Fly fishing in Costa Rica

Guided fly fishing trips in Costa Rica: tarpon, trout and machaca

Costa Rica is the most biodiverse country in the world, and fly fishing in Costa Rica is no exception. Within just a few kilometers, we can fish for large migratory tarpon in freshwater, rainbow trout in mountain streams within the jungle, aggressive machaca that take fruit imitation flies, and various saltwater species such as roosterfish, sailfish, tuna, dorado (mahi-mahi), and more. Additionally, it is a perfect destination for companions to enjoy surfing, ecotourism, birdwatching, and other nature sports.

Best Fly Fishing Guides & Trips in Costa Rica:

If you’re interested in taking a fly fishing trip to Costa Rica, we recommend reaching out to Costa Rica Fly Fishing Guides:

WHY FLY FISHING IN COSTA RICA?

Costa Rica stands out as an exceptional destination for fly fishing enthusiasts, owing to the diversity of species inhabiting its various natural environments. Apart from providing excellent fly fishing opportunities, this beautiful country boasts some of the friendliest people on earth, along with breathtaking national parks and incredible biodiversity, including wildlife and pristine jungles. All of these factors make a fishing trip here a truly unique experience.

Can you imagine a fishing trip where you can enjoy catching small trouts while surrounded by monkeys and quetzals? Or perhaps hooking migratory tarpons in one of the most astonishing natural reserves in the world? How about fly fishing for machacas on the surface using flies that mimic freshly fallen fruits from trees, or seeking saltwater species like the Blue Marlin or roosterfish? Costa Rica, Pura Vida!

Fishing in Costa Rica takes place in diverse geographical locations, such as:

  • The deltas of major rivers flowing into the Caribbean Sea.
  • The Pacific Ocean.
  • Inland rivers harboring large migratory tarpons, such as the Frío River or the San Juan River.
  • Boat-accessible rivers, home to species like the machaca or guapote.
  • Jungle streams, where you can fish for exotic species like the rainbow trout.
fly-fishing-tarpon-costa-rica
IS COSTA RICA A COUNTRY FOR COMPANIONS ON A FLY FISHING TRIP?

If we shift our focus away from fishing, Costa Rica emerges as a highly captivating destination for trips with friends or family. It’s important to note that Costa Rica is increasingly becoming a second home for many tourists from the United States. Out of the 2.4 million tourists who visited the country, 1.75 million were North Americans. These figures stem from a series of factors such as its comfortable lifestyle, peaceful democracy, the variety of activities available, the friendliness of its inhabitants, and its incredible natural beauty.

In more detail, the following are notable tourist strengths of this Central American country:

  • 100% Peaceful Country: Costa Rica permanently abolished its army in 1949, becoming the first of a handful of sovereign nations worldwide without a standing army.
  • Breathtaking Natural Beauty: Costa Rica is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, which includes pristine beaches, lush tropical rainforests, active volcanoes, and exceptional biodiversity.
  • Sustainable Tourism: The country is committed to sustainable tourism, allowing visitors to enjoy outdoor activities and cultural experiences while respecting and protecting natural and cultural resources. Costa Rica is known for its progressive environmental policies, being the only country meeting all five criteria set to measure environmental sustainability. It ranks first in the Americas in the 2012 Environmental Performance Index.
  • Outdoor Adventures: Costa Rica offers a wide range of outdoor activities such as surfing, diving, snorkeling, hiking, zip-lining, rafting, and wildlife observation, making it a paradise for adventure lovers.
  • Unique Biodiversity: Despite its relatively small size, Costa Rica harbors an incredible diversity of flora and fauna. Tourists can explore national parks and biological reserves to observe a variety of species, from monkeys and sloths to quetzals and sea turtles.
  • Rich Culture: In addition to its natural environment, Costa Rica boasts a rich culture with a fascinating history, vibrant art, traditional music and dance, as well as delicious cuisine including dishes like gallo pinto and casado.
  • Friendly and Welcoming People: Costa Ricans, known as «Ticos,» are famous for their warmth and hospitality. Tourists often feel welcomed and safe while exploring the country.
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WHAT ARE THE BEST MONTHS FOR FLY FISHING IN COSTA RICA?

