Back in May of 2019, I paid my deposit for my dream to come true, going fishing in Costa Rica! It was to be my first ever blue water fishing trip after seemingly years in the planning. Then a certain virus ground the world to a halt and with it my plans! The trip was cancelled a total of three times as valiant efforts to reschedule against all manner of logistical challenges were routinely scuppered by variants and shifting policies, but eventually, following heavy doses of patience, it happened on 30th January this year.

After a 10 hour flight and a 5 hour drive we (the group and I) arrived at Samara on the west coast of Costa Rica. The weather was slightly different to the UK, 30-33 degrees celsius during the day and 25 degrees celsius at night.

Quick boats make light work of getting out to the days marks

Our daily schedule was up at 05:45, breakfast at 06:30 then picked up and taken to the beach where a small dingy took us out to the boats. To get to the fishing grounds in their fast boats took about 40 minutes. On the way, we saw shoals of bonito attacking bait fish on the surface. Although the bonito were small, they put up a great fight on our light spinning tackle. We then carried on to the marks that should contain our main quarry – rooster fish! Here we were casting heavy lures on equally heavy spinning tackle for around 8 hours, which is a mean feat in itself and that’s before accounting for the temperature and the extra exertion when it came to fighting a fish! 

In 30-33 degrees celsius this was incredibly hot and exhausting work, so don’t book up expecting a relaxing holiday!

At around 11:00 each day we had a snack of ceviche (small cubes of super fresh fish marinated in lime juice with coriander, spring onion and tomato) – yum! This was also a welcome break from casting. Later we’d have lunch that was freshly prepared and different every day. 

On the first day, after hours of casting, eventually the water exploded behind my lure as a rooster fish attacked. This strong fish fought hard, but I soon had it to the boat. I slipped the barbless hook out, took a quick photo then watched it swim powerfully away. This was the only fish I had that day, but I was very happy. It is the fish I came for. 

One fish on the day, but the one Mike had gone for

The first couple of days had proved very hard fishing, some of the worst they’d had in 15 years. This was mainly due to El Niño and a red algae bloom. So on day three we ventured 10-15 miles offshore to troll for marlin and mahi mahi (dorado). Our skipper and crewman set about getting our spread of lures set out from the back of the boat and the waiting game began. We needn’t wait long, as after just a short while we had a take and after a strong fight I boated a bull mahi mahi of around 15kg. 

Although all our fish were primarily “catch and release”, this mahi mahi was kept for food as it’s one of the best eating fish in the sea and when you get the feeling a fish won’t return too well, it’s a shame to waste it. Our lines were reset as we then waited for the next strike.

Suddenly, a reel screamed as a marlin took our bait. I grabbed the rod and held on tight. The fish just ran and ran and it was rapidly emptying the reel of all its line! Around 400m away, the fish exploded on the surface as it jumped. Line was still pouring off the spool, in no time at all I was down to the knot! The crewman just said “wind, wind, wind, faster faster!!” Sweat was pouring off me but slowly I managed to get the line back on the reel. I kept the pressure on and after about 15 minutes I had virtually all the line back and I suddenly thought “hey, I’m going to actually catch a marlin!”. I finally wound the leader onto the reel and the fish was now only about 10ft from the boat. It was here, in close quarters, that it gave three quick shakes of its head and the inevitable happened, the hook came out! NOOOOOO! I wouldn’t be surprised if you heard me swearing in the U.K. Oh well, it’s called fishing not catching – annoyingly!

Mahi-mahi are great eating if they don't return

Each night in one of the local bars we told our stories of our days fishing, drank beer, ate some fantastic food and finished off with several rum and cokes. Then it was off to bed for an early night in an attempt to recharge and repair our exhausted bodies before getting up the next day to do it all again.

The next day we were back inshore. Our guides had by now worked out how to get us onto the fish. We headed far south and fished hard before the tide bought in the red algae. We managed to get rooster fish, jack crevalles and spanish mackerel. At last we were catching! However we now only had one day left…

The rooster fishing kicked off big time in the latter part of the trip

The howler monkeys in the trees next to our lodge signalled it was dawn so it was time to get up and get fishing. The boat powered south at 30 knots and we quickly arrived at a submerged reef. Our lures flew out in search of roosters. Within seconds I saw fish chasing my lure “rooster rooster, faster faster, wind wind!” the skipper yelled. The 7 rays of its dorsal fin were slicing through the water as it chased. The next minute this fish shot out of the water, my lure in its mouth, the sun caught the spray and iridescence of the fish – a stunning sight. After many runs I got the fish to the boat, again the barbless hook was quickly removed, a photo taken and the fish released. This carried on and on, fish after fish after fish. This was why I wanted to come fishing in Costa Rica! It was a red letter day, we all caught lots of fish, mainly roosters, but also jacks and mackerel.

The tide was by now turning and the red algae was chasing us. We had 15mins at one rocky point on the way back. Here excitement was high with lots of big fish following right to the boat, but on my last cast I landed another rooster!

 

On our travel day, we had a 5 hour mini bus trip to the airport, a 3 hour wait, a 10 hour flight and finally I had a 4 hour drive back home to Devon. Funnily enough, I slept very well that night! 


Wow what a trip. If it’s been your dream, don’t put it off. You really never know if the opportunity will be taken away from you. 

Another rooster with it's incredible dorsal fins
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