Rancho Leonero - Baja Mexico August 2018

This place was an end-of-summer choice to try something new and hope for another decent experience before we headed back to the Seychelles again in late September.  The reports from most reviewers were great, so we booked a room, airplanes, and flew our way down to Mexico at the end of the Baja.

 It qualifies as an iconic fishing resort in this part of the world.  Great reputation for providing good trolling for many edible species and several that simply rate as outstanding trophies (assuming they're not released after unhooking.

Our flights were easy and uneventful and after being picked up for the $90 each way taxi ride to the resort we made it there without any issues.  The resort's an 8 K dirt road drive off main Hwy. 1, and that section seemed to take almost as long as the rest of the roughly 50 K trip from Cabo's airport.

First impressions were great.  Very well designed and maintained layout, and the rooms are spacious - albeit somewhat dated - but on balance very comfortable with good queen beds, a/c, nice decks, etc.

So let's cut to the chase.  We were here for five nights and four days.  An unexpected hurricane put a damper on the last two days of our stay.  The first day we spent trying to figure out how to hook some of the local fish, and that finally happened nicely on day two and parts of day three.

The fish are very similar to what we find elsewhere in the Caribbean but we encountered no barracuda or needle fish.  Ditto for no bonefish, though we didn't expect them.  The roosterfish which are highly touted in advertisements were basically non existent though I did see a handful as they whipsawed their way through the flats near the lodge and once when they created a "boil" of baitfish in the same area.  While August was supposed to be high season for that exotic species, I suspect that report's mostly an advertising ploy.

When the weather was OK, the fly fishing was fun - we were the only two people doing that (fly fishing) here, and I suspect that's commonly the case despite the resort's insistence that the place is becoming a fly fishing mecca.

Let's talk about both the resort and the fishing.

The Resort.

Good things.  A nice rustic room with plenty of space.  Beautiful clean pristine beaches on both sides of the resort.  Decent Mexican home style food.  Coffee available all day.  Reasonable prices for beer and imported wines - none from the local vineyards though.  A nice staff of people, pretty much friendly all the time.

Un-good things.  While breakfast and lunch were served at decent hours, dinner was not.  We dislike, I mean really hate, having to eat en masse late at night.  Come on resort people.  Americans make up 95% of your clientele and most of us are not late eaters.  Enough of that.  Next.  Despite this being a famous fishing resort, the only seafood we had two times out of ten meals was a few deep fried shrimp.  Quite disappointing. 

Dining service at all meals would be described as sketchy.  Had to ask repeatedly for water, napkins, knives, forks, etc. 

At the dozen or so other resorts we patronize around the world, the available kayaks and SUPs at those places are a standard amenity.  Here they charged for them by the hour.  We don't find that acceptable though it may be a local issue.

OK, and here's something I know we need to be careful talking about - the customers of the place.  At times we felt like the bikers who are now motoring up to Sturgis, South Dakota had been dropped wholesale into the resort and right next to us.  Fly fishers are of a different persuasion than the folks who sit in the back of a boat trolling with bait. 

That doesn't make either of us parties better or worse. but the latter are the bulk of the crowd that fills the rooms here.  More power to the resort to make it financially successful, but the resort's primary clients are not the kind of group we are comfortable being around for any extended period of time.

The Fishing.

A bit complicated.  We had variable weather that impacted us a lot.  While the resort talks about a couple of miles of beaches on which to fly fish, the only good holding water (we found) was about four hundred yards of rocks along the point where the resort sits.  It started out appearing to be easy casting but then later turned into something of a nightmare given the rough weather and wave action. 

Lots of boulders (see video), variable firmness of the mostly sand bottom, rushing water between rocks, wave action, currents, etc.  For the fly fisher person a stripping basket is really a necessity if that person does not want to be relentlessly frustrated by fly line wrapping around their ankles.

Had we been dealt ideal weather conditions it would really have been fun fishing here off these rocky beaches.  While most of the reef fish were juveniles, the variety of small snappers and groupers compared favorably with anywhere else we've been.  And the fine scalled trigger fish were out of this world.  The trumpet fish were amazing (for a while), and I hooked at least a good two dozen fish which I never saw that could have been double digit sizes of who knows what species.

Long casts are necessary.  They're also very difficult to execute given the fly line laying twisted around your ankles in the surf and with the wind direction on your nose.  I used 14-16 lb. flouro tippets.  The fish weren't overly picky that way.  Quite small to relatively large flies worked at various times.  Patterns like a plain or rubber leg Charlie or a chartreuse and white clouser or deceiver were effective.  Different types of retrieves worked as well.  In shallower water a slow retrieve brought small snappers and grouper to hand, while further out, a quicker stripped clouser was better for the larger species.

Have to admit I liked the fishing,  As inept as we probably were this being on our first expedition here, I would judge the fishing superior to most of the other places we've visited (Alphonse being the main exception).

So the great question we have to answer is - would we ever return here.  The answer is a probable no.  Aside from the issues noted above, the worst thing that happened on the trip was having a Mexican TSA person tell us we could not carry our back packs on the plane with our seven piece fly rods packed therein.  We fly all over the world without any issues this way and find it intolerable that someone at a check point decided our seven piece compacted fly rods were the equivalent of a long spinning or casting rod pictured on their no go carry on charts.

Here's the somewhat long video of the trip: