Tag Archives: Punta Abreojos

Fly Fishing the Mangroves Near Punta Abreojos, Baja, 2023

Dave took this picture of me struggling to get this big corvina into the net

Dave Zoby turned to me and said, “No one is going to believe this.”  I laughed and agreed.  The fishing was so good. it’s just laughable at points.  You see, Dave read my prior article on the annual SDFF camping / kayak fly fishing trip to southern Baja, 600 miles south of the border, from 2 years ago.  He then contacted me with an email asking if he could tag along for a few days on the next SDFF club trip to southern baja with the intention of writing a feature article on the adventure for a well-recognized fly fishing magazine.  My answer was, “Of course, Yes.”  I just didn’t have confidence at the time that he’d actually pull it off.  He did. Punta Abreojos in Baja is a long way from San Diego.  But, it’s a really long way from Casper, Wyoming.  Dave is professor at Casper College in Wyoming and a professional writer with numerous published articles in fly fishing magazines.  And now he is just another dear friend I have accumulated over this 30+ fly fishing journey.  Along with my Baja mentor, John Ashley and Dave’s dog Henry, we covered some serious water in the mangroves over 3 days during my 11 total days on this trip.

There’s Dave with the most cherished fish of the mangroves: the Broomtail Grouper

Dave’s dog Henry also made the trip.  Henry is a big black lab and a hoot of fun to be around while fishing. But, here is the irony: I’m not a dog guy.  At all.  I didn’t grow up with dogs.  The border collie we have at home I call, “Kelly’s dog”.  Which is a testament to how awesome henry is.  While Dave and I wade fished Henry would alternate between us, pointing like a hunting dog at the fish we’d hook up on.  If I hooked up Henry would run over to me and point.  Then he’d hang with me waiting.  Only to abandon me as soon as Dave hooked up.  That went on for hours and it was hilarious.  Now that I’m home, I keep telling kelly’s dog: “You’re not a fishing dog.”

There’s me and Dave with Henry doing that pointing thing…

Dave’s article on this trip will appear in the January, 2024  issue of Gray’s Sporting Journal Magazine.

With my description of this year’s encounter, I’ll attempt to augment (and not duplicate) the info & guidance I already did on this magical part of the world with my prior article.

This was my 3rd time to this part of southern Baja on the Pacific Side.  It’s an annual trip of the San Diego Fly Fishers club and this year there were 15 of us including 2 females camping on the edge of the Estero.   And man did I have fun with the group fishing for 11 days.

One of the big differences this time is that I used a different kayak.  In the prior two trips, I used a Hobie Mirage Sport.  It’s small and fast; two attributes that make it perfect for the travel there and for navigating the Estero.  But, stability was not one of its attributes.  It was subject to tipping in current and there was no possible way to safely stand up on it; even in the most calm water.  Well, I was lucky enough to stumble into a used Hobie Mirage Lynx Kayak that is perfect for this type of water, travel and fly fishing.  It’s built in the materials like a stand up paddleboard making it super light.  The boat is only 40lbs making it easy for me to load on top of my Tundra by myself.  Because it’s light and built so efficiently for travel in water it’s lightning quick.  Because it’s light it gets a bit pushed around in strong wind, but you can’t have everything.  The fact that I can stand up and cast on this kayak is pretty awesome.  Standing up was also pretty effective in letting me spot fish hanging at the edge of the mangroves.  It’s so stable I can pretty much walk up and down its deck.

this picture captures the mangroves pretty well. there are miles and miles of pathway through the mangroves. Someone like me that didn’t get the direction gene needs to pay careful attention not to get lost.

Fly Fishing Highlights

I’m still no expert in the Estero.  But, I can confidently say I am so much a better fly fisher in this place than I was 3 years ago.  And my results show it.  I’m not exaggerating when I told you I probably strung 10 straight 40+ fish days in a row.  Here are the species I caught the most:

  • Broomtail Groupers
  • Corvina
  • Corbina
  • Halibut
  • Bonefish
  • Spotted Bay Bass

But, I did catch a number of other species too.  I caught so many species in quantity I found myself getting spoiled.  I don’t like that feeling.  It’s the feeling of disappointment instead of joy when battling a huge fish only to find out it’s an enormous spotty when getting it close to the kayak.

I have fished in Hawaii a gazillion times and have thrown at more parrot fish than i can count. But, i never have caught one there. So, you can imagine my surprise when i caught a parrot fish in Baja.

