New Jungle Tarpon Destination Costa Rica, It has long been known about the huge Tarpon fisheries in the ocean and river mouths around the Costa Rican & Nicaraguan coastlines, so nothing new there. However, as our ear is always to the ground listening and looking for potential new fisheries, rumors of a new fishery pinged on our radar. How about sight fishing for rolling tarpon in both huge lagoons and rivers and when we say huge we mean huge. These rumors just had to be explored even further for if they were correct this had the potential to be a very very special fishery indeed.
Fishing just one of the many lagoons
Back in April 2015 our Costa Rica contact reported that he had been doing lots of scooting and believed he had enough information now to set up a research trip to test the fishery and make all the final set up plans.
The date was set for November 2015 and the months leading up to this date just seemed to drag but eventually the day arrived. A select group of 5 anglers would travel out to the lodge to fish, photograph and film the complete operation and report back to the office.
On arriving in San Jose the teams spirits were high, like many research trips before you just never know if this is going to be the one. (Many of our research trips never make the grade, that’s how we can ensure we only offer our customers the best locations) However our expectations started to drop quite quickly. Tom our local manager informed us the weather forecast and the water levels had gone from promising to very grim in a flash….
Arriving at the lodge
Just as much as El Nino influences our southern most operation, Estancia Las Buitreras, with a strong and humid season, it effects the north too. Typically in the opposite direction offering a substantial lack of water. The sparse rain will then mud up the low water hence making it more or less unfishable. To make a long story short, Tom lowered all our expectations during the picturesque early morning ride from San Jose to the Lodge, saying that he had never seen the rivers and lagoons as low as they were right at the moment. While we were all thinking just how tough the trip would be, little did any of us know that his grim predictions would still mean fishing beyond our wildest imagination.
We arrived at the lodge around noon and it was not long before everyone was unpacked, rods rigged ready to go, with everyone itching to see the river for the first time. Normally it is just a short walk from the lodge the lagoon behind the accommodation to gain access to the boats, however the water levels where so bad its was too low to get boats in or out as the water level had dropped 2 meters compared to the previous week. We had to take a short 5-minute drive to the local village where there is a small landing dock that solved the problem.
Our group split up into 2 groups, each fishing from panga style boats. Having seen our fair share of Tarpon fisheries around the world, the water conditions looked anything but promising. So it came as a big surprise the boat stopped only after ten minutes going upstream. Boat No.2 dropped its anchor in the middle of the river. We all looked at each other not really knowing what was going on when, a triple digit tarpon showed it’s massive fin, patrolling and tailing all along the shallow bank, like a gigantic Permit showing it’s whole tail from time to time! The dumbstruck faces in our boat pretty much told the story and we immediately decided to dump Stephan on the bank with a camera to document the scene..
Fishing one of the small rivers
We soon found out that this was indeed a very special destination; the versatility not only provides an exciting fishery with many various facets, which also comes in handy with adverse water and weather conditions. There are huge lagoons all along the river with dark but clear water, at certain points these lagoons empty into the river creating very productive junctions. This constant flow of water washes baitfish out of the lagoons and the tarpon would stack up where the clear water mixed up with the coloured river water. Despite the low visibility, the tarpon would absolutely crush the small baitfish and the flies. Surprisingly, dark flies or flies with a lot of flash didn’t really trigger reaction or strikes – bright but subtle colours worked better and moved a lot of fish.
The first half a day session got us an overview over the area; as a matter of fact both boats had lots of bites but unfortunately no fish landed. We all saw tailing Tarpon, fish hunting in packs pushing baitfish against the river bank, rolling fish and basically any type of Tarpon behavior you can think of. Not bad for the first afternoon when we had the worst conditions you could have. It was no wonder that our expectations were back on a high.
We started our first full day with a little more visibility in the water that resulted in the first pack of landed fish. After changing from black to brighter flies, we would immediately connect to the fish. The mix of river fishing and swinging the fly into the hot areas and pockets whilst maintaining full tension every single second, was an interesting mix that demanded full focus. Some of these fish will not turn right away; some of them will just lip it while others shoot directly towards the boat.
Fishing some of these areas and rivers some no bigger than a trout river at home, but with dense lush jungle on both sides, when these huge Tarpon jumped or showed themselves at close quarters we soon realized that they appeared a lot bigger than there actually where. During the week we soon got to grips of this and we got a real idea of some of these monsters.
We fished everything from small back waters like this to the main river and huge lagoons all offering amazing variety of Tarpon fishing.
While our boat found large groups of Tarpon in a smaller range landing them they averaged between 45lb to 55lb, however they were very welcome fish as it was great to get off the mark. As we arrived back at the dock the other members of our group walked up to meet us and we just knew from the smiles on their face they had caught something special. Listening to the story and events it came down to the fishes size and measurements come on guys you are killing us. The first big fish of the trip on the first full day was confirmed at 150LB. A big Tarpon by anyone’s means, but just a normal fish according to our local guide who never doubted for a second that we would touch fish in-spite of the water conditions. ”The pace was set and the group kept it that way.
Just one of the many large Tarpon we caught during the week sight fishing for these fish is amazing.
