You want to catch Roosterfish off the beach? Cool… but… it’s like really difficult. Sometimes. Since Felt Soul Media made running Roosterfish down on the beaches of the Sea of Cortez one of the raddest games in fly fishing today, many have made the journey. However, if you plan to go there are a few things that we think can help make your trip more fun. We know, we have been down there numerous times, and spent a lot of fishless days laying on the sand, pointing out every shadow of wood and weeds that resembles a fish. However, when it all does come together, it is most definitely all it’s cracked up to be.
Our number one tip is to know your limits. If you can’t cast 80 feet in to the wind, running, in the sand, with a sinking line, then the DIY beach trip is probably not your gig. If you are a fairly good caster and want to improve your odds by a lot then hire a beach guide with ATV’s. If you are trying to save money then at least buy the ATV’s. Evidently ATV’s are not legal on the beach but it is not enforced at all and they are all over the place down there. Most of the locals even drive their vehicles on the packed down part of the beach. If you are not a great fly caster yet, no problem, hire a boat captain. Even if you are an amazing caster a boat captain in Baja is a fun day. You will see way more fish, and you will have the opportunity at all the blue water species. Most of the boat captains are more used to gear fishing than fly fishing and will usually buy bait for the inshore species. This allows you to match your flies to the bait and get in to fish really fast. It’s not for everyone but a boat day in Baja is usually very exciting, and you can switch from inshore to offshore fairly quickly.
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- Fly casting off the beach no teaser – This is the most difficult. It’s just you, the beach, the ocean, and possibly a Roosterfish. All day you are scouring the beach by foot or ATV trying to sight a Roosterfish. When you do sight a Roosterfish you have to run and get ahead of it in time to strip enough line out and make a cast in front of it. Then you strip the fly clean and straight, but fast like you mean it and hope the Roosterfish follows it.
- Fly casting off the beach with a teaser – you increase your odds from tactic a.) by bringing a teaser rod. A teaser rod is a big surf rod that allows you to cast a plug way further than you could with a fly and tease fish closer to shore. When you get a fish teased up you tease the fish within fly casting distance. The guy with the teaser rod then pulls the plug, and the fly caster lands the fly in front of the fish. Generally a floating plug that would resemble a skipping mullet or small jack is the plug of choice.
- In-shore boat day – while we love the challenge the beach presents, it is worth it to break up some tough beach days with some boat days. On the boat, inshore, you have all the same opportunities as you do on the beach, just way more of them. Boat captains vary in price so do your homework. It is very common for the boat captain to chum fish with bait, usually small sardinas. So if you don’t want to do that you must let them know. In our experience boat captains generally speak very limited English. If you are worried about a language barrier you can hire an English speaking guide to help communicate, however, this will most likely more than triple the price.
- Off-shore boat day – off shore on the boat the game is usually multiple teaser rods and trolling flies. This gives opportunity to hooking up tuna, dorado, sailfish, rainbow runners, bonito, and multiple other species. While there can be lulls in trolling it can also be awesome, and often when you hook a fish, and if the boat captain knows the game, you can get the school to circle the boat in which case you will get the chance to fly cast to large off shore species.
Line – Intermediate or Sink lines. Our favorite all around line is a full intermediate. We DO NOT recommend using the really aggressive front taper lines like the Rio Outbound Short which is sometimes marketed to this area, especially if you plan to fish the beach. Those lines are hard to carry in the air, and because it is so necessary to be able to shoot line, the running section of those style lines get caught in the waves and can be very frustrating.
Reels – It is absolutely necessary to have a good reel here. We recommend something that is fully sealed and has a strong drag system.
Leader – In shore we use straight 25lb fluorocarbon, usually about 6. Off shore we use a 25-40lb mid-section tied to an 80-100 shock tippet, usually 4-5 feet of mid-section and 1.5-2 feet of shock tippet.
Flies – For in shore flies you generally need to replicate 2 kinds of baitfish in various sizes. Sardinas and Mullet. If fish are eating sardinas and you can see large bait balls of sardinas in the water you are going to have an awesome day. Sardinas are usually smaller and the flies are really easy to throw. Bring a variety of sizes as they do vary and size matters. However, in our experience it is more likely fish will be keyed in on mullet. Mullet get big and it is often tough to entice Roosterfish to eat a fly much smaller than the actual fish but there are a few patterns that are make that happen, most common, and famous to the beaches of Baja is the Rasta. Calvin also has a great pattern he has shared here, called the Rooster Rouster. The in the know Roosterfish experts are pretty tight lipped about their patterns but if you do enough research you will probably find a few pointers around the internet, but not many. Variations of the Rasta, and the fly we have shared here will put you in the game.
Other Stuff – If you are fishing the beach consider your footwear. The sand is tough on feet, and so is the sun. While barefoot is the most comfortable, it is also the quickest way to not fishing the next few days because the sand will take sunscreen off your feet really fast. We highly recommend light neoprene socks to keep sand out of your footwear and the sun off your feet.