I just returned home from my third visit to southern Baja, particularly the La Ribera/Los Barriles area.  This year I joined Jeff de Brown of The Reel Baja and The Moldy Chum group (blog run by Eric Rathbun and Brian Bennett). The fishing was great and we all had shots at GRANDES. Read on…

I decided to beat the group by three days to spend some time relaxing and shoot photos, and of course fish a little. A friend, Lance Peterson, hooked me up with some guys from Washington who are running a secluded, gem of an operation.  They call it Lagunas de Palmas.  They have built a beautiful bungalow palapa situated among palm trees, banana trees, and plantain trees. The bungalow is equipped with a full kitchen, microwave, fridge (for all the cold beer of course), and two full sized beds. You also have access to a private bathroom with a working shower! There is no AC, but I can attest that you won’t need it.  The shade that this place provides keeps you cool during the day, and cold at night as the temperatures dip into the mid 60’s while you sleep.
Each morning after sunrise Jaime brings me a fresh cup of coffee, and a wonderful smoothie blended from their home grown watermelons, and bananas – the perfect way to start a day! Lagunas de Palmas sits atop one of the largest underwater aquifers in Baja, providing this freshwater lagoon with constant flow into the Sea of Cortez. If you have seen the famous “Running Down the Man” you will recognize the area known as “the sticks” which is a 5 minute walk up the beach. This area is also known as “roosterfish highway.” My fishing experience those three days was halted by a strong north wind, but I managed. The food alone was enough to get me back. Josh’s fiance whipped up some authentic Baja meals that were out of this world. First night – triggerfish tacos.  Second night – chicken enchiladas. Third night – black bean chili w/ quesadillas (not American style). Best food I’ve ever eaten, seriously.

My three days were up, and I hitched a ride with Jaime in his badass T100. That fella had 194,000 miles on it, and purred like a kitten. Next destination was the moldy chum house. On the way we happened to spot a few Mexican Eagles – very cool looking. After Jaime dropped me at the house, I thought to myself, “are we staying at the same house as last year?” I quickly called Rathbun, but no answer. I was worried, but when I went to the lower level I discovered a beautiful sight – boooooz, lots of it. Pacifico, Carona, Tequila, Rum, Wine.  We had a full friggin bar!

At that moment, I knew that this was the Moldy Chum house and immediately popped open a Paco (short for Pa-ci-fi-co). Ten minutes later, Tailwaters friend and customer, Jared Louviere arrived. We shook hands and started unpacking.

By the time the entire group arrived, a few of us were found to be fishing or drinking. Once settled, we gathered for a toast to start the week. A special thank you to Kate Taylor for the incredible food preparation and hospitality. You rock K8! The food that week was to die for. African Pompano I believe was my favorite (funny story), and the tenderloin was soon to follow.

Ceviche, avacado crema, and pico de gallo always met us after a long day of fishing to fill our void bellies. On to the fishing…

I only had one day in the boat, but it was a great one. After breakfast, Jared and I joined Jeff de Brown on a short boat run to grab some sardina, and right back to La Ribera. Fishing for roosters from the back of a panga is crazy. Jeff will slow troll a live sardina or cast a teaser rod, either of which will bring up tons of fish, both roosters and jacks. Once the fish is hot and chasing the bait, you make your presentation and strip the fly – fast. Jared and I both had constant action on roosters. They were everywhere.

The boat is fun, I like it, but my place is on the beach. In 2007 I managed to land an awesome rooster from the beach and ever since, the memory keeps me going back. If the beach fishing is on, there is no better thrill than to see a 40-50lb rooster riding a wave in, happy, and willing to chase a fly. If you hook up and land it, well……. Fortunately for the Chum group, this action was seen all week. We were blessed with a south wind all week, granting perfect beach conditions for BIG roosters. I don’t think we saw fish under 20lbs.

I love the beach routine. Stand, stare. Walk, stare. Catch yourself losing concentration. Sprint, cast. Drink a Tecate, stare.  Drop your Tecate in the sand, sprint, trip on your tangled line, go fetch your now hot Tecate you dropped in the sand. Drink your hot Tecate, choke as you watch a 50lb grande pez gallo – AKA BIG ASS ROOSTERFISH surf a wave in, come within casting distance, cast, frantically strip your fly, watch as the 18″ comb emerges as he charges your fly, and…….!!!!!! scream every cuss word in the dictionary. Why didn’t he eat my fly? That’s they’re way of saying, FU. That routine obviously changes from time to time, sometimes you are drinking a Paco. I had a few scenarios play out like this, but the fish weren’t 50lbs, more in the 25-30lb range. If you have a rooster comb up on your fly at the end of your rod tip, consider it a successful day. This doesn’t always happen and it’s amazing in itself to watch.

Overall, the group had an incredible time.  We all caught fish, that’s what matters. There were no grandes taken from the beach, but we all had our crazy shots. Brian Bennett, did however catch two very nice fish from the boat, a 35lb jack and an 18lb roosterfish. Justin Crump managed to land a beautiful African Pompano as he was giving me a few tips on how to strengthen my backcast. “Do a little of this, a little of….oh crap! I just caught an African Pompano!!” That was a tasty fish! This trip wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of Justin, Kate, Jeff, and Jay.  Thanks guys and thanks Eric and Brian for hosting us!

If you plan to visit Baja, please contact us at the shop so we can set you up with Jeff de Brown of The Reel Baja. Also, if you would like more information on Lagunas de Palmas please email me. [email protected]