"If asked what was the most enthralling thing I have ever seen in the Cortez, I would select the time I saw a school of about a hundred dolphin fish rainbowing up in unison for a 50-foot long leap. The last, sharp rays of a setting sun had caught the vaulters and intensified the brilliant colors.
"There seems to be no satisfying the ravenous appetite of dolphin fish. I have seen them snatch baits just a few inches in front of the noses of big sharks and billfish. At first sight of a tabogganing [sic] bait, this voracious creature often takes off from a great distance and comes bounding through the air, or rips the surface for a hundred yards to be first at a morsel. When hooked, it bounds as high as 15 feet.
"Add to this all the hocus-pocus tricks this protean showoff uses to flamboozle a fisherman: a hundred yard peel-off straight away, then a sudden reversal right toward the boat; quick, unexpected slips under the craft, across its bow, then under and up near the outboard prop. Finally, if all else fails to dislodge the hook, the creature will possum until the overconfident angler relaxes the line, then spit the hook out right in front of the premature victor. It is no wonder that most saltwater angling authorities say that no other fish of all the oceans can match the many qualities of el dorado, 'the finest game fish of them all.' "
I closed the book and then shook Hilde awake. "Time to get up," I said. "This is the day."
We began by trolling north along the coast, toward an island at the western entrance of Juanalito Bay. I had a hunch that we would find dorado in that direction. Half an hour out of Escondido I hooked a skipjack. I could tell what it was at once by the way it took line out and down in strong bursts of 30 to 40 yards until it reached the bottom. After 10 minutes, just as I had begun to work the fish back up, the hook pulled out.
"What are you using?" Hilde asked me as I reeled in.
"A yellow-and-white bucktail fly. Maybe you should switch to that."
She thought about it. "No. I'll stick with the Willie Wonder."
As we neared the island, pelicans and cormorants scattered from the sandy beach. I began to troll around the lower end, over a fairly shallow sandy bottom.
"There's an osprey nest up there." Hilde told me, pointing. "There, on the highest cliff."