There can be a stark difference in outcomes between DIY (do it yourself) vs guided when it comes to just about anything. The learning curve and success rates can swing like a pendulum. Hoping to catch rooster fish on the East Cape of Southern Baja on the fly is certainly obtainable. Several experienced and talented guides around the area have the fishing there dialed to as much of a science as any fishing can be. Generations of salt-infected fly fishermen from around the globe have traveled to the East Cape and cracked the code as well. Felt Soul Media made the timeless film Running Down The Man based on doing just that. Since then countless gringo’s have followed in that quest and many have succeeded.
For my new bride and I this trip is actually our honeymoon. Her parents reside in a small surfers mecca on the Pacific Coast which we have visited many times before. But this would be our first trip exploring the warm emerald waters of the Cortez. As part of our loop around Baja Sur, we scheduled 4 days to fish the waters famous for rooster fish. No guide or ponga, and no experience salt water fishing. A perfect adventure. The gamble for us in our planning these four days was to go at it solo, willing to risk skunkage, or hire a guide to maximize odds of success.
In general terms, I think having a guide is the single greatest advantage one can have when it comes to maximizing efficiency of available time. So valuable is not only the assistance of access and transportation, but also the simple knowledge of important general information. Not to mention ideal flies and tackle, and of course proper technique and presentation to the specific scenario. Where are most of the fish right now and what is the best access to reach them? What are the local norms and protocols to follow as not to be one of “those” guys we all hear about. These are all critical components to consider when it comes to fishing as a legitimate angler, and things that any professional guide will have mastered and at your instant disposal. The learning curve to success is advanced by years if not decades in a matter of moment$.
The reward of learning these things first hand however is great. Grinding it out on your own, creating and testing your own theories based on observations you’ve made is an investment. A willingness to sacrifice likely better catch results in trade of personal learning and experience is certainly a trade off. Is it sheer orneriness or spirited inquisitive nature? As a trout and steelhead angler, I’ve personally found tremendous enjoyment and satisfaction in doing it “wrong” intentionally. It’s fun to fish a terrestrial in winter, just for the hell of it. Swing oversized trout nymph patterns for steelhead..? Cool lets give it shot. Going to fish a piece of water thats not known to produce fish just because of what you might stumble upon can bring hefty proceeds. But along with those proceeds (good or bad) comes great reward. That may not always mean fish, but maybe new knowledge of “what and why” that can be even more valuable. Like the feeling from catching a fish on a fly pattern that you created from scratch and tied yourself, maybe I’m a junkie for that kind of punishment.
So now the question at hand, as I look to a return to the E Cape will I look for the results of booking a guide, or prepare to square up and brace to take it on the chin? On this trip my wife and I did find some fish on our own. No adult roosters, but roosters none the less. Along the way we chased countless bait boils and schemed what sort of bait fish we were seeing and what predator fish was crashing them from below. We quickly learned to watch for pelicans and other marine birds as indicators of areas plentiful bait was present. We caught a variety of strange and all new species of fish we had never seen before. It was a great learning experience we shared together, and a feeling of satisfaction for paying some “dues” toward future efforts. Could we have been more productive fishing with a local guide? I’m almost certain of it. Will I book a guide next trip to the salt? Absolutely!