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CALIFORNIA'S ONLY SPORTSMAN'S NEWS SINCE 1953

Gary Graham's Blog



ROAD TREKKER /
WON News Column by Gary Graham

Gary Graham's published credits would fill many pages, two books on saltwater fly fishing, and hundreds of feature articles.

His  current leadership activities in the sportfishing community include: Avalon Tuna Club, member since the 1980s, San Diego Marlin Club, International Game Fish Association (IGFA), Baja California representative; Federation of Fly Fishers (FFF), certified fly casting instructor; Outdoor Writers of California, president; Outdoor Writers of America.

Gary Graham can be reached at: roadtrekker1@gmail.com

‘What Happened?’
September 30th, 1976: Lisa, a Cat 4 Hurricane with 140 mph winds hammered the tip of Baja. Devastation followed. Throughout the state, a variety of death tolls were reported, but officials estimated that 1,000 people had perished … not unlike last year's devastating Hurricane Odile.

Only a few days later in early October, Steve Chism, a gunsmith at Spiegel Gun shop in Oakland, and a few fishing buddies, arrived for his first visit to check out Baja's East Cape.


adecadelater
A DECADE LATER,
you might still find him reading one of his dog-eared paperbacks, or standing at his fence in front of his house on the main road through East Cape smoking a cigarette and watching the world pass him by.

Ray Cannon, another notable visitor, also arrived that week to Rancho Buena Vista to see the effects of Lisa first hand according to Gene Kira. It was one of his last columns for Western Outdoor News.


Liking what he saw, Chism returned repeatedly, before finally relocating to Buena Vista in 1980 to work as boat dispatcher for Jesus "Chuy" Valdez at the Hotel Buenavista Beach Resort (HBBR).


A self-described Sacramento River rat, born in Northern California in the small community of Antioch, Chism grew up in the small community of Port Chicago. He fondly recalls one of his early adventures in a 9-foot inflatable on the river with his nephew.


Departing from the Red Bluff Diversion Dam, their trip was filled with wonder. They drifted all the way to Knights Landing where they encountered some tidal effect forcing them to fire up their small outboard engine for the first time. Their plan had been to take the small boat out to the open ocean beyond the Golden Gate Bridge, but the strong winds and choppy waters caused them to end the fourteen day adventure when they reached Berkeley.


Chism settled easily into his new home 1,500 miles south of the sprawling city of Oakland where the closest thing to a traffic jam was a few skinny cows on the road or later, when he began renting tackle on the beach in front of the hotel, there might be burros blocking the path from the tackle cage to the portable pier at the water's edge.


His daily work routine began by greeting eager anglers, dispensing tackle and advice before they boarded their boat for a day’s fishing. Then after a little tackle repair and maintenance, he would drive his rusty, dusty suburban down one of the dirt roads, snaking off in one direction or another in search of anything that caught his eye – birds and wildlife, old artifacts or maybe even a fossil or three.


onearare
ONE, A RARE Blue-billed Ani, he discovered near the lagoons not far from the actor Scott Glenn’s home overlooking the beach.

Some of the treasures he found ended up on an old warped board held up by a couple of cement blocks at the front of his “office” in the Tackle Cage. After a mid-morning siesta, he might read one of the many used paperback books which he stored in a discarded plastic milk carton along with other dog-eared Bird and Fish ID books.


Latest finds on the old board elicited questions or comments from guests or locals who wandered by to chat. He always began his response with, "What happened …"


His local knowledge of the beaches, back country and arroyos and everything that resided in them grew as the years passed. His discoveries delighted and disappointed him at the same time because he couldn’t bring many of them back to the tackle cage.


One, a rare Blue-billed Ani, he discovered near the lagoons not far from the actor Scott Glenn’s home overlooking the beach. Racing back to his Tackle Cage, he retrieved his Bird I.D. book, and discovered that according to the book, the Blue-billed Ani had never been reported in Baja, just Mainland Mexico.