So, it may sound strange that I did experience of component of failure on this trip… and actually like it.  It sets the tone for my number one goal for next year:  I did not catch a single fish on a popper.  And God I tried.  I tried every day to get the groupers and corvina to rise to my popper.  And I failed.  I’m not sure why it was so different from last year when getting a tight cast to the mangroves was rewarded.  It might be that the water was not as clear as it was last year.  Or colder?  Who knows?  Either way I have a goal for next year.

These big Corbina fight you right to your feet.

Also unique this year was the sheer amount of broom-tailed groupers I caught.  For the prior two years I really struggled to find them.  It made them special.  They are the target species and that was a challenge for me in prior years.  not this year, though. This year I caught a gazillion of them.  I also caught a gazillion big corbina (called the “ghost of the coast” here in Southern California and really difficult to catch in the surf).  They were rare for me to find last year.  For some reason, though, unlike last year I did not catch a gazillion Corvina.  I bet I only caught ~20 of them this year.  Strange.  Each year the estero gives you something different.  I like that.  We do this trip in Spring every year.  It sure would be interesting for me to fish it in each of the seasons.  Another goal.


Kainoa: his first trophy shot

Hands down my favorite part of this trip in terms of fishing was teaching Kainoa how to fly fish.  Kainoa is a 20 year old, straight A college student at UC Irvine and was there with his dad, Rich.  These are great people who are fun to be around and veterans of this trip and of Baja.   And both are veteran conventional tackle fisherman.  This type of fly fishing in the Estero is not conducive for success for beginners.  You really do need at least a 40 foot accurate cast and good line management and quick line stripping skills for success.  So, I was confident I could get him casting proficiently.  But, not so confident he was going to get takes like I would be with a beginner on a trout stream.  Because of his prior fishing experience, he took to the overhand cast quickly.  I even taught him to roll cast so he could get the line in position for a big overhand cast.  It was his pickup that was impressive.  A good line pickup off the water is hard to teach.  That type of skill just seems to only come with hours on the water; not from a beginner.  Once he mastered the pickup he was averaging an efficient cast about a 1/3rd of the time and recognizing what happened on the failed casts.  So, he was way ahead of a normal beginner.  But, that stripping the line thing is physical and takes some dexterity.  He was getting better…. But, not getting takes.  And it didn’t help that people were catching fish all around him.  He stayed with it, though.  I gave him some space to figure things out like I do with every beginner and fished myself.  But, by the end of day one he had not gotten a take. Day 2 was a different story.  He caught a small spotty and it was high five time with pictures.  I joked that I taught him 6 of the 7 elements of fly fishing.  But, failed to teach him the 7th: the trophy shot.  It wasn’t just a few minutes later when I looked over and saw his rod bent in half with him losing line.  I quickly set my rod down on the sand and ran to him fumbling with my camera.  After a decent battle we could see it was a big halibut.  A beginner without any fishing experience would have lost that fish right at their feet.  But, since Kainoa was not a beginner to fishing he used the rod and momentum to swing that halibut up to shore immobilizing it.  I was hooting and hollering and clearly more excited about it than Kainoa.  Since Rich and Kainoa were going to harvest this fish we had time to do a proper trophy shot.

Kainoa in battle

We always remember the ones that got away more than the ones we catch and release

On the last day of fishing I got out on the kayak early with the group.  And we all absolutely killed.  Mid day the gang headed back to camp in fear of the afternoon winds which had been brutal every day.  I decided I was going to push it to the max (temping fate with the winds and current of tide shift) because it was the last day.  But, I did stay close so that no matter how bad the current or the wind got I’d have less than ½ mile to peddle back to camp.

Alone now, after successfully fishing “grouper alley” pulling a few broom-tailed groupers out of the mangroves I found myself close to the main channel, a ½ mile entrance and exit of the current into and from the pacific.  There was an amazing channel against the mangroves that I fished on foot a few days earlier on the other side at low tide so I peddled over to see what stage of tide it was in.  Unfortunately, where I waded on sand was already under water.  So, with no place to put the kayak safely while the tide rose, I turned to figure out what I’d fish next.  I had always done well stripping fast while trolling in the main channel for bonefish so that was an option.  Facing the ocean, I saw the current ripping in by a point of sand.  That formed a current seam of 2-3 feet of slow water behind the protection of sand with the current ripping by in 5-10 feet of water on the other side of it.  The type of water that would be epic in a trout stream where the trout use the least amount of energy in the seam only to dart out into the current as the food goes by.  But, here in estero I had only experienced predators in the base of the mangroves or in deep water.  So I moved the kayak into position and casted into the current seam.  My line tightened.  Hung up.  I immediately envisioned breaking off and calling it a day… calling it a trip.  We’ve all had this happen: Then my hung up line started moving.  It was slowly moving away from the ocean towards the mangroves.  At first I thought, “Darn, I foul hooked another shovel nose shark.”  But, then I thought to myself, “There’s no way a shovel nose shark would be there in that position unless he randomly swam right into my strip.”  That is when I felt the head shaking.  It now realized it was hooked in the face.  The fish picked up speed.  I had him on the reel but was losing line as he picked up speed dragging my kayak with him.  I chased him like a captain would do on the open ocean getting an angle fighting to get the line back the line.  Multiple thoughts ran through my head.  I assumed it was a huge halibut.  But, it could have been a legendary grouper.  Could it have been one of john’s infamous red pargos?  Then the fear set in: 20 LB flouro, a size 2 hook that could bend out.  and what I had the most fear of: two knots involved I personally tied…

