"This bait, it is too big," Arturo announced, with a simper well-calculated to enrage.
"So why did we buy it?" Nick asked.
Arturo added a shrug to his simper. The baitman, I suspected, was probably his cousin. We fished the rest of the morning out in an unsocial silence. Grimly, all the mackerel now having died in the live well, we trolled lures, picking up an occasional sierra, streamlined and beautiful—silver, with speckles the color of fine Dijon mustard.
"Mucho ceviche," Arturo said sardonically, implying the fish was eatable only if it were marinated for days in lime juice. "What's Spanish for 'Your tip is in considerable jeopardy' ?" I asked Nick.
It was that sort of morning until, as we were heading home, something hit the red and orange Rapala I was dragging, came in without too much bother at first, then went mad when it sighted the boat, crash-diving, running fast just under the surface, the whole bag of tricks. "Don't know what I've got here," I said to Nick, but just then it leapt a clear four feet out of the water, a rooster-fish as handsome and bold as advertised, but not more than three pounds.
It was a start, though, and it just about saved Arturo's tip. All the same, Nick and I decided that evening that from here out we would go free-lance, a conclusion reinforced by the reply we had from Señor Chuy Valdez, the manager, when we asked him about the possibility of getting hold of some smaller bait, some sardinas. In his office, its walls covered with a small fortune in marlin lures, he told us coldly, "Sardinas is a service that we do not provide."
So next morning we forewent our fishing and took Señor Jessie's cab the 40 kilometers to San Juan where, in a suspiciously short time, we found ourselves legal lessees of, by heaven, a Mexican-built Jeep Renegade The windshield was starred by some stone, or maybe a sniper's bullet, the tires were bald, somebody had removed the transfer case and the speedometer registered a permanent 120 kph. But the thing was ours, and we loved it. For the moment, anyhow.
Now, on the morning we had gone roostering with Arturo and Loco, we had noticed that on the beach off which we fished there were pangas drawn up and villagers throwing cast nets from the shore. Put that all together and what did you have? Why, sardinas, of course, and a panga to fish from.
So, somehow, from the main road we found our way down dirt tracks to the village of the genuine Pescadores, found one who spoke English and struck a bargain. Would the señors find $20 a session for a panga, a man and live bait excessive? Expect us at four o'clock this afternoon, we exultantly told our negotiator.
Later, we would discover that there is a guide called The Baja Book, which meticulously maps every dirt road on the peninsula. That evening, without it, we got lost with some rapidity as we tried a surefire shortcut from camp and found that crossroad followed crossroad, like multiple-choice questions that we almost always got wrong.