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Since it requires great upper-body action, casting from a sitting position can be difficult. Work on mastering your hauling techniques to improve seated casts.

Low-Down Casting

BY NICK CURCIONE

Twenty years ago when I began flyfishing from a kayak off the coasts of Southern California and Baja, it was a bit like being the Lone Ranger. One rarely saw personal watercraft of any kind. The first angler I knew — and one of only a handful — who used a float tube was the late Harry Kime. On occasion, Harry would fly-fish from a truck inner tube off Baja. I tried this in the '70s off a section of Southern California known as Rocky Point. Even then, the coastline was crowded with expensive homes, and the only access to these prolific waters involved a mountain-goat trek down slippery cliffs from the Palos Verdes peninsula.

The float tube was extremely easy to carry, but float-tubing the ocean is not for the faint of heart. You are completely exposed from the waist down and easy pickings for critters that might perceive you as a dietary item. For this reason, I began to fish from a kayak, though some years back I made the switch to a kick boat (or pontoon boat). Kayaks and kick boats are no longer novelties; they have become popular among fly-fishers all over the U.S. But regardless of the type of craft you opt for, they all sit very low on the water — and this can pose some casting challenges.

USE THE UPPER BODY

Only recently have casting pros begun to point out the important role the lower body plays in fly-casting. Scanning the literature, it soon becomes evident that most discussion on casting dynamics focuses primarily on the arms and shoulders. It may have been long recognized, but few emphasized the importance of the legs and hips in executing the cast. Of course, if you're fishing from a kayak or kick boat, this is the part of your body that is virtually eliminated during the casting process.

When standing, the lower body assumes particular importance in making long-distance casts. Fly-fishers who often wade come to appreciate this fact every time they cast in water above their knees.

On a dry surface, one foot (the one opposite the casting arm) is placed in front of the other. During the backcast, weight begins to shift from the forward leg to the rear leg. During the forward cast, weight transfers in the opposite direction. The hips also come into play during this transitional phase. When attempting to cast in waist-deep water, however, it's difficult to make this weight transfer. The situation is very similar when casting from a sitting position. You must rely almost entirely on your upper body.

Casting from a seated position does pose a handicap for long-distance deliveries, but you can still make some very effective presentations. First off, when fishing from a personal watercraft, longdistance casts are actually not all that critical. Indeed, one of the major advantages of this type of craft is that it can put you in places difficult or impossible to access by foot or larger boat — places which often don't require long shots.

MASTER THE HAULS

You can also take advantage of your lowered position by using water hauls to cast. Shooting-head lines are ideally suited for this because of their greater density, though the same technique can be used with floating lines as well. You'll want to extend the head (or the head portion if it's a continuous length, integrated line) past the rod tip and lay it on the surface. With a sinking line, make a roll cast to bring the head section up to the surface, then begin making the back-cast the instant the line is on the surface. Otherwise, it will sink, requiring you to pull it to the surface again.

From there, slide (or haul) the line along the surface in the process of making the backcast. The tension of the line coming across the surface will create a prominent bend in the rod (commonly referred to as "loading" the rod). When the line is almost completely off the surface, make the brief acceleration and stop for the backcast and then make the forward cast.

Not to confuse the issue, but the water haul is not a substitute for the double haul. When using the water-haul technique, be sure to incorporate the double haul (pulling on the line the instant you stop the rod on both the back and forward strokes). In fact, in situations where you can't bring your lower body into play, learn to rely more on the double haul to gain the necessary line speed to cast.

If you want to make a cast to the same side as your casting arm, use the water haul technique. However, in this case, there is no forward cast. The line is hauled from the surface, the speed-up-and-stop is executed at the conclusion of the back stroke and the line is allowed to shoot out backward toward the target area. Here again, to develop maximum line speed, it's necessary to haul (pull) on the line while executing the backcast.

LONG-ROD FALLACY

One final point needs to be addressed: It's what I call the long-rod fallacy. Many fly-fishers believe they need a rod that exceeds the conventional 9-foot length when casting from a seated position. They believe a longer rod helps prevent the fly, line and leader from striking the surface on the backcast, a common problem for those who fish from personal watercraft.

