Baja, Mexico, a sliver of land stretching alongside the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez, is a world-renowned destination for anglers and adventurers alike. Among its many aquatic treasures, the Roosterfish stands out as a targeted species for fly fishing. The arid and barren landscape looks desolate at times and provokes wonder and amazement from those not used to it. However, Baja is more than just a fishing paradise in a barren landscape; it's a vibrant tapestry of culture, cuisine, and natural wonders.
Baja's cultural landscape is as diverse as its marine life. The region's history is a mosaic of indigenous traditions and Spanish influences, evident in its architecture, art, and festivals. Exploring local markets, and historical sites before or after arriving. Once in the remote town where El Gallo Fly Fishing Lodge is located, you can start engaging with the warm and welcoming locals offering a deeper understanding of this unique region.
Ideal Weather for Fishing
Baja's climate is another draw for anglers. With its sunny days and mild temperatures, the weather here is almost tailor-made for fishing. The best times to target Roosterfish are during the warmer months, from late spring to early fall, when they are most active and abundant. On off-season the Mahi Mahi and other species become more prevalent. Guided Fly Fishing:
El Gallo's guided fly fishing trips are a highlight, offering anglers the expertise and local knowledge crucial for a successful outing. In other words, these guys have been boiling the ocean for beta over a long time. The guides at El Gallo are not only seasoned anglers but also local passionate stewards of Baja's marine environment. They bring a wealth of history and experience, ensuring that each guest has the best possible chance of landing their target species, be it Roosterfish, Dorado, or the elusive whatever else interests you.
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Roosterfish and Baja's Marine Bounty
Fly fishing in Baja, Mexico, is more than Rooserfish it is a journey through a marine ecosystem rich with diverse and exciting species. While the pursuit of Roosterfish often headlines the experience, the waters here are a playground for targeting several other prized species, including Dorado (also known as Mahi-Mahi) and various Billfish. Let’s dive into the details of these key species.
Roosterfish, with their distinctive dorsal fins resembling a rooster's comb, are a symbol of Baja's fly fishing scene. These fish are known for their strength and stamina, providing a challenging fight for anglers. It is not unnatural to run deep into your backing with several exhilarating runs once hooked up. Roosterfish can be found cruising along the sandy beaches and rocky shorelines, often in shallow waters, making them an ideal target for fly fishing on the beach. However, finding schools from the boat, positioning the vessel, and casting to active fish can be an amazement all of itself. Their predatory nature and tendency to chase down baitfish near the surface add to the excitement of the hunt. Toss on a popper or rip a baitfish so fast it pierces the top water and you get ferocious surface-smashing eats that are typically foreshadowed by water being cut by elegant dorsal fins.
Dorado, vibrant in color with powerful, acrobatic fights, is a favorite among fly fishers in Baja. They are commonly known to school around any open water items. It’s not uncommon to cruise by ocean garbage or sargassum to find a school of fish swarming underneath and devouring baitfish. Known for their striking golden-green and blue hues, these fish are not only a visual spectacle but also a test of skill and technique. Dorados are typically found in warmer offshore waters and are known for their speed and agility. Anglers relish the sight of a Dorado jumping out of the water after being hooked, making for a memorable fishing experience. With softer jaws and head-heavy bodies, they can be an excellent catch as they hook up well and fight like warriors. Interestingly, Dorado grow extremely fast. They can grow up to 0.5 to 1.0 inch per week equating to 2.5 pounds per month.
The Billfish family, including marlin and sailfish, represents the pinnacle of sportfishing in Baja. These majestic species are revered for their size, power, and beauty. Catching a Billfish on a fly rod is considered a significant achievement due to their sheer strength and the skill required to hook and land them. The typical approach is the bait and switch. Trolling hookless squid patterns known as dredgers and when the billfish begin to strike crank them in close enough to pull the hookless tackle and cast the fly to trigger an eat.
Marlin: Both blue and striped marlin frequent Baja's waters. Blue marlin are larger and more powerful, offering an unmatched challenge. Striped marlin, on the other hand, are more abundant and known for their spectacular jumps and long runs. Both are a fine catch and you’ll be amazed by the power if you are able to hook one.
