photos courtesy of Larry Acord
Me and my buddy Larry flew to Mexico to visit my old friend Jeff DeBrown (thereelbaja) out of Los Barriles, on the East Cape of Baja last week with the soul objective to try and land a Roosterfish off the beach on fly. With only three days to fish, it would be a challenge to say the least. Prior to setting out we went through the routine of casting and stripping the fly, over and over. Jeff didn’t want any “what ifs” or leave anything to chance, we would maybe get a few shots, so they had to count. The most important piece of this puzzle was to make sure our flies swam straight at high speed, we had good knots in our leaders, and we stripped out enough fly line in seconds to make accurate casts. These exercises would come into play and had to be executed at the highest level, for anything could go wrong in the heat of the pursuit.
So we set out on the first day, the three of us on a ATV, loaded with two fly rods and a positive attitude. Searching and hunting endless white sand beaches for any signs of life. The first two fish came early, down the line from left to right, my bad side of course, so i jump off the ATV running to get way ahead of them, my line all messed up, wrapped around my tip. Jeff yelling to slow down and breathe, I regroup and make a good shot just ahead of the fish and immediately start stripping the fly, NO LOVE, unaffected, I run ahead of them like a sprinter doing a hundred yard dash and throw again, strip, strip and NO LOVE, this continued two more times until they turned out into deeper water. Scratching my head and completely winded, I looked down in defeat, thinking this might have been my only shots. I reran the tapes in my head to try to understand why the fish didn’t turn on my fly and the only thing I could think of was I was using an intermediate line with a light fly and didn’t let the fly sink long enough for it to be in their feeding zone. It is weird and hard to perceive the depth of water, it looks shallower than you think. The water was fairly deep even though it was only a fifty foot shot. Ok, live and learn, do better next time dummy!
Back up on the ATV, we cruise mile upon mile of beach, when my buddy Larry says stop, and begins to run left with a rooster hugging the darker strip off water just off the beach. Jeff jumps off to assist him. I am sitting watching them when it dawns on me, grab you rod and walk the opposite direction, you never know? I look and see two nice fish coming right to left about a hundred yards away. They are happy and moving nice and slow, about forty feet off the beach over white sand. Ok, i will repeat the drill but this time I will sink out my fly. So i take off stripping line running left, Jeff looks back and sees me, He jumps up on the berm of the beach and yells at me to slow down and breathe. When I get in the perfect position to make the money shot, I throw a tight loop and let my fly sit. They approach, the larger fish on the outside and a smaller fish on the inside. When they got to around ten feet away from the fly, i bumped it and watched the attitudes of the fish, nothing, I bumped it again and the smaller fish saw the fly and came forward. I stripped as fast and steady as i could watching the smaller fish track and gain on the fly as it got to about ten feet from the waters edge, when all of a sudden the larger fish made up the time in a nano second and shouldered the smaller fish out of the way, inhaling my fly within two feet of the sand. Comb out of the water, this giant, with it’s belly on the sand turned and retreated, I hit him three times, driving the fly in the corner of his mouth and doing a Mexican tap dance as i cleared all my line onto the reel. Drag singing, it was game on!
With an instant loss of two hundred yards of backing, Jeff comes running up asking me how much backing do I have, I reply about three hundred yards, he says, That may not be enough? I fight this fish hard, using side angles, staying down and dirty, walking up and down to gain precious line. I had on straight forty pound so I knew I could pull and put the wood to this fish, making sure I never gave her any slack. Within thirty minutes I had my fly line and started to figure out how I was going to land her. I told my bud, Jeff that if he tailed this fish I was going to kiss him, she was tired and massive, glimmering in the torquoise water. I saw a small wave and decided to swing her around and use the wave to push her onto the steep sand, which worked to perfection. Jeff jumped in the water and grab his tail like Mike Tyson throwing an uppercut in the corner of the ring. We estimated this fish between 60 and 70 pounds, it took two of us to lift her out of the water. When it came time to release this fish I grabbed it by the tail and it kicked so hard it almost knocked me over, drenching me from head to toe, LOL. She swam away, healthy to fight another day. What an experience, I am blessed it all came together for me, Jeff and Larry. We all witnessed an unreal accomplishment, sight fishing and landing a super grande off the beach in Baja, a bucket list accomplishment and a memory I will never take for granted… – Al Q
A fish of a lifetime! Photo courtesy of Larry Acord