What can a fly angler reasonably expect when he decides to pack it all up and move to the East Cape of Baja? Instead of roosterfish and dorado by day and Pacifico and Herradura by night, writer Scott Sadil encountered swarms of termites, a dog with Houdini-like powers of escape, furniture thieves and the wonder of a sea turtle hatch.

An odd excitement stirred me each time I started down the arroyo that summer—a new and elusive sensation I hadn’t been able to identify beyond the typical (and, in this case, farfetched) anticipation of what I might find feeding along the beach. So far, in a month of sporadic visits from the house I rented back in the cactus and mesquite above the south end of town, I’d found a few families and groups of friends, and twice young couples swimming, picnicking, and enjoying the breeze off the water. The kind of adventurous or simply resourceful people who recognize the benefits of following a dusty desert road from pavement to a low point in the dunes, carrying with them food, drinks, chairs, and maybe a table and a way to make shade. People with the wherewithal to take a vehicle out onto the sand and the common sense not to get it stuck; or how to get it unstuck if they did. Now and then, I had come upon dogs on the beach as well, all of them accompanied, most often by an adult. Naturally, the dogs ate things here and there, the way dogs do, in the same manner the seagulls and red-faced vultures on the beach gathered about garbage or dead fish that had washed up on the sand. Occasionally, I also found a few feeding pelicans, a cluster of them rising one by one with the lift of the breeze and turning to dive for bait.
Although they were not what I was seeking, feeding pelicans and baitfish put a keener edge on my search. But I had gotten over most of my initial bursts of hope. I hadn’t once seen that firehose eruption that signals bigger fish on the feed, sending shiny sardines or herring into the air with an outline and texture of spray like a crest of the wave lifted by a stiff offshore wind.

What I had seen, instead, were needlefish, lots of willing ladyfish that convinced me they would be fun on a smaller rod than I carried, a few tiny jacks, and two pufferfish. Of course, for $250, give or take a few pesos, I could have hired a pangero and gone out and caught plenty—especially dorado, probably as many dorado as I could possibly want to catch.

But this was one of those spells when I didn’t have $250, give or take the pesos. Instead, I had a dog named Tia. I had three kinds of dried beans and a bag of rice in the cupboard. I had plenty of work, but it was the kind that nobody would pay me for until I finished—and that wasn’t going to happen soon. I wanted to find a dorado—or something like it—along the beach so I could fool it, hook it, land it, and kill it. And then eat it, too.

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The Flyfish Journal Volume 3 Issue 4 Feature La Playa de las Tortugas

above The flank of a Pacific Sierra mackerel in Baja, Mexico, washed in midnight blue and flecked with neon. Hard hitting and fast swimming, they’re often described as mini Wahoo. Good times on a fly.

Photo: Austin Trayser


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