Friday, April 12, 2013

The North Wind

El viento del norte no es bueno.
pompano, fly fishing, baja, East Cape
A pompano comes calling on a windy day.

It's a theme with me, unfortunately. If the weather can suck, it will. Here on the East Cape, if the wind blows from the north, the fishing is pretty much a non-starter. The north wind pushes big breakers from the Sea of Cortez up against the abrupt edge of the coast, churning the lime-green waters into a froth and generally making a mess of things.

And so, for the better part of two days, the wind blew from the north. It blew so hard that the fishing guides at the Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort simply gave me sympathetic looks as I wandered down the beach at the crack of dawn on Thursday, hoping against hope that I'd be able to convince a fishy denizen to hit my fly before the wind got out of hand. The looks were telling. That poor bastard... all the way from Idaho, and then ... this.

No bueno.

But I managed to convince a gullible pompano to hit the fly, just as the wind really started to howl. The blue-green waters of the Gulf of California whipped into a foamy chop by 9 o'clock--it blew me back to the resort and into the helpful grasp of Robin Wade, the establishment's public relations officer.

Sol de Mayo, Baja, East Cape
Checking out the waterfall high in the
Sierra la Lagunas.
Fishing was done for the day. But there's more to the East Cape than finned critters, I soon learned. Robin piled three of her guests (me included) into a resort taxi, and off we drove into the Sierra la Laguna Mountains--a north-to-south series of rugged peaks that serve as the spine of the Baja. Some of the mountains top out at 6,500 feet--significant mountains when you're starting at sea level.

We ventured to the off-the-beaten-path village of Santiago, and then took a rugged dirt track into the high country, winding up at Sol de Mayo, a small ranch situated above a desert oasis that includes an honest-to-God waterfall and a little pool of fresh water hidden among the dry, dusty backcountry of the Baja.

We hiked into the canyon for a look at the waterfall--Robin led the way, along with Hector, the taxi driver and the enlisted "guide" for the day. At the bottom of the canyon--and only a short hike from the little ranch atop the mountain--rests a deep green pool of fresh water, filtered by reeds and oxygenated by a tumble over smooth rock.

An oasis indeed.

Baja, Sol de Mayo, East Cape, shrimp tacos
Shrimp tacos.
A hike along a rocky, dusty trail lined by giant cardon cacti (the largest cacti on earth) and a host of bare and depressed flora turned into a tropical nirvana, complete with running water, tiny fish, a handful of happy frogs and a host of colorful birds that seemed perfectly content to flit about the canyon, never venturing far from the life-giving flows of the spring that, shortly after tumbling over the fall, seeps into the dry bed of a barren arroyo.

We lingered near the water for a bit, and then climbed out of the canyon, back to Sol de Mayo, where a lunch of shrimp ceviche, lobster and shrimp tacos, corn chips and guacamole and salsa awaited. Throw in a couple of cold Pacificos, and a windy day by the beach was transformed into a wonderful time spent in the mountains of Baja, chasing secret waters and hidden treasures.

But the salt beckons... and the north wind can't blow all the time, can it?


  1. Bummer. Least you made the best of it. Also, that is no pompano, it is a Mexican Lookdown -

    1. Ah... good to know. A guy at the bar helped me "identify" the fish--called it an African pompano. I, of course, had no idea what on earth it was, so Mexican lookdown works for me, and it's much more regional appropriate!