COSTA RICA & NICARAGUA MARCH 2015

In my last blog I wrote about my self-guided flats fishing around Boca Paila in the Sián Khan Biosphere, Yucatan, Mexico. I explained how having swum through the narrow mangrove channel that accesses these productive flats I saw a large croc basking at the mouth of that channel, and that later I heard from locals that the area was now deemed very dangerous. Since then I have found a video of a croc attacking a swimmer at the exact same spot; take a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jOWGLQ61Ds Over the past few years I have spent an increasing amount of time fishing throughout Central America, a truly fascinating and immensely beautiful part of the world that from my experience boasts some of the very best saltwater sport fishing on the planet. I have just returned from my latest trip during which I fished both Costa Rica and Nicaragua, a most memorable 12 days adventure during which I had the pleasure of introducing my son Luke to the many delights of Latin America.

One of Crocodile Bay Resorts fleet of Strike 33 sports boats heads out to sea.

One of Crocodile Bay Resorts fleet of Strike 33 sports boats heads out to sea.

Luke is not a hard core fisherman, but his fishing CV would match that of many a saltwater angler. Luke caught his first shark off the coast of Co Kerry, Ireland, on his 7th birthday, and closely followed it with his second and then third while the rest of the crew were all incapacitated with sea sickness; young Luke remaining unaffected. He was not much older when he joined me on a trip to Iceland catching numerous large cod and haddock, likewise on several trips to Denmark. Together we have fished for striped bass and bluefish off Nantucket, numerous species throughout Florida, bonefish in The Turks & Caicos Islands and billfish in Kenya. Occasionally we have wetted a line together closer to home, too!

The pool at Crocodile Bay Lodge, Costa Rica.

The pool at Crocodile Bay Lodge, Costa Rica.

For the Costa Rica section of our trip we stayed at the world famous Crocodile Bay Resort, located on the southernmost tip of the ecologically magnificent Osa Peninsula, take a look at http://www.crocodilebay.com For many years this magnificent sport fishing lodge has enjoyed a reputation for offering the highest standard of world class fishing, backed up by five start accommodations, gourmet food and service. It has long been on my bucket list of ‘must visit lodges’, but sadly I have to report that it did not meet my expectations. Why sadly? Well actually it didn’t just meet my expectations but greatly exceeded them at every level, which means that now I am struggling with the ever increasing problem of trying to schedule a return visit back there at the very earliest opportunity.

Hooked up off Osa!

Hooked up off Osa!

For the first couple of days we fished offshore, and despite some very unseasonable wet and windy weather we had our shots at sailfish, and soon enough Luke was hooked up with a fast running, high jumping eighty pounder.

Luke preparing to release a nice Pacific sailfish.

Luke preparing to release a nice Pacific sailfish.

The rest of the fleet were catching, and releasing, several sails per boat per day, along with a few blue marlin, dorado and wahoo; and that was during ‘tough conditions’. In the past I have fished these waters on several other occasions when conditions have been far more favourable, and I can tell you that the blue water action off Osa is truly world class. Trips to Crocodile Bay Resort can be booked through Anglers World Holidays.

Inshore fishing off Osa.

Inshore fishing off Osa.

A nice Pacific jack crevalle caught inshore off the Osa Peninsula

A nice Pacific jack crevalle caught inshore off the Osa Peninsula

Rooster fish are the other big attraction off Pacific Costa Rica, and the rich inshore waters off the Osa Peninsula are one of the very best places to hook up with this most iconic species of sportfish. Numerous roosters, Pez Gallo in Spanish, were caught every day during our all to brief stay, along with plenty of snapper, pompano, tilefish, jacks and several other other species.

Fishing for rooster fish off the Osa Peninsula.

Fishing for rooster fish off the Osa Peninsula.

All too soon we were checking out of this sport fishing paradise for the short flight up to San Jose, a night in town including a great dinner & excess of local rum at the Hard Rock Cafe, and an early morning flight across the border to Nicaragua.

Luke takes the controls for the short 30 minute flight from San Jose to Nicaragua.

Luke takes the controls for the short 30 minute flight from San Jose to Nicaragua.

This was my fifth trip to Nicaragua and my third to Rio Indio Lodge, an amazing jungle lodge that despite its remote location somehow manages to offer an equally high standard of fishing, accommodations, service and food as Crocodile Bay Resort in Costa Rica http://www.therioindiolodge.com . I have stayed at many outstanding fishing lodges all around the world, and Rio Indio is one of my all time favourites.

Rio Indio Lodge; one of my all time favourite fishing locations.

Rio Indio Lodge; one of my all time favourite fishing locations.

Located right in the middle of pristine rain forrest near the confluence of the Rio Indio, ‘Indian River’, and the Rio San Juan, you have the option of fishing both the the inshore waters of the Caribbean plus the plethora of jungle lagoons and back waters: you can read about my past trips to Nicaragua under the ‘Memorable Trips’ section of this site.