i can’t figure out how these young folks do such awesome selfies holding fish. i’m terrible at it.

After a number of runs.  After about 10 minutes of battle I got him to the leader and up to the side of the boat…..  I still didn’t get a good look, but it did see it was a monster.  Too big to pull onto the kayak and it was not tail hooked.  He shot away again.  around the 20  minute mark I tightened the drag to max.  this was no cheapo reel.  It was a high end Orvis large arbor designed exactly for this type of battle.  20 lb flouro.  The fish was toasting my reel at full drag.

Now the fish had dragged my kayak 200 yards in the main channel, and it appeared to have intentions of dragging me out to sea.  ½ mile away was the door to the open ocean.  Getting dragged out to sea was not an option; too dangerous.  So, I man’d up and horsed him, risking breaking him off.

It was the end of the day and the wind was up; The surge / chop was up.  There was no one around to witness my battle. I kept going through scenarios in my mind convincing myself there was no way to land it…. then as quickly fantasizing about hauling a halibut the size of my kayak back to camp.  I fantasized how I’d kill it because I didn’t have a tool with me to do that.  Then as quickly I switched to fantasizing about taking a picture of it on the shore and dragging it back into the water to let it go.  I fantasized that I was now “old man of the sea”….with no one crazy enough to still be out fishing; no one to see me in this battle; no one to believe it.  I looked down to my reel and I could see the backing coming.  It’s my hang up.  But, I just believe there are so few scenarios (if any) where a fly fisherman needs to be in the backing.  Getting pulled into the backing is for amateurs that don’t know how to fight a fish and don’t care if the fish dies as a result of the battle. it’s really hard on the fish to get all the way into the backing if you intend to release it.  again, that is my hangup.  That is when I decided “enough is enough” and decided the battle needs to stop whether I lose this fish or not.  I took a 45 degree angle towards shore about 50 feet away and peddled like crazy.   My strategy was to beach the kayak with the rod held high, get out and battle the fish on foot.  I knew it was risky in terms of losing the fish.  But, the battle was getting unsafe and I was alone.  I got out quickly and beached the kayak.  but the fish was going the other way taking out line and now my rod was parallel to the water, full drag, and the fish was still headed out to sea.  I lifted the rod so it could help in the fight,  It was not long after that when it broke off.  I have to admit I was bummed.  I typically laugh when I lose a fish.  I reeled up and there was some consolation that the flouro broke right in the middle of my leader and not in either of the knots.  I peddled the ½ mile back to camp getting pounded by the waves, fighting the current, but still in a fantasizing state of mind.  I fantasized about fishing in the main channel on next year’s trip.  Another goal for next year.

That’s John on the GPRMS radio from his truck “El Mucho”. we use the radios to communicate with each other as we caravan across Mexico

Fly Fishing Guidance

As mentioned prior I’m no expert yet at fishing the esteros of southern Baja.  But, each year I learn a little more.  And each year the Estero fishes differently.  3 straight years I have seen different conditions which demanded different types of flies, fly lines and tactics.

I can tell you this, though, with conviction: The color of the fly I fished in the estero this year was insignificant as compared to the structure of the fly.  It should be stated that many of my fishing partners, some of whom are experts on the trip disagree with me.  They only fish yellow or chartreuse over white.  Those colors definitely work.  And those colors are the only colors that they fish.  well, I fished every color I had and everything worked….as long as my fly was in the right part of the water column.  What did not work were flies that were designed to fish in the wrong part of the water column.

