A few weeks later and I’m still looking back still in disbelief thinking about the places I was 3 weeks ago. My friend Brendan, my brother Dan, and I flew from Boston to Newark and then direct to San Jose, Costa Rica. Our guide Tom Enderlin of Release Fly Travel lives outside San Jose and picked us up at the airport. We then drove 6 hours down the coast and through the jungle to the house in Osa Penninsula, Costa Rica.
Our house was incredible, located on a point surround by 8 acres of private land. Remote and surrounded by the jungle, and the land caretakers dogs; Richard, Dickie, and Eddie. Waking up every morning to the waves crashing, parrots, and howler monkeys making all sorts of ruckus.
Home Sweet Home
Due to a strong El Nino this year, the fishing has been pretty tough in shore because of warm waters. Everyday was over 100+ degrees, protecting ourselves from the sun and staying hydrated was crucial. We fished 4 days on the beaches and spent the other 2.5 days inshore/offshore for pelagic species.
Locked & Loaded
Day 1 – Surfcasting the beach’s of Puerto Jimenez: I was lucky enough to land my first Roosterfish in the first few hours on a 247 Lures Glider. It wasn’t a monster, but that didn’t matter. By far one of the most beautiful fish I have ever laid my eyes on!After a nice lunch and a cold beer, we hit the beaches again where Brendan was able to come tight with his first Rooster of the trip. I was fortunate enough to land another as well!
My 1st Rooster
Brendan with his 1st Rooser of the trip
Small but feisty
Day 2 – Dont’ forget to apply sunscreen hourly
Our third day on the beach: Myself and Tom were throwing the fly under an incredible sunset. After not seeing any fish for quite a while, out of no where was the biggest Rooster we had seen all week. Comb up, this bigggg Rooster starts doing figure 8’s on a small baitball 10ft from us. Dorsal’s out of the water, all lit up – it was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. Tom and I both had a few shots at this fish and proceeded to chase it down the beach. Unfortunately we did not connect, but having that shot was something ill never forget.
Sandy beach to a nice 10′ drop off
The rest of our time on the beaches consisted of a lot of casting and running down the shore in search of bait. Once we located bait balls, we would work them hard waiting for those dorsals to come out of the water chasing our plugs. At one point the Roosters were so close to shore that they were blitzing bait onto the beach. We didn’t land any monsters in the surf, but had plenty of action and fun chasing these “pollitos” up and down the beach!
We fished a variety of super remote beach’s down the Coast, in the jungle. Some of which required driving over an hour down rocky dirt roads, over sketchy bridges, through streams and mind-boggling landscapes to remote areas. It was neat to see a few local hand-liners who put on quite a show catching small barracudas, roosters, and jacks from the beach.
A local burying his catch in the sand to hide it from the heat
Pelicans riding the surf
Our backyard was always full of bait, but no signs of big Roosters
Waiting for the tide to come in
Inshore Boat Trip
With how warm the water temperatures were, we knew we were going to have to work for the bite. After throwing some big poppers around Matapalo rock with no love, we decided to put out some live bait. Immediately Brendan hooked up on a nice pacific bonita, that we immediately rigged up as live bait in hopes for a giant rooster or cubera snapper. Still, no love….
We then decided to work the coast line hitting white water and rocky shorelines, after hours of casting my popper finally got smashed and landed a beautiful bluefin trevally. The next cast, Dan had a big rooster chase his plug to the boat, but gave him the big finger and swam off. 30 minutes later in some more white water, my popper got annihilated again by another bluefin trevally.
Trevally # 2
For the next 4 hours we slowly worked the beaches that we had been surfcasting just days before. From the shore it looked fishy, but since it was low tide we didn’t catch a thing. This day we were in on high tide and we caught fish after fish, including spanish mackerel, jacks, roosterfish and more. Having our rods bend and drag scream consistently was a blast, and we ended the day sight casting huge schools of jacks on fly rod with Tom Enderlin!
Brendan with a nice Jack
Jacks on Jacks
Spanish Mackerel, Ceviche
Brendan with the nicest Rooster of the trip
Dan with his first Rooster
Doubled up with the bro!