Sailfish: Recognizable by their large dorsal fin, sailfish are among the fastest fish in the ocean. They are highly sought after for their speed and the dramatic display they put on when hooked. Handling them with extreme care, gearing correctly, and leader tapping to signify you landed a sailfish can put you in a class of anglers that few rarely see.
The Importance of Sustainable Practices
In engaging with these diverse species, sustainable fishing practices become paramount. Catch-and-release is widely encouraged, as mentioned, especially for species like Billfish, to ensure the health and longevity of Baja's marine ecosystem. Fly fishing in Baja, with its blend of challenge, beauty, and diversity, offers a unique and enriching experience that goes beyond the catch. Immerse yourself in Baja’s aquatic world where every cast holds the promise of a new discovery and a memorable encounter. It’s not hard to do and even though targeting particular species it’s something that naturally happens. Perhaps it’s the ghost winds of Baja coming off the iconic Sea of Cortez. Baja can be overlooked although with some of the ocean's most fascinating inhabitants, it shouldn’t be.
Where to Stay: El Gallo Fly Fishing Lodge
For the ideal fly fishing trip, consider staying at El Gallo Fly Fishing Lodge, a charming lodging establishment owned and operated by Donnie Price. El Gallo is not just a place to stay; it's an experience, offering personalized services, expert local knowledge, and access to some of the best Roosterfish spots in Baja. If you are looking to target trophy Roosterfish, Donnie and his team are unparalleled by other outfits. The location is part of it but their local knowledge and expertise set them apart from others.
Nestled in the heart of Baja, Mexico, El Gallo emerges as a premier destination for both guided and DIY fly fishing adventures. This unique establishment, helmed by the passionate and experienced Donnie Price, stands as a testament to the rich fishing culture of the region. Below I’ll dive into more details on what makes El Gallo an exceptional choice for anglers seeking the ultimate fly fishing experience.
Baja's Culinary Delights
Beyond the reels and rods, Baja is a haven for food lovers. The region's cuisine is a delightful blend of fresh seafood, traditional Mexican flavors, and innovative culinary techniques. From the famous Baja fish tacos to succulent ceviches, the local fare is as memorable as the fishing. The homestyle local cuisine cooked by the El Gallo is something you’ll remember for a long time. Bring a recipe from your grandmother's cookbook and you may have a chance to take a new one home if you barter well.
Other Amenities of El Gallo Fly Fishing Lodge:
Personalized Trips: Understanding that each angler has unique preferences and skill levels, El Gallo's guides tailor each trip to meet individual needs. Whether you are a novice seeking your first catch or an experienced angler aiming for a specific species, the guides adapt to provide a personalized experience.
Local Hotspots: Baja’s waters are vast and varied. El Gallo’s guides know the best spots for each season and species, guiding guests to prime locations that offer the best opportunities for a successful catch. Local knowledge is paramount regarding time. They know and understand that time is limited and have specific areas that are systematically rested and ready for you as an angler.
Technique and Skill Enhancement: Beyond just leading you to the fish, the guides at El Gallo and especially Donnie, are eager to share their knowledge of techniques and strategies specific to Baja's species, enhancing your skills and enriching your fly fishing repertoire. Learn tips on casting, prepping your cast, leading fish, or sighting in vast open spaces.
DIY Fly Fishing at El Gallo Fly Fishing Lodge:
For those who prefer the independence of DIY fly fishing, El Gallo Fly Fishing Lodge provides the perfect base. The establishment’s location offers easy access to a variety of prime fishing spots, suitable for different species and fishing styles. Cruise the beach hunting for Roosterfish! Wade into crashing waves with your fly swinging and shooting toward surfing targets ready to eat and run!
Access to Diverse Fishing Grounds:
From beachfront teaming with Roosterfish to offshore waters where Dorado and Billfish roam, El Gallo is strategically positioned to offer easy access to diverse fishing environments. This unique setup is what draws in so many seasoned anglers. When you arrive and see the variety of angling available you know you are somewhere special.
