Fish Fabulous Costa Rica archive story

A pretty successful half hour in Costa Rica trout country

Back to
Page One

Author attacks a pool full of trout in a classic stretch of the Río Savegre in coffee country.

trout stream
Fish Fabulous Costa Rica/Lee Swidler

A pretty successful half hour
in Costa Rica trout country

By Lee Swidler*

Special to Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

My friend Don Nunley and I decided to do some trout fishing for my birthday, and since my wife was
first rainbow
Fish Fabulous Costa Rica/Lee Swidler
Don Nunley and a quick rainbow
out of town, I didn’t have to get the “go ahead”!

We leave Jacó early and make it to San José by 7.   By 8, we are full up from breakfast and coffee and are pushing east around San Josee, and then south, eventually climbing up the Inter American highway.  Locally and on maps of Costa Rica it is called Cerro de la Muerte or “hill of the dead.”    For good reason:  As we climb up to around 2,500 meters in altitude, we are surrounded by thick cloud cover.  We can’t see the front of the car.  We push on  and eventually  arrive at Milepost 80, where we look for the turnoff to San Gerardo de Dota. We are at 3,000 meters altitude (over 9,000 feet) when we start dropping into a deep canyon.  5 klics into the canyon and we see the Rio Savegre;   a classic trout stream.  We continue along the valley bottom, paralleling the river.  We pass through fruit
orchards and then a few small lodges, all of them within walking distance to the water’s edge.

Don and I check in to our lodge and are on the stream by 3; time for a  good two hours or more of water lashing.  We are both using  2 weight (very light) rods because we knew the fish were small, although  12-14 inchers (and even larger!) are not unheard of.  A local biologist (who we had the good fortune to run into) said that the fish population was almost wiped out by the effects of hurricane Mitch in '98, but was now coming back strong.  Another reason for their reappearance is that there are two or three trout farms along the river, and occasionally there are jail breaks.  I imagine that’s where those 18 inchers come from.

We split up and before I can get a line in, Don has a fish on!  An 8 incher, if that, but a fish.  I guess he’s buying first round tonight!

I make my way upstream and find a trail that I think doesn’t look as well trodden as the others. I have to do some climbing, but manage to get down to the water where I can see a pool full of fish. And they cannot see me!  I take my time, cause there is no hurry.  They are quite content in there, and aren’t going anywhere.   I tie on a nice new 7X tippet (SO delicate!) and add to it a size #22 (iddy biddy)
Royal Wolfe (that’s the name of the fly!).   I smear it up with “floatem” (fly fisher speak for coating the fly with a substance that keeps the fly from sinking below the water’s surface) and toss out my first cast. Immediately there is a splash, and a fish shows its head, but no hook-up!

There is a lot of under and over brush and I get hung up on the next cast, but I don’t get razzed.  I gently roll off another cast and I get another hit, but again, I don’t set the hook.  I am afraid I will spook the  fish, so I call a time out.  I watch some more and see a flash of red on one fish, a beautiful rainbow that looks a little bigger than the others.

I sit back down on my  rock to let things settle down and decide to change flies. I pick a classic Adams pattern  and tie it on.  Well, I say “I tie it on,”  but in reality, working with a 7X tippet and a #22 Adams is no easy task when you
fnally landed the fish
Fish Fabulous Costa Rica/Lee Swidler
Patience and success at last.
are one day shy of 64(!) (again, for the uninitiated, a 7X tippet is thinner than most sewing thread and transparent, while the hole in the #22 Adams is only slightly larger. I manage to get it done.

Again I grease the fly up before getting set to cast.  Then I am thinking that when I catch this fish (with the red stripe), I better have my camera ready, because no one will believe this story.  So I get my camera out, turn it on, and put it into my shirt pocket and button it up.  Now I am ready!   I lean over the rock to see the fish (thinking they probably all just swam away!) but they are all still holding in the same feeding line, unaware that I have a plan.

Then I throw that Adams out perfectly, and ol red BITES!  I bring that baby over to my waiting camera!!   It wasn’t easy,  not the classic photo (I can only do so much at once), but here he is!  And  like I said at the beginning, smaller fish, but FUN!

After that I went back to the room and just replayed it through my brain.

Postscript: Don woke up in the middle of the night with his body engulfed in red blotches and itching like there was no tomorrow. That morning we had to run back to San José to the hospital emergency room where we spent all morning. Don had a very bad allergic reaction to something. The docs shot him full of drugs and we retreated on home to Jacó.

In total, I fished for maybe 30 minutes,  thinking I’d have a full day on the river the next day (my birthday!).  On the positive side, I was able to use this (down on my luck) birthday tale  to get in another few days fishing before my “better half” returned from her trip
*Mr. Swidler, a Jacó businessman, is a fly fishing guide. He writes about his adventures on a blog HERE!
— May 7, 2012

The contents of this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2012 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for more details