Sardina Fly

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Loreto Report
After The Fact
Sardina Fly Evolution
Mark's Sardina
Simms 3X Dry Shirt
All pictures are Mouse-over.

Loreto Mexico Trip June 25- July 1, 2006

A Mexican Dorado coming out of bluewater looking for something to eat.

This year there were eight of us: Bruce & Laura Hampton, Eric Gunter, Tim Kirby, Phil Simmons, Chris Barco and Patty & I.  Each of us had fished the Sea of Cortez before.  We proved to be a totally compatible group.  It occurred to me the first morning as Patty, Eulogio and I were motoring south on the calm Sea of Cortez, between Isla Del Carmen and the stark Baja Peninsula, "that this is what our moon might look like, if it had water standing on it".  The barren shoreline, devoid of vegetation and made up of the ejecta of past

volcanoes, twisted and rearranged by tectonic stress, looked other-worldly, especially in the very first light from the rising sun. It was the perfect setting for an adventure. The weather was hot with very little wind.  But, our first couple of days the fishing were. Patty and I caught only a

couple of Dorado apiece each day, and very little else.  We had some near misses with billfish. The rest of the crew had done much better. Some had landed double digit numbers of Dorado. Then, on the third day I landed six Dorado and Patty landed ten.  That was more like it.  The best part was, when we got back to camp, we found that each of the other three boats had done that well or better.  On day four Patty and I really connected.  I landed 18 Dorado by 9:18 in the morning.  These fish were between ten and thirty pounds with most around 15-pounds.  Patty landed nearly as

Mark with an average Dorado.

Patty and Eloghio with a thirty-pounder.

many.  On the way back to camp we ran into even larger school of Dorado, with hundreds of fish, and caught a few, but were too tired to really capitalize on the situation.  The next day was even better.  We caught so many Dorado that we lost count and came back to camp early, being completely wore out.  The one and two year old Dorado that have been missing from the Loreto area for the last three years were back in huge numbers.  When you have that many fish, the right captain, the right flies and the right techniques, it can be a lot of fun. 

Also when the fish are available in that kind of numbers, it allows you to experiment and learn new tricks.  Having live-bait for chum is important when fly fishing for Dorado.  Throw out a few Sardinas and get their killer instinct going and they become much easier to catch.  I found that slapping the water with the fly a couple of dozen times worked nearly as well. "Pounding them up" became a way of conserving chum.  In the Sea of Cortez if you find a school of Dorado and start catching them, it won't be very long until other boats will

Tim Kirby and his guide Victor with a Sailfish.

find you.  Sometimes there might be a couple of dozen boats on a big school of Dorado.  At first this will seem like encroachment if you are territorial. The Mexican scene can take some getting used too.  They are far more gregarious than Americans.  It didn't matter.  Everyone caught a lot of fish.  Fly anglers caught the most by far.  After you have caught a lot of fish, you can take time to look around and see how other anglers are catching their fish.  During one of our big days, we shared a school with a couple of other American fly fishers and noted that they were catching as many Dorado as we were, but they were fishing exclusively with bright orange poppers.  I changed over just to see what would happen.  Sure enough, I caught as many fish.  Then Patty switched to a popper and it worked for her too. Then we started using different colors of poppers.  They all caught fish, but blood-shot colors did the best.  When you first encounter a new school, the fish will be fairly naive and will bite about anything that looks like a Sardina.  As more and more of them get hooked and released, they get smarter and smarter.  Your fly and presentation has to become better and better.  It was the perfect proving ground for my Sardina pattern listed below, not only for function, but for durability as well.  The fly is tough enough to catch multiple large fish. It catches the most fish when it is new and compact. We didn't encounter as many billfish as we had in previous years.  Tim Kirby was the best billfisherman in our group, landing a Striped Marlin and a Sailfish on the same day.  He landed a Marlin, Sailfish and Dorado on the same day for a Baja "Grand Slam."  He also got the biggest Roosterfish.  His buddy Eric Gunter caught lots of Dorado and Rooster Fish too.  Bruce & Laura Hampton caught their share of fish and orchestrated a couple of sea food feeds that were to die for. Phil Simmons & Chris Barco had a couple of bragging type days with both billfish & dorado. Everyone had some peak days.  The shoreline fishing proved to be a pretty flat with Cabrilla, Pargo and Rooster Fish in sparse numbers. There were huge schools of bait, probably to the point that a nearby predator fish were so well-fed, it was hard to get them moving. Dorado fishing more than made up for the lack of other species.  By all accounts all members of the party had a very good time.  Some are already talking about coming back next year.