Fact is, water slap is caused by faulty casting technique. The line goes in the direction the rod tip was pointed when completely stopped. It is not a function of rod length. To correct this problem, complete the backcast with your thumb making a slight upward motion. That will cause the rod tip to rise slightly. Don't raise your arm above shoulder level — a slight upward rise of the thumb and hand is all that it takes. Also, try to avoid bending your wrist. Doing so directs the rod tip downward, and that's where the line will end up on the backcast.

I actually prefer a rod shorter than 9 feet when fishing from these personal watercraft. They are easier to maneuver when fighting and landing fish, and very little is sacrificed in the way of casting effectiveness. The best way to practice is to cast from a kneeling position. But if this becomes uncomfortable, try casting from a chair, and turn your head rearward so you can watch your backcasts.

Even if you never fish from a kayak or kick boat, learning to cast from a seated position is mighty handy for those times when it may be too hazardous to stand — or when you're just plain tired and have to get off your feet.

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They say opposires attract. It was love at first cast for this East Coast gal when first introduced to Baja's Sea of Cortez. Baja is the land of opposites — cactus-filled mountains rise from the sea, shallow fringes of shoreline sit next to extreme drop-offs and brutal sea monsters that love to eat tiny baitfish seemingly lurk around every corner.

Fly-fishers willing to look beyond the stereotypical ideal of grass flats, grand slams and palm trees will find an excellent fishing adventure here. Baja is about slinging bait, sinking lines and adding a bunch of new species to your life list.

My love affair with the Sea of Cortez started on a hosted trip to Punta Arenas one October with longtime Baja expert Gary Bulla. Located three bumpy hours north of Cabo San Lucas, Punta Arenas is certainly off the beaten path. And while fly-anglers for.years have enjoyed great fishing matched with swanky accommodations out of Cabo and East Cape, the journey to this rettiote area turns a fishing trip into an absolute angling adventure.

A SEA THAT EMERGES LIKE A MIRAGE

The airports in La Paz and Cabo have the feel of most other seaside resort areas, but that quickly fades at the edge of town. Small homes and businesses — and, most importantly, ocean — give way to cactus forests. In some areas, even the pavement disappears as your van bumps down dirt roads still trickling with hurricane water. Finally, you pop over a mountain, and the Sea of Cortez suddenly comes into focus, almost like a mirage.

OFFSHORE AND INSHORE ACTION ABOUNDS SOUTH OF THE BORDER STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY CAPT. SARAH GARDNER

Each morning in Punta Arenas begins with the collection of live sardines. Live bait is key to generating both inshore and offshore action.

Pre-dawn in La Ventana, where we typically stay, is surreal. Each morning, we load tackle in starlight so strong and pure that the cactuses cast shadows. We drive through dawn and reach Punta Arenas before the sun pops up above the velvety-calm Cortez. Launching boats from the beach is a group project, and its there you'll meet your captains (also calledpangueros). After launching, it is time to find bait.

Sorry purists, live sardines are the backbone of Raja panga fishing. A boat's fishing success is directly proportional to how much bait it has. These small baitfish are caught, lovingly kept alive and portioned out to keep a countless list of predators interested. Just catching bait often creates a feeding frenzy! Some anglers start casting while bait is being collected, but it is impressive just to watch the local guides toss 12-foot nets like they were Frisbees along bouncy surf zones.

Baia

With the wells eventually full of frisky sardines, it's decision time on how to spend the morning. There are two choices: Stay along the shallow edge or go deep.

FISHING THE FRINGE

The shallow edge of the Sea of Cortez can be intimidating, but anglers quickly learn which distinct features hold fish. Tossing sardines always helps the learning curve. Whether you fish the mainland or the outlying islands, the three main features are rock outcroppings, coral bottom and sand beaches.

It has been my experience that few of the shallow shoreline species show an exclusive preference for any area, though the various snapper species gravitate to rock and coral while croakers are found in the surf break along sandy stretches. It

never hurts to make blind casts around the rocks, but chumming truly rings the dinner bell.

