Don’t you love it when a plan comes together? This year, during tarpon season, a friend of mine, who is also a guide up the Keys, sent me a text message asking, “Want to go to Mexico?” I’m not sure whether or not he knew that Mexico was one of my favorite places to be, so my answer was an immediate, “Yes!”
I have spent most of my time in Mexico, in the Yucatán area. We would fish Isla Contoy and Isla Mujeres, all the way down past Puerto Aventuras to Punta Allen. I had no idea which part of Mexico we would be heading to, or when he wanted to go. All I knew is that I was in. As the tarpon season began to wind down, suddenly, our departure date was approaching quickly. I still had no idea where we were going, and I didn’t ask. The mystery added to the excitement. I did find out that we were going to be on the Baja of California, somewhere I had never been. So, we were all set. Four friends, who were also guides, to be let loose in Mexico for a few days. Sounded like fun, and trouble!
After a few layovers, we finally landed in Cabo San Lucas, ready for a couple of beers and, perhaps, tequila. About an hour north of Cabo, we pulled our car into a town called Los Barriles and the hotel Martin Verdugas. Our rooms were on the beach and the boats moored just offshore in the Sea of Cortez. When you picture a Mexican beach, this was it.
Once settled in, we started getting ready for the next day of fishing. Typically, trolling for blue and striped marlin would be the plan. Our ultimate goal was to try to land one on the flyrod. Dave brought his 14 wt. Crosscurrent rod with a Tibor--a Gulfstream reel that we rigged with those big, feathery, double-hooked, pink popper fly.
Early the next morning, we headed out to sea. After a short run, the lines were in the water. We trolled around for a little while in relatively calm seas until, suddenly, the captain revved the engines and there was a big splash on the short rigger. Gabe grabbed the rod and we all saw electric blue pectoral fins and a big beak slashing at the lure. The fish finally bit and got hooked up. After a relatively short fight, Brandon had Gabe’s first striped marlin leadered and bill-grabbed at the side of the boat. That day, we each landed a striped marlin on conventional gear, as well as had a 300-pound blue marlin crash the spread and put on an amazing show for about 45 seconds.
Now that we knew the program relatively well, we were ready to try to get one on the flyrod. We stripped out most of the line on the 14 wt. into the bucket and were ready to feed one. Lack of bites lead to beer drinking and nap taking--the typical trolling scenario. We were all too relaxed when, suddenly, the engines revved and there was a marlin in the spread! Gabe grabbed the flyrod as we all frantically cleared the other baits. That big pink popper was the right choice. The fish lit up and was all over it the second it came into view. A couple of strips of the line was all it took to trigger a bite. The marlin tore away from the boat and dumped almost half the backing off of the reel. Heavy drag and lots of pressure got the fish whipped in short order. Mission accomplished! Over the next few days we caught a few more stripes and missed a couple more on the fly. (I have purposely left out the account of how I messed up the one I hooked. I wake up from the reoccurring nightmares still!) We also caught yellowfin tuna, big black groupers, triggerfish, trumpet fish, and other various Pacific reef fish that I have never seen before.
The town of Los Barriles had an adequate amount of night life for a fisherman to enjoy. It was small enough to walk to most places. And, it shut down early enough to keep us out of trouble. I will, however, omit the details of one evening we had out, only because I have received secondhand accounts of what actually happened.... I just feel the need to keep up with a mature journalistic integrity. Sounds like I had a great time though! Oh, Mexico!
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