Advice on Costa Rica both Salt and Fresh

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Ybsong, Jun 1, 2014.

  1. Ybsong Member

    Posts: 47
    Seattle, wa
    Ratings: +42 / 0
    I'm heading down to Costa Rica with the family for and extended holiday late June and early July. We'll be exploring both coasts, and some of the volcanoes, primarily Arenal. On the Pacific side, we'll be on the Osa Peninsula. On the Caribbean, we'll be hanging in Cahuita. I'm bringing a couple rods with me (8 and 6 wt), and will be opportunistically casting a line. I'm hoping to fill my fly box before I go as I won't be able to take my vice and materials with me. My questions are mostly around flies. I'll mostly be casting from the shore, but will likely have occasion to hire a boat or guide to take around. I know my 8wt is no match for the big boys, so will mostly be targeting the fish close to shore.

    Caribbean: Earlier this year, I did a week of guided fishing in Belize targeting Bones, Permit and Tarpon. So I'm hoping the charlies, bitters, crabs, and various shrimpy flies will suffice.

    Pacific: Seems like most of the flies skew more towards bait fish patterns. Any must have Pacific beach fishing standards I should focus on? Are there Bone fish on the Pacific side?

    Inland: I'm especially excited to drop some flies in the creeks and pools that we happen upon inland and in the mountains. I have no idea what fish I'll be targeting and thus have zero idea of what flies to take. So thinking of taking a broad mix of bugs, wet and dry. The Wooly Bugger is my desert island fly, so will be taking a good selection of those. Was also thinking ants and termite patterns would make sense. How about Chernobles and Stimulators? Any advice or ideas would be appreciated.

    As for guides, if any of you had a particular great or horrible experience with guides in the Osa, Cahuita or Arenal areas, please drop me a line. I'll post a full report upon my return.

    Cheers, ybs
  2. JonT Member

    Posts: 62
    Ratings: +41 / 0
    I fished the beaches around Tamarindo 3 years ago. I can't tell you much about inland. We were catching blackfin tuna on 8 wts - total blast. Hired a guide one day and got into some roosters and bigger blackfin. Clouser minnows are my desert island fly, and all I used other than poppers on the boat.
  3. Ybsong Member

    Posts: 47
    Seattle, wa
    Ratings: +42 / 0
    For the salt, you can't beat the all around versatility of the Clouser. Those will be in my arsenal for sure. I didn't think about poppers! When we were in Belize, our guide took us to a spot where he knew there were tons of Jacks. They were relatively small ones 16-18 inches, but they fought like hell. They were so thick, we were catching them on every cast. We didn't have a popper, but the guide had a thrashed bassy gurgler, and they went nuts for it. Watching the water erupt with 3 fish crashing the lure at a time was an absolute hoot!
  4. Teenage Entomologist Gotta love the pteronarcys.

    Posts: 630
    Red Bluff, CA
    Ratings: +202 / 0
    Looked on the internet and it seems there are trout in the streams there. For creeks, bring some Beaded Prince Nymphs, some Copper Johns, and a Stimulator or two in #10-16.
  5. Jerry Metcalf FishyJere

    Posts: 340
    Enumclaw, WA
    Ratings: +40 / 0
    The very, very best popper in the Pacific I have used is this one. http://www.danblanton.com/blog/category/authors/ron-dong/

    It takes a bit of work but is durable and killer. Ron has a great set of instructions to prepare it. It is more a preparation than a tie. It walks the surface better, zigs from side to side, and gets attention.

    With all poppers in salt, go FAST. Do not just jig them and wait. Haul them across the surface and make a commotion. These fish are really, really fast and have eyes bigger than yours. Make it hard to see, sort of. Get them competing if at all possible. One time we trolled them fast, right in the foam line from the boat wake. The roosters fought over them. The reduced visibility was the secret, just like a rapid retrieve produces.

    With roosters especially, you mostly can't go too fast. Put the rod under your arm and use both hands. Trolling is much more effective for this reason.

    The Sea Habit Bucktail is a great all around streamer baitfish pattern that is easy to tie. Use Owner 2/0 hooks, they don't open up. Pretty much everything eats these.

    Look under the docks at night for other good stuff.

    These are very strong fish, far stronger than here and big too. A 10 wt would not hurt. 12wt and up are great but only useful from a boat. There is wind, wind and wind. A 10wt helps a lot. Last time I went to Belize, I took an 8 and 10wt, I was happy. The fish were 6wt, but the wind was 10wt.