After The Fact

Mark with a Rooster Fish.

Patty and I stayed four more days after our group had left for home.  The first day was a bust.  A storm passed though and left the ocean too rough to fish for Dorado.  We fished some of the protected shoreline areas and caught a few small Cabrillas.  The second day, we went south to look for billfish.  They too, proved to be elusive with only one small marlin showing behind the teasers.  In the afternoon we found a large sandy-bottom cove and in it were several dozen Rooster Fish.  We caught eight fish apiece before they became too wise.  Day three proved to be our biggest day for Dorado of our whole

ten-day trip.  We found a big school of totally stupid Dorado, first thing in the morning.  They were hot to go. The first cast a twenty-pounder ripped the fly, jumped six feet in the air with the hook coming out as the fish was coming down.  A fifteen pound fish took the fly before it hit the water.  I hold my guide that I had died and gone to heaven. Average fish was fifteen pounds, with some of the larger fish in the twenty five pound range.  We finally tied on straight forty-pound test leader just to see how fast we could land them.  After about 25 fish apiece we were exhausted. Deciding to take a break, we put the top up on the boat and settled down with a couple of cold drinks.  Eulogio kept flipping out single sardines, just to keep a few Dorado around the boat.  Pretty soon he had so many fish around the boat Patty and I couldn't stand it.  We got back up and resumed fishing.  The next time we quit, our half full drinks were very warm. We were back in camp around noon.  Day four, I woke up with some kind of stomach disorder, but decided to go out fishing anyway.  My first cast resulted in an incredibly strong, high flying bull Dorado of a little better than 35-pounds.  I finally landed him 40-minutes later, but he took all the starch out of me.  After landing a couple more smaller fish, I spread some cushions out on the front casting platform and took a snooze will Patty wrecked havoc on the Dorado from the rear of the boat.  All in all, these fish were more timid than the day before and she had to work harder for them.  It may have been the same school we had worked over the previous day.  We are planning on doing the same approximate time period next season.  If you want to join us, please let us know.

The Evolution Of A Fly
Sardina, fuel of the Sea of Cortez.
Some guys just buy flies and tie them on when a guide tells them to.  Others like myself tie many of their own flies and are always looking for something that will do a better job.  Some fish are very selective in what they eat.  They have discerning eyes and can detect the difference between the fake and the real thing.  Particular populations of spring creek trout are legendary for their selectivity on certain hatches.  Many species of saltwater fish are at least as capable at detecting phony prey.  In the Sea of Cortez and along the Mexican Pacific Coast there are a host of hard pulling fish that eat Sardinas.  Many of these fish are extremely selective as to the size, color and movements of Sardinas.  These fish will often charge your fly from many feet away only to reject and turn away from your fly within inches. It became apparent that a better Sardina fly was needed.  The process listed here is an abbreviated version of a three-season experiment to evolve the perfect Sardina fly.

Sardina or Flatiron Herring, Harengula thrissina: The Sardina, or Flatiron Herring, has a moderately deep body, iridescent olive/brown back, golden yellow lateral stripe, silver sides, and a black spot just behind the top of the gill cover. The Sardina, cannot be easily confused with any other sardine or herring due to its wide body and lack of elongated dorsal fin rays. Average size is 5-inches.  It reaches a length of 7-inches and is virtually weightless. It is normally found in the first 30 feet of the water column in massive schools over sandy bottoms.  In Mexican waters, it is found along the Pacific side of the Baja California peninsula south of Guerrero Negro, throughout the Sea of Cortez, and along the coast of the mainland south to Guatemala; it does not appear to be present around the oceanic islands, however.  Although it is a herring, in Mexico, this species is almost universally called a “Sardina,” or “sardine,” by natives and tourists alike.  The reason that Sardina are so popular for chum, is that they are easy to obtain and survive for long periods in a live-well.

My first close encounter with sardinas was in a bait tank in a panga at East Cape in the Sea of Cortez..  Mexican guides harvest them for live bait and chum.  Sardinas are weak swimmers and are easily caught by hand in the tank.  Thus they are easily examined, both in and out of the water.  You would think that this is the perfect opportunity for a fly tier to copy the exact size and color of the organism.  In fact it proved to be the perfect deception.  Sardinas that are in the wild look quite different from the same fish

that have been netted and especially different from one who have spent several hours in a bait tank.  At left is a sardina that has spent most of the day in a bait tank.  Many of the scales are loosend from the body and many are missing all together.