Each day he excitedly raced to the lagoon and searching with his binoculars he would find the single Ani that remained near the lagoon. Chism shared his discovery with Ann Hazard, whose father, Togo Hazard, brought his family frequently to Hotel Buenavista Beach Resort. During that glorious two weeks, he also invited others to see his bird. When the Blue-billed Ani moved on its memory was etched in Chism's mind forever.


By the late eighties, ATV's had arrived and Chism was the first to offer guided tours to the rugged backcountry, beach and arroyo to the guests of the hotel.


Another colorful Baja character, Jimmy Smith, was an early Baja pioneer and bush pilot with a vast knowledge of Baja lore, history and culture. Chism and Smith became lifelong friends who enjoyed their friendship to the fullest.


When folks asked Chism why they were such good friends, he replied, "I spend every day from early morning to late afternoon talking about fishing with guests. Smith doesn't know, nor does he give a hoot about fishing … making him the perfect companion for me."


Like his river adventure so long before, his days exploring East Cape backcountry were filled with wonder and awe.


When asked, he struggled with which backcountry wonder to describe first:


Beaches littered with small pinkish ribbonfish; huge oarfish as long as his old Suburban; the frequent turtles nests found on the beach. The time Marguerite E. Cascio Polster, a guest at HBBR, caught a 26-pound rainbow runner that Ted Bonney, the legendary manager of Rancho Buena Vista and an IGFA representative, weighed on the kitchen scale — a record that still remains in the record book all these years later.


With the help of the Valdez family, Chism gained Mexican Citizenship. Days turned to months, then years and decades and he was astounded when the time came for him to retire in 2005, forcing him once again to muse, "What happened?"


A decade later, you might still find him reading one of his dog-eared paperbacks, or standing at his fence in front of his house on the main road through East Cape smoking a cigarette and watching the world pass him by. But Chism still finds himself drawn to Baja's backcountry and often you will find him out beating the bushes with a couple of his buddies on ATV's. And that’s “What happened!"


Right thing for right reason
For decades, the sportfishing industry has struggled to educate the local captains and mates in Baja, Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama, for the need to protect their marine resources. These are areas where many are following a generational career path that, unfortunately, demands long hours and offers wages barely above the region’s minimum, making it difficult to provide the necessities for a growing family.

During the 2012 WON Cabo Tuna Jackpot, Bill Dobbelaer of Gray Taxidermy and Dave Bulthuis from Costa Del Mar explored a variety of solutions that would offer a valuable incentive to the cash-strapped captains and crews which would encourage the release of their catches instead of the "taking."


thusfarthe
THUS FAR, THE concept, a result of the musings of two executives representing two influential corporations in the sportfishing industry, has resulted in more than 4,000 billfish released and 1,200 pairs of Costas awarded to captains and crews since February, 2013 when the program was implemented.

In early 2013, in a joint promotion, the two companies implemented a Captain/Mate program in Cabo San Lucas and Cancun with all the charter boats that work with Gray. The program would reward the catch-and-release in those areas with a pair of Costa Sunglasses to each captain and mate for every six (6) billfish caught and released and a replica mounted.


Gray Taxidermy, during its 52 years of operation, has always worked hands-on with charter boats in every fishing destination and as a leader in their field. As a result, they have emerged as a leader in smart fishing and conservation, as well as perfecting the replica mount. What better partner than Costa, the leader in sunglasses, to blaze the trail for future common sense fishing … and fishing for the next generation?


In Cabo San Lucas, Pisces, owned by Tracy Ehrenberg; Red Rum, owned by John Donovan; and Silverado Charters were already encouraging the release of billfish, and were excited to offer the new innovative, but simple promotion to their respective crews and clients.


Their fleets and their crews have rallied behind the Gray/Costa effort and as the interest in the popular and sought-after Costas became the ideal incentive, allowing the local Gray/Costa team to hit the docks aggressively promoting the release concept. Not only the crews, but many of the customers were thrilled to embrace the “let 'em go" concept.


