Through grey skies I looked down to the sea from my balcony, the Pacific Ocean crashed in large waves on the pebble beach and I couldn’t sleep. It was 7.00am and despite travelling for nearly thirty-six hours I was wide-awake. The wife and kids were sleeping soundly but I just couldn’t settle. I was gazing down at the ocean and was sure I had seen something boil just beyond the second breaker. I rubbed my eyes wearily and watched another wave of pelicans dive bomb into what I later found out to be shoals of sardines. Just beyond these another dark shape cut through the surface scattering small fish in its path. I smiled to myself. The sea outside my hotel was alive with fish and big ones as well. I had two weeks ahead of me, no work, as much food and beer as I could drink and two telescopic rods (one light match type and one around 2lb t.c.) at the ready – paradise.

An hour later I was on the shore watching with increasing excitement as large shapes crashed into the shoals of silver fish in a feeding frenzy. Another holidaymaker appeared by my side with a look of despair on his face.’Look at ’em’ he said ‘Every morning this happens. I’ve been here for two weeks, not brought any gear and have to watch this every day’.Every day, I thought to myself. Right, a plan was hatched. No point using up all my brownie points just a couple of hours after arrival. I would have breakfast with the family, have a look around, take a few beers, then prepare my tackle and maybe fish with my light rod for some fresh bait this evening. Then tomorrow morning…….. wham!

I awoke the following morning with a major hangover. I suppose that on the first day of an all-inclusive holiday in Mexico it was inevitable that the ‘Corona’ beer and Tequila would play a major part, and it did. I tried to tell the wife that it was jetlag, but I suppose she knows me too well. Anyway, I staggered down to the beach armed with a 12′ telescopic carp rod, Shimano 4500 loaded with 12lb line and the meagre handful of ‘Rapala’ lures that I own. After thrashing the surface into foam for around an hour or so it dawned on me that there was no activity. No pelicans, no silver fish, no dark shapes pursuing them. Just the surf and one silly looking, painfully white, holidaymaker continually chucking a lump of plastic into the sea.

‘No pelican, no fish amigo,’ smiled a silver toothed Mexican who had started to spread out some dodgy looking tee shirts on the beach behind me. He then proceeded to inform me that he was a very experienced local angler and showed me his net and handline to prove it. I smiled the way we superior anglers do, made a bit of small talk then moved further down the beach as he waded neck deep into the sea and started to throw the net around his head like a lasso. After another hour I passed him on my way back for breakfast. I, of course, was biteless. He was now stood in the surf, literally up to his neck, handline held high and ducking his head under each wave that came. It was an amusing sight. That was until I looked on the beach behind him to see a fish (which was later identified as a yellowtail) of around 8-10lb lying on the pebbles in the morning sunlight. I smiled at him through clenched teeth gave him the ‘thumbs up’ as I climbed the steps up to the hotel on my way to breakfast.

In the next few days it soon became apparent that the sardines had moved on, there was no sign of the pelicans and obviously the bigger fish had followed them further down the coastline. I was now angry with myself. Rule number one when fishing is if an opportunity presents itself then you should take it. I had assumed incorrectly as it turned out that there would be big fish off the beach every day and that first morning I had undoubtedly wasted a golden opportunity.

Still I persevered, I would stand up to my waist in the surf each morning fishing ‘pole’ style with bread to catch the small disc shaped fish which constituted my bait. This took more willpower than you would imagine. The surf was so powerful that each wave would throw large pebbles the size of mallard eggs into my exposed shins, but as fresh bait is always preferable this was considered a minor inconvenience.

Earlier in the week I had prised some molluscs from the rocks whilst snorkelling, and although they made excellent bait the fact that they turned my hands the colour of beetroot did not go down too well with the wife. Even now there is a tinge of this pigment in my fingernails. As the lure fishing turned out to be a total failure, plan B was now in operation. This involved fishing strips of fish beachcaster style on a running ledger, 12lb mono and a size 2 hook. The results were hardly dramatic but after a couple of small taps on the rod I got a violent take which I thought I had missed. On retrieving my tackle I found my 12lb line had been bitten clean through. Out went the rig again this time with 40lb mono hooklink, ten minutes later, same bite, and same result. I’ll show the bugger, I thought, so out went a size 2 continental carp hook attached to 28lb Drennan seven strand wire, bite through that you b*****d.

It did, in an instant.

