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Costa Rica Fishing Notes

Offshore Fly Fishing
Learn about target species, flys to use, and what to expect during your Crocodile Bay Resort fishing vacation!

Costa Rica Fishing
Inshore Fly Fishing
The inshore coastline near Crocodile Bay is unique for many reasons. It is situated on the Golfo Dulce, one of only three tropical fjords in the Pacific Ocean.

Costa Rica Fishing

10 Fly Fishing Tips & Hints
Set up the rod so that it is ready to pick up and cast. I like the rod to be suspended in a horizontal position off the deck. READ MORE 

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Crocodile Bay Resort
Costa Rica Fishing
Costa Rica Adventure Tours For those who want to take a day or two to explore the ecological wonders of Costa Rica we offer over 25 eco tours to choose from!

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Complete Eco Packages
Fishing is only the beginning! We offer inclusive eco and spa packages for non-angler friends or family members. Learn more about our eco & spa packages.

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Group Vacations
Crocodile Bay is the perfect locations for group activities ranging from kayaking to rainforest exploration. Contact us today to find out more!

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Offshore Costa Rica Fly Fishing: Billfish on the Fly
By Todd Staley, Fishing Director

Inshore Fly Fishing | Offshore Fly Fishing | Gear | 10 Tips & 10 Hints

FlyfishOrvis Endorsed Fly Fishing LodgeLiving and fishing in Costa Rica for nearly two decades has given me the privilege to fish with many of the MVP’s in the fishing world including some great fly fisherman. The late Bill Barnes gave me the first taste of Costa Rica on the fly. His world record snook has stood for more than a quarter century. Watching Flip Pallot cast is watching poetry in motion. One of my biggest thrills ever while fishing was watching Tim Rajeff land a 250 lb marlin in less than a hour on fly tackle. Tim has won many National casting competitions. I could not possibly mention  all the “All Stars” I have been fortunate to meet, but one thing I learned from them all was even I can catch billfish on a fly.

Watching me fly fish is pure entertainment, if you enjoy a good comedy. If you are onboard with me when I am fly casting you’d better be wearing a Kevlar suit and have on a fencing mask. I can accidentally tie myself up worse than the best that ever tied up Houdini before he did one of his famous escapes.

That somewhat embarrassing but honest statement being made, there is one thing that I can regularly do with a fly rod. Catch sailfish.

I have fairly good angling skills when it comes to conventional tackle. I’ve won or placed in several casting competitions and have caught big fish on light tackle. The basic skills I know well. Fish goes left, pull right. Fish goes right, pull left and the other normal stuff like keeping constant pressure on the fish. When you rest, the fish rests, ect, ect.

The trick to catching any fish on a fly is to get them to eat. A hot billfish will attack almost anything and unlike many species, it only takes a short cast to present your fly to a billfish. That is why even I can do it!

A lot of people judge the ability to catch a fish on fly equipment according to the size of the target species. In this case size doesn’t matter. It is the ability to present your fly to the target species and fooling it into eating the fly. A 100 pound sailfish is much easier to fool with a short cast than many small species. We will get into this a little further when we talk about roosterfish, but a sailfish is doable to anyone with basic angling skills.

No matter what type of technique one uses, it is hard to beat the adrenalin rush of a billfish coming up on a teaser lit up in a neon purple hue. My personal favorite way to fish them is with doing a “bait and switch” with a dead bait or casting a fly. Why? Because the experience is much more visual.

The number of fish you put in the boat so to speak might not be as high as other methods of fishing, but the visual reward of actually seeing the strike makes up for the reduced number of landed fish and unless you have a boat that goes as fast in reverse as it does forward, it will take a little longer for the average angler to land a fish on fly gear.

We keep a scoreboard in our bar that we report the days catch on at happy hour after fishing. We report the number of fish raised ( fish that come into the spread and chase a teaser) and the number of fish landed. We count raised fish because it is a better tool for the biologists to use when doing population studies than using just caught fish numbers.

For example, I have one customer who only fishes marlin on fly. He drives the crews crazy because he will not cast to a sailfish. He figures time wasted fighting a sail is time lost trolling trying to raise a marlin. One day his crew raised 26 sails and he didn’t cast to the first one. That afternoon the scoreboard listed his boat as 0 for 26. Another customer suggested he should ask for a new crew. His only reply was, “my crew is just fine.” For three years he had a few shots at a marlin but never was able to keep one hooked up. One the forth year he landed two in consecutive days both weighing over 200 pounds.

Most boats in Costa Rica use the bait and switch method. In theory it is basically quite simple. The boat is trolling teasers around 7 or 8 knots per hour. A billfish pops up and the Captain takes control of the teasers on the outriggers and the mate takes control of the other teasers. The fish is “teased,” into range and the angler presents a live bait, dead bait, or fly as the teaser the billfish is following is taken from the water leaving your presentation as the only option for the appetite crazed fish.

