, Gloucester, MA

October 26, 2013

Outdoors: Catching the silver kings

Dave Sartwell

---- — RIO COLORADO — The 125 lb. tarpon slid up out of the muddy depths of the water at the mouth of the Rio Colorado, opened his maw and sucked in the blue flashaboo fly that Ralph Pino was stripping back to the boat. My companion pointed the rod right at the huge fish and yanked three times on the fly line as hard as he could to set the hook.

Feeling the point being driven deep into his jaw, this silver king came out of the water in an athletic leap that would have made Dick Fosbury proud. Just as his tail got about three feet above the surface he swapped ends and came crashing back into the deep brown water from whence he had come.

He hardly had time to gather himself when he launched himself again. This time he crashed landed on his side sending plumes of rainbow-ladened droplets out over the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

While all of this was happening, I was reeling in my line as fast as possible. Our guide, Ralph Morgan, was clearing the deck getting ready for the long fight we knew was coming. We put away rods, slipped the gimbal around Ralph’s waist so he had a place to put the butt of the rod, and made sure there was nothing on the deck to get in his way.

The first real run came after the second jump. Sensing that going airborne wasn’t going to get rid of the hook, the silver-sided mammoth decided to head north toward Nicaragua. The reel spun at a dizzying rate as the dark blue backing line disappeared into the water.

The rod bent to the task and the drag on the Redington CDL 11/12 reel made the fish work to get away. We were fishing with 150 lb. test leaders, the Rio 600 26 ft. 14 wt. sinking tip and 100 lb. test backing line. But even with that heavy gear, the fish took line whenever he wanted to. Our guide started the 150 Yamaha, spun the center-console boat and followed the fish.

At about the length of two football fields the fish stopped as if to get his bearings. Ralph earned back the backing line as fast as he could reel. Now there had to be coordination between the driver and the fisherman. The boat had to move forward so Ralph could retrieve line, but not so fast that the tension was ever off the line. The fish finned along just under the surface, letting us catch up. Now we were settling in for what we knew was going to be at least a 11/2 hour struggle.

These fish remind you of fighting a bluefin tuna. They are incredibly strong and have a great fighting spirit. They do not just take a run or two and give up. They go deep, they buck their heads and they can pull the boat around the ocean like a draft horse. And they will jump...huge, spectacular leaps that leave you just stunned at their power.

Slowly his runs got shorter and shorter. His leaps became half-hearted rolls and Ralph worked the fish slowly to the boat. A neophyte might have thought he had the upper hand, that the fish was about to give it up. But we had been there before. We knew that this was just a prelude for what was to come. As soon as the fish saw the boat he went nuts.

He dove right under the hull, streaking for the shoreline. Only Ralph’s anticipation avoided the rod hitting the boat and exploding. My companion stuck his arm and the whole outfit under the water and pointed the tip right at the fleeing fish. Our guide hit reverse and spun the boat so Ralph could eventually lift the rod. After two more runs and one more jump the fish was done. One hour and forty-five minutes from strike to gaff. We took a few pictures, turned the boat and headed back to the mouth of the river for another drift.

We had come to the Silver King Lodge in Costa Rica to visit the manager and Gloucester native, RoseAnne Cody. She runs a beautiful fishing resort just up river from the mouth of the Rio Colorado. The resort is an upscale place in the middle of the jungle. The only way you can get there is by a small plane from San Jose and a ride up river to the dock. There is a tiny village across the water where all of the guides and the staff live. Everything arrives here by either plane or barge.

The whole enterprise is up on stilts above the flood water zone. All of the housing units are inter-connected with beautiful wooden walkways. There is a large swimming pool with water fall, a jacuzzi, large dining room and a full bar. The rooms are large and comfortable with air conditioning, flat screen tv’s and excellent WIFI connection. The meals feature local fruits and vegetables prepared in a way to satisfy any palate. RoseAnne makes sure that the staff, the equipment and the physical plant are all top notch.

The Rio Colorado, about five times bigger than the Merrimack River, marks the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. It flows out of Lake Nicaragua and collects water from all of the rivers that drain the jungle as it heads east to the Gulf of Mexico. The nutrient-rich water supports a wide array of life forms. And, at the mouth of the river, there is an incredible array of very large fish waiting to eat whatever is riding the current. Over the years we have caught big jacks, barracuda, triple-tail and others.

Ralph and I spent five days catching tarpon after tarpon on our fly rods. Because it takes a couple of hours to land a fish, we were only catching about six a day. The other fellows in camp were fishing with standard equipment and were landing as many as ten a day. One twosome who were there for five days caught 33 tarpon! They figured that the total weight of the fish they put back in the river was about TWO TONS!

So, if you are interested in catching large tarpon at a beautiful fishing lodge located in the heart of the jungle in Costa Rica, go on line to the Silver King Lodge and book a trip. Believe me, it can be the fishing trip of a lifetime.