18-23 June 2009
By Andy Malavos
I just finished a wonderful 4 days of fly fishing in the blue waters of the Sea of Cortez in Baja California Mexico. The trip was arranged by The Fisherman’s Spot a full service fly-fishing shop in Van Nuys, through the Baja Big Fish Company. The Baja Big Fish Company is owned by Pam Bolles, the IGFA Representative in Loreto. Pam operates a fleet of pangas and caters to fly fishers. Our trip was led by veteran fly fisherman and fly tyer Dean Endress, who is also employed at The Fisherman’s Spot. This was Dean’s 8th trip to Loreto. The 7 of us stayed at the Desert Inn which is on the beach and a short walk from the boat harbor. Our rooms were double occupancy with great air conditioners, but no refrigerators. I shared a room and panga with Mike Forrest, President of the Saltwater Fly Rodders Pacific #1. Daytime temperatures varied from the late 80s to the early 90s. Water temperature was warm. One of the nicest things about our 4 days was that our Pangeros had their boats at the beach at 6:30 A.M. All we had to do was walk 50 yards from out hotel to board the pangas. Our Pangero, Jose took us northbound toward Isla Coronado to find some rooster fish, but unfortunately they were not there. Instead we were treated to a magnificent display of marine life, everything from pilot whales, to leaping sharks, and resting sailfish. Jose found a nice frothing circle of surface feeding 3-5# bonito and diving birds. Mike and I cast our baby Sardina flies as Jose bombarded them with live sardines. Soon we were happy with hook ups, until rudely interrupted by some brutal party crashers. Mike’s 10wt. rod bent sharply and he was engaged in a 15 minute fight with an 8 pound skipjack. Nice fish Mike! My sardine fly got mugged by a big bully of a fish that immediately sounded for deep water. After a 20 minute battle, I got the fish close to the boat, but he made a hard last run and SNAP! Went my St. Croix 9wt. rod about 10 inches above the grip.
I was able to land the fish a 20 pound skipjack. Luckily, I had a very stout 10 wt. rod made by j. Quill Company, and a Reddignton 12wt. that did good work for me for the rest of the adventure. We visited a few more boils, but as other pangas arrived, the fish would get spooky, and go down. The wind would come up, and we would head home by 2:30 PM. We would wash our equipment down and enjoy the best part of the day – an ice cold beer!. Some would take siestas; others would take a dip in the hotel pool. The evening arrived and we would taxi to a local restaurant for dinner and stories.
The next days were a different ball game. Through his radio, Jose had found out there was a hot bite of Dorado in progress at the buoy, 20 miles from Loreto. Upon arrival, we joined a group of about 12 other pangas and assorted radio listeners. The bite centered on a paddy of Sargasso grass. Hot Dorado bites are why the Loreto region is famous. Dean Endress, and his partner Grant Wagemaker, were in the midst of the bite battling big fish. The feeding frenzy was a sight. The green/yellow colored fish would rise from the depths in the clear blue water, and would chase the bait at unbelievable speeds.
Because fly fishers hand strip their retrieves, they must deal with loose line, this puts them at a disadvantage with conventional angles. Line control is paramount to successful Dorado fishing. Cast your fly into the midst of the pangero’s chum; strip as fast as you can to entice a bite. Keep a little loose line in your basket or at your feet as possible. A belt set of line cutters/Pliers to save a tangled hand is a good precaution. The Dorado may crunch your fly, or you may have to strip set your hook. A hit will provoke a torrid run of line. They will jump, sound or charge the boat after a long run. After running around the boat, losing a few fish to line over reel handles, or occupied deck shoes, you will start to get the message. A 20-30 pound fish can give you a 30 minute battle. Mike Forrest is an old hand at Dorado fishing. He knows how to position his body and fight fish well. He had 3 fish in the boat before I landed 1. Lots of Hook ups and break offs. The first few paddies of the day usually held most of the aggressive fish for us. After that, the fish became tougher to fool. The biggest fish we caught were in the 25-30 pound bracket. Your first Dorado on a fly rod is definitely a thrill.
Over all, Dean rated our trip as a banner year for Dorado. Group members Laura Shules and Richard Mintzlaff caught 4-5 pound roosterfish, and their pangero found them a whale carcass surrounded by feeding bonito. Rob Baldwin caught 2 sailfish on the last day. Mexican license limit on Dorado is 3 per day. Our pangas were about 17ft long and were powered by 90115 HP motors.
Most of us practiced “Catch and Release” with their fish, while others practiced “Catch and Fillet”. If you want to bring fish home Pam Bolles will assist you with the logistics. The airlines charge you $25.00 to send home an extra container. Trip cost for me $1850.00 including airfare and food. The Fishermen’s Spot had 2 trips to Loreto thus year.
For more information:
The Fishermen’s Spot, 14411 Burbank Blvd, Van Nuys CA. 91401
Dean Endress: 818-785-7306
The Baja Big Fish Company – Pam Bolles, Owner