We couldn't have asked for better weather on the Baja Peninsula than what we had during our 2014 trip to Rancho Leonero on the beautiful Sea of Cortez. Arriving mid-afternoon, we had time to settle in, take a nice walk on the beach, and ready our gear & equipment for the next morning's fishing.
Getting up at 5:00 a.m. when its pitch black sounds terrible until you realize that's what you need to do to take advantage of the best fishing of the day. We had breakfast and were on the boat by 6:30 a.m. ready for a run out to the blue water where the last few days' catch had been marlin, Dorado, and tuna. And, that's just what we found as we trolled along. Encountering pod after pod of marlin feeding on the surface, it wasn't long until we connected. Kate turned out to be the most successful when a huge marlin grabbed the pink & white popper fly at the end of her 12-wt rod and took off in an aerial display that had us gasping! After a few leaps that splashed water everywhere, both the fish and Kate finally settled down for the long haul.
We waited and waited for the fish to surface, and just when it seemed that it was going to happen, the rod and the line would go straight down again. Steve was keeping track of the time she was fighting the fish, and when he noted one hour, we were all wondering how much longer it would take. After just about 1-hour 15 minutes, the fish began to show signs of tiring and surfaced in a series of head-shaking leaps just behind the boat. He wasn't done yet, however, and held his ground. Kate was frantically reeling for another fifteen minutes before we could actually see the stripes and the bill of a gorgeous fish.
Kate had him next to the boat twice but the deckhand wasn't able to get a good grip on him, so finally Hector, the captain of the boat, came down on deck to help. Just as they got a good hold on the bill and the huge dorsal fin we all heard a distinct "snap" that we knew was a fly rod breaking. Nevertheless, they brought the fish on-board for a few quick pictures before carefully reviving him along-side during the release. 125 pounds was the call of the captain as the fish re-joined its friends!! The rod was going in for repair, but we had a spare, so it wasn't a catastrophe.
The rest of the morning saw two more marlin hook-ups but on fish that managed to dis-connect, as well as some skipjack tuna that always brighten our day. Just like little silver bullets, they always seem twice the size they really are when we get them to the boat because of their powerful speed. Suddenly around noon a humpback whale, followed by a calf, breeched with a huge splash right near our boat, and a few minutes later the calf did the same. That was the start of over half-an-hour of unbelievable whale-watching. Several adult whales took turns slapping the water and cartwheeling behind and on both sides of the boat as though showing off the three calves we counted trying to imitate their elders. What a show! When the day was over, we returned to the resort tired but satisfied.
Our second day saw us on two pangas with the guys heading back to the marlin and the gals heading over to where the Dorado were playing. This time Kate hooked a large Dorado on the same pink & white popper fly that had caught the marlin the day before. It took about twenty-minutes for us to begin to see the golden glow of a good-sized fish in the water behind the boat. As it swam near the boat other Dorado could also be seen in the water around it, as is common. It is thought that they are attracted by the hooked fish "up-chucking" bits of food. It took only half-an hour for Kate to bring the fish along-side, where Santos, our captain, pronounced it a thirty or thirty-five pound fish. Unfortunately, the fish somehow broke free and swam away. We just had to keep the golden image in our memories. It wasn't long before she got another one that we got to the boat with no problem, though.
A bit later in the day, I also hooked a large Dorado, and it also got away as we were trying to land it. Its teeth had sawed through the tippet. I was bemoaning having a fish carrying around a fly in its mouth when Santos spotted it floating just behind the boat and we retrieved it. A couple of other hook-ups and some skipjack tuna kept us busy the rest of the day.
The guys reports hooking up with several marlin, that got away as well as some dorado that they couldn't land, but they, too, found that some skipjack saved the day. Both boats also headed to the beach after rooster fish, because a few had been caught by other boats, but only one day could we raise any fish. Just as in past years, it was poppers that seemed to do the trick.
Our third day was a blank. A huge plume of very cold water had appeared in our fishing area, and the fish just shut down. We tried different trolling speeds and different flies over and over again, but nothing worked. Santos, who is considered one of the premier pangeros of that area of the Baja practically stood on his head to get fish, but without success.
We spent time on the beach surf fishing two mornings and practicing using the stripping baskets when the water and the temperature were absolutely perfect. Some needle fish and coronet fish rewarded our efforts as did a balloon fish (in the puffer family). Later, on one of the days Kate & Steve returned to the beach, but I stayed in the shade on my porch and answered e-mail. One of our non-boat-fishing days we went into the village of Los Barilles and did a little shopping and got ice-cream, which is always one of the highlights of the trip.
Our rooms were quiet, air-conditioned, and comfortable, and the food was excellent. The resort staff was helpful and professional, and all-in-all we counted this a great trip. See you there next year!