Jack on Fly
Offshore – Sails Day 1
Our captain Abraham Concepcion is a well known fly angler and guide throughout the world. He’s pretty good…. 600lb Black Marlin, and 280lb Blue Marling, both on the fly. The day before we went, boats had action all day long. One boat raised close to 50 sails and caught nearly half of them.
We left the dock at 630 am, traveled close to 10 miles offshore and before we could set up our rigs there were sails all around us. Every hundred or so yards we would spot a large pacific sail on the surface, dorsal up, sitting there or slashing at bait-balls. Seeing these pelagic’s on the surface was incredible.Now we just had to get them to bite. The plan was to troll 4 teasers in the water and to target these fish on fly rods only.
After 30 minutes, we had our first sail behind the boat. Attacking our teaser 30′ behind us, dorsal up while it’s bill slashed our bait out of the water. Abraham instructed me to start casting and drop the fly. In sync, Abraham ripped the teaser out of the sails mouth. My fly dropped – strip strip strip, whammmm! The sail nails the popper fly on the surface and Abraham yells SET! I set the fly like he instructed. For a split second my rod is bent over and my heart stopped. Half a second later, the fly pops out of the sails mouth….. I was shaking and couldn’t believe what had just happened. He explained I did nothing wrong and that I hooked the fish in the bill, so it didn’t hold.
See the video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YsbCHrW7PLQ
Maybe if i was wearing a shirt….
For the next 5 hours we trolled our rigs around with no luck. Sails would come up all around us, but due to the amount of bait there was, they were very picky and keyed in on the food all around them. Occasionally we would see a boat hook up, but there was no one hammering them.
A Pacific Sail slashing bait
Frigate birds were key to locating sails in the distance
A pair of sails
In my head I was wondering if that would be the only shot we would have all day – it almost was. But in the last few hours of our trip the wind picked up, and so did the bite. We decided we would try to get sails on spin setups, in hopes to have a better shot at landing these beautiful fish. While trolling around we would spot birds, which in turn would lead us to sails sitting below them on bait balls. A few times we would see 3-6 sails trapping a bait ball between them at the surface of the water.
The rest of the trip we pitched live baits (goggle-eyes) at sails, hoping they would want a free meal. On two occasions, Brendan and Dan hooked up, but after a few acrobatic jumps (mind-blowing) and runs the circle hooks pulled.
We ended the day with no landed fish, but just seeing the amount of sails we saw on the surface, jumping a few, and having a shot at one on fly was worth the trip itself.
Sight casting RonZ lures at sails – One Sail slashed a RonZ in half
Offshore – Sails Day 2
Our second day offshore started with good vibes and high hopes. The ocean was like a puddle, and we made it offshore in 20 minutes. To our surprise, there was not a fish in sight. We trolled for hours and would occasionally see a sail free jump but there was not the same level of surface activity as our last trip.
To keep us entertained, the dolphin show was out of the world. Pods of hundreds of dolphins were coming clean out of the water, doing flips, and landing on their sides. And the sea turtles were making love like you read about.
Finally, after a long morning, out of no where a bill and dorsal fin popped up behind our trolled ballyhoo; “SAIL, SAIL!” I yelled. We were on. I grabbed the rod as the drag screamed and waited anxiously for the fish to put on a show. Praying the hook didn’t pull, the sail started tail walking in the distance. After a 10 minute battle, we had the fish boat-side and grabbed the leader. As it was thrashing boat-side, the hook pulled. It would have been sweet to pose with my first pacific sail for a photo, nonetheless we got the release and enjoyed a much needed cold beer in celebration. See the video below.
The fishing was tough, but that’s fishing. Working for each bite made it that much more rewarding. All in all, we got the job done. Roosters, sails, jacks, and more! They weren’t the biggest fish but no doubt will have us coming back for redemption – and a sailfish on fly!
Tom Enderlin from Release Fly Travel was an unbelievable host / guide. Fluent in Spanish, a master with the camera, and a birding expert! We had an absolute blast off the grid in the jungle for 9 days.
There is a good chance we come back to give this fishery redemption in Feb or March in 2017, if interested shoot me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about this trip, and other potential future WKF hosted trips.