Anglers use several tactics to fish the edge. The most exciting is to use poppers, and especially crease flies. When teamed with floating lines and 8- to 9-weight rods, these surface flies draw lots of attention. Ladyfish, mackerel and especially roosterfish love them! Most of these fish are under 10 pounds, but they are ambitious and willing to make multiple attempts at poppers before hooking themselves. Poppers can be fished randomly when chum is being thrown, but when the captain yells, "Gallo!"— or "rooster" — it is time to tighten up the presentation.

Roosters have become a must-catch fish in our fraternity, and it's easy to understand why when you see them feed. Their distinctive fins emerge from the water when excited, and when swimming quickly, large individuals make a slicing sound as they cut through the crystal-clear surface.

Roosters will not stick around for long, however, so learning to identify and cast quickly is critical. Rut take your time and make sure your target is identified. It's better to make an accurate 30-foot cast to a known rooster than a bomb to an unidentified explosion. If you do the latter, it's a guarantee that a lady will grab the long cast while Senor Gallo puts on a show at your feet.

Roosters are notoriously focused feeders, so the fly should be dropped on their heads. They are much easier to entice with less-than-perfect casts when there is a lot of bait in the water, but it still has to be close. Watching, anticipating and casting to them is like playing "Whack a Mole" at the carnival. In the

Baitfish

Most fall roosterfish are on the small side, but they're always beautiful.

fall, these chummed roosters average less than 10 pounds, but the success rate is exponentially higher than running up and down the beach.

The most productive way to fish the shallows is with streamers. They can be blind cast or delivered to specific fish anywhere in the water column. They are especially good for snappers, which are shy about coming to the surface. I prefer to match streamers with an intermediate line when fishing the shoreline. The water ranges from 2 to 20 feet deep, and if wind and geography permit, the captains like to make chum drifts. They will quietly run the boat to within casting distance of shore, shut the motor off and start chumming while drif ting out until the fish stop biting, which can be several hundred feet offshore. When fish are biting, they will repeat the drift several times before moving to another spot.

Indeed, it is easy to spend the day methodically chumming the shoreline while staring up at the almost vertical mountains of Cerralvo Island, but bigger fish await just a few hundred yards offshore.

DREDGING THE DEPTHS

Anglers don't have to travel far to reach deep water and another set of predators. Water depths plummet by several hundred feet just a few hundred yards offshore (and to several thousand feet not far beyond that).

The most common fish here are tuna. Rarrolettes — or Pacific black skipjack — are the most available, and they look like an East Coast false albacore on steroids. They pull twice as hard as an albie and can even whip a similar-sized yellowfin. When chummed up, the barrolettes and yellowfin often arrive simultaneously.

Yellowfin prefer feeding deep, which makes them impossible to target specifically. Anglers often don't know what they have until the fish is almost to the boat. It is possible to predict, however, by taking note of the fight. Barrolettes "pulse" the rod tip while taking deep dives and making quick turns. Yellowfins make long, deep runs from the boat.

Dolphin and striped marlin may also show up in the middle of a frenzy. Anglers can usually spot the dolphin on top and sight-cast to them. Marlin emerge from below, but occasionally they can be seen finning on the surface nearby.

Deep-water chumming spots are not as obvious as shallow-water areas. Captains rely on sight, looking for birds and breaking fish. When they see activity, they stop and toss bait until fish are located. They also rely on deep-water outcroppings and seamounts that consistendy hold fish. They motor up-current of the structure and toss out bait as the boat drifts by. Their skill at finding the structure by triangulating landmarks is impressive, considering the small pangas are not equipped with depth finders or GPS.

FFSW TIPPET

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How To Have A Perfect Boating Experience

How To Have A Perfect Boating Experience

Lets start by identifying what exactly certain boats are. Sometimes the terminology can get lost on beginners, so well look at some of the most common boats and what theyre called. These boats are exactly what the name implies. They are meant to be used for fishing. Most fishing boats are powered by outboard motors, and many also have a trolling motor mounted on the bow. Bass boats can be made of aluminium or fibreglass.

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