In reality it is quite different. It’s a fast forward fire drill we everyone working as a team and it can all happen in milliseconds.

A marlin for instance will usually charge in and be gone in a flash, while a sailfish may rush in and leave or hang behind a teaser and boat after you cast for a minute or more. If you don’t get a strike on your first cast, cast again. I’ve seen a sail break a tippet and the fly floated to the surface. The sail came back three times and hit the fly. Another time while doing some filming here I was riding in the camera boat. We pulled teasers and I cast hookless flies for close up shot of the take but, not waste time fighting a fish while the main boat trolled a couple hundred yards off our port side. We filmed two great takes and called the other boat who trolled in across our stern, raised the fish and caught it.  

Like I said it is teamwork that catches fish. No matter what the sport is all good teams practice. Knowing what each team member will do when the first fish comes up may make a difference of a life time experience or a missed opportunity. Do a couple of practice runs with the crew. All big leaguers take batting  practice before the game. Football teams warm up, field goal kickers and punters also. Even all star teams made up of the best of the best practice together before the game.. This should be no different.

I won’t go into a long list of tackle listing brand names or endorsing products. The serious fly fisherman will all ready have his preference. You will need a 12 to 14 wt rod for sails and a reel that holds at least three hundred yards of backing. Almost everyone prefers a floating line. For marlin a 14 or 15 wt rod. The resort has plenty of good quality 12 and14 wt fly equipment for offshore fishing. Because fly equipment is more fragile than conventional gear we do not keep it onboard. If you want to use loaner fly tackle please ask for it when you reserve your trip or if you decide you want to try it after you arrive please let the fishing manager know the night before.

Popping flies work best and my three favorite colors are pink, pink, and pink, followed by a green and yellow dorado pattern, or blue and white. For those who want a more detailed list of gear, I’ve asked Captain Allan Smith, and Captain Will Kitsos both accomplished fly fisherman for their opinions on gear and flies. You will find it below.

Captain Alan Smith on the Hardware

Offshore, 12-14wt rods with fast taper and fighting butt (Fly fishing for Billfish does not require long casts, emphasis should be more on the rods as a fighting tool, than casting) Reels, quality large arbor fly reel with good line capacity and cork or ceramic drag. (Billfish reels are all about the drag, they should hold plenty of line, and have a big enough arbor to allow you to reel line in a hurry) lines, Sci-anglers Billfish line, heavy weight forward floating line, or heavy shooting head. Flies, Cam Sigler or Rainy’s tandem rigged tube flies, Flashy profile flies or similar variation, with popper head. Colors, Pink, blue/white, Green/yellow, black/red. leader, 100lb shock tippet, 20lb class tippet. fly line backing, 65-80lb braid.


10 Tips & 10 Hints by Captain Will Kitsos

Costa Rica Fly FishingAfter ten years of learning how to help and teach fly fishers and non fly fishers how to catch bill fish on the fly I have developed my, ‘This is so easy even I can do it!’ set of instructions and hints.

Set up the rod so that it is ready to pick up and cast. I like the rod to be suspended in a horizontal position off the deck.  The easiest way I have found is to have a 5 gallon bucket with about 2 inches of water in it placed  far enough forward from the stern and as close to the rail as possible, to allow passage while waiting for the fish to attack the teaser. Let the rod rest with the reel suspended over the bucket and with the rod tip on the transom protruding no more than 2 feet astern.

Read Costa Rica Fly Fishing Tips by Capt. Will Kitsos


Crocodile Bay, Costa Rica - Inshore Fly Fishing
By Todd Staley, Fishing Director

RoosterfishThe inshore coastline near Crocodile Bay is unique for various reasons. It is situated on the Golfo Dulce, one of only three tropical fjords in the Pacific Ocean. For this reason the waters near the resort  become deep very fast. There are places you can throw a rock from the beach and it will settle to the bottom in 100 foot of water. For this reason “sight casting” opportunities are limited. There are plenty volcanic rock structures on the eastern side of the gulf and the western side has mangrove creeks and rivers that have a limited access due to tides. The center of the gulf often has schools of moving bonita that generally will take a small white fly as well as large schools of sardines, which many species forage on.
Other species that have been taken on the fly here are Pacific jack crevalle, bluefin trevally, snapper, sierra mackerel, snook, and roosterfish as well as others. Most of these are taken blind casting to rocky structure or working schools of sardines. 


