It's pretty hard to ignore six silvery feet of flashing, rattling, muscle and scales leaping just yards from your face. You could definitely lose your cool. What prompted that maniacal display anyway? All you did was jig the waters beneath what appeared to be a small school of rolling tarpon using your coastal hawk lure. Invisibly, down below, lurked what might be better described as an vast ocean-going herd of silver predators. One of the gang just happened to lightly stop your jig, just a taste... so you did what comes naturally to a fisherman, you set the hook ..... again ..... and again, to the insistent shouts of your furiously gesturing guide....and then once again.
It didn't take long from there. As soon as you drove the hook home, you could feel the powerful fish change the plane of the tarpon fishing attack. The line began to rise, racing through the water. Suddenly, the surface exploded as a brilliant silver missle launched itself into the air, shaking its head and rattling its gills. As your guide began shouting "Bow, bow to the tarpon!" you stood there, immobile, slack-jawed with astonishment.
A second later, your solid lead lure went whizzing past your head and the huge fish slid beneath the once again quiet water. Stupefied, you let your breath out, realizing that you hadn't breathed through the whole thing. It happens like this often, especially the first time one hooks up. In fact, that's what happened to me. That's exactly what I remember of my first tarpon encounter. As my fogged brain cleared, I realized that just as quickly as the tarpon unhooked himself from me, I had now hopelessly hooked myself on tarpon.
Rio Parismina Lodge, nestled like a jewel on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica routinely provides high intensity fishing experiences like this for its guests. Fishing is not the only excellent excuse to book your airline tickets either. Everybody finds something wonderful about this place, be it fishing, nature, friendly locals or impeccable weather and delicious cuisine. Plan your visit now! Located right at the mouth of the Parismina River, anglers can find themselves hooked into a tarpon within minutes of finishing their breakfast. A short boat ride from the lodge's dock can put you on top of big, rolling schools, navigating the waters just outside of the pass that marks the river's mouth. Parismina's skilled guides typically enable anglers to hook up with big, aerobatic tarpon several times a day, day in and day out.
After a huge Parismina Lodge lunch, I had plenty of time to think about the thrashing I had received at the hands (or fins) of the morning's big tarpon. My wife, Sheila and I had just arrived earlier that morning and we were looking forward to four full days of fishing in Parismina's complex system of rivers, passes and inshore waters. I knew that would be plenty of time, but I was impatient to hook up again and hopefully do better with the next leaping maniac I encountered. So, instead of a siesta, we headed to the dock, met our guide and boarded our boat. Parismina uses 21 foot center console boats to fish the saltwater.
These big solid boats are perfect for handling any conditions they encounter ... from the usually calm waters of the inshore tarpon areas, to the turbulence in the pass at the mouth of the Parismina River. Even the offshore swells are manageable, for those who'd like to take a shot at blackfin tuna, giant jack crevalle, wahoo, king mackerel and other offshore challenges.
Once back on the water we set off in search of tarpon. Our guide motored along slowly, parallel to the beach, scanning the horizon for signs of rolling tarpon. It didn't take long. Within five minutes, right in front of the pass we had just gone through, he sighted his quarry. We motored into a position in front of the moving school. The guide turned of the engine, grabbed a paddle and sat in the nose of the boat making adjustments to our position in order to keep us in the school's path. And then suddenly, they were on us. With huge silver slabs rolling all around us, we began casting into what the guide perceived to be the densest portion of the school. Then suddenly, just as quickly as they came, they were gone. Scanning the horizon again we saw that the school had turned inshore and left us sitting beyond the edge of their path.