There’s Kim Jones in battle with a big Corbina. Notice the tide coming up on her. In about an hour she’d be in 5 feet of water in that spot

In my notes from last year I remarked that I tied too many clousers.  Last year the fish were mostly in the top of the water column so I was missing them.  I was stripping back flies below the fish in the water column because clousers have big, weighted eyes.  So, this year I must have tied 3 dozen unweighted deceivers.  And guess what?  This year, most of the time the fish were in the bottom of the water column so it was the clousers that didn’t work last year, that worked great this year.  In my notes to myself from this years trip… which I’ll read 11 months from now as I prepare to tie for the trip, it says: “tie clousers in all sizes of eyes so that you can cover all parts of the water column”.  It also says, “Design a deceiver like pattern that has a little weight to it to fish in 1-3 feet of water”.  I have some ideas…

Punta Abreojos

Leonor & Bacilio gave each of us a couple cans of fish from the Cooperativa. when i got home i made Abreojos Chipotle Fish Stew with my yellowtail with Leonor’s recipe and it was spectacular

Hands down one of, if not the most special experiences on this trip was finally getting to visit the tiny city of Punta Abreojos and being invited for dinner into the home of Bacilio & Leonor Romero.  The drive is about 15 minutes from where we camp.  This tiny city is run and managed by a cooperative.  In the US we call that a “co-op”.  In mexico it’s called a “Cooporativa”.

I have to admit I used GPT to help me with the next part:

Punta Abreojos is a small fishing village located on the Pacific coast of Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Fishing cooperatives, also known as “cooperativas pesqueras” in Spanish, are organizations formed by fishermen to collectively manage and sustainably exploit marine resources in their area. These cooperatives play an essential role in promoting sustainable fishing practices, protecting the environment, and ensuring the economic well-being of their members.

Typically, fishing cooperatives have a set of regulations and guidelines that govern fishing activities, such as defining catch quotas, enforcing fishing seasons, and establishing sustainable fishing methods. By working together, fishermen can have more control over their livelihoods, negotiate fair prices for their catch, access credit and resources, and participate in decision-making processes.

Bacilio is one of the profession fishermen of the Cooperotiva.  The Cooperotiva has their act together in terms of conservation unlike many Mexican towns on the pacific (and frankly much of the US) that are “fished out”.  The cooperotiva at Puntos Abreojos even  has a full time watch for poachers.  They are famous for a lobster season that they regulate and manage.  Their ocean is a healthy one.  They manage a thriving ecosystem.

here’s the gang at the home of Leonor and Bacilo.  From the back of Tom’s head clockwise: Michael, Bruce, Kim, me, Gorge, Rich, Kainoa & John

I met Bacilio last year through John Ashley on this trip.  God only knows how John originally met Bacilio… and that is a testament to John.  Last year Bacilio brought his home-made ceviche to camp for us.  Just a surprise gift.  That is how awesome he is: a bunch of gringo fly fishers come into his town and he welcomes them with open arms and brings them gifts of food.  This year Bacilio showed up at camp with Leonor and a pot of Frijolies Charros.  Leonor knows her way around a kitchen.  In broken Spanish we communicate.  Of course, the more alcohol John and I consume the better Spanish speakers we are.  Well, I guess I shouldn’t have been shocked when Bacilio and Leonor invited us to come over to dinner on Saturday night….all of us.  We drank beers and laughed.  We were served “sopa de albondigas de pescado” (fish meatball soup).  It was specatular.  I could have called it goo there.  but, no.  out came the fish tacos. It was an honor and I will spend the rest of my life trying to figure out how to repay them for their generosity and kindness.

Let’s just say Leonor knows her way around a kitchen. This is the set of ingredients for the abogondigas soup


If you have read my stuff on this site before or have gone on a fly fishing trip with me, you will remember my tradition of “the ceremonial last cast” right before ending a fly fishing trip and leaving.  I pack up everything except for one rigged fly rod and when it’s time to go I execute.  Typically it’s 5-10 casts and mostly I get skunked.  I never change the fly that is tied on from the day before and many times that fly is not appropriate for the conditions or time of day.  And that doesn’t matter to me.  So, after 11 days, after 2 hours of packing HUKTRUK, and after mounting the kayak on the Yakima racks on top, ready to go I announced to the gang, “Time for the ceremonial last cast.”  I walked down to the water and within 4 casts I caught and released a halibut.  I couldn’t help but think of a quote from Steve Rinella, an accomplished writer and TV personality from one of his Meat Eater hunting shows.  So, I have taken the liberty of slightly wordsmithing Steve’s comment from one of his shows because it reflected my thoughts at the time so well:

“As we prepare to leave this place.  I’m as entranced as the first time I came here.  I alternate between excitement about plotting my return and pushing even farther into the mangroves.  And dread about the idea that this place and people will change somehow into something unrecognizable; something less unique.  I try to grab onto snippets of visual memories and to lock into my brain those moments that most exemplify the things I love here.  In hopes of keeping the images from fading away from my mind the way things seem to slip into the currents of time.“

