Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Mike with the first of several triggerfish.
For me, the good thing about making vows about fishing is that I can qualify them. You know... "If I catch a roosterfish, I'm stripping down and running into the surf."


Now, for clarity, I think I'm a fairly solid fly fisher, all the requirements that come with casting to saltwater critters aside. Put me on a trout stream, and I'm in my element. Put me on the beach, and my now-serviceable double-haul will stretch a fly line adequately. Put me in the bow of a boat, and I'll put a fly generally where I want to put it, within reason.

But I'm not going light your hair on fire--just because I'm passionate about something doesn't mean I'm some kind of tournament pro.

So, deep down, I knew that my chances--on my first shot at them--of actually catching a roosterfish were slim. Hence, the naked dive into the Sea of Cortez was likely not going to happen. And, trust me, that's to the great relief of all those within eyeshot.

Trust me.

It wasn't for lack of trying--I had my shots at some roosters and some big jacks. And I would have fulfilled my vow. Hell, I'm not the one who would have to look at my own white ass as it trundled into the salt. That would be somebody else's cross to bear. We just couldn't convince the bullies of the Sea of Cortez to show more than a casual interest in the flies we put in front of them. Maybe next time.

Sea of Cortez, fly fishing, roosterfish, African pompano
On the prowl for the fabled "rooster."
But we did have a close call. And for a time, there, we were convinced that Mike had managed to hook and land a small rooster--and there was no size requirement. A rooster is a rooster is a rooster.

But it was my vow. That's why I was so impressed that Mike opted to be the one to follow through on it.

It was toward the end of our six-day stay on the Baja--we'd caught some fish and we were enjoying an absolutely amazing experience in a place I'd happily revisit. In fact, as we drove back to the airport on our last day, it was all I could do to not simply toss my passport into the desert and disappear from the world.

But that's beside the point.

For a good couple of hours, we were pretty sure Mike had managed to catch a roosterfish.

We were casting into the modest surf, just up the beach from our host resort, the Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort. Action wasn't non-stop, but it was the best we'd experienced on the trip. We were pulling in small pargo, cabrilla and what I now know to be the paper-thin (and really cool) Mexican look-down. We had some hits from some ladyfish, and we both managed to catch what we initially thought were giant needlefish, but later determined to be the trumpetfish (again, very cool).

About an hour into it, I heard Mike shout.

"Rooster!" he hollered over the sound of the surf. "It got one... a rooster!"
African pompano, roosterfish
Mike's "rooster." 

I immediately reeled up and rushed over, camera at the ready. And there, on Mike's tippet, was what I would have described as small roosterfish--maybe three pounds, soaking wet. But it was a rooster.

Wink. Wink.

We took copious photos... we high-fived each other. It was good to know that two wandering trout anglers could venture down to the East Cape of the Baja and that at least one of us could tie into a fabled roosterfish, never mind the diminutive size and what Mike called the "pretty lousy" fight.

("It flopped once, and then came right in.")

Mike released the fish and, to his credit, immediately started to disrobe. It wasn't the most graceful strip-tease, and he's painfully pale under his fishing clothes, but the son of a gun should be proud. I was proud of him, by God.

Into the sea he went.

That evening, as we showed our host, Phillippe Valdez, photographic "proof" of Mike's conquest, Phillippe was ... diplomatic.

On his way into the drink... 

Celebrating the conquest of the mighty African pompano.

"I'm sorry, my friend," he said, looking Mike in the eye. "But that is not a roosterfish."

Come again? The comb? The vertical bars?

Well... what is it then? For what odd-fish did Mike strip and swim?

Phillippe didn't know, suggesting that the fish was some sort of hybrid between a rooster and something else--the product of some ocean-borne orgy. In fact, we never did find out what it was, not until we were home for a week. Mike posted his findings on Facebook--an African pompano.

Well... I'll say this. If I ever catch an African pompano, I'm stripping down and running into the surf.



  1. I'm as good as my word. Unfortunately.

    Thanks for the exposure, bro. We're even.

  2. I'll go back to the East Cape someday, even if it's with you skinny dippers, yea count me in!

  3. That's some funny stuff! ID'ing salty fish is just mind boggling at times. There are so many fish that look alike but are different, have the same name but are not the same, or are called one thing somewhere and another thing somewhere else.

    It's exhausting and I sure am happy that I am not a record analyst for the IGFA because my head would spin

  4. It's been said about that Sepelak guy, "He's a crack angler."

    Eh, sorry. Admittedly that was sophomoric and lame.

    1. Indeed... which is why I laughed out loud and spit a mouthful of water all over my computer screen.