Saltwater Fly Fishing’s Greatest Challenge

Costa Rica Fly FishingThere is no fish that swims in saltwater that is tougher to get to take a fly than roosterfish when fishing according to IGFA fly fishing rules. It is said that less than 100 anglers have ever done it. We have had some success with roosterfish but it is extremely difficult and not for the novice angler. They rarely take a fly while blind casting, and must really be in the feeding mood to take one. There are a few scenarios that that have worked. One is pure luck and the other is pure skill. The pure luck is being at the right place at the right time. There are very few sights an angler can see that will be etched into his memory forever more than a school of roosterfish honing in and attacking a school of sardines. They come racing in, their combs raised above the surface cutting through the water at lightning speed, changing direction in a flash with sardines scampering all directions trying to escape. This usually happens right out in front of our pier once or twice a day but you can never predict when, but if you can cast in the middle of this frenzy it is almost a guaranteed hook-up. The other is pure skill. Roosterfish can be teased like a billfish. They will raise to a teaser or a hookless popper but their attention span is very limited and unless you are cocked and ready and can throw a fly 80 to 100 feet with pin-point accuracy, the chances of a take are slim. My analogy of roosterfish is that they are dumb as a rock when offered a live bait, can be fooled with a popper or jig, and are most definitely the most difficult salt water fish to take on a fly if you are a purist. Recommended flies are big Bucktail Deceivers, Rasta, and Clousers that mimic the bait in the area which is sardines, blue runners and goggle eyes. Most anglers prefer a popping head.

I spent hours recently on the internet checking what others had to say. Mostly I found propaganda and read everything from vague honesty to flat out lies. Words like, “often turns it’s nose to a fly“, “most anglers don’t have the patience,” “The Elizabeth Hurley of fish,” (not exactly sure what that one means) swirled in my head. I moved on to You Tube and watched untold numbers of videos. I saw several people fighting roosters but none showed the “hook up.” Then I came across a 10 minute video that had exceptional footage filmed in Costa Rica by a film company from Austria. Both anglers were proficient in fly fishing. They caught lots of fish with fly rods. I am not sure how long they fished but the different sea conditions and the background of the sky suggested it wasn’t filmed in one day. They started out catching a rainbow runner, then jacks and a good size needlefish. Then one after another, roosterfish. I nearly got sick to my stomach watching and wondering what they were doing to have such great success. They showed the fly they were using. I have those I thought and many others similar. Then finally in the final 90 seconds of the video it showed a hook up. They were trolling the fly, something a true purist would highly frown upon.

That brings us to the point of what it is that revs your motor as a fly angler. For some it is the take….. Casting, stripping line and fooling a fish with a fly which often times is handmade by the same angler, or for others it is just fighting a nice fish with fly tackle even if it means bending a purist’s and the IGFA’s rules to catch a fish on fly tackle. The number of hook ups is greatly increased and battling these brutes is a gas on fly tackle. Of course bending the IGFA’s rules eliminates any chance of honestly putting a catch in the record book. But not everyone fishes for records.
The point to all this is with roosterfish it is the “sizzle, not the steak,” that is so attractive. The challenge is greater with this fish than any other I know.

I can only speak of Costa Rica and my almost 20 years of experience here, but in my interest of finding what others had to say, I also watched videos and read many websites from Mexico. I saw guys doing hundred yard sprints in 95 degree heat trying to get a cast off the beach and but still never saw a take from the beach or a boat. What surprised me most was the lack of information. Many sites were making a sales pitch but not really talking much about it. Only a handful talked honestly about this magnificent game fish. 


Inshore you want to use both floating and sinking lines depending conditions and target species. Snapper will hit near the bottom, mid range, and even rise to a popping fly. Jacks and roosters seem to like something near the surface and you never know what will strike near a school of sardines. Flies range from super small for schooling bonita to 5 to 7 inch flies for bigger fish. We recommend a minimum 8wt to 12wt outfit and the lodge has a good supply of 10wt loaner gear.

Listed in the table below are the current IGFA roosterfish fly records.

Roosterfish World Records

Roosterfish on the fly. Are you up for the challenge????

Book Your Crocodile Bay FlyFishing Vacation Now!

Note: When fishing for records PLEASE bring your own tippet material.


Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
Great Family Vacation at Croc, February 22, 2008
By: PennStateTraveler

"Best family vacation: Great fishing inshore and off..everyone caught sails (husband's on fly); also marlin and dorado. INCREDIBLE wildlife: whales, turtles, dolphin off shore; humpbacks breaching; parrots and tucans flying by the balcony and more beautiful birds that I can list; Eco tour views of poison dart frogs, monkeys, sloths, etc. Adult children went surfing, zip lining and horseback riding also. Food and drink good; hospitality at Croc Bay was excellent. Enjoyed staff and other guests."
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

June 28, 2004
By: G. Haskins

"The sailfish pictured above was one of many that we caught on fly rods on my recent trip to Crocodile Bay. This was my third trip in four years and each has been better than the previous. The fishing has been phenomenal each trip but that's just part of it. The lodging, food, captains and crews, and everyone at Crocodile Bay have been terrific. On this last trip I took my brother (his second visit) and four other friends. As we were departing for San Jose they all agreed that another trip in 2006 was a must. This experience is not to be missed if you enjoy unbelievable fishing in incredible natural surroundings serviced by the highest quality staff. I've been fly fishing with my brother for over 45 years and he swears this is the best fishing trip we've ever taken together."