High Tide. I took this picture from the back of Huktruk where we camped

Fly fishing the mangroves of Punta Abreojos, Baja

June 5-12, 2021

One of the many large corvinas i caught

I’m sun-burned.  My lips are so chapped they are bleeding.  I have been stung/bitten a dozen from god knows what; swollen and itchy.  I have cuts, bumps and bruises.  And it is all from an epic 8 day fly fishing adventure 600 miles south of san diego in Punta Abreojos, Baja.  It was the most expensive free vacation I have ever taken (because I bought a kayak for it). It was totally worth it. I can’t wait to do it again next year.

This trip is an annual San Diego Fly Fishers Club (SDFF) trip led by Kai Schumann and John Ashley. For a long time these guys and a few others in the club would say things like, “You, of all people, would love this trip.” They were right.

The Group

On a trip like this you want to go with fun people.  And this trip did not disappoint.  I already told you about our fearless leaders, John Ashely and Kai Schumann.  Also on the trip was SDFF club president Jim Castelluzzo.  And Tom Rundlett who I have fished with a number of times in Montana.  Both Jim and Tom are cagey veteran fly fishers and fun to be around.  Also, on the trip were 3 I had not met before…and now they are friends.  Tom and Marta Phillips, a retired married couple.  Yes, there was a female on the trip and she was, without a doubt, a trooper.  She fished and hung with the guys and still managed to get q-time with her artwork.  There is no way my wife Kelly could hang on this trip.  And joining them was their lifetime long good friend, Larry.  Now Larry and I are cut from the same mold.  Let’s just say we enjoyed a few cocktails together.

The SDFF group from Left to Right: John, Larry, Marta, Tom, Tom, Kai, Jim, me

Before I get started on how epic the fly fishing was, let me set expectations.  This trip is not for everyone.  And here is why in no particular order:

  • It’s primitive camping
    • since I’m a backpacker this part was pretty easy. I spend a tons of nights in the wilderness primitive camping.  But, all that primitive camping is on a river with a water source.  This was different.  because the campground was closed (COVID) there was no access to water.  You had to bring your own water.  I totally depend on my sun showers for backpacking trips so that was not a problem at all.  I “showered” every day.  There was no bathroom….well, until Tom and Marta negotiated a deal to use a restroom in the campground ¼ mile away that didn’t have running water…. You poured a bucket of sea water in it to flush it…. still, quite the luxury when you are primitive camping.
    • You sleep in a tent or truck or camper. Again, I spend so many nights in a backpacking sleeping bag on the ground in a backpacking tent this was not an issue for me.  in fact, because of the warm weather sleeping in the shell/topper in the back of my truck with a pad with the ocean breeze was quite the luxury compared to the sleeping on the ground of backpacking.
    • You do a lot of prep. You bring a lot of “stuff”.  You can’t forget anything….well, this is a trip you can because with the group someone always has your back…and backups.
    • Ice is a premium. There is a little town 15 minutes away where you can resupply…and we did.  But, you really need a 7 day cooler like a yeti.

The cherished Grouper. these monsters hit like a freight train and pull hard.

  • It requires a kayak
    • and not just any kayak. You are most efficient with a kayak that goes backwards.  Many of the predators you are targeting hide in the roots of the mangroves.  They’ll shoot out to grab your perfectly placed fly.  But, then they run back in and snap you off if you are not quick enough to pull them out of there.  That means a hard strip set while pedaling backwards.  It’s an art form that needs practice.  I’m not very good at it….yet.
    • I did a ton of research and had all the fly fishing kayak experts in the club to lean on. Ultimately the Hobie kayak I wanted…and put a deposit on… just wasn’t available in time.   Hobie had a myriad of production problems with it.  It was a new model of a hobie inflatable.  So, I ended up with a “hard hull”.  It’s a hobie mirage sport.  It’s a “little one”.  but, I’m a little guy.  I love it.  I’m a 35+ year float tuber so the luxury of how fast these things go with so little effort is really hard to describe.  Plus, you are on top of the water; not in it.  no waders needed.  I have used it in Agua Hedionda lagoon a number of times now, in addition to using it on this trip.  But, ultimately I will purchase an inflatable that is big / long enough for the open ocean so I can wander out through the surf to the kelp beds in Carlsbad one day.

