A great week of chasing giant Tarpon on the fly in Southern Costa Rica
The shuttle meandered its way south through the hills of Costa Rica from the country’s capital of San Jose. Our group arrived in the small fishing village of Manzanillo, at the entrance to the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge.
This quiet little corner of the world is nothing short of magical. There are no roads leading into the wildlife reserve, and Tarponville Fishing Lodge is accessible only by a short walk in on a hiking trail.
We were greeted with a lunch of fried Amberjack, and sat down with owner Mark Martin to go over the week ahead. There were a pair of guests from Canada that were preparing to depart the day after next, and had been experiencing great fishing for the previous few days.
Though the day we arrived yielded no Tarpon for them (despite great conditions), the flood gates were just about to open.
Our first morning brought us flat seas, a great sign for these coastal waters. When the water is flat and the bait comes in close to shore, the Tarpon are always quick to follow.
Tarponville is not a traditional Tarpon fishery by any means. You can be fishing in anywhere from five to thirty or more feet of water, and clarity can be anything from gin-clear to chocolate milk.
The Sixaola River was not pushing much in the way of dirty water, but as we began our first drift it was apparent that there were an abundance of Tarpon in the area.
Fish were rolling all around the place, and one boat was hooked up to a fish that was over 120 pounds directly in front of the river mouth as we pulled up.
Then looking over my shoulder, I see one of our guests has a beautiful fish of 80 pounds or so in the air.
There is nothing more magnificent than watching a Tarpon leave the water upon hooking up!
The action continued for the rest of the day, and all but one angler ended up jumping a Tarpon before the sun set and it was time to return to the lodge.
Day two was slightly puzzling, as we were given the same great conditions minus the abundance of Tarpon. Where could they have gone?
Luckily, the afternoon session brought us a new school of fish, and a good flurry of hookups with a fish of 70 pounds being landed. We had a crazy (crazy!) experience with a large Hammerhead shark on this afternoon, more on that in a future post.
As is possible in any fishing trip, the conditions turned on us for a few days. Ocean swells and tide swings became greater, along with periods of heavy wind.
Though in these days we were able to land Bonito, Yellowfin Jacks, Boxfish, Green Jacks and Mackerel, the ocean was too high to get in close where the Tarpon reside.
Luckily, the trip wouldn’t end without another great window of fishing. The final morning yielded a large school of Tarpon along with flat water and sardines.
The most memorable fish of the trip for me came on this morning. I had thrown a few casts at cruising with a large EP Baitfish pattern without results.
I decided to tie on a very small olive brush fly tied on a 4/0 hook, the profile resembling something we would fish during the fry hatch in British Columbia.
Upon changing flies, I laid out a cast at a pod of rolling Tarpon. Allowing the fly to sink for a couple seconds, my heart raced as I began a slow and steady strip.
As expected, I felt a Tarpon vacuum the fly in as my line came tight. I gave her what felt like a great strip-set, only to have the line swim violently towards the boat.
A modest fish of 70 pounds or so cleared the water right in front of the boat with my fly in its mouth. Sadly, as I had seen already earlier in the week, the fly made its way out of the Tarpon’s mouth almost immediately.
We began and finished on very high notes, soaking in the last few minutes of this trip was a great reminder as to how special this place is.
Thank you to the staff at Tarponville, and the amazing guests that made this such an incredible trip! It is highly rewarding watching the look on someone’s face as they hook their first silver king.
Tarponville is an amazing fishery for those that have never fished for Tarpon, email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to join us from October 26 to November 2nd!