By Zach Lazzari
The entire saltwater fishing game is a new and exciting for me. It reminds me of when I first started trout fishing and everything was a complete mystery. Every cast and each new fishing location is a learning experience. Much like my first year of trout fishing, I worked through a series of complete failures in the salt.
For me however, those learning experiences are the fun part. It’s a process of discovery and while I’ll seek out some professional guidance to beat the learning curve in the future, battling waves in the surf for a few months put me on the path to earning my way into the game.
While driving through Central America for 3 months, I spent a fair amount of time on the Pacific Coast. I’ll save the Carribean tarpon, permit and bonefish for another trip without a thick coated dog in the car and a deadline to reach Panama for a shipping date around the Darien Gap. The vast majority of the fishing was done alone and on foot. Here are a few things I learned along the way.
Timing is Everything
Many saltwater species move and migrate. You can’t simply show up and expect to have shots. I drove through Baja in January and the fish simply weren’t in close. The famous Baja roosterfish were non-existent and the locals and guides all had the same advice for me. Come back in March. Better yet, April or May.
I caught plenty of fish from the shore in Baja but the big gamefish weren’t available without spending on a guide to get off-shore. Tuna and dorado were an option but I wasn’t in a position to pony up on guides. My next coastal stops were Nicaragua and then Costa Rica, both in heavy surf. The timing was better but the shore fishing opportunities are far more difficult in big surf.
Surf Fishing is a Blast
The Pacific Coastlines of Nicaragua and Costa Rica are well known for surf breaks. They also have some great fishing, most of which takes place in pangas of off-shore boats captained by marlin crazed fisherman.
Being on a budget left me to cast into the waves, timing the lull between breaks with roughly every 1 in 10 casts making some kind of presentation. In Nicaragua I managed to get away from the surf and used a boat to catch snook in a mangrove estuary. Outside of that experience, the fishing was a battle.
Each wave chucks line between your legs just before sucking it all back out again. I climbed rocks, ate plenty of salt and chucked a sink tip blind when sigh fishing was not an option. I caught trumpet fish, pompano, covino and a variety of grouper. Baja had some great action for triggerfish off a few breaks as well.
My best opportunity came from a big rock perch in Costa Rica. I climbed up and anchored myself between a crevasse in the rock to prevent falling over on the big waves that were crashing in my face. I saw a group of Jacks riding a wave and missed the timing on my cast.
Suddenly, a school of baitfish started crashing around a rock point 80-yards out. I was peeling line off the reel when the comb of a big rooster appeared. I managed to launch one cast and stripped frantically when the fly landed. The rooster turned in the right direction but continued on the baitfish while a wave blasted me and the presentation fell to it’s mercy.
That moment was a bit like missing the first trout that ate my dry fly. I’ll be chasing that fish for the rest of my life.
Saltwater Destroys Gear
The biggest lesson learned while fishing from the shore is the destructive nature of saltwater. The rocks eat through fly lines and the water destroys just about everything else. Luckily, I brought along a few sealed drag reels and Mystic fly rods built for the salt. I washed them after each day on the water to prevent corrosion. On future trips however, I’ll bring a stripping basket and a few extra fly lines.
RECOMMENDED FLY RODS
Mystic's Tremor saltwater fly rods were specifically designed to handle challenging saltwater fly fishing conditions. The Tremor fly rods load deeply into the tip section, creating an action that’s a pleasure to cast, even after a long day on the flats. With top-tier performance and a lifetime warranty, this rod is an awesome value. Learn more about the Tremor Saltwater Series or check out my recent review of the Tremor 9' 3" 8-weight.