A grass roots style program is nothing new to the Gray Taxidermy staff which is active in many of the top sportfishing destinations in Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama.


The staff at Gray Taxidermy monitored the program, calling each customer and reviewing every detail of their experience. Most commented that "releasing the fish" was a memorable "feel good" moment that would be remembered. A few preferred to harvest the fish, while others were ambivalent. However, once engaged, the consensus was it's the right thing to do, according to the Gray Taxidermy customer service department. Both company leaders were delighted with the preliminary results of their hands-on approach to conservation.


Thus far, the concept, a result of the musings of two executives representing two influential corporations in the sportfishing industry, has resulted in more than 4,000 billfish released and 1,200 pairs of Costas awarded to captains and crews since February, 2013 when the program was implemented.


Gray and Costa share a common interest in continuing to search for long-term solutions to achieve a balance between the desire to sportfish and the need to preserve the diminishing marine resources in various regions.


Both companies seem to be all-in ... for the future of similar "hands on" efforts to guarantee a healthy fishery in Mexico and around the globe.


Congratulations to Gray Taxidermy which has always understood the value of supporting the charter industry and to Costa del Mar for always recognizing the importance of the charter industry and for providing their handmade Costas, which come with a lifetime guarantee, to some members of that industry who need them the most.


According to company spokesmen, there are plans for much larger cooperative programs between Gray Taxidermy, Costa del Mar and the big brands that make up sport fishing to preserve these fragile fisheries that are a valuable commodity to their respective regions, and throughout the world.


Doing the right thing for the right reason is a dramatic step in the right direction to ensure that the world's marine resources remain healthy for generations to come.


Photography with a flair
Photography and the outdoors go together like Rudolph and red noses. If you are looking for a couple of gift suggestions for that special angler or hunter in your life, or if you are looking for a suggestion to put on your own Christmas list, technology continues to deliver a dizzying selection of extraordinary devices which will dazzle their friends with remarkable still and video images. They will embellish tales of exploits whether on the water or in the field: the Nokia Lumia 1020 Cell Phone camera and the DJI Phantom Vision+.

Earlier this year, during one of our monthly family dinners, Geoff, my son and personal technology advisor, thrust his new Nokia Lumia 1020 cell phone at me. "This is the best camera you will ever own," he declared authoritatively.


samleimagetaken
SAMPLE IMAGE TAKEN with Nokia Lumia 1020 on the beach at East Cape using one of the many apps available.

He was right. The combination of Zeiss optics and a 41MP sensor delivered more detail in images equal to the combination of DSLR's and lenses than were in my Pelican Case full of cameras. Various lenses and features are accessible with apps available online: Voice camera, Refocus, Nokia Smart Cam, HDR and Panorama are just a few. After experimenting with it for a while, I reluctantly handed it back to him.


Several weeks later, a package arrived addressed to me with a note. "Dad, you have to have this 1020 – Geoff.”


Since then, I've learned plenty: how to zoom into any part of a shot, even after it has been taken; how to crop or enlarge it with no loss of image quality; shoot, crop, and share breathtaking images right from the smart phone. For me, it was the equivalent of the ubiquitous Swiss Army Knife wrapped in a cell phone.


Now, nearly a year later, the 1020 has become my constant companion and the source of many of my photos that you see accompanying my stories. And I have recommended it to a number of my friends.


“The 1020 is remarkably versatile. In reality, it’s a fully-functional, high resolution SLR camera that just happens to make phone calls and slips into the back pocket of your jeans," marveled, WON Baja columnist Jonathan Roldan.


If interested in purchasing the 1020, your best bet is to first check Amazon. Prices listed are generally in the $350 range. Also, your personal cell service provider may be offering a special deal as an upgrade.


