World Wide Fishing!

Trout in Costa Rica

All Text, Photos and Flies tied by Peter Gorinsky (aka Tropic)

The stars of tropical sportfishing like the Marlin, Sailfish, Tarpon and Snook tend to dominate the interest of fly-fishing enthusiasts seeking the supposed ultimate in angling adventure, and that might well be the case. It fits in well with the bustle of modern life and its corporate drive to dominate, the manipulating of fast powerful cars and entertaining expensive pastimes. This enjoyment is fast and furious, rife with innumerable stress factors and beneficial but to the few.

However, here there are other very good and lesser known fly-fishing activities that are quite lost to many of our visitors. When all the lips are suitably chapped, sun burnt arms or legs lobster red and muscles aching and bruised, these tired battered anglers can certainly gain benefit from this strenuous malfunction of the "big fish" fly-fishing concept by seeking some physical and mental recovery in compliance with the true essence of fly-fishing and spend a day on one of our very beautiful cool cloud-forest trout streams. The change from mega to mini fishing is sometimes hard for many of these macho anglers to accept, but once they have made the appropriate mental adjustments, the enjoyment is of real value and certainly not as physically demanding. They can then relax and be compatible with Nature in its more passive tranquil state.

Some sixty years ago our high altitude mountain streams and rivers on the southern border with Panama were stocked with rainbow trout, not by any official program designed to actually introduce a new fish species for aqua-cultural purposes, but by some able U.S. fly-fishing enthusiasts in the armed forces stationed in Panama. These officers desired some sportfishing activity for their military recreation area situated in northern Chiriqui with its high elevation and cold water rivers. This alpine region was ideal for their R & R program to escape the depressing heat, humidity and insects of the lower tropical climate in the Canal Zone. The direct flight connection of the USAF in Panama to California and Washington State made it possible to bring the fresh eggs or alevin for introduction to these high mountain streams where they adapted and grew rapidly into a very healthy and self-sustaining population. Eventually, these trout soon entered the tributary system of the Rio Cotón that flows into Costa Rica and supplied the depressed local population with some fish, something that was sadly deficient in their protein diet.

The success of this 'accidental' introduction of trout into Costa Rica encouraged the agricultural department to continue with a more detailed program and trout were regularly stocked from U.S., Canadian and Mexican strains in the rivers of the Cordillera Talamanca during the following decades, without any particular record made as to what particular strain of trout was being imported. "Trout is trout" they thought and we have scant information as to which river or stream received a particular strain. We do know that the Donaldson strain of the Kamloops rainbows as well as the McCloud Shasta rainbows were imported and today, some hybrids of these are thriving and are known as "Tico trout" that defy classification. But then again, some of the trout have remained true to their strain in select rivers and have become wild enough to demonstrate their ancestral cunning and feistiness. These are my favorite trout rivers.

The Rio Savegre, Rio Chirripo, Rio Toro and Rio Copey are the rivers most frequented by trout anglers interested enough to enjoy this singular sport in the cold misty climate of the cloud forest. Most local anglers prefer the beach and target tropical sportfish that more suit their culinary appetites. One rarely encounters another angler on the trout stream and if so, they are usually spin or bait fishermen.

Using #2 or #3 fly rods with floating lines and 7X tippets will outfit the fly-fisher on these small streams and mountain rivers. No need to wade deep and it is usually a safe and comfortable hike to many of the productive pools. Here we do not have poisonous snakes or vicious wasps to occupy the interest of the angler, just the challenge of personal casting skill and the ability to employ stealth to the fishing strategy. Clear water and the skittish character of these wild trout makes catching them a real sporting objective.

An angler used to fishing the northern mountain trout streams of North America will find this an easy challenge, though I have had many accomplished anglers remain frustrated with their ability after a day on these rivers. These trout are survivors and are constantly aware of predators threatening their accustomed tranquility.

A two hour drive from San José, heading South along the Pan American highway over the Cerro de La Muerte will get to the Rio Savegre, a trout stream set in a very picturesque valley, with tall tropical oaks and other alpine trees having branches covered with trailing moss and ideal habitat for many exotic bromeliads, orchids and ferns. Apart from being a botanical paradise, it is also rich in bird life and a favorite place to see the magnificent Quetzal or be surrounded by a myriad of colorful hummingbirds. The cold spring fed river has many boulders that create deep pools with crystal clear water, ideally suited for dry fly fishing.

There is a good trail along the river that leads to various productive pools and this offers about four miles of ideal fishing opportunities.

Trout will average about ten inches with some getting to about eighteen inches in the lower reaches of the river where there are longer deep pools below small waterfalls. A stealthy angler can hook an average of about thirty fish in a day using both dry and wet flies. Not being particularly selective in what they take, it is still a constant challenge to know what is their preference and the fly presentation is of prime importance.

Most of the popular fly patterns of North America will work here and flies tied on #16 or #18 hooks are a better choice. Weighted nymphs, beetle, ant and small streamer patterns work better in the afternoon or immediately after some rain showers when to water can become discolored and more terrestrial insects are washed into the stream, triggering a feeding frenzy.

Comfortable accommodation in small lodges and cabins are available in the village of San Gerardo and local guides are willing to accompany anglers to the best fishing locations even though most of the fishing on the Rio Savegre is possible on a singular basis that affords a more intimate relationship with the pastoral scene.

There are other rivers that offer very good trout fishing and some are located closer to the Central Valley in the Cordillera Central. These rivers are influenced by the weather of the Caribbean zone and are subject to torrential rain and sudden flood that can make the water quality very uncertain. In the dry season the Rio Orosi and Rio Toro Amarillo are capable of producing good large trout with my biggest catch there being 9 lbs. taken on a large size 4 Stonefly nymph. The terrain is very wild with dense growth and fishing there usually demands more athletic skill and accurate roll casting ability.

With the success resulting from the trout stocking program, a number of trout hatchery enterprises have been established and some even undertaken projects to maintain rivers or ponds near their hatcheries to offer trout fishing to the general public. These are very good places to get younger anglers accustomed to the concept of light tackle fishing and have the possibility of catching many really large fish. Here Catch and Release is not enforced and it can be an expensive undertaking when the weight of the fish kept are tallied and paid for.

So there is a wider dimension to sportfishing in the tropics and in Costa Rica we can now claim to have a complete fly-fishing package and welcome other anglers to share in our enjoyment. . ."Pura Vida!" ~ Peter Gorinsky

More Costa Rica Fly Fishing:

Tico Trout, Part 1
Tico Trout, Part 2
Tico Trout, Part 3

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