This might sound ridiculous, but the high of my fishing year to date was someone else’s. My brother-from-another-mother, Ray Montoya has been hunting down Roosters on foot. Yup, like we all want to. Ray prescribes to the exact same fishing ethos as I do, so I know exactly whats going through his mind and what he hopes for when he heads out to try and do the impossible. He’s doing it DIY, like everyone should…and that DIY high is a special one. If you follow Ray on Tumblr you would have seen his posts, and man, it was starting to look bleak. I even emailed him some words of encouragement
“…..Such an awesome challenge ahead! Good luck for the remaining days! “
So I make myself a coffee this morning and scroll through tumblr. Three scrolls down and there it is. The words “fucking hell” and a selfie of Ray and one of the biggest fly caught Roosters I’ve seen. I had an odd reaction, like a sneeze without the hay fever, or maybe a phantom hook set with my right arm? Whatever it was that jerk reaction sent my coffee flying all over myself and my computer. He did it! And here it is: (from: http://notemapez.tumblr.com)
Fucking hell and Holy shit, I landed a once in a life time fish today. It’s been two hours since I beached it, and I’m still kind of shaky.
I decided Last night to return to the beach at La Ventana. I saw a couple of barn door size roosters there last week with Ker, Lewis and Wendy. It’s a beautiful one hour drive from Barriles to Ventana through lush mountains, with lots of ripe mango trees and colorful flowers along the way. You have to pass through a security gate to reach the beach cuz some gavacho has a bought up the entire coast, but the security guard recognized me, plus I tipped him a fifty the previous week, so no problema.
The day started off slow with a few lady fish and some Crevalle follows, but no rooster sightings. Around noon I retreated back to the car, cranked the aircon, put on a This American Life podcast and ate my multigrain cheese sandweech-no more machaca for this boy. A half hour later I was itchin’ to get back out to my station on the point, so I drank as much water as my belly would hold and hit the beach. I sat there for more than an hour, just watching. Another half hour went by. Waiting for a rooster to come by sort of reminds me of hunting mule deer with my Tio Pate. It was all high country rugged stuff. He thought it was sillly to climb up and down that shit, so we just hiked up to the highest point, sat and waited. While I was waiting, I rebuilt my leader which is basically a meter of fifty pound tied to a meter of forty pound, everything Seaguar flourocarbon! Throughout the week I’ve slowly lost confidence in my store-bought EP mullet flies, so I dig out one of my yak hair tuna specials, a nice bronze-yellow over white pattern with red eyes tied on a 2/0 Tiemco SP 600. These hooks are amazingly sharp and like circle hooks always seem to find the corners of a fish’s mouth.
So I’m sitting there re-rigged for fucking tuna, approaching my second hour when I see three extremely large shadows cruising towards me. These are huge fish-any moron would have been able to spot these guys, with or without Polaroids. I spit out my chickle, strip out an appropriate amount of fly line and get into position for a cast.
My first cast lands well out in front with the group which is still about ten meters out. I let it sink a little and then start stripping. I cannot fucking believe my eyes, the biggest fish in the group rockets towards the fly mouth agape! The rooster eats it, I strip set and the fly comes shooting out of the water and lands on the beach sans eyes! I quickly shoot it back out and the same big rooster rushes it again, this time inhaling the fucking fly! I strip as hard as I can and feel the hook set, the fish bolts, coils of line are flying through the air and ripping through the guides. I look down at my feet, no line there. The next sound I hear is the drag of my Riptide reel fully engaged. The fly line is long gone and In less than a minute, I’m half way through 400 meters of thirty pound backing. The fish is well out into deep blue water. Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit! What the fuck have I done?
Okay, I got none of this hookup action on gopro because earlier, I had put it in my backpack for fear of the gopro curse. Peter knows exactly what I’m talking about, right? My backpack is on the beach behind me, and at this point, I’m thinking, there is no fucking way I’m going to land this fish, so I need to at least get some footage of the fight. Line is still going out at an amazing speed, so I crank the Tibor all the way. In the words of Scotty, I’m giving her all she’s got, Captain, she can’ taken no more! That one is for my fellow Treky, la Wendy. I watched a lot of Star Trek last week in La Ventana. Funny, I also had a bit of a Mexican stand off with some Canadian wanker at our lodge who insisted his Tibor could stop a fish, to which I replied, no fucking way, man…no fly reel can totally stop a big fish. Awkward dinner table silence ensued. Anyway, I digress. With line still peeling off, I manage to get the gopro out of the bag, turned on and on my head, but in the process, I lose another fifty meters of backing. At this point it looks like I could actually get spooled. I begin to palm the reel gently, more fearful of busting my ten weight than breaking my forty pound leader.
I’m not sure how this video is going to turn out, and I won’t be able to look at it until I get home in a few days, but at several points in the the 45 minute battle I may have uttered, mommy, or some other silly things. I’ll edit that shit out. There’s also a scene when the fish was still about 300 meters out and a local fishing boat appears on a direct path between me and the fish. I frantically waved them off, and miraculously, they oblige and maneuver around.
Slowly, slowly, slowly I begin to recover line. When I get finally see the fly line, I begin to think, holy shit, I might land this fish! I know, there’s a lot of holy shits, but this is a holy shit fish, I kid you not!
Finally I can see the rooster and she’s a big girl. Huge, as big as I imagined. Over fifty pounds, maybe sixty? The other two fish, each around forty pounds are still with my fish. I pull her into the the shallow part of the beach and she goes on her side, she’s totally exhausted. I use the swell to slide her up on the beach, drop my road and run down to grab her. I try to tail her, but I cannot even lift her. So I slide her up a little ways, put my rod next to her, snap some awkward photos and then roll her back into the water.
It took nearly fifteen minutes to revive her. I try to snap a few more pics, but she’s too dam big for a selfie. Now you know I spend a lot of time fishing on my own and over the years have mastered the fish selfie, but this rooster was way beyond anything I’ve tried to photograph. I could have dragged her back to where I left my pack and set up a timed shot, but it probably would have killed her. Perhaps I can pull a few pics from the video next week? I’m just happy she came back to life and swam away with what appeared to be fishy vigor-got that on video too!
Emotionally and physically spent, not to mention soaking wet from swimming the big girl in the surf, I gathered my kit and headed back to the car, where I celebrated with a cold Pacifico. Yup, got that on video too!
It’s seems anticlimactic to go back out to La Ventana again tomorrow, but, I got one more full day, so what the hell. I don’t know if I’ll feel this way tomorrow or next week, but right now, the memory of that rooster, just hours old, feels like the greatest fly fishing accomplishment of my life. It’s the second largest fish I’ve taken on a fly, and the absolute largest I’ve taken beach fishing on foot.
For the record, I could not lift this fish completely off the ground. I also could not completely close my hand around the tail! The pending fly rod record is around 60 pounds, but that fish was caught from a boat and it still took almost four hours to land (stupid IGFA 20 pound tippet). I travel with fifty pound duffles all the time. I know what fifty feels like. This fish felt heavier. As for length, from the fork in the tail to the mouth, more than half a rod! Does any of this matter? Not really, Cuz I just got me a fish of a lifetime.
That’s it, time to post and pour another tumbler of vodka!