Another game changer for me, as well as for many of my friends and others, is the drone. Officially known as a multi-rotor or “UAV” (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), it has emerged from seemingly nowhere and captured just about everyone's imagination. While not manufactured by a camera company, drones come in a variety of sizes and configurations. They provide a very stable platform equipped with a camera that can be operated from the ground.


whileibought
WHILE I BOUGHT the unit for the photos and videos, I discovered flying was addictive as was the revolutionizing shots I was able to acquire from heights and angles only available by chartering an aircraft in the past.

I purchased my first drone, the DJI Phantom Vision+, in April, 2014 and wrote a Roadtrekker column titled "Doing the Drone" a short time later. I chose it because it was self-contained with both video and still camera with a built-in gimbal and an app so a cell phone or iPad could be used as the FPV (first person view), allowing the operator to see from the ground what the camera was seeing. Since then, I have flown the unit both here in California and in Baja. While I bought the unit for the photos and videos, I discovered flying was addictive as was the revolutionizing shots I was able to acquire from heights and angles only available by chartering an aircraft in the past.


Don't be intimidated by this bundle of technology that comes ready-to-fly literally out of the box. There are many instructional videos online that quickly prepare you for the first flight. The most important thing to remember is that the sticks on the remote control are spring loaded which basically acts like a pause button, allowing the pilot to sort out what to do next. For around $1,300, you can purchase the DJI Phantom Vision+ with an extra battery.


An important feature to consider purchasing is the "no questions asked" extended warranty offered by Square Trade and Amazon. A word of caution: you must have the damaged drone to accompany the claim.


Oddly enough, in all my travels, the only drones that I have seen in the field have been the DJI models. This seems to indicate they either have a super sharp marketing team or they are the best the market has to offer at this time.


The company is introducing a new model, Inspire, that is double the price, but offers even more features.


However, if the larger drones aren't in your budget, there are smaller models available with fewer features built by other manufacturers for a fraction of the DJI price and are a great way to get started.


Regardless of the direction chosen, between "YouTube instructional videos," Facebook user groups, as well as individual blogs, it won't take long for the newbie to become an experienced pilot and have extraordinary video and stills for their efforts.


DJI Drones and other models are easy to locate online on a variety of sites including Amazon, B&H Photos or DJI among many others. If you are looking for a place where you can actually see and touch one, Fry's Electronics seems to be the best bet.


I want to thank all of you who have allowed me to share my world: Baja, fishing, drones, family, pets, and photography. I hope you continue to find something in my writing that is fun, interesting, informative or just makes you smile. Your encouragement has been a unique gift that just keeps on giving.


I hope each and every one of you have a very Merry Christmas or, as they say in Baja, Feliz Navidad!


oddlyenoughtin300
ODDLY ENOUGH, IN all my travels, the only drones that I have seen in the field have been the DJI models.



Stephen Jansen: Baja Beach Booster
Ray Cannon first exposed Baja and its phenomenal sportfishing decades ago. Although fishing from boats has drawn the most attention over the years, there are growing numbers of anglers who have discovered the remarkable sportfishing opportunities and challenges available while prowling miles and miles of beaches surrounding Baja's tip.

Technical advances in both tackle and techniques in all disciplines – conventional, spinning or flyrod – have allowed extraordinary catches that would have been unthinkable in the past. 


confirminghoweffective
CONFIRMING HOW EFFECTIVE the Cabo Killer is, Jansen produced a photo of a huge dorado caught the week before my visit with a Cabo Killer hanging out of its mouth.

Jansen Inshore Tackle, located in a corner of the Mar de Cortez Hotel in downtown Cabo San Lucas, opened its doors 14 years ago, specifically focusing on the tackle required for Baja Beaches.


Jansen, a 6-foot, 3-inch tall lanky Hollander with an unbridled passion for fishing, first visited Cabo on a side trip in 1994, during a lengthy outing from Amsterdam to Los Angeles.


"My goal was to catch a marlin," he admitted recently. "The captain caught three and let me reel them in," he continued with a sheepish grin. "I fell in love with Baja … the ability to fish in shorts for giant fish."


