Costa Rica! A country quoted as being one of the best big game destinations in the world and home to the magical roosterfish. It was somewhere I’d always wanted to fish, but never had the opportunity to go.
Life is full of unexpected twists and turns though, and well over a year ago, I was involved in the field testing of the new PENN Clash fixed spool reel here in the UK. A reel packed with advanced performance features, and with an incredible low inertia drag that makes fighting big fish simplicity itself. It was April and a phone call from the PENN Brand Manager asking if I’d be interested in going out to Costa Rica to attend the worldwide introduction of the new Clash came as a sledgehammer surprise. I instantly said, “Yes!”
Meeting up with my travelling companions Robert Valkeneer, EMEA Penn Brand Manager, and Dutch angler and journalist Toine van Lerland, I found myself winging across the Atlantic on an 11-hour flight from Sciphol Airport in Holland to Panama City. From Panama it was a second flight to San Jose Airport in Costa Rica, an overnight stay in a hotel, and a short internal flight the following morning to the famous resort of Crocodile Bay.
There was no time for settling in. We arrived as a group made up from people from all over the world, left our bags in reception, and excitedly walked down through the beautiful rain forest setting to board our boats for the first day.
I was drawn to fish with American anglers Ron Kliegl, Brand Business Manager for Spiderwire lines, Chris Megan, Owner/Publisher of On The Water magazine in the USA, and On the Water’s editor Kevin Blinkoff.
The day saw a breeze blowing, with scattered clouds and fair humidity. We headed west looking to fish some reef ground with roosterfish the main target.
Baits were small bridle rigged baitfish like blue runners and sardinios. These were slowly trolled behind the boat over the reef ground. We had hits almost straight away, but found the fish difficult to hook and they seemed almost reluctant to fully take the baits in, just snatching at and instantly releasing the baits. In fact, we’d already been told the fishing was a little off form due to some unusual weather patterns and high sea temperatures.
Chris Megan was first in with a small rooster about 3 or 4lbs. For their size, they fight hard! I’d fished roosterfish before in Mexico and remembered that the technique was, when the rooster grabbed the bait, to let it take free line giving it time to take the bait fully in, then set the hook against the drag. The first take I totally missed.
I was poised at the stern of the boat holding the rod waiting for a take. When it came, I let the fish take a fair bit of line, flipped the reel in to gear, and felt that satisfying weight pull the rod tip hard over. The fish bored off taking line, went deep, came to the surface, went deep again, then took off on a blistering run. It came to the boat but darted off on the surface surprising us all by the sheer speed these electric blue fish with the streaming comb like dorsal fin possess. It was lifted aboard, looked about 10lbs, had its photo taken and was instantly released.
Chris was next in enjoying a good fight with another rooster that also looked a good double figure fish, followed by a smaller fish. Kevin got a good rooster in the region of 10lbs, and Ron added another.
I missed a fish, then hit another rooster that broke surface during the fight, then took a lot of line. It was a fish the crew reckoned was well over 6-kilo’s. I followed this up with another rooster, then a jack crevalle about 10lbs.
Another small rooster followed, then I had a hit from a fish that at first fought deep, then went on a blistering run dragging a lot of line off the reel. It kept running, holding, running, and holding some more. I knew it was a big jack crevalle and fought the fish hard. It grudgingly came to the boat and looked big when we saw it. It was at the stern and the crewman held the trace with the fish pulling hard. He was about to lift the fish when the hook simply pulled out. It would have been nice to have had the fish aboard for a photo, but it was an easy release for a fish that looked a good 30lbs, maybe more.
Chris had another good rooster that looked about 12lbs, and I followed this up with a fish that tore a lot of line off and took a fair few minutes to subdue and we estimated this fish around the 18lb mark.
After that the fishing eased off for the last hour and we headed back for a well earned beer, some food, and a very welcome sleep.
The second day I chose to go offshore, and I will write this day up as a separate blog, as it proved to be quite special.
The third and last day I was to fish with my travelling companions Robert and Toine. We decided to fish inshore again for the roosters. However, the day was tough and not just for the roosters, but all fish seemed lethargic and reluctant to feed. The skipper got on the radio and it was much the same for most of the other boats too.
We motored well west and fished the inshore reefs. I felt, in the conditions, that the fish were sitting deep. I asked the crewman to add a ball-weight in front of the bait to get it deeper. I instantly hit a fish that fought hard, head down, making short but very powerful runs. It took line and still stayed deep right to the stern of the boat. It came up through the water column as a slight white blur that transformed in to a beautiful brown and silver fish marked with black bars down the body. It proved to be a Rock Snapper about 12lbs in weight and a new species for me. Toine later added a single good roosterfish that looked in the region of 15lbs, with Robert adding a cero mackerel.
The bigger roosters and the jack crevalle gave the PENN Clash reels a real work out. The advantage of the low inertia drag and powerful gearing apparent when the bigger fish took off for the horizon. Its no surprise when you fish with the reel that it won the prestigious Best Saltwater Reel at the ICAST show in 2015!
The Crocodile Bay resort made us all exceptionally welcome. It sits amongst a rain forest setting with beautifully laid out gardens and superb accommodation. The food was delicious, and for hungry anglers, there was lots of it too. Speaking to the staff and owners, more and more UK anglers are visiting this resort, and it’s easy to see why. Although the fishing was not bang on form for our visit, the photos on the resort walls prove the quality of the fishing to be found there. It is somewhere I dearly hope to visit again sometime.
PENN CLASH REEL
CROCODILE BAY RESORT