Are you a tarpon fly fishing fanatic? Does the thought of the Silver King launching itself airborne keep you up at night? Maybe you’ve never caught one… but is the idea of adventuring to a new and exotic destination, with incredible fly fishing opportunities, all while in unparalleled comfort, right up your alley? What’s the history behind the region? What’s the fly fishing like there? Read on to find out more about Costa Rica’s Jungle Tarpon reserve, home to some of the best tarpon fly fishing in Costa Rica!
What is the Jungle Tarpon Reserve?
The Jungle Tarpon Reserve is a vast system of freshwater rivers, creeks, and flooded lagoons surrounded by verdant rainforest and swampland. Located in a remote, inland area of Costa Rica’s Caribbean lowlands, it’s truly an extraordinary place. During the summer months, the area is dry and dusty, with cattle and birds roaming on wide, flat meadows. But when the rains arrive in May and June, the rivers swell and the pastures flood, creating immense lagoons teeming with life.
Numerous species of baitfish thrive in this environment. Small tetras (or sardinas as the locals call them) feast on the blooming insect life. These are in turn preyed upon by the larger fish- the jaguar guapote, tropical garfish, machaca, and snook. But one fish is the undisputed champion of the river, the apex predator, the Silver King. Tarpon, Sábalo Real.
The tarpon that inhabit Costa Rica’s Jungle Tarpon Reserve hear the call in June, and begin an incredible voyage. Starting at the Caribbean sea, these tarpon take advantage of the higher water levels and begin a journey that lasts hundreds of kilometers. The tarpon point their noses in the current and silently make their way upstream, winding through the swollen waterways, always with their goal and destination in mind. And these aren’t small tarpon. Younger tarpon make their way upstream, fish in the 40 pound to 80 pound class. But lurking beneath them are the true behemoths. Trophy tarpon of triple digits, over 100, 150 pounds, and larger… And they want to eat. The smorgasbord of life at the Jungle Tarpon Reserve gives them that opportunity – on a platter!
And of course, the fly fishing angler is there to take advantage of the buffet! This incredible, dynamic environment is what makes Costa Rica’s Jungle Tarpon Reserve one of the world’s finest fly fishing trophy tarpon destinations.
What makes the Jungle Tarpon Reserve so unique?
When people think of fly fishing for tarpon, they often think of clear blue water, white sand flats, and a string of daisy chaining fish inbound. But the Jungle Tarpon Reserve bucks that trend, and gives the fly fishing angler a chance at something exotic. Here you’ll be floating down a tropical river, surrounded by unfamiliar vegetation and scenery, serenaded by eerie sounds drifting out of the forest, and casting unusual flies that seem more like Mardi Gras decorations!
Picture this. You’re slowly motoring down the tannin stained river, on the way to the next spot, searching for signs of activity. Massive flocks of white egrets soar overhead, and the raucous chorus of Southern lapwings ring in your ears. White faced capuchins cavort in the treelines, with the booming calls of howler monkeys signaling your approach. The noise of the insect life is constant – cicadas, crickets, and countless other species make a white noise that is omnipresent in the background, yet beautifully peaceful.
But the peace is broken by an enormous noise, a blast that sends water spraying like a fountain. A group of hundred pound plus tarpon have cornered a school of sardinas on the river bank. Like a pack of wolves, they corral them, giving them no avenues of escape, and are enjoying the feast. Costa Rica’s jungle tarpon are single minded – anything that looks like bait will be eaten. The anchor is dropped and you take your place on the bow. With your 12 weight in hand, you strip some line off the reel, take a look at the large orange and yellow streamer in your hand, and realize you have the chance to cast a fly at a true river monster.
The tarpon who reside in the Jungle Tarpon Reserve are not pressured like they can be in some other destinations. These fish rarely, if ever, see flies… so when a fly is presented, the aggressive tarpon charges and inhales it.
Three strips, and you feel like a pickup truck has hit you. The fly rod is nearly pulled out of your hands. You hammer the strip set, and immediately an enormous tarpon launches itself out of the water. The tannin-stained rivers have changed the colors of this fish, and you’re greeted by the sight of a golden tarpon tail walking through the currents. Water sprays in the air, gill plates smash with massive head shakes, thunderous splashes echo.
The peace is shattered at this point. The monkeys are calling in alarm, shaking branches and leaves as they watch from above. The birds have fallen silent. Even the insects give a momentary pause as the jungle processes the carnage that’s unfolding.
Then the tarpon runs, and the fight begins in earnest. Tarpon are not easy to catch. Bony, hard mouths are difficult to put a hook point into. Submerged logs and trees are everywhere, just waiting to rub off a leader. And each jump loosens the bite of the hook just a little. Will this be a quick battle, an exhilarating rush that ends up with a tarpon jumping off and high fives all around? Or will it be one of those magical moments, when you can lay your hands on one of the mythical Costa Rica jungle tarpon, before watching them swim off into the depths? Only time will tell.
Interested in booking a trip at the Jungle Tarpon Reserve? Click here to find out more!
Ocean fishing more your style? Then the Rio Colorado Tarpon Club might be right up your alley!
Can’t make up your mind? Why not both – check out our Tarpon Combo!