Rocky Point has been an almost annual fall trip for my family since I can remember. However, this is the first trip I have been able make since I have started fly fishing or fishing at all. I began preparing for this trip by procrastinating all week on fly making (like usual) until the night before it was time to go. I had a few patterns that would work for salt but I had wanted to make quite a few more clousers before I headed down. Luckily I was able to get a few hours at the vice to start whipping up some minnows. The clouser is an elegant and simple way to mimic baitfish. One of the hardest things for me is remembering less is more and a little bit of color and flash go a long way! My experience using this versatile little fly on bass, trout and now in the sea has been that the more sparse a fly is, the better. I am so often tempted to add rubber legs or make a more beefy body to a fly that is better suited to simplicity.
It’s always easy to forget that it takes just about as long to get to Rocky Point as it does to get to the San Juan Mountains around Durango from my home. I don’t know why for these past few years I forget about heading down to the salt but rest assured that will no longer be the case! Leaving early in the morning put us at the border around 11 and on the beach by noon. Shortly after passing through the border we were into the rugged desert that surround Puerto Penasco. It is one of the relatively uncommon places where the desert meets the ocean directly.
Upon arriving and unpacking it was time to explore the beach and maybe cast a fly or two with the incoming tide. I was unsure of what to tie on (I have never fished or researched salt water fishing) and figured I’d give the chartreuse clouser a chance. Sure enough it began producing a few hits and a couple of chases. I began to slow my stripping speed down and it was fish on! My first fish on the fly in the salt water was no giant, but it did have some pretty awesome colors and I’d never seen one before!
I continued fishing for an hour or so and brought in a few more small cabrilla, but bocce ball and cold Tecates were calling, so who was I to say no?
Thanksgiving day dawned clear and calm, with temperatures in the mid 80’s and glassy water. I started fishing early in the morning on the ebbing tide (not the best time I found out). The action was near constant, however the hook set eluded me. The fish were right on the surface and I could see their splashing, but no fish. Confused I continued casting and varied my speeds and tried pausing before the set, still no luck. Finally one of them must have hooked them self because on one of my pauses the line went taunt. The fish that came in was about a foot long but no thicker than a quarter. It had a blue-green back, slivery belly and a long, narrow jaw filled with teeth. It was a needlefish, no wonder I couldn’t see what was hitting my line because the fish was nearly invisible even in my net!
I was surprised to see what fish had been haunting me for the past two hours and I couldn’t believe that these foot long fish had been within 10 feet of me and I had not yet seen one!
I continued fishing and began to let the line sit so my flies could sink beyond the upper part of the water and the seemingly voracious needlefish schools. The action was definitely slower at this depth, however it did allow for a few more cabrilla and another reef fish I do not know the name of.
The reef fish (if you know the name please let me know if you do!) didn’t have sharp teeth, but instead what looked like flat molars to grind and crunch up their food. I’m guessing it mistook the orange simi seal leech for a type of crab or shrimp, but who knows! This was the “largest” fish I had caught so far on the trip. The fish made itself feel much larger when it would manage to wedge itself in the reef (a reoccurring theme for the fish in this area..).
After a mid-afternoon turkey dinner (it was Thanksgiving after all) we returned to the surf and fished for a half hour or so as the sun set. Kayla managed to hook into her largest fish of the trip. This fish became well and truly wedged in the rocks for around 5 minutes. We sat there and waited, wondering if her line caught and the fish had swam off. Suddenly her line regained tension and she quickly brought the fish to shore. It appeared to be a young gulf grouper (?) and had row of some nasty looking teeth (almost like a walleye).
It was a good beginning to my novice salt water fishing career. I learned 1X line is about perfect and that sink tip is key! Also there are enough fish on this reef that it seems any fly (within reason) will drum up some interest. More to come in part 2!