    These things have raspy mouths. Use 15-30# bite tippit, a breaking section less than your line or backing, and a butt section of 50#. Screw the IFA, use a 2' bite tippet. Hook it all together loop to loop with perfection loops. Easy to fix/replace when worn and strong enough. I used Seagur floro and found it more abrasion resistant.

    Jerry
    Ybsong and Jamie Wilson like this.
  6. chief Active Member

    Posts: 348
    Portland, OR
    Ratings: +123 / 1
    I fished the beach and from a panga near Playa Conchal in NW Costa Rica a couple years ago, and had good luck with white/tan and white/chartruese Clousers. We mostly caught small Blackfin Tuna, but I did get one snook near an inlet, and saw some big jacks and roosterfish, but didn't hook up. I only had an 8wt, and it was fine for the Tuna.

    Also, several years ago I did a trip to the Jungle Tarpon Lodge on the Caribbean side. The Tarpon were not in the river or the river mouths, so we mostly fished for them out in the ocean. We found they were hard to catch on a fly rod. The game was to spot a school moving through - we're talking 50 huge fish breaking the surface (with probably 5 times that many beneath them) moving at a fairly rapid pace. The guide would then motor as fast as he could to what he guessed would be an interception point. He would cut the motor and then we would stand at the ready watching for the school. If we guessed right we would see the school surface within casting range and try and fire a cast in front of them. Most of the time they would be out of our range and the guide would fire up the engine and try again. We each hooked up a few times during the trip and landed some monster tarpon, but it was a game better suited to conventional casting rods that can fire a Buzz Bomb 100 yards vs the 80-90 feet we were capable of reaching with our fly rods. But after wearing ourselves out battling a couple of 150lb Tarpon on 12wts in the hot sun we would head up into the jungle and fish the rivers with our 6wts for a variety of warmwater species. We caught Quapote (think oversized Bluegill) on small poppers, and Machaca and Snook on minnow patterns like clousers. I'm guessing these species inhabit most of the jungle waters, but the vegetation is thick, so you probably need a guide or a boat and driver to go after them.
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  7. stilly stalker Tuna sniffer

    Posts: 1,529
    Carlsbad, CA
    Ratings: +275 / 0
    tie up a bunch of EP minnows in olive/ white and blue/white. Take a sharpie to add spots or stripes to match bait.

    Tie them a bit bigger to start, because the beauty of the EP minnow is that you can take scissors to them and trim them skinnier or shorter if needed. Total workhorse of a fly. EVERYTHING eats an EP minnow. Except maybe bonefish. I have a SUPER killer bonefish/permit mantis shrimp pattern that is easy and deadly if interested. tied on 6-8 for bones and 2-4 for permit.
    Ybsong likes this.
  8. JesseC Active Member

    Posts: 1,965
    seattle, wa
    Ratings: +724 / 0
    Don't go to the Del Rey with your family.
  9. alpinetrout Banned or Parked

    Posts: 3,891
    Hiding in your closet
    Ratings: +68 / 0
    Since blackfin tuna are an Atlantic species, are you guys sure you weren't catching black skipjack?
  10. stilly stalker Tuna sniffer

    Posts: 1,529
    Carlsbad, CA
    Ratings: +275 / 0
    Blackfin are in the pacific too- we were catching a bunch of blackfin around the buoys in Kona, Hawaii- or at least thats what they were calling them
  11. stilly stalker Tuna sniffer

    Posts: 1,529
    Carlsbad, CA
    Ratings: +275 / 0
    youre right. Looks like what we were catching around the buoys was juvenile big eye tuna
  12. JonT Member

    Posts: 62
    Ratings: +41 / 0
    Don't buy weed anywhere.
  13. Teenage Entomologist Gotta love the pteronarcys.

    Posts: 630
    Red Bluff, CA
    Ratings: +202 / 0
    Tip of the day everyone!
  14. chief Active Member

    Posts: 348
    Portland, OR
    Ratings: +123 / 1
    You are correct - they were Black Skipjack. They fought pretty well on an 8wt......
    stilly stalker likes this.
  15. Darthmonkey Active Member

