Fly-fishing in Baja

My family and I have had the good fortune to fish the East Cape of Baja California Sur, Mexico, for what will be 10 years this summer. The East Cape is an area of the Sea of Cortez that runs roughly from San José del Cabo northeast to Punta Pescadero. It is a legendary area that brought many notable anglers to fish its waters for the many species that inhabit its waters.


Leslie Ajari on the bow of the panga in Baja hooked to her first fly-caught fish, a skipjack tuna. | Bruce Ajari

The region is still considered to be “old Mexico,” but lots of pending development is threatening to change the landscape to places such as of San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. This is sad for those of us who have come to appreciate the excellent fishing, both conventional and fly.

Watch the video for “Running Down the Man”


“The Sea of Cortez offers the opportunity to catch many species of fish on a single trip.”


Fly-fishing really took off after the April 2007 YouTube video, “Running Down the Man,” came out. It was about fly-fishing from the beach for the roosterfish (Nematistius pectoralis) known in Spanish as pez gallo. The fish is amazing looking and quite aggressive, but extremely difficult to fool. The dorsal fin is a comb that makes it identifiable.

Each year after 2007, we saw an influx of fishermen targeting this species from the beach. The prime time to fish from the beach is considered to be roughly April to June. While you can catch them year-round from boats, this period is considered to be the best from the beach.

It was beginning to be quite frustrating. Beaches where we were once the only anglers now had many guides on all-terrain vehicles with their clients. We no longer had the solitude of walking miles of beaches for the chance at roosterfish.

We decided to change the time of the year when we went down, giving the fall a shot. While we were looking at different species and more conventional fishing, it has turned out to be a good choice — until we tangled with Hurricane Odile in September 2014. Since that event, we are now going down in August, which is still in the prime hurricane season.

The Sea of Cortez offers the opportunity to catch many species of fish on a single trip. In fact, you never know what to expect when casting a fly from the beach or panga, a mid-sized boat powered by an outboard motor.

We have had the good fortune to catch as many as 17 different species of fish on a trip. It is a remarkable fishery, although most old-timers say that it has declined. The time of year and corresponding water temperatures will dictate what species are most available.





Boca Reservoir | Inflow is at 29 cfs and the outflow is 284 cfs. Powerbait, nightcrawlers and lures are all working. Fly-fishers have been catching some fish near the inlet with nymphs, streamers and dries.

Donner Lake | Fishing has been fair to good. Kokanee fishing has been good. Nightcrawlers and Powerbait seem to be the main bait for trout. Mackinaw fishing has been good. Fly-fishers are catching some fish with streamers.

Lake Tahoe | Fishing has been fair to good for mackinaw. A guide is highly recommended if you are fishing for mackinaw for the first time. Toplining and shore fishing is fair. Most shore anglers use inflated nightcrawlers.

Little Truckee River | The flow is at 28 cfs. I think this is too low for fishing. Try a dry dropper rig if you must fish.

Martis Lake | Zero kill. Catch and release only with barbless artificial lures or flies. Smallmouth bass are part of the fishery here.

Prosser Lake | Fishing has been fair to good. Anglers using bait, lures and flies have all caught fish. Fly-fishers have done well near the inlet areas. Bass fishing has been fair.

Stampede Reservoir | Fishing has been slow; not too many reports. Nightcrawlers, Powerbait and lures have all produced from shore. Fly-fishers have been doing well near the inlets with nymphs and streamers. The Kokanee fishing has been pretty poor. Smallmouth bass fishing has been fair.

Truckee River | It is not flowing out of the lake at Tahoe City. The flows through Truckee are at 63 cfs. Carry a thermometer and keep an eye on water temperatures. Consider fishing an alternative water when it gets more than 64 degrees. Crayfish, caddis and streamers are working. Hoppers are also beginning to show. This water is special regulation, artificial only with a barbless hook. Catch-and-release fishing is encouraged, but an angler may keep two fish with a minimum size of 14 inches.

Davis and Frenchman lakes | Both are slowing down with warmer temperatures. Boat, shore and fly anglers are catching a few fish. Reports from Davis Lake are only fair. Frenchman Lake fishing has slowed, as well. Give these waters a rest until fall brings cooler temperatures.


Bruce Ajari is a long-time area fly-fisherman and past president of Tahoe Truckee Fly Fishers. Visit to read more.

Bruce Ajari

Bruce Ajari is a long-time area fly-fisherman and past president of Tahoe Truckee Fly Fishers.