Returning to the Netherlands where he worked in a tackle shop, he proposed to his boss that since the off-season was November through January, he would take those three months off to fish in Cabo.


For the next six years, Jansen saved his money for nine months each year, then spent Holland's frigid winter months in Cabo, blowing the money he had saved all year for the trip. He was loving it! Although he purchased a 16-foot outboard, he soon learned that he couldn't afford to go out every day. Fuel and boat maintenance costs were too expensive, so he began exploring the local beaches for fishing opportunities instead.


Then, in 1998, he met the love of his life. After a whirlwind courtship, he and Monica were married in Holland in 1999. When they returned to Cabo they opened Stephen Jansen Inshore Tackle. Their well-stocked shop tucked away in the corner of Mar de Cortez Hotel should be a must visit on your next trip south.


Fourteen years later, that excitement he felt when he first visited Cabo has matured into a passion that he can barely contain. And his one shop located in Cabo San Lucas has turned into two, the second located in San Jose del Cabo, BCS, México. (Addresses below.)


While I'm sure that there is some offshore stuff somewhere in the shops if you ask, his stores are primarily celebrations of Baja Beaches and the fishing adventures they offer.


The walls are covered with lures of every shape and description, mostly designed for flinging from the shore.


Easy to spot, Jansen’s height and blond hair are a dead giveaway. Chances are he will be in an animated conversation with someone about some aspect of fishing. Maybe he’ll be showing them one of his custom designed lures. His enthusiasm is contagious.


His Cabo Killer, in a variety of color combinations, is a local favorite. It is one of his early designs adapted primarily to fish the surf in different conditions. Similar to the popular Ranger born on the East Coast to target striped bass, Jansen's version sports a weighted keel so it doesn’t flip over and tangle; the arrow shape allows long casts and a rapid retrieve. Available in a variety of colors, the most popular are ballyhoo, blue mackerel, and red and white according to Jansen. Confirming how effective the Cabo Killer is, Jansen produced a photo of a huge dorado caught the week before my visit with a Cabo Killer hanging out of its mouth.


Another custom-designed lure nicknamed the Chingón is a popular choice. It’s distinctively long and slender and intentionally weighted in the back to accommodate the fast retrieve that has become so popular.


Rod choices range from 11-, 12- and 13-foot, depending on the height of the angler. As Jansen explains, “If an angler isn't very tall, the longer rods may be difficult to handle. In some cases they make custom rods with a shorter butt so length is not affected. It can be designed in a 7-piece configuration.”


Don't have a rod that long? The shop offers a collapsible rod with a high speed retrieve, spinning reel at a very reasonable price – $225. If you are looking for a surf rod that travels well, they also offer a custom 7-piece rod and case.


While Jansen does offer and recommend a list of several local guides who offer half day trips at reasonable rates, he and his staff are quite willing to share the latest fishing info and which areas are producing if an angler is interested in a DIY trip.


Shop locations:


L. Cárdenas E. V. Guerrero S/N, Interior Mar de Cortez, local 1 Col. Centro, 23410 Cabo San Lucas, BCS, México Telephone (+52) 624 143 58 04


Cabrilla S/N E/Coronado y Guerero Col. La Playita, 23450 San Jose del Cabo, BCS, México Telephone (+52) 624 105 66 88


Stephen Jansen: Baja Beach Booster

Ray Cannon first exposed Baja and its phenomenal sportfishing decades ago. Although fishing from boats has drawn the most attention over the years, there are growing numbers of anglers who have discovered the remarkable sportfishing opportunities and challenges available while prowling miles and miles of beaches surrounding Baja's tip.


Technical advances in both tackle and techniques in all disciplines – conventional, spinning or flyrod – have allowed extraordinary catches that would have been unthinkable in the past.



Confirming how effective the Cabo Killer is, Jansen produced a photo of a huge dorado caught the week before my visit with a Cabo Killer hanging out of its mouth.