Equipment and Support: Understanding the needs of DIY anglers, El Gallo offers rental equipment and essential gear, ensuring you have everything you need for a day out on the water. Additionally, the staff is always on hand to provide tips and insights about current fishing conditions and hotspots.
Tips and Recommendations for a trip to El Gallo Fly Fishing Lodge in Baja
Fly Fishing Gear.
Here are my setups and recommendations for El Gallo. Because of the rich environment of various species, you have several options. You can take all or just on setup but go prepared for what you look to accomplish.
Rods and Lines
- Roosterfish Rod - A 9 or 10-weight fast action rod with a floating line and 300 yards of backing is ideal for Roosterfish. Running a poly leader with a section of tippet at a complete length of 7 feet is plenty.
- Mahi Mahi Rod - a 9 to 10-weight rod. I bring something similar to my Roosterfish rod and aim to have on a slightly different fly so I can literally switch quickly on fish that are following but not taking. I’ve mentioned this before, but I am a smaller guy so having a rod that I can really flex and shoot line with gives me confidence.
***the majority of your fish will be in the 10 to 30-pound range unless you get an elusive trophy.
My preference is a 9 or 10 weight that I feel really confident with when casting. Again, the key is to practice with that rod before you leave. Practice, practice, practice. I look at permit fishing as a control game. I can control how fast I can get the fly out and into the water. Accuracy comes next but it is harder because of wind and other conditions. What I can’t control is how far away they are, did I see them, would they eat. At least, my control is very limited. In other words, practice, practice, practice. Get your shots off with two backcasts at most, change directions, pick up and recast, and learn to cast in the wind. All of those practices will make a difference. For example, would you go onto a golf course without hitting a few practice balls? Not likely, especially if you plan on performing. Don’t do that to your $5,000 fly fishing trip and expect tremendous results. It’s a no-brainer.
- Billfish Rod - My billfish rod is set up for long acrobatic runs. I run a 12 w 450-yard backing float line. Many prefer a bigger rod but I don’t have one at my disposal. Short leaders are all that is needed. Typically a feeding fish isn’t leader-shy so don’t fret it. Regardless…be ready to put the wood to a billfish and hold on for the ride. Work with your captain to remain within working distance and not get spooled.
- Pliers - have a good set of pliers that have a quality cutter on them. You need this for building leaders, cutting hard mono tippets, and retrieving flies.
- Nippers - Nippers are great for tippet but when you get into heavier lines it can be frustrating so have pliers too.
- Stripping Basket - A stripping basket is nice to have but not a necessity. On windy days it can be quite nice. It can also keep your line off the water and allow you to throw a little further with your casts. When casting from the beach they can be a life savor as you often run with your rod, line, and a fly in hand to position your cast. You have to be quick and these can set you apart from standard entanglements. Collapsable baskets are best for traveling.
- Baitfish Flies - Black and purple EP flies are a favorite of mine because work great anywhere. With Roosterfish in mind, have the following colors in various baitfish style patterns to run. Green/Yellow, Tan/White, Blue/White, Olive/White, therefore you will have quite a few baitfish imitations to choose and switch from. Mahi Mahi are baitfish eaters too. I like the same colors in Decivers and the ever-classic Clouser Minnow. The key difference is weighted flies for Mahi and unweighted or slightly weighted only for Roosterfish.
***When stripping flies Roosterfish you have to hand over hand retrieve and pull as quickly as you can ripping each and every pull. Don’t stop pulling after an eat, instead pull until you feel and see the fish turn. They are so aggressive and eat so violently that they eat and continue towards you and if you let up early you’ll have way too much slack in the line.
Mahi are significantly more forgiving. A standard stripping retrieve will work. Try to change your direction or add action to the fly to differentiate it from other baitfish.
Fluorocarbon - I run fluorocarbon because it has significantly more abrasion resistance than monofilament. Line clarity is not a requirement as these fish aren’t typically leader-shy due to the fast action retrieves.
