What is a Roosterfish

Hi Speed Only

Mexico is home to one of the best kept secrets in sport fly fishing. It is for that reason I have been sworn to secrecy as to my exact location for this trip. However, when it comes to Rooster fishing accessibility although difficult is the least of ones worries. During late spring through summer Roosters present themselves to in-shore fly fishers. Nothing gets an anglers heart racing like seeing a 60 pound Rooster casually coasting the surf into the beach. Only to explode with comb raised into a ball of bait. An angler’s goal is to get a 6 to 8 inch fly through a 20 mph on-shore wind to within 2 feet of a fish 100 feet out. The difficulties don’t stop there. The window of opportunity is only open when the sun is high from around 11 to 4. This allows the angler to see the fish working there way to shore from hundred of yards out. We all carried radios and the call would go out “Roosters at my 12:00-coming your way”. Once they are spotted the marathon began. Sometimes we were left chasing them for hundreds of yards as they cruised parallel to the beach and beyond a cast. Only to have them turn and disappear into the abyss. Worse yet, sometimes they would come to within 5 feet of shore and entice you to follow them for a mile long beach sprint. I had this happen many times. Running as hard as I could for hundreds of yards to get ahead of the fish as they cruised parallel to shore, struggling to get the fly in front of them, frustrated to see them swim around it. This scenario would sometimes play out 10 to 12 times with one fish until my heart pounded like it wanted to explode.

One time I was even hoping the fish would just turn back to deeper water so I could rest. During another maddening chase a giant Rooster actually turned back on me as I chased him. I watch, slightly scared, as he busted a ball of Mullet at my feet. I was standing in knee deep water and with comb raised he turned and separated a 12-15 inch mullet from the bait ball. I was amazed at the efficiency by which the Rooster stunned then inhaled the bait fish. The hardest part of Rooster fishing is that most of the factors that allow success are beyond an angler’s control. As always timing is everything. Time of day, time of year, position in relation to fish as they cruise in, accurate casting and fly selection are all within an angler’s control. But for Roosters you also need cooperation from the wind, the temperature (water and air), water turbidity and bait fish to name only a few.

For example if the water is clear you can see fish a mile away, however, they can also tell that your offering, fashioned from metal wrapped in feathers, fur and plastic is nothing more than just that. If the water is too turbid you can’t see the fish and have no clue where they are. If the bait is too far off shore the Roosters stay off shore or worse the bait is not present at all. These factors all tend to be very unpredictable as well as extremely variable on a day to day basis. Here are a couple of stats from my trip. The first day had the best condition of the trip. I saw around 50 fish. I cast to around 20 individual Roosters. Some of them I cast to many, many times and some I only got one “shot” at. This is interesting to me as the term “shot” seemed to be readily used to describe a good opportunity to get a fly in front of the fish. Also interesting to me is that people refer to catching these fish in the same terms one might speak of a trophy deer “This is where I got mine” and “he got his over there” speaking to the difficulty of catching these fish. So it goes. Out of the 30 or so “shots” I had the first day only 4 or 5 times did a fish even look at my fly.

More difficult yet was the fact that each day we saw fish in diminishing numbers of fish until day 5 when I saw only 2. Incidentally day six, which also happened to be the day I left, was reported to be even better than the first. This is difficult fishing to be sure. A couple weeks ago I heard another report from a very knowledgeable Rooster fly fisher. He reported spending 20 consecutive days chasing Roosters on the same beaches only to hook one! However, the report from that same person for last week was that the fishing was on fire and the fish were on the bite. The real rub is that Roosters are readily caught, quite easily in fact, with bait. Despite the difficulties everyone in our crew of 6 caught Roosters- all on flies. But with Roosters it is really less about the catch and more about the chase. I will be going back next year!