John in his inflatable Hobie Kayak with another large Corvina

  • It’s Mexico
    • It’s Mexico, sh@#$t happens; calamities happen. And we were not short of calamities.  See my top 5 calamities list below.  In one of the planning meetings before the trip John said, “I usually bring $1,000 dollars of pesos just in case.”  Sheepishly, with bribing in the back of my head I asked him, “Just in case of what?”.  His answer was trite and to the point: “Just in case your car breaks down and the mechanic doesn’t take a credit card.”    That makes sense.  Well, I left with a wad of pesos and came back home with a wad of pesos.  and that is just fine.  I’ll use them on other Mexico trips.  Like the SDFF club trip coming up to Palapas Ventana in October.

Kai with a Corbina (take notice to that b not v). here, the corbinas take clousers on blind casts

So those are the reasons for why you might not consider a fly fishing trip like this.  Here are the reasons for why you want you do want to do this trip:

  • The fishing is ridiculous awesome
    • Fly fishing for 30+ species. Many times I’d catch a fish only to turn to John and say, “What the hell is this one?”
    • Dry fly fishing! On top of the water!  Well, technically they are not dries, but you throw tarpon, permit and roosterfish flies that swim on top of the water column as you strip them back and the groupers and corvina come out of the mangroves and attack with vicious strikes on top…and you watch the entire thing go down almost in surreal awe.
    • I’m a trout guy. So, this whole mangroves fly fishing experience was new.  I learned so much from these experts.  John personally took me under his wing and showed me the ropes.
  • Your two friends leading the trip (Kai and John) make the trip easy
    • They both bring very expensive campers and you get to benefit from them.
    • They have years of experience doing this trip and many like it. so, you get to be a follower…mitigating a ton of the risk, hassles, and uncertainties.

this selfie with me and john gives you an idea of how tight the back channels of the mangroves get…. not the type of place you want to get disoriented and lost

  • There is no sacrifice on food and drink in this group
    • It’s primitive camping yes. But, unlike backpacking you have coolers and fresh food…and beer…and cocktails.  Although 95% of this is catch and release, these fish are not trout.  So some of them actually taste good.  Our dinners were epic.  We had steak night.  We had fish tacos night.  And get this.  kai has a green mountain pellet grill (like a Traeger) that extends out of his camper.  I bought the biggest brisket that Costco had.  We smoked it for 14 hours and it was awesome.  For gods sakes kai even made home made pizza for lunch!  This is one of those trips you do not come back lighter on.  I lose 2-7 pounds on every backpacking trip I take.  I think I put on 10 on during this trip.

kai working his green mountain pellet grill…that slides out of his camper on a shelf…not kidding.

The Journey

On John and Kai’s recommendation I handled my Mexican Tourist permit, Mexican fishing license Mexican car insurance through discoverbaja.com.  it was super easy and all done electronically and through email in advance.  Of interest my Mexican car insurance was pretty darn expensive because of my truck.  For 2 reasons: 1. It’s fairly new and popular.  because of the pandemic (a number of reasons) there is a shortage of cars.  So, the insurance was calculated on a value that was a few thousand dollars more than I paid for it.  At the time my 2020 tundra was only 6 months old. its value was more than I paid for it.  there have only been a few times and a few cars that actually appreciated in value after purchase.  2. The tundra with a shell/topper is the most stolen car in Mexico.  It’s pretty obvious why….you can stuff a lot of humans in the back of that huge truck.

I don’t know what the hell this fish is.

For this trip to Baja…because you are going so far south (between Guerrero Negro and La Paz) I learned there is a strategy to where you cross the Border. We crossed into Mexico at the Tecate Crossing.  The Tecate Crossing is a tiny border crossing compared to the other border crossings in California.  But it has weird hours and it does not have Sentri (to get quickly back into the US).  It’s a beautiful drive that gets very close to the world famous barrett lake.  Now for reasons I still don’t quite understand, even though you get your tourist visa well in advance, you have to get it stamped at the border.  So, for this trip we drove across and were put in secondary for inspection (God only knows why).  After checking our vehicles for bad stuff, we parked on the Mexico side, then found the office where we got our tourist visas stamped.  I am still not even sure why we had to get tourist visas because I have flown into Mexico a gazillion times and never had to do it.  But, when the leaders of the group say you need to do it, you don’t question them.  But, I have to tell you I am curious.

with 30+ species you are going nail some big halibut

La Poma – From the beginning the plan was to break up the 600 mile trip into two days both on the way there and on the way back.  I just assumed it was because 600 miles is too much for one day for the group.  But, really it’s because the campground at La Poma on the Sea of Cortez and it’s restaurant are so awesome.  The folks that run this place are friends of Kai’s.  Such a luxury to have a nice dinner and breakfast when camping on the beach.  The wade fishing there was ok.  Nothing exciting in terms of size.  But a bunch of small spotties on a fly rod from shore is still fun.