- Rooster - 16 - 20lb. I prefer a 16lb 18-24 inch tippet allowing me to turn over my fly.
- Mahi Mahi - a straight piece of 50 lb flourcarbon will do. Some use a formula to make tapered leaders with bite wire. The 9-foot leader formula goes like this; 5+3+1. Five feet 60 lb + three feet 40 + one feet 40 lbs bite wire tippet
- Billfish - You can use a short leader for Billfish. Make a few leaders and you are set. Two feet of 80 lb for a butt section, Loop connect that into an IGFA class leader with Biminis’ at both ends, then connect an 80 or 100 lb shock leader to keep you from getting cut off. With all the connections and thick knots having a short leader will really help with your cast.
Clothing and Gear
- Hooded long-sleeve shirts - Keep the sun off you
- Neck Gator - again, keeps the sun off you, soak it in water to cool down, etc.
- Shorts - Wade in them or be comfortable on the boat. However, be cognizant of your thighs and calves when it comes to sun.
- Lightweight Quick Drying Pants - I prefer light pants because it keeps me out of the sun. It also keeps my legs from getting scratched on coral, mangrove, etc.
- Rain Jacket - Storms come out of nowhere and a rain jacket can be a lifesaver. Going from 100 to cold wet wind can chill you off way too fast and you may not be right by the lodge.
- Longer Socks - I like longer socks for wading in shorts if I don’t want to get cut up. It makes wading shoes more comfortable and because I take them off in a boat, my feet are still covered from the sun but I have the dexterity to know if my line is underfoot.
- Wading Shoes or Boots - Don’t wade in bare feet. The locals do it but their feet are often callused and used to it. If you get a coral cut prepare for infection and potentially losing a foot.
- Polarized Sunglasses - A good pair of polarized glasses can make your trip. Blue lenses work best for me. Green is good as well. Any pair that you wear also tilt your head to the side and it will change the refraction of light. Your visibility will change. This is an old trick that will help!
- Waterproof Backpack - I like a waterproof backpack. I put a small number of flies for the day in a fly small fly box that will go in my pocket. Then the extra boxes go in my backpack. I also put a DSLR in my backpack and want it to be safe.
- Rod Holder - a rod holder is great for wading the flats. You can set it up for an extra rod, like when you want to carry a bonefish rod but have a permit rod ready. Otherwise, having a 3rd hand is nice for photos, releasing fish, walking the beach, and having a beer.
- First Aid - small first aid packs go a long way. Cutting your feet, hooking yourself, etc. This doesn't sound like much but if you have an accident and can address it pretty quickly it can dramatically decrease the likelihood of escalation.
Rescue and Travel Insurance
Rescue and Travel Insurance - Ask anyone and the go-to is Global Rescue. It's inexpensive, can cover all or a portion of your costs, and is an enormous peace-of-mind tool. Spending time, weeks in advance, natural disasters, etc. all leave open doors for unexpected change. Or perhaps you break an ankle jumping out of a panga. Getting insurance is something you don't regret, even if you use it.
Know Your Knots
- Rapala Knot - This is your number one knot to connect all your flies. Get proficient at it so you can put a fly on quickly, in the dark, under a rock, on top of a roof, and under pressure. Dr. Suess is your mentor!
- Slim Beauty - Have to connect two lines of different sizes or materials? Then this is the knot. Again, know it well.
- Clinch Knot - This is my fast go-to knot if I need to change flies or can’t remember something. It’s so easy and can be easily tied on quickly with hemostats or pliers
El Gallo Fly Fishing Lodge is a place of memories for an angler. The culture, and desolations in water and on dirt make it a wild place to explore and see. The fact that it has so many trophy-sized fish and various species to target makes it a great destination for a fly fishing trip.
Donnie and his team really set you apart from the norm with guided expertise and a homestyle living situation. Beautiful amenities but real people. I hope you take the chance to explore El Gallo and have an unforgettable trip.
For 10% off on a fly fishing trip to El Gallo Fly Fishing Lodge, tell them where you found out about them along with the code FFIPodcast10