Nicaragua certainly ranks within the the worlds top three tarpon destinations.

Nicaragua certainly ranks within the the worlds top three tarpon destinations.

Target species are tarpon, snook and rainbow bass along with numerous other species, both fresh and saltwater. So far as tarpon are concerned I would rate the fishing off the coast of Nicaragua around Rio Indio Lodge as certainly being in the top three tarpon destinations in the world. Undoubtedly Florida offers the most accessible tarpon fishing for European anglers, and in terms of the large numbers and the impressive average size of fish caught in Florida, along with the abundance of outstanding guides, the Sunshine State would probably rank as the worlds greatest all round tarpon fishery.

Luke 140 pounder takes to the air.

Luke’s 140 pounder takes to the air.

Nicaragua, however, offers a completely different tarpon fishing experience. Here you’ll be fishing in a remote and very little fished part of the world, set amidst a National Geographic jungle backdrop. The fish are big and plentiful, and during my three trips to Rio Indio I have never seen another sport fishing boat, other than those based at the lodge.

Tarpon, the worlds number one inshore species of sport fish.

Tarpon, the worlds number one inshore species of sport fish.

To give an example of the high quality of fishing available, one afternoon we fished for less than five hours barely a 15 minute run from the lodge dock. Working a combination of bucktail jigs tipped with various soft plastics and live bait we enjoyed spectacular action. Luke hooked his first tarpon almost immediately, on a Sabiki rig while trying to catch livebait, but the end result was both inevitable and quick. His next fish came on a livebait fished on a circle hook, and following a near thirty minute tussle he had the estimated 130-140lb fish alongside the boat and ready for release. This he followed up with three fish in the 60-80lb class, all caught on jigs, with another very big fish lost due to a straightened hook and two others ‘jumped’. Our pre-dinner rums that night were especially sweet!

Luke & Rito pose with one of the four fish released that special afternoon.

Luke & Rito pose with one of the four fish released that special afternoon.

For the rest of our stay at Rio Indio Lodge we alternated between fishing the jungle for bass and snook, tarpon fishing, and going on escorted walks through the jungle. We witnessed a fascinating selection of wildlife while ‘Rito’, our guide for the week, gave us a fascinating insight into the rich flora and fauna of the region.

Rito holds a jack crevalle, a frequently caught species when targeting tarpon.

Rito holds a jack crevalle, a frequently caught species when targeting tarpon.

Welcome to the jungle! Heading off into the rain forest.

Welcome to the jungle! Heading off into the rain forest.

Luke drinking water from a vine held by Rito.

Luke drinking water from a vine held by Rito.

A colourful poison dart frog.

A colourful poison dart frog.

My first trip to Rio Indio Lodge was in late November, planned to coincide with the annual snook spawning run, which offers outstanding light tackle fishing for large numbers of fish. The last two trips have been in March, the dry season, focussing on the rainbow bass and tarpon run offshore. We have caught tarpon on each and every trip, but everyone at the lodge has insisted that the very best tarpon fishing, and especially fly fishing, is to be experienced during September and October. Last year at this time Rito released a huge fish that when after a two and a half hour fight was finally brought alongside the boat was accurately measured at 110” x 48”, putting it at well over 300lb; a possible world record. Unfortunately the fish was fought by three persons so would not have qualified, and in any case they were unable to get the monster aboard. 200lb fish are ‘regularly’ hooked and especially at this time of the year.

Luke getting to know the locals in San Juan Del Norte, formally Grey Town.

Luke getting to know the locals in San Juan Del Norte, formally Grey Town.

Taling it easy in the jungle!

Taking it easy in the jungle!

Consequently I am planning a trip to coincide with this period for October 2016, a trip during which the emphasis will be focussed on tarpon both in the ocean and jungle. We will be fishing lures and bait, and especially focussing on fly. I am told the winds are very light at this time of the year, and if the stories of the large numbers of fish caught then are only half true, we will be in for some amazing action. If you are interested contact Anglers World Holidays on Tel: 01246 221717.

Luke fighting a tarpon; I think he'll be back one day!

Luke fighting a tarpon; I think he’ll be back one day!

MEXICAN BONEFISH

I’ve just returned from a week staying at Tulum, a truly delightful Mexican town conveniently located about a two hour drive south of Cancun and, most importantly, right at the entrance to the Sian Ká-an Biosphere. I first visited and fished the amazingly productive flats located within the biosphere a couple of years ago, a trip during which I enjoyed some superb self guided wade fishing on the white sand flats around Boca Paila, check out my earlier blog.

