And here we were lucky enough to meet the man who is the real hero of this story. He was, I suspect now, as much of an outcast from the Cabo San Lucas bait-catching establishment as Olto. When we first saw him, as we motored in, he was crouched in the manner of his Indio ancestors in the bottom of a decrepit wooden skiff that had no motor. But, on a handline of monofilament nylon that couldn't have been less than 150-pound test, he was playing a very large fish. The whole of his thin body strained until he was compelled to let the fish run, and I remembered the scars on the hands of José Luis. It must have been a full 15 minutes that we watched him before he got a gaff into a rooster that was 30, maybe 35 pounds.
"Gilberto," Olto shouted when the fish was safe aboard. There was an exchange in Spanish which left Olto grinning broadly. "He will give us small baits," he said, and this was just what the finest gentleman in Cabo San Lucas now did, scooping us over a couple of sardinas from his live bait well, which was a wooden crate covered in chicken wire that he hung over the side.
At this point my roosterfish story should end neatly with both Nick and me taking trophy roosters on our perfect baits. Indeed, it came close to happening. We were both using 20-pound-test spinning outfits, and Nick's went into action first as his reel screamed and he hooked a good fish. But Olto had become considerably overexcited by this point, and in any case he had no real faith in rods. Unforgivably—well, almost—he grabbed Nick's line, just to make absolutely sure that the hook had gone home.
Now my fine was running out and my manic snarl was enough to stop Olto from indulging in a repeat performance. I set the hook. I have taken a good many fish on this particular outfit and I knew this was a good one, a 50-pounder, maybe. To a screaming drag, the line level sank low on the spool, but Olto didn't start up the motor. He sat without moving, immobilized, it seemed, by the earlier disaster.
I couldn't increase the drag. My big rooster went screaming across the harbor until it crashed some moorings. Marlin boat moorings, I noted wryly. Pop.
Nick and I sat in total disarray. Hell, I told the unforgiving Goddess of the Last Cast up there in the blue, it was just one lousy extra shot I took the other morning. I was angry with her. And she might have unbent just a little because the next thing, there was Gilberto calling over to us again. "He invites you to get in his boat," said Olto.
It might be as well if members of the International Game Fish Association and other sensitive anglers quit reading at this point. Because what I did next, of my own free will, was to borrow Gilberto's handline. Smilingly he baited up for me with a fresh sardina, then deftly tossed it into the water.
I had to wait all of 10 seconds before a big rooster hit, and then the line was snaking through my fingers, interminably, it seemed, until Gilberto gave the signal to strike the fish. What followed was that I learned, the hard way, how José Luis had earned his scars as, again and again, the fish tore the line out of my hands, but at last I had the big beauty in the boat. It was trophy, wall-mounting size, but it belonged, evidently, to the boat and to Gilberto. I thanked him courteously, and transferred once again to Olio's panga.
"So you think you've got it straightened out with the Goddess, now," Nick said that evening in El Coral.