Jansen Inshore Tackle, located in a corner of the Mar de Cortez Hotel in downtown Cabo San Lucas, opened its doors 14 years ago, specifically focusing on the tackle required for Baja Beaches.


Jansen, a 6-foot, 3-inch tall lanky Hollander with an unbridled passion for fishing, first visited Cabo on a side trip in 1994, during a lengthy outing from Amsterdam to Los Angeles.


"My goal was to catch a marlin," he admitted recently. "The captain caught three and let me reel them in," he continued with a sheepish grin. "I fell in love with Baja …the ability to fish in shorts for giant fish."


Returning to the Netherlands where he worked in a tackle shop, he proposed to his boss that since the off-season was November through January, he would take those three months off to fish in Cabo.


For the next six years, Jansen saved his money for nine months each year, then spent Holland's frigid winter months in Cabo, blowing the money he had saved all year for the trip.He was loving it! Although he purchased a 16-foot outboard, he soon learned that he couldn't afford to go out every day.Fuel and boat maintenance costs were too expensive, so he began exploring the local beaches for fishing opportunities instead.


Then, in 1998, he met the love of his life.After a whirlwind courtship, he and Monica were married in Holland in 1999.When they returned to Cabo they opened Stephen Jansen Inshore Tackle.Their well-stocked shop tucked away in the corner of Mar de Cortez Hotel should be a must visit on your next trip south.


Fourteen years later, that excitement he felt when he first visited Cabo has matured into a passion that he can barely contain.And his one shop located in Cabo San Lucas has turned into two, the second located in San Jose del Cabo, BCS, México.(Addresses below.)


While I'm sure that there is some offshore stuff somewhere in the shops if you ask, his stores are primarily celebrations of Baja Beaches and the fishing adventures they offer.


The walls are covered with lures of every shape and description, mostly designed for flinging from the shore.


Easy to spot, Jansen’s height and blond hair are a dead giveaway.Chances are he will be in an animated conversation with someone about some aspect of fishing. Maybe he’ll be showing them one of his custom designed lures. His enthusiasm is contagious.


His Cabo Killer, in a variety of color combinations, is a local favorite. It is one of his early designs adapted primarily to fish the surf in different conditions. Similar to the popular Ranger born on the East Coast to target striped bass, Jansen's version sports a weighted keel so it doesn’t flip over and tangle; the arrow shape allows long casts and a rapid retrieve. Available in a variety of colors, the most popular are ballyhoo, blue mackerel, and red and white according to Jansen. Confirming how effective the Cabo Killer is, Jansen produced a photo of a huge dorado caught the week before my visit with a Cabo Killer hanging out of its mouth.


Another custom-designed lure nicknamed the Chingón is a popular choice. It’s distinctively long and slender and intentionally weighted in the back to accommodate the fast retrieve that has become so popular.


Rod choices range from 11-, 12- and 13-foot, depending on the height of the angler. As Jansen explains, “If an angler isn't very tall, the longer rods may be difficult to handle. In some cases they make custom rods with a shorter butt so length is not affected.It can be designed in a 7-piece configuration.”


Don't have a rod that long? The shop offers a collapsible rod with a high speed retrieve, spinning reel at a very reasonable price – $225. If you are looking for a surf rod that travels well, they also offer a custom 7-piece rod and case.


While Jansen does offer and recommend a list of several local guides who offer half day trips at reasonable rates, he and his staff are quite willing to share the latest fishing info and which areas are producing if an angler is interested in a DIY trip.


Shop locations:

L. Cárdenas E. V. Guerrero S/N, Interior Mar de Cortez, local 1
Col. Centro, 23410 Cabo San Lucas, BCS, México
Telephone (+52) 624 143 58 04

Cabrilla S/N E/Coronado y Guerero
Col. La Playita, 23450 San Jose del Cabo, BCS, México
Telephone(+52) 624 105 66 88


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