Again we motored ahead of them and then paddled into their path. This time we were smack dab in the middle. My first cast drew a strike. I set the hook and then, to the sounds of the shouted litany that I would hear over and over again from our guide, I set the hook two more times. Just like the last time, my line began to race upwards. This time I was ready. "He's coming up", I shouted, to no one in particular. And then the waters exploded again. Five feet of flashing silver lifted itself a full tarpon leaping body length out of the water. I bowed, pointing my rod at the tarpon. There was no head-shaking and tail-walking this time ... just a resounding crash as 100 pounds of mirror scaled fish landed sideways on the surface. I was still hooked up. The tarpon headed down and began a run. As 20 pound braid began peeling off of my medium spinning rig, I settled into what I thought would be a knock-down, drag-out battle. And just like that ... he was gone.
I didn't have time time to think about it though. Sheila had hooked up and her fish was heading toward my now slack line. I reeled it up rapidly and got out of the way. Her fish never jumped. It ran left, it ran right and then it sounded. It circled the boat clockwise, then counter-clockwise. And Sheila followed, hunkering down to put pressure on. The school moved on and Sheila's fish continued to fight. Just when she felt as though it was coming in, it would find new strength and head back out again. But after fifteen minutes, the runs were becoming shorter and Sheila was slowly regaining line .....until the tarpon surfaced near the boat. He must have looked my way and not liked what he saw, because he took off like a freight train all over again. This was the last big run, though, Sheila had him beaten. Five minutes later, our guide hoisted a glistening 80 pound tarpon. A victorious Sheila posed and smiled with her fish and guide, while I, the chronicling bystander, took the pictures.
"Well", I thought, "the afternoon is just beginning". And I was right. I had plenty of time to jump off another three fish (my form of very rapid tarpon release) before the day ended. Meanwhile, with the afternoon sun waning, Sheila landed yet another beautiful tarpon. I was getting pretty good at taking pictures.
At Rio Parismina Lodge, anglers can expect eight hours of exciting fishing each day. Taking advantage of the weather and conditions, anglers can put in a full morning catching (or jumping off) big, powerful tarpon, then return to the lodge to enjoy a hot lunch and a siesta. Refreshed, you can go back out and spend the afternoon trying to get even with the tarpon for the thrashing you took earlier. Or, head inland into the complex river system and pursue ambushing guapote (lightning fast cousins of the peacock bass), chunky mojarra (like a bluegill on steroids) or hard-fighting machaca. Or try for world-record class snook in the river mouth. Whether you prefer to fish the backwater rivers and lagoons, fish the ocean or participate in non-angling activities, the choice is always yours.
When the fishing day draws to a close, Rio Parismina Lodge's comfort and ambience come to the fore. Every day, guests are served three great meals in a family style setting. The kitchen staff is renowned for the delicious deserts they prepare. Rio Parismina lodge offers a pool and Jacuzzi for when the muscles need a bit of pampering and lazy siestas after lunch to avoid the mid-day sun ..... very popular with most of the guests. Another welcome feature is the always open, self-service bar - stocked with water, sodas, lemonade, beer and cocktails (at no extra cost to guests).
Our second day dawned with brilliant clear skies, but it was wickedly windy. Rio Parismina has a great variety of great fishing options, so Sheila and I opted to forego the chance of heavy seas. I would give the tarpon a morning off. We grabbed our light tackle, switched boats and headed inland to the sheltered backcountry rivers to target guapote. This cousin of the peacock bass uses stealth and ambush to launch high speed attacks on unsuspecting baits. Our guide worked his way upriver, coaxing and shoving and dragging our little 16 foot aluminum boat deeper and deeper into ever-narrowing rivers and creeks.
When he finally couldn't go any further, we began a downstream drift with the current, casting to the multiplicity of structure and shoreline features.
I was using an ultralight Daiwa 500T with a Daiwa Heartland ultralight rod. Loaded with 4 pound test Fireline, this rig was barely enough to challenge a sardine, but it could throw the smallest Rapala made halfway to Nicaragua with pinpoint precision. Drifting in the small water creeks, I was able to coax plenty of 1 pound guapote out of the tall grass at the water's edge. Rounding a bend, however, I saw "the spot". You know what I mean, the sort of place where every fishing cue comes together and you just know that a lunker is sitting there waiting for you. It was a little shaded brook emptying into our creek. Thirty feet upstream it opened into a 10 foot wide pool sided by a pair of big fallen trees and fed by water cascading over the damming effect of the logs. If I were a hungry predator, I'd be sitting under that log with my mouth open, just waiting for tasty little morsels to swim right in. The little Daiwa put my floating Rapala directly onto the edge of the log. With a plop it slipped into the water and instantly, with a slurp, it disappeared. I saw the the flash of a big guapote as he turned and headed back for the shelter of his log. I tweaked the rod (4 pound test doesn't lend itself to slamming home hooksets) and he was on.