Punta Abreojos – For the most part the roads all the way there are outstanding.  Much much better than I remember from the last time I did it many years ago.  Being that said there is a stretch from the sea of cortez side where you cross over to the pacific side where the highway is skinny and elevated.  That stretch is also well travelled by trucks (see calamities below).  So it might be a bit nerve racking to many Americans who are spoiled by huge lanes on the freeways.  The last few miles to where we camped outside Punta Abreojos are dirt roads… but, 4 wheel drive is not required.  I didn’t even put my truck in 4 wheel drive.  Of interest, where to put the trucks and campers on the banks of the lagoon takes some logistics because of the tides.  You have to pick high spots.  I would have screwed that up for sure and woken up to my truck in 2 feet of water had Kai and John not provided the parking guidance.

When we returned home, we crossed back into the US at the Mexicali crossing.  I have Sentri (Global Entry) so that process took 30 seconds.  But, I was shocked when I crossed because the Mexicali crossing is so far east. I had many more miles to go to get home.

the view from where we camped with the lagoon at hide tide

…and the same view at low tide

The Fishing

It’s all about the tides.  In this giant lagoon there are huge tidal swings.  There is one significant deep water channel feeding this enormous lagoon from the ocean.  On a high tide, the moon pulls an enormous amount of water into the lagoon and holds it there through the slack tide.  That is when the predators come in; that is when they are on the move.  I did the best fly fishing on the turn; the slack tide.  Because there are so many back channels and mangrove lined banks and because of the cohesiveness of water it is normal to have 10 to 20 foot tidal swings.  And when that slack tide turns and the moon starts pulling the water out, it goes out in a hurry producing miles of suddenly empty land (under water just hours before) you can walk on.  Why is that important?  Well, although not unsafe, if you are having too much fun fishing in your kayak on the high and it turns to the low and the water goes back out you will have to put the wheels on your kakak and carry it over the land you kayaked over earlier.  If you fish with john, that is just part of the deal.  I like that.

Jim with a nice Corbina he nailed right off the shore.  The devilishly handsome author in the background stripping clousers next to his kayak

The Corvina – Not the “ghost of the coast” corbina that patrols the socal surf.  The Corvina is a ferocious predator that is a hoot of fun to fool and battle.  I am infamous for saying, “Nothing fights like a trout.  I have fly fished all over the world and nothing fights like a trout.”  That usually gets quite the raised eyebrow from saltwater fly fishers.  Let’s face it, most saltwater fish are big and just pull hard.   There are exceptions, of course.  But, nothing fights like a wild native trout (aka the Kern River Rainbow).  When I got home from this trip I told all my fly fishing trout buddies, “When it comes to battling fish on a fly rod, I have found a worthy competitor of the trout in saltwater: The Corvina.”  The Corvina hits hard like a trout.  It head shakes like a trout.  It does long runs like a trout.  The only difference is that the Corbina does not go erratically ballistic like a wild native trout doing those crazy ass herculean jumps like a trout.  Another difference: you can release a big trout in the water by removing the hook quickly with your hands.  You only make that mistake on a Corvina once.  I gave the lagoon some of my blood releasing my first big corbina. The Corvina has fangs.

You only make the mistake of sticking your fingers in a Corvina’s mouth once

The low and then slack tide also produces the most ridiculously fun wade fishing.  On the 2nd day, John lead me on a mile hike over land that was covered in water just an hour earlier to a deep water channel that compressed all the fish during the low tide.  We had to cross a main channel for a couple hundred feet in waste deep water.  As we crossed, he said, “I really don’t want to swim this on the way back so we need to watch the tide.”  We absolutely killed catching Corbina after Corbina.  It was so fun.  Big Fish too.  We even doubled up a few times.  at the crossing the tide was a little higher… like chest high.  But, still manageable.  And yea, the water is warm.  So, there is the perfect set up for the story I tell in the calamities section below.

The Wildlife

We were there to fly fish.  With 30+ species to catch and release it was a dream.  But, also partying in that giant lagoon were pacific bottle nosed dolphins.  And, as you’d imagine this place is a bird watchers dream.  From egrets to ospreys to some tropicals I couldn’t identify.  Also, this place also supports a huge population of well-fed coyotes; even though it’s so close to the beach.  I woke up one morning and stared out the back of my truck at the bay to watch a coyote running it at low tide at full speed.  Pretty awesome.

Kai got this shot of a huge osprey waiting out the tide.

