on, we all saw spouting and breaching wales in small pods that were heading back to their Sea of Cortez feeding grounds. A female and her calf both slapped the water in unison with their massive tails just for our enjoyment it seemed.
Each day everyone rotated between fishing from a cruiser and two super-pangas. (The cruiser being the larger boat, of course.) Since we all stayed pretty much "in-shore" where the action was, those who had never fished from a panga learned how wonderful they really can be for fly fishing. Much to our amazement, the fishing that day even topped the day before for all of us.
Large schools of beautiful lady fish had everyone smiling as they were landed and released, as did lots and lots and lots of skipjack tuna that can hit your fly with such force, that you are sure that you have hooked a monster. (They are not called the "silver bullets" for nothing.) We also encountered large schools of sierra mackerel, the fish we were after to make the incomparable ceviche that the hotel is famous for, as well as a prized yellow-tail tuna that was released quickly after just a couple of pictures.
The absolute highlight of the afternoon was a huge, black seething mass of bait fish known as a "bait ball" that appeared right at the surface of the small bay that we were fishing. Suddenly, the air was filled with eager birds and well as lots and lots of other fish species looking to score an easy meals in the midst of such largesse. So were we! We must have circled that spot at least thirty times with everyone hooking up on nearly each pass. WOW! Was all we could say to the folks who wanted a report later at the dock. Before dinner that night we celebrated on the hotel patio with ceviche and just-made, warm chips to compliment our margaritas.
Boat day #3 epitomized the saying that "fishing is a sport with long periods of boredom interspersed with moments of intense excitement." We trolled around in good spots from previous days with little or no success, so we scouted elsewhere. Suddenly, someone would get a hit and the party would be on for a while. Then, things would slow down again, and we were off for other locations. Again, the skip jack tuna would appear from out of nowhere to hit our green or blue and white deceivers and provide us with lots of doubles and triples. A forty-pound jack cravalle and lots of smaller ones for nearly everyone else, were the day's crowning glory.
Our half-day guided beach fishing morning was the most perfect conditions I can ever remember for that part of the trip. Calm winds, flat water, almost no wave-action, and fish swirling in and out of the schools of bait just off-shore. We sent up the 8 and 9-wt rods, had a short casting lesson, selected some small clouser minnows that imitated what we were seeing in the water, donned the stripping baskets, and went to work. As everyone got more comfortable with the equipment, they learned the "two-handed strip" to make their flies move faster. Then, we began to see fish following the flies, and getting hits where everyone had to practice setting the hook with the new technique. As usual, an ice-cream cone and shopping day in the nearby village provided the sport in the afternoon.
For our "free day" this year most of the group decided to visit the nearby hot springs for some relaxing spa fun and then visit the waterfall that is a big attraction in the area. The rest relaxed by the pool. We had hoped to spend another half-day fishing, but extremely strong winds made it impossible.