In Costa Rica, the dry and green seasons are two distinct periods that mark the country’s climatic cycle and have a significant impact on its landscape, flora, fauna, and of course, fly fishing:

  • Dry Season: This season typically extends from late December to late April in most parts of the country. During the dry season, the weather is characterized by clear skies, warm temperatures, and sunny days. Rainfall is scarce or absent, making it the ideal season for fishing.
  • Green Season or Rainy Season: This season runs from May to November, with July and August being the rainiest months. During this time, the weather is more humid, and precipitation is more frequent and abundant. Vegetation becomes lush and vibrant, and rivers reach their peak flow.

Considering the season and the species you want to fish, some months are better than others. Here are some guidelines that can help you:

  • Jungle Tarpon Reserve: Located in the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge, during the dry season (January-May), water levels decrease, and the lagoon disappears, turning into a network of rivers with dense vegetation. In the rainy season, the lagoon re-forms, and it’s the best time for fishing, as tarpons can migrate upstream following schools of small fish.
  • Rainbow Trout in Jungle Streams: The dry season months are more suitable for trout fishing as the river flows better, clearer, and dry fly fishing is even possible.
  • Machaca Fishing: Similar to trout, machacas do not undertake major migrations and remain in the river throughout the season. However, during the dry season, river flow is lower, and waters are clearer, making conditions better for fly fishing.
  • Caribbean Sector Fishing: Fishing in the sea varies depending on the species, but the pattern for river fishing is usually better from mid-January to mid-May and then again in September and October.

Pacific Sector Fishing: On the Pacific coast, the best months are from December to May, although some rivers may experience significant decreases in flow in March and April, at the peak of the dry season.

fly-fishing-season-costa-rica

SPECIES TO FLY FISH FOR IN COSTA RICA:

Some of the most sought-after species for fly fishing in Costa Rica include:

  • Tarpon: Tarpon can be caught in Costa Rica, mainly in the deltas of rivers that flow into the Caribbean Sea, such as the Colorado River, as well as in rivers and lagoons. These migratory fish ascend rivers, especially during the rainy season, chasing schools of small fish. Some of them, such as those found in the Jungle Tarpon Reserve, remain in these areas throughout the year and are known as resident mature tarpons. The best months for tarpon fishing are determined by the weather and rainy season, which typically run from January to May and from August to October.
  • Machaca: Machaca are a species of fish found in certain rivers of Costa Rica, such as the Tenorio River in the province of Guanacaste. They belong to the piranha family and have a preference for noisy flies that scratch the surface of the water. This fish is omnivorous and at certain times of the year feeds on wild figs, leading us to use fruit imitations to catch them. They are very spirited fish and have sharp teeth, so using strong fluorocarbon tippet is recommended.
  • Rainbow Trout: The presence of rainbow trout in Costa Rica surprises many anglers, as this fish of great sporting interest has been widely cultivated in fish farms around the world and transferred between countries. Initially released by US military personnel and later by the Department of Agriculture of Costa Rica, trout have established numerous populations in jungle streams. Nowadays, trout can be caught in the Talamanca Range, the Savegre River, the Chirripó River, the Toro River, and the Copey River, offering an incredible experience surrounded by lush scenery and the sounds of nature. It’s a fantastic sensation that every angler visiting Costa Rica should experience, using a small 8-foot rod and a number 3 line.
  • Rainbow & Jaguar Bass (Guapotes): These two species, belonging to the cichlid family, are known as guapotes in Costa Rica, derived from their ‘handsome’ appearance in Spanish. They are vibrant-colored fish, especially the Rainbow Bass, weighing between 4 and 9 pounds. The IGFA world record, of 15 pounds and 0 ounces, was caught in southern Nicaragua in 1999. As non-migratory fish, they can be caught throughout the year, with the dry season being the optimal time. Typically, streamers and poppers are used to fly fish for them.
  • Roosterfish: The roosterfish, known as pez gallo in Spanish, is highly prized by anglers in Costa Rica and yes, it can also be caught with fly fishing. This fish stands out for its distinctive rooster-like crest and typically inhabits the warm tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean.
  • Others: Sailfish, marlin, tuna, wahoo, dorado, and more.
FLY-FISHING-SPECIES-IN-COSTA-RICA

DO I NEED A FISHING LICENSE TO FLY FISH IN COSTA RICA?

YES, fishing in Costa Rica requires a license sold by the Costa Rican Fisheries and Aquaculture Institute, or INCOPESCA. These licenses can be purchased online. Additionally, special permits may be required in certain locations such as National Parks.

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