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Ronan's report


Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Fins. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, attached to fish of every shape, size , and color. But in my personal world of flyfishing, there are a few fins that stand out. A few fins literally define a fish, symbolize a style of fishing, or maybe even a lifestyle of those devoted to pursuing them with a fly.

In freshwater, those fins are the colorful, sail-like dorsal fin of the lovely grayling, the startling, white-edged pectoral fins of a wild brook or bull trout (charr), and the useless but perfectly intact adipose fin of a big native steelhead.

In saltwater, those fins are the sickle shaped tail of a bonefish (waving in the Caribbean breeze), the spotted tail of a bulky, blue-collar redfish, and the black and iridescent silver dorsal comb of the spectacular roosterfish.

That last one is a new addition to my list, having just returned from Baja, and my first ever roosterfish experience. The seven odd and spectacular rays of a roosters dorsal fin not only stand out in the world of saltwater fish, but they seem to symbolize the species, capture the imagination, and give this amazing fish a way to communicate excitement, discomfort, aggression, and anger. Show anyone - even someone who doesn’t fish - a picture of a roosterfish, and you're almost guaranteed to hear something like, "Whoa! That is a cool fish!"

Indeed.

Last Thursday was the first time that I ever saw a lit up roosterfish chase down and eat a live sardina. I could hardly believe my eyes. With a singular purpose and focus, the rooster went from a slow cruise to full speed in an instant, hit the surface with it's dorsal fin lit up and fully raised above the water, made two 90 degree turns in pursuit without losing a bit of speed, and took the baitfish in a quick rush. Once it was done, the dorsal dropped back down and the roosterfish seemed suddenly calm, like nothing all that extraordinary had happened, as it sunk back down into the depths.

Two days later, on a lonely beach somewhere outside of town, I had the best seat in the house for a repeat performance. But this time it wasn't a live sardina the roosterfish was after. This time it was after my fly.

We had pretty bad spotting light that morning with the sun in our faces and smaller fish cruising over a very mottled bottom, but a swirl and some leaping mullet betrayed the presence of a predator. I didn't know if it was a jack or a rooster, but I threw the longest cast I could in the direction of the commotion and started a fast, hand-over-hand retrieve. I figured if it was a jack, I'd be in business. A third of the way into the retrieve the fish appeared. First, it was just a shape behind my fly that was cruising along just inches under the surface. Then, that unmistakable dorsal fin shot up, erect, gleaming black and silver above the surface in the morning light. Everything else happened in an instant. I thought I was stripping the fly as fast as I could, but somehow (maybe it was the burst of adrenaline) I managed to speed it up just a bit. Come on, Come on, COME ON! The fish darted forward and made a quick left turn for an extra close look just an inch behind the fly, then darted back, and in a rush she had it. My line came tight - Fish on! Just in time too, because I was fast running out of line to retrieve. A few minutes later I got my close-up look at that raised, spectacular fin, and had a perfect, clean release. The excitement was over, at least for the fish, and her dorsal dropped down as she swam out of my shaking hands.

Take Care and Fish On,
Matt


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