SI Vault
Clive Gammon
February 09, 1987
In Baja, Mexico's Lower California, the sun-broiled, mountain-spined peninsula that stretches 800 miles from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas, there are two worlds. This long morning Nick, Olto and I had spent in the first of them, riding the swells of a sea so mysteriously deserted that it might have figured in the log of the Ancient Mariner. For mile on mile inshore of us ran white, surf-battered beaches with, very rarely, lonely white ranchos behind them, half-hidden in the mesquite and the high cactus. And always, behind the surf, hung a backdrop of brown, baked mountains shimmering in 110° heat. Sometimes a reel would screech when a bonito or a sierra mackerel hit one of the trolled lures. But nobody walked on the beaches or came out of a ranch house door to stare at us.
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February 09, 1987

Combing Baja For Roosterfish

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Nick and I knew what to do with them, though. We had brought with us, almost as an afterthought, a couple of big surf rods, the real artillery, designed for throwing heavy sinkers 120, 150 yards. They were English-designed sinkers with breakaway anchor wires meant to hold out in bad tide rips and high surf. Whether they could handle these huge swells was problematic, but at least we could give them a try. The sinkers and the surf, it turned out, fought to a kind of tie. If a fish hadn't hit after five minutes or so, the odds were that by then the sinker would be dislodged and washed ashore, its wire anchors so twisted that they had to be straightened with pliers. On the other hand, I recall this happening only twice. On all the other casts we caught fish.

Bang! A red snapper, a six-pounder by the looks. Crack! A yellow snapper this time, a little smaller. Zip! A comic interlude with a very small triggerfish. Zeee...zeee...zeeeee! A big jack crevalle that came to Nick's bait and held up proceedings for a quarter of an hour. Bop! A perfect miniature hammerhead shark of four or five pounds.

For a while, the action was nonstop. But we were running low on bait. "Last cast!" I said, and heaved.

Sock! A big, meaty striped pargo, one of the snapper family and premium eating, all eight pounds of him, took the bait. "This one we'll keep," I said, unhooking him and walking out on the rock to cast again.

"Hold it!" shouted Brad over the surf roar, "the Goddess of the Last Cast may be listening!"

Sun-fried, I decided, and I threw out again. But I had no further hits that morning. Later, Brad elaborated.

"O.K.," he said, "you're out fishing and it's about time to go, it's so dark you're wondering if the fish can see your lure. So you say, 'This is the last cast,' you chunk it out and a nice sierra hits it. You get it in and, damn, you see there's more of them out there.

"But you quit. You do not throw out your lure again. You declared a last cast, and if you cast again, boy, you may have messed yourself up. Because if the Goddess of the Last Cast was watching, she is really gonna frown on you. So what you say to yourself is, 'The Goddess came through for me! I'm not casting anymore! I'm in touch with the universe and everything is shining on me!' "

Yes, well, I told myself, it's getting late and there's a full moon. We made our farewells. For the Texas boys, the next day would see them on the road home. We would be on the beach again, I supposed, for a big repeat performance of this morning's triumph.

Strangely, it didn't happen, even though we timed our arrival perfectly, just as dawn broke. There were small fish about that nibbled on the bait and then pulled the hook under rock ledges so that we both lost several sets of terminal tackle. The swell had risen also, and there was a bad moment when a really mean wave crashed right onto the rock and brought Nick, who was out casting, to his knees, grimly hanging on to his rod and a rock spur at the same time. We quit for the day early.

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