The Calamities

Here are my top 5 calamities of the trip in no particular order.  Take notice that I own 3 of 5 calamities:

  • My Trxtyl Fly rod holder – Well, because of the Kayak I bought Yakama racks so I could put it on top of my truck. I did tell you this was the most expensive free vacation ever.  Well, I love this company Tryxtl from Helena, Montana for many reasons.  So, I asked to join their pro staff team and bought their fly rod holder.  I’m sure it was my fault in the way I mounted the fly rod holder on the Yakima Racks.  But, it didn’t survive the trip in.  It loosened in the journey on the Mexican roads, snapped off the racks, and disintegrated as it hit the highway.  A bummer for sure.  But, I didn’t have any rods in the holders so not a crisis by any stretch.  I’ll replace the Trxtyl rod holder with a new one.
  • Kai’s mirror – I mentioned the skinny, elevated stretches of highway. John told a story of losing his mirror to an oncoming truck on a prior trip.  Well, on the way home I was two cars back from Kai’s camper in the caravan and went through a wash of broken glass.  I was pretty sure what happened right away.  It was Kai’s rear view mirror.  The bummer is that Kai had his window open when the rear view mirror of his camper hit the rear view mirror of an oncoming truck and exploded.  So he was bloody with small cuts when we all pulled over to inspect the damage.  The window in Tom Phillip’s Sprinter van also broke as a result of the disintegrated rear view mirror parts.  Not a crisis.  That is what insurance is for.
  • Tom’s tire – around the end of the 2nd day Tom Rundlett, who’s camper was parked next to my truck. In between was my giant “easy up” that served our eating, relaxing and partying area.  Well, Tom says, “It looks like my tire is low.”.  I didn’t think anything of it because at altitude my tires do weird things.  But, we were at sea level.  By the 3rd day it was a problem.  It was a slow leak that wouldn’t hold air.  John instructed Tom to go to the little town of Punta Abreaojos and within an hour Tom’s tire was quickly fixed for a ridiculously low amount of pesos.
  • My dead battery – When it was time to leave everyone started their engines and drove away… except for me. My new truck was dead.  I’m still not sure how it happened.  I could have left one of the internal lights on and not noticed.  Or it could have been 5 days of charging all my devices in the back of the truck at night.  I started to pull out the jumper cables a little panicked when john doubled back, then ran over with a compact car jumping device.  He jumped my truck with that device and everything was fine.  I now own that gizmo and it lives in my truck.  I wish I knew what happened.  It kind of haunts me.  my new tundra has so many buttons and gizmos I’ll never learn them all.  in that regard I miss my 14 year old Tundra that I gave to my son in Bozeman, Montana.  If you don’t put your seat belt on in that truck it doesn’t care.  And it has a cassette deck.  I miss that simple truck.
  • My getting caught by the tide – This I my best story of the trip. Above I described how much fun John and I had wading the low tide through the slack tide on day 2.  Well, I decided to do it on day 3 alone.  I walked the mile across bay that was filled in high tide and got to the channel crossing.  It was just about the same height as the day before; waste high.  I started fishing and was killing in the exact same spot just like the day before.  And I was laughing and commenting to myself and having a hoot of a time.  I did notice the tide turn go the other way pretty quickly.  I did see the tide coming in.  I don’t know why I didn’t put 2 and 2 together more quickly.  I guess I lost track of time having so much fun.  I totally underestimated how quickly that tide comes in.   Well, by the time I left I was saying to myself, “I hope I didn’t screw this up.” And walking as fast as I could towards that channel crossing.  When I got there I said out loud, “Holy Sh@#$t…”  I blew it. I could tell right away I was going to have to swim it.  It wasn’t like I was in danger.  I wasn’t going to get swept out to sea.  The tide was coming in.  I’m in good shape for an old guy.  the issue was I had my fly rod.  That meant swimming one handed while holding on to the rod with the other.  I was wearing a backpack with my gear in it.  but it was a fancy Columbia dry pack.  When I buttoned it up it actually served as buoyancy.  I only had to swim a hundred yards or so.  And it was more like a one-handed dog paddle.  When I staggered back to camp I was dripping wet head to toe.  John immediately said, “I thought I was going to have to get you in my Kayak.”  And I told them the story laughing.

Again, this trip isn’t for everyone and you really do need a kayak that goes in reverse.  But, if love an adventure and catching multiple saltwater species on a fly rod.  And you love camping with fun people and good food and beer and cocktails, this trip is for you too.  I can’t wait to do this annual trek again next June.

You gotta’ yank the groupers out of the mangroves quickly or they break you off in the roots