This trip was a long time coming. After five-years without a vacation outside of the US, my wife and I were both ready for a trip abroad. We had planned and planned, and, in early March 2020, we settled on a week in Belize.
When lockdown happened a few weeks later, we found ourselves postponing our plans indefinitely. Grateful to have not yet solidified our itinerary.
Time again on our side, we continued to brainstorm and soon found ourselves on another path. We would visit Costa Rica. Belize could wait for another day.
When a Plan Comes Together
With what turned into two years to plan (thanks pandemic!), it is safe to say that our itinerary shifted more than a few times during the process. With so many options in such a small country, it was difficult to choose.
In the end though, we found ourselves settling on a plan that would have us hugging the pacific coast. Making our way from San Jose to Puerto Jimenez by rental car with stops in Quepos, Uvita & Sierpe along our way. Once in Puerto Jimenez, we’d return our rental car and make our way by boat to a small resort along the eastern shore of Gulfo Dulce.
These final four nights at the resort would provide my best opportunity to fish as nature photography and ecotourism would fill our itinerary throughout the early portion of our trip.
More to Life than Fishing
Blasphemy. I know. But…the simple fact is, this trip was not a fishing trip. While I undoubtedly alloted more time than I should have to the pursuit, our primary intent was ecotourism and, as such, the majority of this trip was spent exploring the various National Parks and other natural areas we encountered along the way.
While I won’t go into detail on these non-fishing days, I will note that we were lucky enough to encounter all four species of monkey, both species of sloth, peccaries, coatis, and even a tayra over the course of our travels. Coupled with countless birds, 20+ species of frog and a handful of snakes, it was quite the experience to say the least.
While the slideshow below contains a handful of the photos my wife managed along the way, I’d urge you to check out Maedbh Ryan Photography if you’d like to see more. (Sorting and editing is a bit of a process though, so be sure to check back as more will be added in the coming weeks.)
And, while I promise to move on to the fishing shortly, just one last note regarding the ecotourism portion of our trip.
I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to express my appreciation for Raby and his team at Sierpe Frogs. We spent two evenings hiking with Raby as well as a day in Corcovado NP during our trip. His knowledge of the region’s natural history coupled with his enthusiasm for each and every find were absolute highlights of our trip. I’d highly recommend reaching out to him via his website or Instagram if you plan to spend any time in southern Costa Rica. We’ve already begun planning our next visit with him and his team.
Bidding farewell to Sierpe on the morning of May 3rd, we completed the final two hours of the road trip that had begun three days prior. Returning the rental car to a small lot that abutted the local airstrip in Puerto Jimenez, we made our way to the public pier and awaited the boat that would shuttle us to Playa Nicuesa along the far shore of Gulfo Dulce.
Though schools of small snapper and jack were abundant around the pier, I refrained from unpacking my rod prematurely and, instead, did my best to wait patiently for our ride.
Once at the lodge, however, my 9-wt was quickly assembled and placed next to our cabin steps for ease of access.
Living the Good Life
Settled in, we made our way to the lodge where lunch was to be served and were treated to the first of many top notch meals. To our surprise, only two other couples joined us in the dining room for lunch that first day. With the green season underway, it appeared tourist numbers were dwindling. And as a result, it appeared that we’d have this 165-acre private preserve largely to ourselves.
In no rush, we took in the view from the dining room before retiring to our cabin to prepare for an afternoon hike.
Selecting one of the longer loops on the property, we lucked into a squirrel monkey, coatimundi and tayra along the way before afternoon rains pushed us back to the cabin.
When the rains finally passed, Maedbh was deeply engrossed in her book. I took that as my queue to excuse myself and wandered towards the water.
The Dreaded Skunk
Making my way to the pier, I was greeted by chop and cloud cover. Sight fishing was clearly not an option, so I tied on a large Chartreuse and White Half & Half and began probing the depths.
To my dismay, my line, purchased specifically for the trip, failed to perform as desired. A brand and model that I utilize on a number of my lighter rods, this tropical version just wasn’t meshing with my 9wt Predator. It simply could not turn over the big fly in a headwind, and I found myself struggling to get the distance I desired.
More troubling, the fish were holding in far deeper water than I had anticipated. And this floating line simply could not get the fly to the necessary depths. Still, I plodded on for a while longer and managed to briefly hook a large houndfish before conceding defeat. By that time, happy hour was approaching. And it was nearing time to join my wife and the other couples in the bar.
Swinging by my cabin on the way to the lodge, I rummaged through my luggage and found the Intermediate line I had packed as a backup. While it wasn’t rated for water this warm, it seemed my best bet at overcoming the skunk the following morning.
Downsizing and Going Deep
An amazing dinner and good night’s sleep later, I found myself back on the pier shortly after sunrise. Our only tour of the day was scheduled for early afternoon, and I had the morning to myself. Maedbh content to wander the gardens in my absence.
Rigged with an intermediate line, I made my way back to the pier and was greeted by clear skies and flat seas. I was determined to break the skunk and had no intention of returning to the cabin until I had.
Spotting a school of jack busting bait as I approached, my confidence was high. The jack were gone as quick as they had appeared,however. And I paused to observe my surroundings before proceeding to cast.
The first thing I noted was the size of the bait. I had anticipated sardine in the 3-6″ range. Yet, the small schools of bait that worked their way around the pier were no more than 1-2″.
Glancing through my box, it was clear I was significantly oversized. Most of my flies were 3-6+” in length. Only a half dozen small Clouser’s minnows tucked in a corner would “match the hatch.” Selecting from my limited options, I tied one on.
Counting down my line in 20+ feet of water, I was immediately rewarded as a string of small Rose Spotted Snapper and Yellow Snapper came to hand. The skunk was broken. Needless to say, I was elated as I made my way to the lodge for lunch.
Nearing the lodge, Alejandro, one of the staff whom I had spoken to about fishing the afternoon prior, asked how I had done. I told him, and he replied:
“Good! We’ll do better tomorrow! I’m your captain! See you at 6AM!”
A little surprised, I patted him on the shoulder and told him I’d see him at 6.
I had requested they schedule a charter for Thursday morning, but assumed they would be outsourcing as they had for one of the other guests. As I had my own gear, however, they decided that Alejandro (and his local knowledge) would do the trick.