A nice fish from the Boca Paila flats

A nice fish from the Boca Paila flats

Keen to put a bend in my fly rod I headed down to Boca Paila on the first afternoon of my trip. It was really good to see that the road had recently been regraded, so the trip to the flats from our small hotel was a little over half an hour. The flats were just a beautiful as I had remembered, but a relentless 20 knot north-easterly wind and intermittent cloud cover made spotting bonefish a challenge.

Another self guided bone caught on my albino Gotcha

Another self guided bone caught on my albino Gotcha

I broke off the first fish that ate the fly just as I was lifting off to recast, but throughout the course of the next few days I enjoyed some great fishing, catching as many as three bonefish in a few hours fishing, which was all the more satisfying given the testing conditions. Top fly of the trip was a home tied albino Gotcha, consisting of a wing of white craft fur tied on a size 4 Tiemco 811S hook, with brass eyes and just a minimum of flash. I am sure most of the standard Gotcha and Crazy Charlie patterns would have worked, but once you find a fly that does work, why change?

The successful fly

The successful fly

As before I had to walk through dense mangroves and then swim a short distance through a deep channel to access the best flats inside the lagoon, which was not especially difficult indeed given the relentless heat was actually enjoyable. One afternoon as I returned to my hire car I spotted a group of tourists on the Boca Paila bridge clearly excited as they watched something in the water. Thinking it was probably a manatee I strolled up with my camera, just in time to watch a 12-15ft saltwater crocodile ease its bulk from a sandbar into a deep channel; the channel I had just swam through barely 100 yards upstream!

The channels at Boca Paila, nopt a great place for a swim!

The channels at Boca Paila, not a great place for a swim!

Enquiries at the hotel confirmed that yes, recently at least three crocodiles had moved into the area, and one guide I spoke to confirmed that a few months previous a local fisherman had been killed by one. As you can imagine that kind of took the edge of my self-guided swim/wade trips on the flats. Alison was with me when the guide offered this news, also adding that signs had been erected to warn of the dangers of crocodiles, but that they had been removed. “Why don’t you book a guide for a day instead”, she suggested, “I can spend the day enjoying the beach and the hotel spa”? Well, if you insist my darling!

Eduardo with my first fish of the day.

Eduardo with my first fish of the day.

The following morning I met Capt. Eduardo Gomez who guides for Sian Ká-an Fly Fishing, and we set off on what turned out to be one of the most enjoyable days fly fishing for bonefish I have ever experienced. Eduardo clearly knew the plethora of flats and mangrove islands within the biosphere with an intimacy that can only come from many years of first hand experience. With great skill he consistently positioned the boat in the optimum position to provide shelter from the worse of the wind, the best angle of light to spot fish and, most importantly given the strong wind, give me the best shot to cast my fly.

Another great bonefish caught with Capt Eduardo Gomez

Another great bonefish caught with Capt Eduardo Gomez

We caught fish at a steady rate throughout the day, beautiful bonefish fish with a respectable average size of between 2-4lb. Mostly we found them in small groups of two, three or four fish, frequently tailing in shallow water. It was a day of classic sight fishing for bonefish, and my nine hours passed in no time at all. This experience alone is enough to ensure I will be returning to Mexico to fish the Sian Ká-an biosphere at the earliest possible opportunity. For more information contact Sian Ká-an Fly Fishing on Tel: +521 9841845871 or email: bambi_020@hotmail.com

This is one area where you really can combine some first class fishing with a great family vacation. There’s lots of things for all of the family to do, with several historic Mayan sites located within a short distance, one of the nicest being right on the coast at Tulum itself. Downtown Tulum has loads of small funky hotels, we stayed at and recommend the perfectly located Hip Hotel: http://www.hiphoteltulum.com The hotel has a good restaurant, and there is a great choice of places to eat out or sample the local tequila, all within easy walking distance.

Last one to the top buys the donuts!

Last one to the top buys the donuts!

Watch out for the local tequila, it does strange things to your head!

Watch out for the local tequila, it does strange things to your head!

The beautiful Mayan ruins site at Tulum

The beautiful Mayan ruins site at Tulum

A good quality pair of sun glasses are an essential item of equipment for any flats trip, and over the years I have tried most of the best quality brands available. I am a huge fan of Costa Del Mar glasses and this trip I wore my new Costa Permit green mirror glasses, which are fitted with Costa’s industry leading 580 glass lenses. As I have said at times given the prevailing conditions spotting fish was a challenge, and I am absolutely convinced that on this trip those sunglasses helped me spot fish I certainly would not have seen had I been wearing some of my other polarised glasses. If you are planning a trip to the flats be sure to check out these and other glasses in the extensive Costa range fitted with 580 lenses. For more information visit: https://www.costadelmar.com

My Costa Del Mar Permit sun glasses: amazing!

My Costa Del Mar Permit sun glasses: amazing!