Ultralight gear can lend a whole new, often comic, dimension to a fishing situation. My guide, seeing the hookup and a fast approaching bend ahead of us, began to try to stop our drift. He grabbed an overhanging branch to put the brakes on and it promptly snapped in his hand. Standing, with rod held high, I tried to keep a straight line between myself and what I now recognized as a very angry, very big guapote. The boat spun. The bow slammed the grassy bank and I found myself sitting on my butt, well planted in the soft, muddy bank. Continuing its spin, the boat drifted away, downstream.
If fish can snicker, the big guapote was probably doing so as he shot into the main creek and headed upstream. The good news was that I never rolled or bounced or changed direction during my graceless pratfall. I was simply stuck, like a stick in the mud, in the same position I had started in. So I did the only thing I could. I sat there, kept a tight line and used the current as my ally. Soon enough, a tired guapote started to yield. When my chuckling wife and sheepish guide finally returned, I was cradling a beautiful five pound guapote in my very wet lap.
The backcountry waters around Rio Parismina also hold snook, mangrove snapper, young tarpon, jacks and several other species of gamefish, offering an excellent change of pace for the angler. A light conventional rig or a flyrod can provide endless hours of fishing variety here, while the saltwater fishery provides muscle flexing, heartstopping big game action. Costa Rica's Caribbean coast enjoys two excellent fishing seasons each year. Late January is the start of the spring / summer season when the fishing and weather is at it's best. This season spans from January to the end of June. The lodge's fall season is late August, September, October and November.
The rest of the story of our trip to Parismina was anti-climactic. I caught big snook, big-eye jacks, jack crevalle and finally, even the tarpon I had come for. The tarpon gods grudgingly chose to smile favor on me, allowing me to play nicely with their powerful silver subjects. I landed a nice variety of tarpon up to 120 pounds. I even landed a good sized tarpon in freshwater after an exciting close quarters fight on light tackle. I was still averaging three tarpon jumped-off for every one that stayed on, but I had finally regained some semblance of self-respect. At least until the very end end. On our last day at Parismina, Sheila and I had found the mother lode. We hooked up tarpon everywhere along Parismina's beach. At day's end, we hooked a double-header. As my fish exploded out of the water on the first of his many leaps I realized that it was one of the better fish I had hooked so far. Meanwhile, Sheila dug in and began to fight hers. I brought all of my strength, experience and tactics to bear and played the fish perfectly. As I drifted him into reach for our guide to land, I noticed that Sheila was sitting in the bow watching me. With an unconscious smirk, I asked what had happened to her fish. She replied, quite innocently, "Oh, I released him already. I knew you really wanted to land your big fish, so I didn't want to get in your way. I just brought mine in quickly so we could avoid any tangles. Our guide already took the pictures." With mounting trepidation, I asked how big her's was. "About the same as yours", she replied. So much for strength, experience and tactics.
This is a trip loaded with experiences that every fisherman should enjoy. Rio Parismina Lodge offers great fishing, great food, great accommodations and a beautiful, pristine location all rolled into one. It exceeds the highest expectations. Taking service and flexibility to an even higher standard, several packages are available, constructed to take advantage of regularly chartered flights between San Jose and Parismina - every Tuesday and Saturday morning. This permits structuring trips in three, four or seven day intervals, giving anglers the opportunity to select the itinerary and pricing that best allows them to fit a world-class tarpon fishing trip into their own schedule and budget.