At left is a Photo Shop rendering where I am attempting to turn the fish into a fly on paper.  In the beginning many of my flies contained a lot of silver flash in the sides.  This mimicked the loosened scales of the bait tank fish.  I tied many variations along the same theme.  the more silver

that was tied into the fly, the less strikes I got.  This is because the sides of fresh fish reflect as white instead of silver.  Sardinas have have a prominent false eye spot on the each side that is nearly identical in size as their pupils.  What the exact purpose for this is not known, but tests using

flies with or without the spot weight heavily in favor of the spot.  This kind of research in fly tying ultimately gives the angler a few insights as to how well predator fish see their prey. Indications are that they see what they eat in great detail.  In Mexico sardinas are used extensively as chum to bring sport fish close to the boat where they can be fished with fly gear.  It appears that bait that is fresh with attract more fish than bait that has been getting beat up in the live well for several hours.  Indications are that Dorado, Rooster Fish and Jack Crevelle like there meat fresh and healthy.

Mark's Sardina Fly
These flies are the ones currently at the top of the Sardina Fly evolution. They are tied on extra strong, razor sharp Gamakatsu hooks.  The flies are ties exclusively from synthetic materials for extreme durability.
Item Description Size Price To Top
06621-2/0 Mark's Sardina Fly 2/0, 5-inch 3 for $19.35

06621-1/0 Mark's Sardina Fly 1/0, 4-inch 3 for $19.35

3XDRY Simms Rivertek Shirt
Blue Light Green

In this world of rush-to-market products, supported by Madison Avenue flim-flam, it's nice to find a product that really does work as well, or better than advertised.  The Simms 3XDRY shirt is one of those products that actually was tested in the field and worn by someone who was very critical of its performance.  Several features make the 3XDRY shirts stand out above the competition.  A couple of loops to attach accessories are handy.  The one next to the top of the left hand pocket proved to be perfect for attaching a pair of clippers on a lanyard, that could be then dropped into the pocket out of the way.  This feature doesn't sound like much until you are out in the middle of a tropical ocean (a place you wouldn't wear a fishing vest) and you need to change flies quickly.  Also the flaps on the pockets are tapered so that the edges don't flip up to look funny or catch your fly line.  The ventilation in this shirt works as well as any other.  What really impressed me most about this shirt was when I got thoroughly slimed by a big Dorado, and Patty washed the shirt out in the shower and hung it over a chair and let it dry in the sun.  It was dry in less than an hour and looked like it had been ironed.  Hey, it doesn't hurt to look good after you been slimed!

3XDRY Simms Rivertek Shirt, Blue

A highly functional fishing shirt made with a 60/40 cotton/poly blend that's lightweight and easy to care for.

  • UPF 30+ provides very good sun protection
  • 60% cotton/40% polyester blend fabric - light and easy care
  • 3XDry® finish sheds water on exterior and wicks moisture from interior
  • Mesh venting at yoke and sides
  • 2 chest pockets with hook and loop closure
  • Features articulated, button roll-up sleeve and full-coverage cuff


Item Description Size Price To Top
CVG1060520 Simms Rivertek Shirt, Blue Small $59.95

CVG1060530 Simms Rivertek Shirt, Blue Medium $59.95

CVG1060540 Simms Rivertek Shirt, Blue Large $59.95

CVG1060550 Simms Rivertek Shirt, Blue X-Large $59.95

CVG1060560 Simms Rivertek Shirt, Blue XX-Large $59.95

3XDRY Simms Rivertek Shirt, Light Green

A highly functional fishing shirt made with a 60/40 cotton/poly blend that's lightweight and easy to care for.

  • UPF 30+ provides very good sun protection
  • 60% cotton/40% polyester blend fabric - light and easy care
  • 3XDry® finish sheds water on exterior and wicks moisture from interior
  • Mesh venting at yoke and sides
  • 2 chest pockets with hook and loop closure
  • Features articulated, button roll-up sleeve and full-coverage cuff
Item Description Size Price To Top
CVG1062020 Simms Rivertek Shirt, Light Green Small $59.95

CVG1062030 Simms Rivertek Shirt, Light Green Medium $59.95

CVG1062040 Simms Rivertek Shirt, Light Green Large $59.95

CVG1062050 Simms Rivertek Shirt, Light Green X-Large $59.95

CVG1062060 Simms Rivertek Shirt, Light Green XX-Large $59.95

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Fish long & prosper,
Mark Bachmann, Patty Barnes


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