    Posts: 190
    Tacoma, WA
    Ratings: +147 / 0
    Pacific side; some of the mangroves do have black snook, but it is for the most part an exploratory fishery. Not many folks go after them, not even the ticos because of how prolific the grouper and snapper are from the beaches and nobody that lives there fly fishes. Think Clousers and Deceivers, maybe a Surf Candy or a Mushmouth. Any baitfish pattern will work, there is zero pressure on these fish. You could also run into some close running Roosters or Rainbow runners, which you could probably get away with on an 8, but you'd feel better fighting them on a 10 weight. Hiring a Panga would not be such a bad idea, park off one of the reefs, bomb something out and rip it back. Just use straight 40 pound maxima or seagaur, you ain't after records and you will be changing leaders fairly often. Again, most anything you could hope to find on a reef in the pacific tropics will be present. Not gonna lie dude, you will want a 9 or a 10 weight on those reefs.
    On the Atlantic side, well shit gets pretty sketch over there so a DIY trip probably isn't such a good plan unless you've got an in with a local. Either do it as a strictly fishing trip or don't even bother on the Atlantic side of things. Too many gringos end up dead in a ditch over there.
    Freshwater deal, in the cloud forests there are a number of trout fisheries and trout ponds. You won't find any trophies, but those are some of the most beautiful specimens of rainbow trout you will ever see in your life. Think 10" being a good average and 50 fish mornings are not uncommon for those who know what they are doing. Sometimes a pellet pig will get washed out of the pond which is always a good way to wake up when a 22" pellet head takes you for a ride with your 3 weight.
    Machaca are a pretty cool freshwater fish, they are fruit eaters and the way those dudes fish for them is so damn simple it is retarded. Take a bass popper with at most a pair of rubber legs and slam it under the trees. These little boogers will fly up out of nowhere and smash it. They top 10lbs with 3-5lbs being a good average to work with. I'll talk to some of my friends down there see if they have any other suggestions, but I would do a float for Machaca as the one thing I must do while down there.
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  16. Ybsong Member

    Posts: 47
    Seattle, wa
    Ratings: +42 / 0
    @Jerry: I found somewhat close to the salt water popper you mentioned at Outdoor Emporium. It's basically a syrofoam poor mans version, but similar concept. Boy, if I had a 10 or 12 wt, I'd sure as heck bring it. I learned in Belize, not to even bother with Tarpon without a big stick. If a Permit breaks my 8wt, I figure that'll be a fond memory, and I'll have my 6wt to shoot after Bones.

    @Chief and JonT and others who've mentioned black fin tuna, roosters and snook: If I catch any of those fish, I will poop my pants in excitement. I cannot wait. As for your experience on the Caribbean side and Permit and Tarpon, I hear ya. Here's an account of my trip to Belize this year: http://linesinthewater.blogspot.com/

    @StillyStalker: EP Minnow added to the list! When I fished for Bones in Belize, the two different guides I fished with were devotee's to the simple crazy charlie in light sandy colors. They bemoaned all the fancier flies I brought with me (and paid plenty for). We caught a lot of Bones with them too. Frankly, catching Bones with these guys was a walk in the park. They knew exactly where to go. And even though the rod was in my hand, they were really the ones fishing :)

    @DarthMonkey, great stuff, thanks much. I'm hoping to find a flyfishing guide wherever possible, and if there isn't one in the area, hire a local fisherman to take me out on his panga or point me to some safe fishy spots. It's nuts that there's trout in those mountain streams. I watched a few youtube vids about them. They were introduced in the 60's and 70's and are probably invasive as hell. I want to catch a Machaca, simply because it's called a Machaca. I'm not too concerned about exploring the Caribbean side, mostly because I've been to Cahuita before (and did a trip to Belize this year). I know it has a bad rep, but my experience was pretty chill, especially around the Cahuita area. There's a small national park adjacent to the town and I remember watching locals hand lining all kinds of crazy critters wading in waist deep water, or throwing nets. This was before I fly fished, but remember wishing badly I had a rod with me. The virtue of the Caribbean side is also, the walkability and wadeability of the coast line: Soft sand, and pretty chill waves. The Pacific side looks a lot more rough, more high bank, and big ass waves. I'm sure it all depends where you are. Specifically, we're starting our trip at the Iguana Lodge near Puerto Jimenez and Playa Puntarenitas.
  17. stilly stalker Tuna sniffer

    Posts: 1,529
    Carlsbad, CA
    Ratings: +275 / 0
    Yeah, I got sick of catching the bones in Belize. Fun fight, but no challenge. Pretty sure if itll fin in their mouth and resembles a crustacean theyll slam it. I tie up these mantis shrimp in olive, blueish olive, sand, and rust/olive. just as quick as a crazy charlie and look way better. If interested, Ill post up a SBS. I use them for carp too in size 6 or 8. Usually I use the rust/olive, or brown/rust for carp
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  18. stilly stalker Tuna sniffer

    Posts: 1,529
    Carlsbad, CA
    Ratings: +275 / 0
    oh, bring EP minnows in Black over purple. That combo kills for snook, baby tarpon, and mutton snapper and Jacks