By Todd Staley, Fishing Director
The 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
There 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.
Roosterfish on the fly. Are you up for the challenge????
Note: When fishing for records PLEASE bring your own tippet material.