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
May 19, 2004
By: Jodi Hamilton

"WOW!!! I'm still recovering from a great time at the lodge. Two days of offshore fishing, one day of breathing room, and a half-day inshore fishing-what more can I say? The captains and mates were more than helpful. Where else can you be fishing for sailfish and blue marlin, then decide to motor over and check out a pod of killer whales that are breaking the surface of the ocean a little ways away? Even the half-day of inshore fishing was amazing. Roosterfish and blue trevally kept you busy and entertained. The half-day rainforest tour gave us the opportunity to see Spider and White-Faced Monkeys, toucans, scarlet macaws, and a poison dart frog. I could never have imagined what wonders Crocodile Bay Lodge would hold for me even after looking at all kinds of pictures and reading all the hype!!! This is truly an experience that shouldn't be missed!!! "

May 19, 2004
By: Jodi Hamilton

"WOW!!! I'm still recovering from a great time at the lodge. Two days of offshore fishing, one day of breathing room, and a half-day inshore fishing-what more can I say? The captains and mates were more than helpful. Where else can you be fishing for sailfish and blue marlin, then decide to motor over and check out a pod of killer whales that are breaking the surface of the ocean a little ways away? Even the half-day of inshore fishing was amazing. Roosterfish and blue trevally kept you busy and entertained. The half-day rainforest tour gave us the opportunity to see Spider and White-Faced Monkeys, toucans, scarlet macaws, and a poison dart frog. I could never have imagined what wonders Crocodile Bay Lodge would hold for me even after looking at all kinds of pictures and reading all the hype!!! This is truly an experience that shouldn't be missed!!! "

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
April 6, 2004
By: M. Donly

"Crocodile Bay Lodge was the perfect place for our family. We wanted to have good fishing but also enough other activities and options for our 13 year old daughter who likes to fish too, but not every day. We went on a tour of the rainforest, went surfing, drove ATVs and, on the day we fished with my husband, we brought in six Sailfish and several Yellowfin Tuna as well. The accommodations were new, clean and comfortable and the staff extremely helpful and friendly. Overall, we couldn't have been happier with our choice."

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
January 1, 2002
By: B. Newman

"As the author of the Angler's Guide to Central America and the Yucatan: Flyfishing & Light Tackle (Aug. 2002), I spent years fishing all over the region. When it comes to top captains & crews, super boats, luxury accommodations, a professional staff, great cuisine and no screw-ups, Crocodile Bay Lodge is the place to fish in Costa Rica. (When I die, I intend to be buried on the property.) If you want sails, dorado, snapper, roosterfish, jacks, trevally, grouper, tuna, marlin and the rest of the gang, look no further. Crocodile Bay delivers! Bob Newman Contributing Editor, Fly Fishing in Salt Waters Magazine Regional & Contributing Editor, Fly Fish America Magazine."

Book Your Costa Rica Fly Fishing Trip Today!

Read an Intro to Fishing at Crocodile Bay Resort by Todd Staley

Read about Fly Fishing at Crocodile Bay Resort

View Guest Fishing Photos From Crocodile Bay Resort

All Fishing Packages Include the Following at Crocodile Bay Resort:

  • Fishing Licenses
  • Fishing Gear
  • English Speaking Crew
  • Lodging
  • All Meals
  • Local Liquor
  • Local Beer
  • Local Wine
  • Soft Drinks
  • Daily Happy Hour Buffet
  • Internet Access
  • Round-trip Ground Transportation

Compare these inclusions with other sport fishing lodges, and resorts.

ESPN/BASS Magazine
ESPN BASS“Crocodile Bay Resort is my favorite place for fishing, enjoying nature, and just plain relaxing in Costa Rica. Accommodations, meals, and service are first class, and the setting is a tropical paradise. I can’t wait to go back again.
- Robert Montgomery: ESPN/BASS Magazine

Field & Stream Magazine

Costa Rica Field and Stream"Talented captains with dependable boats; an untapped sail fishery; scads of roosterfish with an inborn hostility to live bait and popping plugs.
David Benditto: Field & Stream




Book Your Costa Rica Fishing Trip Today!

Contact Us

Crocodile Bay Resort USA Office
1250 North McDowell, Petaluma, CA 94954
USA 1.800.733.1115 - local (707) 559 - 7990 fax (707) 559 - 7997
Costa Rica Fishing and Eco Adventure Tours



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