It took a further couple of bite-offs before I landed one of the culprits. Unfortunately it wasn’t one of the huge specimens I had imagined but a rather unpleasant looking creature. The locals called it a ‘frog’ and apparently to them it was worthless, as it was inedible due to part of its flesh being toxic. I had managed to hook one in its outer leathery lips and once on the shore I could see why I had been losing them. These strange fish had four ‘buck’ teeth, which overlapped; these looked more like a vicious beak than normal teeth. One of the locals informed me that they could sever the end off a finger and, by the way it gripped and scratched my forceps, I believed him.

One morning as I sat on the beach watching the rods and eating a breakfast of omelette, refried beans and fresh orange juice my daughter had brought down for me (it’s a tough life!) my ‘amigo’ appeared on the beach again. ‘Beeg feesh gone my friend’ he informed me. As if I didn’t know. As it turns out his brother owns a small fishing boat and for a nominal charge (we haggled him down to £ 30 for four hours) he would take us out and fish the inaccessible rocky shoreline where we would undoubtedly catch plenty of fish…….how could I doubt him?

The following morning he picked up my father, my father in law, and myself in the back of a dodgy looking pickup and drove us down into town where his brother’s boat was moored. To be fair, the boat, although in poor repair was more than adequate, which was more than can be said for the tackle he provided. Luckily we had our own telescopic rods and we agreed to spend a couple of hours trolling with his three dodgy looking ‘broom handles’. Then we would anchor up near the rocks and fish with our lighter gear to see what we could catch. Before the boat pulled off the jetty he caught us our bait – live sardines. Again he showed his prowess with a net. With the net folded around his shoulders he scanned the water waiting for a shoal to come into site. Then with a deft flick the net dropped in a perfect circle, was quickly closed and a large freezer box was filled with live sardines. I wish I could get livebait for pike as quickly!

The sardines were not the variety I am familiar with, the ones I use for pike fishing, but resembled more closely a sprat with a single spot near its tail root.

Soon we were trolling and the first thing that struck me was the speed of the boat. Surely fish wouldn’t be able to see the lures/bait let alone catch one. My new friend who turned out to be called Hose’ (honestly!) assured me that this was quite slow and if I went after the real biggies we would really motor.

After about an hour one of the rods kicked into life and it was soon in my hands. The fish gave a spirited struggle but was no real match for the rods that Hose’ had provided and was soon on board. It turned out to be a species of mini tuna and weighed around 6lb. Soon after this one of the other rods woke up and this time my father took control and was soon swinging a Spanish mackerel over the side. This, for those who have never seen one looked like a cross between a normal mackerel and a barracuda – major teeth!

To be honest we soon got bored with this and persuaded him to anchor up and fish just off the rocks. We were told the killing method was to freeline live sardine and watch for the line cutting through the water. Unconvinced I flicked out the unfortunate sardine, paid out a little line, and watched him swim downwards. The take when it came caught me totally by surprise, both with its speed and ferocity. Just seconds after I had clicked over the bail arm the rod was nearly wrenched from my grasp and I was left totally speechless when I wound in a bare hook. Out went another sardine and this was eventually taken in a similar manner, only this time I was ready. My bail arm was open and the line was held by hand. I allowed the speeding fish to take about 20yds of line (in about two seconds!) before striking. The fish wasn’t massive but on my telescopic rod and 12lb line it gave me a memorable fight.

Once in the boat I was glad I had used a wire trace and could also see why I had missed the earlier take. The fish was obviously a type of garfish but with a much longer bill and with far superior teeth than the ones that inhabit our coastline. It weighed perhaps 5-6lb and was undoubtedly the fastest fish I had ever hooked….at that time. As it turns out I was quite fortunate to hook that fish as another four or five runs between us all resulted in missed bites. One particular fish swam past the boat and took the sardine instantly when I flicked the bait in front of him. We all watched for several minutes, the sardine clearly visible hanging either side of the bill, the silver hook perfectly visible outside the mouth as the gar’ made several short but fast runs but never attempting to swallow the bait. Eventually it moved out of sight. With no other option I eventually struck and wound in a sardine’s head sliced off perfectly just below the gills.

This was pretty much the end of the action fishing-wise but on our way back to shore we passed alongside a huge manta ray its three metre wingspan perfectly visibly as the tips of its wings ‘waved’ through the water’s surface. I ignored my father-in-law when he asked if it would take a sardine.

Once back at the hotel we ordered several hard-earned beers and were delighted to find that a barbecue was in progress, the three of us settled down by the pool with a huge plate of steak, chips and onion rings. It sure beats a cold cheese sandwich on the banks of the Leeds-Liverpool canal.

Part 2 – A visit to a Mexican fish market and a Marina