Day No.3 started with a bang as I got the first real shot at the tailing fish off the bank. While Rick swung the fly across the school from the boat, I asked to be dropped off at the shore to swing the fly into the cut bank rather than the other way around. The first couple of casts didn’t really hit the spot as it took a while to work out the swing of the river. Around 3 meters away from the bank, another big fish started to tail. Although we could never see crabs ourselves, the locals confirmed that they do indeed tail for crabs. According to them, they blast some water into the cavities on the bank to wash them out. For some unknown reason, I had a pair of Fulling mill 6/0 GT crabs with me – way bigger and a lot more hook than I usually fish for tarpon but good enough to see if they eat crabs indeed. The tailing turned into a periodic appearance and the fish showed more frequently. I placed the fly a couple of meters upstream to drift it right into the area. Just like I would Czech nymph for trout. My eyes watched the tail gently moving with the current, trying to spot an unnatural twitch or tweak that would indicate a bite. The fish went deep as the fly approached. Before I saw the swirl, the line stopped and moved upstream… The fish had just picked it up and eaten it, like a piece of candy. The line went tight and a quick jab buried the hook into the right corner of it’s mouth – I could tell, because as soon as I came tight to the fish, it went ballistic! After the first attempt to keep up with the fish that bolted upstream like crazy, I had to jump into the boat to save me from getting spooled.
A big fat Tarpon makes a huge jump of the water in a bid to shed the hook.
Unlike all the other fish that moved into the deeper part of the river after the first set of violent jumps so you could apply the real pressure on, this fish swam right through every piece of wood there was on his path approx. 1Km up the river. On two occasions, we had to go around the tree to get the line with the anchor, cut it and splice it back together. Ultimately, it stayed on, never chewed through the Hatch 80lb Fluorocarbon leader. (Sometimes with Tarpon when your name is on the fish, the fishing Gods makes sure that you land it) Quick measurement would put the fish at 100-110lb into the books… and just like all other fish, we took a scale-sample for the good guys at the Bonefish and Tarpon trust. Boat No.2 landed another fish meanwhile, which already took the pressure off as everybody had at least one landed fish on the score list.”
A nice 70LB fish this time for Rick
As the week proceeded the water level fluctuated quite a bit but the pulses of water would never render the fishing grounds un fishable. More fish had been hooked, jumped and landed – some of them off the bank again, which is a really exciting way to fly fish for Tarpon. Finally when the water came up and cleared a little, bigger numbers of fish started to move upstream into the lagoons. The push of freshwater on top clearly shuffled the deck and the bite was on! Vadim returned back to his favorite place where he had subdued the biggest fish of the trip already. With this confidence boost he went back… and the rest is history: The history of his biggest Tarpon in his impressive career of chasing big fish on the fly rod around the globe. The fish was leadered after a one hour of battle. With a fork length just above 200cm this fish weights in at 180-200lb. What have we found in the middle of the jungle….
Chasing and casting at Tarpon in the huge lagoons, is real adrenaline fuelled fishing
More big fish up to 160lb were played and lost during the week. Bunches of smaller fish up to 70lb made it to the boat and were sampled – but nothing close to the monster that Vadim had landed. Having that said, fish of that size and even bigger would roll frequently in some of the deep spots.
During the end of the week, we had the first realistic shots fishing for the Tarpon in the lagoons. The push of water had finally raised the river above the lagoon water level and the outflow into the river was now reverted. A lot of water was streaming now into the big bodies of Stillwater and the Tarpon followed to feast on the abundant baitfish. Initially quite erratic as single fish would dart from one top end to another to check out what these lagoons look like. After a while they were on the baitfish where they would just hoover through like a vacuum cleaner. Especially in the early mornings, the fish would patrol the weed line for baitfish., which is an amazing sight. A bigger, colourful but un-weighted fly that intercepted them was violently trashed– pretty much every time you got it in front of an active fish. It also resulted in a bunch of head-out-of-the-water takes right towards you and the boat.
Another beast clears the water on a hook set
On this particular morning Stephan had just presented his fly to a random movement in the water, maybe 5 meters away from our position when out of nowhere this gigantic Tarpon head comes flying out of the water, mouth open and shaking like a tuned up tumbler and the whole jungle went silent! No more howler monkeys yelling, no more birds singing, no nothing. Just absolute silence before this huge silver dinosaur sounding like a freight train rushes out of the water shaking its armor for a second time. Stephan kept his cool though (officially he did), managed to keep on stripping, and even had an attempt at a hook set. Rightfully, the fish jumped away from the boat and spit the fly back at Stephan and Rick. The fly missed Stephan by an inch and found some soft flesh on Rick’s bottom. Luckily for him Stephan didn’t hook set again even though the adrenaline levels were pretty high at that moment for how often do you have a Tarpon 250LB plus spit out your fly.
Tarpon fishing does not get much better than this
It was that moment when we realized the real true potential of this destination and that we had something extremely special. There is still lots of areas to be explored and the more hours of fishing that is put in over the season we would get a better understanding of the fishes movements through the season and in the different water level conditions.
We are pleased to announce that we have now finished all the arrangements and the fishing will now be available from July 30th until December 11th As this place is so special and we want to keep it like this, we have decided to ONLY take 4 anglers per week and over this period ONLY fish for 14 weeks. We have based the schedule on fishing every second week in order to give the area a really good rest in between every group. We have made some adjustments in consideration of the lunar cycles where we avoid full moon weeks and fish a little harder around the new moon.
Remember this Jungle Tarpon fishing is exclusive through Sportquest Holidays from the UK and at only £4,722 per person (Including all flights, accommodation, transfers and fishing) it is bound to be in high demand. Also we are pleased to announce that with British Airways from May we can offer DIRECT flights to Costa Rica on certain days.
The full trips details will be available soon on our website but if you can not wait and also want to make sure you do not miss out on this amazing Jungle adventure call our office TODAY 01603 407596.