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By Mattb
I flew into San Jose on Friday and Dave (Sherwood, for the Mainers/Beaners in the crowd) picked me up at the airport. After a couple of hours sleep we headed north for Nicaragua and the Solentiname Islands. 5 hours in the car and 2 hours in a boat later, we arrived and unpacked
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Turns out the tap water is pumped directly from the lake, so even with the iodine there was no way I was drinking that shit - glad I picked up the bourbon. We hit it early the next morning, with high hopes after hearing how good things had been from the locals.
Pretty Spot, no fish
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Unfortunately, those locals neglected to mention that the lake was up 6 feet from a very rainy couple of months, 2 weeks of solid rain had the visibility down to about 6" in the water- and to top it all off, everyone on the islands had recently taken to fishing with gill nets - killing everything in their path. That's what we get for going in blind. After a sunup to sundown skunking, we decided to cut and run- back to Costa Rica for a float trip after machaca. Only one problem - we'd lent the rental car to a local friend, who'd taken it back to San Jose. A few frantic phone calls later, Peter agreed to turn around and drive back to pick us up at the border in the morning- he was coming with us, and he was bringing his little outboard with him.

We fished early (another skunking), then 6 hours of travel time later we checked in to the cabinas and re-rigged with wire for the next day's trip. The machaca fishing was good enough to make us forget the Nicaraguan boondoggle, with fish up to 7lbs on poppers and flower flies (machaca are omnivores, and flowers/fruit that fall into the water from the overhanging trees are a large part of their diet).
7lber - don't have this one on the work PC
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Oh yeah, they jump too
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I was a bit skeptical about the flower flies at first, but they cast a whole lot easier than a popper, and the fish liked 'em just fine.
Flower fly
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We were considering another day of machaca fishing, but we caught wind of a rumored hot tarpon bite just up the road- neither one of us is terribly bright, so rather than stick with the sure bet, we decided to gamble on the tarpon. We arrived with about an hour of daylight left, and found a local to take us on a quick boat tour. To our utter amazement, the tarpon were there after all - some 200 miles upriver from the ocean.
yup - tarpon
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The heaviest rod I'd brought was a 10, figuring that the only tarpon fishing we were going to do was for babies in a coastal lagoon - these fish were a bit heavy for a 10, but I wasn't about to pass on the opportunity. We arranged for a rental boat for the next morning and with the help of Peter's outboard we were set be on the water before first light. Of course, in Costa Rica nothing is quite that simple, and it turned out that the boat was left on the far side of a farmer's cow pasture, and with cattle theft being a huge problem in Costa Rica right now, we were very nearly shot as cattle thieves.
not stealing cows
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more to come...
Last edited by Mattb on Tue Apr 07, 2009 2:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.
cool ass report What is that 7lb. fish with the wires coming out of it some crazy robot fish?
Nicaragua has some nice cigars if ya cant get Cubans.
By Truchero
WOW!! Cool trip. Cool report. Can't wait for what's next.
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By Mattb
The tarpon are there to feed on baitfish as the receding water levels drain a series of large lagoons, so we motored upriver to a creekmouth that had actively feeding fish.
Creek and tiny little outboard
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I had the hot hand that day, jumping 3 and leadering 2 - with a 10 weight and estimated 80lb fish we didn't get either of them in the boat, I even hopped out onto the bank on the first one to try and land it that way, but didn't have any luck- I'll be better prepared next time. Check out jumping tarpon pics on page 4. Dave managed to break a hook on the hookset on a nice fish, but that was the only fish he stuck in 2 days of fishing, so I got lots of scenery shots, but no tarpon porn on my camera.

After fishing all day the 2nd day without a strike, we decided to move on to hit a lagoon on the Caribbean coast that was good to us last year for some smaller tarpon. 5 hours to San Jose, followed by a quick nap, then another 5.5 hours to the lagoon and we were ready to fish. We rented a homemade boat from one of the locals, and borrowed paddles and an anchor from another and set off down the beach for the lagoon. Conditions were perfect, but the fish weren't cooperating.
glassy, dead
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We fished hard until the sun and lack of sleep caught up with us, then pulled the boat up into the mangroves for a quick mid-day siesta.
nap time
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We picked up a small snook, and a bunch of miscellaneous tropical fish, but the tarpon just never showed. Turns out that the heavy rainy season they had last summer blew out the opening to the lagoon for a couple of months, which is a lot longer than in a normal season and who knows what effect that had on the fishery. The locals all insisted that the tarpon are "always" there, but if they were around they had a serious case of lockjaw. 2 days of baking in the Caribbean sun without a bump and only a handful of confirmed tarpon sightings convinced us that it was time to move on and cool down.

7 hours of driving and about 7500 feet of elevation later, we arrived at the trout river, swapped the 10 weights for 5s, and hiked in. The water up here is gin clear and the trout are spooky, despite hardly ever being fished.
clear water, little trout
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Every pool was loaded with little trout, and if you were careful with 'em you could usually pull 6 or 8 fish out of a pool before putting them down
sneak attack
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There are some good fish in the river, but some of the tarpon skunk from the lagoon must've been lingering with us, since we only managed little fish in a full day on the river.
nice colors
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Great colors on the fish we did catch, and as the water warmed up a bit after the sun made it into the valley, they started taking dries - a great end to an interesting trip. I'm back in Maine now, with fishing season technically open, but looking at high water and nothing but rain in the forecast. Why do I live up here again?

The tarpon pics ought to show up eventually on Dave's site at, and a big thank you to Peter from for lending us the outboard and all the help.
Last edited by Mattb on Tue Apr 07, 2009 2:24 pm, edited 2 times in total.
User avatar
By Mattb
castingoutloud wrote:cool ass report What is that 7lb. fish with the wires coming out of it some crazy robot fish?
Nicaragua has some nice cigars if ya cant get Cubans.
That's a machaca, and the line you're seeing is the idiot cord on the boga. They've got some wicked teeth, so wire and a boga is the way to go.
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more teef
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The machaca fishing is a blast - we motored up river in the morning (same outboard as we used tarpon fishing, so it took a while), then spent the day drifting back down. It's all surface flies, casting to snags and eddies, or up under the overhanging branches of the fruit trees that line the river.
nice water
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Oh yeah- Cubans are hard to find down there, but there is 1 official importer in the country, located in one of the wealthier San Jose suburbs (Escazu). Big thanks to Dave for tracking that place down and securing us a nice supply of cigars for the trip, including some Cubans.
Fucking sick. :cool
Best report in a long time. Very nice.

Since you deserve some shit now, I'm wondering if you ever caught fish from the extra 6" you added to your cast by leaning forward on the delivery every time??
whatcha tying?

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