|On one of our frequent beach trips for roosterfish on the fly at East Cape last July, the bubba-class pez gallo we hoped for were elusive. No one in the group had ever caught any roosters, so the smaller ones were perfect in helping these Baja Beach first-timers overcome the obstacles the beach presented. They were excited when they caught their first rooster on the fly — regardless of size — and with ample smaller fish, the seasoned fly-anglers mastered the techniques for catching roosters; all achieved their objective which set the stage for a return trip to target larger ones.
On the final night, during a festive dinner to celebrate their successful trip, the leader of the group took me aside and posed the following question: "If I brought my boat around from Ft. Lauderdale, could you lay out an itinerary for a trip to remote places in the Sea of Cortez where fish have never seen a fly and diving spots that are off the beaten track?"
His boat turned out to be a large steel-hulled expedition motor yacht, designed to explore the world's oceans in comfort. Accommodations included six state rooms for owner and friends, four flats boats, a 36-foot fully-equipped sportfisher with a 400 mile range, diving compressor and 16 sets of Scuba gear, snorkeling equipment, four Mako underwater diver propulsion scooters which would provide a perfect platform to explore the southern portion of the Sea of Cortez. It was agreed that Baja on the Fly would lay out a tentative float plan for the owner and his Captain's review.
Charting a month-long voyage without the usual limited fuel and food restrictions allowed us to think outside the box in considering potential remote fishing and dive areas plus isolated anchorages for exploration during the month-long trip.
Mark Rayor of JenWren Sportfishing and Vista Sea Sports was selected to be Baja on the Fly team's Dive Guide. His vast experience in Scuba diving and snorkeling, plus an extensive sportfishing knowledge of the Sea, would provide invaluable insight for the trip. While Baja resident Lance Peterson, who began guiding for Baja on the Fly many years ago and has evolved into one of the most sought-after fly-fishing guides in Baja in the pursuit of roosterfish from the beach, would also be a welcome addition to the team.
For nearly four months, we poured over the area's charts, searching for the most intriguing places to fish, dive and anchor during the trip. The list of details to ensure that the big adventure would go smoothly grew. Permits, licenses, and ID bracelets for use inside the Marine Parks were purchased. Arrangements were made for ATV's to be delivered to remote locations with secure storage when not in use. Local sources were found to catch and deliver bait which would be used for chum. Anchorages and dive spots were chosen. Finally, after countless emails, both a map and calendar were finalized. Then came numerous telephone calls checking and double checking details once the boat had arrived in Baja.
For more than four decades, my interest in Baja peninsula has never wavered. Baja and the Sea of Cortez have provided me a lifetime of exciting and memorable adventures, as well as a home and a couple of businesses. Now, as I begin my drive down the Peninsula to meet the yacht, adventures and explorations of my own, as well as those of others I have read and reread over the years flood my memory, including John Steinbeck's The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) with Ed Ricketts; Ray Cannon's, The Sea of Cortez: Mexico's Primitive Frontier (1966); Gene Kira and Neal Kelly's The Baja Catch (1979); Tom and Shirley Miller, Angler's Guide to Baja California, (1987); and Zach Thomas’ The Angler's Guide to Trailer-Boating Baja (2008).
With the exception of Steinbeck and Doc Ricketts, I can say that all the others are friends who have often swapped Baja stories and adventures with me over the years — but nothing of this magnitude. None of us in our wildest collective fishermen's imaginations, swapping tales while sitting around a crackling bonfire on a Baja beach, could have concocted a trip of a lifetime like this. I am sure of all of them would be equally as excited to be embarking on this incredible journey!
WITH GOOD FORTUNE AND FAIR breezes it all begins here, I'll return with many new Baja tales and more memories to share.