Tarponville Costa Rica Hosted Trip Report: We were all looking for an adventure and a little of the unknown. It helped there might be a fish of a lifetime, beyond the end of the road, on the southern Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica. We travelled as a group of eight friends and clients of WorldCast Anglers, at the end of April to Tarponville, located within the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Reserve, a dense rain forest jungle with howler monkeys and sloths in the canopy. As far as the fishing, we found what we were looking for, a remote, unpressured, prolific tarpon fishery where we saw no other angler’s with exception to two Panamanians wade fishing the Sixaola River mouth where it met the Caribbean. The Sixaola separates Costa Rica from Panama and the undeveloped, jungle border still holds isolated villages of the indigenous Talamanca tribes of Bribri Indians still living and subsisting on the abundance of the jungle and the sea.
Our group came together as we rendezvoused in San Jose, Costa Rica a bustling, Central-American capital of roughly 1.5 million people. We overnighted at the Costa Verde Inn a comfortable and well appointed Inn on the Escazu hillside overlooking San Jose. We left early the next morning around 7am to the Caribbean Coast and Tarponville. The drive across Costa Rica, from the Central Valley to the last village at the end of the southern road took a full 5 hours. We were dropped off in the village of Manzanillo and were met by Mark Martin and Dolphi, the owner operator and caretaker of Tarponville, respectively. We were helped by other staff with our gear and bags and walked the remaining several hundred yards to the open air, rustic lodge in the jungle.
After our fishing, daily schedule, jungle, safety, and other logistical orientation we had lunch and then rigged our heavy gear of 12 weight rods and large baitfish fly patterns. Then we walked back to Manzanillo to meet our Tico (native Costa Rican) guides and boat handlers. The open hull, fiberglass pangas were clean and rigged simply for fly anglers. The boats were stripped of all hardware that could snag or catch a fly line.
It was roughly a 20 minute run in the pangas, outfitted with a minimum 60 horsepower outboards to reach the mouth of the Sixaola, the fishing grounds, and the border with Panama.
Within minutes our entire group could confirm the presence of large to giant adult tarpon. Several of us were able to jump enormous fish the first session, but we quickly realized our leaders, hooks, drags, reels and even some of our salt water lines were outmatched. During our week, we broke many leaders, bite tippets of 100lbs. were frayed and broken, we lost a line to a tarpon determined to get to Panama. We straightened 2/0 and 4/0 saltwater hooks, we broke billfish hooks at the turn. We destroyed drag mechanisms and broke a rod. With Mark Martin’s experience we re-tied many knots, used slim beauty’s and biminis instead of loops and bloods. We strengthened our leaders shock tippet sections and carefully chose our largest flies with the strongest and sharpest hooks. And we began to have success, holding on to giant tarpon longer and even getting a few to the boat.
At the end of the week seven out of eight anglers were able to jump tarpon of over 100 lbs. As a group, over five days, we were able to jump 24 adult tarpon. Three of us were able to land the largest fish we have ever had on a fly, by a large margin. None of us were experienced tarpon anglers, and it was an eye opening experience. We all felt we grew as fly anglers.
During our week some of our group tried for permit and bonefish, but all attempts were unsuccessful. The lagoon that can hold snook and baby tarpon is blocked by a sand bar during the dry season, and therefore inaccessible. Therefore, as we evaluated the overall fishery, we would not recommend this area for it’s fishing variety or diversity, but we all agreed if you want an outstanding chance to jump a giant tarpon at the largest end of the range to land on a fly, this would be at the absolute top of our list.
During our stay six of our group of eight experienced stomach ailments. We could not identify the source. Our group happened to have a physician, who’s best guess was a virus. The virus hit our group fairly hard, particularly one member of our group and caused several of us to miss fishing sessions. When travelling to remote areas of Central America, remember to bring the Cipro!
If you have an interest in pursuing an adult tarpon, especially one of the largest you can take on a fly, a true trophy, the Sixaola River mouth and Tarponville certainly can deliver. The safest open water conditions are September, October, March, April and May. Email Us or call 800.654.0676 for more information on Tarponville, Costa Rica.