La mancha has nothing to do with the spanish region where Don Quixote came from. Rather, the word represents what the Mexican captains seek for their clients in the Sea of Cortez. It's when a bunch of sardina meet a bunch of dorado off the shores of Loreto. To me, it's where all hell breaks loose.
If, as soon as live bait lands on the water, a boil appears, it's on. More chum, more splashes, crashes, yellow - black - green - blue colors streak through the water from all directions, lightning quick. Fly lines are cast into the melee and Ron Dong Crease Flies skitter. More boats are arriving and more chum is thrown. More lines are cast or trolled through the middle of the caldron. Now, fish are jumping clear out of the water and at the other end of the rooster tailing line, one to three hundred feet away from the tumbling fish is an angler slightly hunched over pissing in his pants. You're casting to the boils, playing the bait, lines are criss-crossing in front of you, being dragged by speedy dorado and more boats are in your view. Your partner's reel is sizzling and his big dorado jumps out of the water at a distance.
Pretty soon, I'm missing slashing strikes and the Rong Dong Crease Fly flies into the air following a slack line, but I see more fish inspect the fly when it lands on the water before I can come tight and strip. After my next strip, I swear "F*@&ing A." I just broke off at the tippet - bite conection. My attention is now on how to quickly get another fly in the water before it's too late. It's a high pressure game because the fish could scoot out of there and la mancha could be over in an instant.
"Una manchita" - a small feeding frenzy, "Se llenaron" - they got full, "Se acabaron" - they shut down or they finished. It happens and it happened to us several times during our trip. Sometimes, we'd consider ourselves lucky if we landed more than one fish from la mancha. But other times, like what happened on the first and last day of our trip, the bite lasted long enough to catch multiple fish each.
Dan Blanton was my fishing partner and regardless of the fact that his relationship to Loreto dates back to somewhere around 1970, when he, Ron Dong, George Smith etal trailered boats down to Puerto Escondido, I feel pretty damn lucky. I learned quite a bit, to say the least. Dan is a walking fly fishing encyclopedia knowledgeable of the best rigging to stellar fly fishing destinations. But, one of the things I appreciate most about Dan is that he enjoys and values any and all fish that will eat a casted fly, tug on a line and put a bend in a rod.
Turns out both Ron Dong and George Smith were on this trip too. And, it was great hanging out with these Loreto veterans. My trip also coincided with Atwin King's swan song. Atwin handed over the Fishabout hosting duties to Matt Zawacki, who did a great job by the way. Atwin spent the week putting his grandson, Sean, onto 50 dorado, plus other species. It was Atwin's yearlong mission, and he succeeded.
Atwin has been the down to Loreto, mostly as the host of the Fishabout groups, for 20 - 30 some odd years; and if you know Atwin, you wouldn't be surprised to see the entire crew of Hotel Oasis shower him with love and admiration. He jokes that they are his secret second family.
Turns out, all the other folks in the group are great people, and the family combos that joined the group are a model for what family is all about.
Temple Fork Outfitters folks, including Rick Pope, Brandon Powers, Jeff Jackson, and Nick Curcione also braved the Baja heat and chased after all species of fish that swim in the Sea of Cortez. One day, Nick and Brandon came back smiling and saying that they just educated a whole year class of roosterfish. This kind of company outting is likely what makes TFO such a tight-knit, quality operation and one of the tackle industry leaders. You can't beat the TFO bluewater rods down in Loreto.
Besides the TFO rods, you can't beat the Ron Dong Crease Fly for these dorado. While the Rio Outbound Short floater does a great job casting and swimming the RDCF, the RDCF is also effective on a sinking line, where you get enticing topwater and then subsurface antics out of the fly. For subsurface, Dan's Sar-Mul-Mac ruled the waters at one point and continues to shine. And, I hear Atwin's Sardina is a staple in some fly boxes. On the experimental side, I found that both my NPD Diver and Magic Bullet flies got some play from the dorado, but it was the black skip jack that really liked them.
Evidently the skippies were absent the last couple of years. But not this year. On our second day, Dan and I found a school of skippies along a current seam that would not go away. They dined on the sparse amount of chum our captain hurled and they were fooled by mostly topwater or barely subsurface flies that we casted. Oddly enough, many of the skippies ate the fly on a dead drift.
A bull dorado made a surprise appearance during the skippie session and Captain Ismael did a great job keeping him close to the boat. I had multiple shots at the fish and finally fed him a yellow/white Magic Bullet. He broke me off instantly and had me doing snow angels on the front deck crying "no way, no way".
Sure, I had some trouble with my rigging for dorado, but no worries, I landed more of them than I ever have. Plus, there are other fish in the sea. In the end, I spent a week hanging out with one of fly fishing's legends and got a great taste of some legendary fishing. You can't do that in central Spain.
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