“Blinded by the light
Revved up like a deuce
Another runner in the night…”
Sang the voice from the car radio, as a young Donnie Price waited patiently with the rest of his family in the car, as his father went into the bait shop to get supplies for a family fishing trip.
“It’s my first memory really, Blinded by light on the radio, my dad getting bait, and us going fishing as a family,” Donnie says, thinking back on it. “I don’t even remember how old I was, I just know I could walk, literally as long as I’ve been able to walk, I’ve been fishing. I’m sure I’d been before that day, but that is my first memory of it.”
While many of the rest of us were doing good to master a push button Zebco, Donnie was asking for and receiving his first fly rod on his 8th birthday.
“My birthday is in January, and we lived in Oklahoma, so I had to wait until Spring to use it. So, I practiced until then and I’ve been fascinated with the artistry of it ever since,” he says.
Young Mr. Price started out on Perch in a Central Oklahoma farm pond. As his passion for casting flies grew, he explored his region for the best fly fishing experiences, at first limited by the seasons and needing to stay an hour from the fire house, where he has served for over two decades.
An avid outdoorsman, he has turned his sites to duck hunting, falconry and more. “There were times when I stepped back from fly fishing and picked up other passions. Fly fishing here in Oklahoma is limited, so I found other things to do.”
Price is also an entrepreneur outside of his fishing business. For almost 20 years, he has owned and operated a successful decorative concrete contracting company, but he has always known that he would eventually come to fly fishing full time.
As his skill level increased, and he began to look for new challenges, travel became a passion, with trips across North America and up into Alaska, where Price mastered the art of steelhead fishing to the point he could offer his services as a professional guide.
“After I’d been there fishing quite a bit, I started taking some groups out. I guided for salmon, and for steel head. I would take a sabbatical from the fire department for a couple of months. Go kick around the Kenai Peninsula or go filming and fishing in other places,” Price said about his experience guiding fishing trips in the Alaskan wilderness.
From there, he began to coordinate travel for fishing excursions, serving as a travel agent for those looking to set up trips. His first job has always been fire fighting. Starting out as an EMT, Donnie came to fire fighting in his mid twenties, serving in a bustling Fire Department in a metropolis of nearly a million people. “I’ve been doing that world for almost 30 years. It’s about time to hang up the spurs on that one,” he says, showing his rural Oklahoma roots, “Time to start focusing on the next chapter and this is it. This is what I’ll do until I die.”
He’s talking, of course, about his newly founded, El Gallo fly fishing lodge located in Ensenada de Muertos, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Price first heard about the fly fishing here from a guide he’d met on social media in 2018. The guide was a local, who claimed they had the best Rooster fish fly fishing on the planet. He asked Donnie to come down for a visit.
“So, I said, okay, prove it,” he was not prepared for what followed, “And he sent me picture after picture after picture of them, catching giant rooster fish. And it intrigued me so I kept an eye on him. About a year after that I went to visit them. And he was telling the truth. It’s… it’s the most insane fly fishing that I’ve ever seen. And I’ve fished extensively everywhere from Alaska to Argentina, Bahamas. Other places in Mexico. There’s never been anything that I’ve seen that compares to the quality of this fishery.”
Donnie Price is no stranger to many in the flyfishing community, sharing his adventures via his social media, “Mostly, Facebook, I know that makes me old, but it’s worked for me so far.” He’s shared his ups and his downs, and when asked about what makes a successful fly fisher, he gets philosophical real quick.
“Well, the most successful fly fisherman in the world is the person that loves it the most, the person that has the biggest smile on their face at the end of the day. It’s not the person that can cast the furthest. It’s not the person that can present the best. It’s the person that can go out and get their teeth kicked in, and still have a smile on their face, you know?”
For him, fly fishing is about a lot more than the fish, “Art, the artistry of it, so you can go out and have a miserable, horrible day. Not catching anything, not seeing anything, nothing responding to what you’re doing. But you can still have a beautiful cast and a beautiful experience, wondering what’s going to happen next in nature. What’s that next little piece of the puzzle to make the full picture?”
That’s why Baja California, and Ensenada de Muertos in particular had to be the place. “The first time that I went there, I knew immediately, the first day that I fished there, I’ve got to start an operation here. These fish are just insane. And you really can’t believe what you’re witnessing. It’s this sort of extra worldly, dreamlike state that you’re in for the whole day,” Price says of the fishing just minutes from the El Gallo Fly fishing lodge.
When it came to guides, Donnie knew he had to partner with Juan Lucero, but he wanted to make certain of it. “So it’s kind of a funny story. Whenever I went there, I decided that I was going to take a couple of days away from him. And just make sure that he was truly the best. So I went with another reputable guide there. did not hold a candle to him. Not even close.” He says of his lead guide.
El Gallo will focus purely on fly fishing, which requires guides that specialize. “You can have a good captain who’s a good bait fishing guide and not know anything whatsoever about fly fishing or how to set you up on fish or where the fish are that are going to respond to flies on the surface. That by itself is limiting,” Price says, he offers this piece of advice on choosing a captain. “So one good test, is to flub a couple of casts and see if he can correct you. If he can, you can pretty much bet at the end, he’s probably worth the wage. That’s why fly fishing captains tend to cost more than bait fishing captains.”
While El Gallo has many things to offer, from a small, intimate experience, focusing on a few VIP guests at a time, to private, luxury accommodations, to offering outside “excursions” when the fishing is done, we’re convinced that the passion and experience of the team that runs it will be the reason you’ll want to come back, time after time.
“He gets so excited,” Donnie says of Juan, when a guest hooks a roosterfish. “He’s yelling,and helping,and scrambling, and honestly, Juan, is beaming, and he’s happier about this than this guy who’s just hooked into the biggest and best catch of his life.” We think you’ll agree, that kind of contagious excitement is something the world needs more of. “I’ve just seen so much tragedy in my fire fighting career, and it’s been an honor to help folks walk through that, but I think it’s time I work on bringing some more joy into the world.”
While you’re here, we think you’ll fall in love with this place a little too. That’s why we’re pouring as much as we can into the local economy, to make our business sustainable, offer great wages in an economically depressed region, and share our success by giving back to the local communities and schools. El Gallo is more than a business, it’s about sharing a passion for amazing fly fishing experiences, and at the same time, pausing to reflect on the world around us and our place in it, we hope you’ll join us to find out for yourself.
- EL GALLO BLOG, Uncategorized
- Bahia de los Muertos, Bahia de los Suenos, Baja California, Bay of Dreams, Donnie Price, fly fishing lodge owner, Fly fishing professional, Muertos Bay
- September 20, 2022