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Trout Bums at Large is a monthly column appearing in the Yakima Herald-Republic and the Seattle Times. The column is written by Randal Sumner and Mark Littleton. We will be keeping an archive of these articles on this page.

Trip to Eden
by Randal Sumner

            I believe every Trout Bum has a special fishing trip that he needs to take sometime before there too old and crotchety. This isn’t a fly- fishing “Bucket List” journey. It’s more like the golfer that goes to walk the windy fairways of St Andrews in Scotland, an homage to a life learning to golf, or in my case fly- fishing. This is how I ended up in a small boat in the seas between Costa Rica and Panama telling the story of Hemmingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” to Delroy our fabulous local guide and fishing for Tarpon as big as cars.                     

            The place is called Tarponville ,Costa Rica. My young friend Brandon Hill (Hills Discount Flies) was there last year for a week and had an amazing trip jumping the fish they call The Silver King. It didn’t take much talking for me and Chris (Calypso) Bolm to sign on for this year’s adventure.

             A grown man needs to get out of his comfort zone once in a while, get out and smell the coffee or in this case the jungle. How I became enamored with the idea of Tarpon fishing I really don’t know. It has been on my fishing To Do list as long as I can remember.

            The actual trip to Tarponville Costa Rica included a couple different jam packed airplanes and 25 hours of sleep deprivation; outside of that the flying was dreamy. We were met at the airport in San Jose and driven to a beautiful B&B in the hills above the city called Casa Verde. After a couple Scotches, massage and a swim in the pool we decided against jogging a few miles. Turns out Chris forgot his running shoes. Darn shame.

             Next morning after a tropical breakfast, we departed San Jose with Brandon and the other fisherman in our party, Dennis Barry and his wife Diane.   It’s a five hour drive through the rain forest to the Caribbean on a narrow, paved road and then another twenty five miles on a bad dirt road. Then you wade through a salt water creek and walk in about a quarter mile through the jungle to the lodge; this is truly the end of the road.   The jungle tour starts about 15 feet behind the building.  Getting the picture?

            We were met at the Lodge by Dollfi, the Major Domo of all things Tarponville , we also met our cooks Mommie and Cheena ; they had beautiful lunch set up in the open air dinning room under a slow moving ceiling fan. To really enjoy an experience like this you have to go to Forrest Gump mode: If you have no expectations and live in the moment, life slows down and gets very genuine. As you know, dear reader, it is always the subtext that interests me most about these trips, never the fishing. (Trust me we’ll get to Mista Tarpon.) Lunch was beyond tasty, kind of a Caribbean/ Cajun spicy chicken with the ever present black beans, rice and cabbage salad.  

            Calypso and I stowed our gear in our room on the second floor, and dressed in our dorky, new tropical fishing clothes, complete with French Foreign Legionnaire hats. We were looking like the extra large version of Bwana from some bad African B- movie, but stylish. We were looking like this when we met our guide for the week, Delroy.  He was stylish too, with a massive gold necklace and a T shirt from Victoria Canada, shorts and no shoes. Delroy has a bit of a stutter and speaks pidgin English with a beautiful Caribbean lilt; from the time we shook hands, I knew we were in the presence of a Tarpon genius.

            We collected our fishing gear and followed Delroy down the beach to his boat, a 26ft open dory with a 60hp outboard, named The Root. Del-Roy got us seated and fired up the motor and we were headed south toward Panama to try our hand at fly fishing for tarpon.

             I must make the observation that the Costa Rican scenery is spectacular, but from a boat the landscape of jungle meeting the sea is prehistoric in its pristine beauty. As you would suspect of Eden, it is hot and humid. Although quite comfortable under the jungle canopy, you can roast like a pig on the open sea, Calypso and I had on enough sunscreen I think I heard the sizzle.

            As we arrived at the fishing grounds, the water became the color of coffee with two creams. We were fishing the mouth of a huge river flowing with silt; it appeared to stain the sea for miles. The silt was only about two feet deep floating on the clear Caribbean waters and it was full of small bait fish. It was here we first saw the tarpon chasing the bait fish, rolling and jumping, we had finally arrived.

            Delroy motored in close to the river mouth and cut the engine, He tied on our flies which actually were the size of small parrots, and we made that first cast. The boat slowly drifted out to sea as we stripped off another 100 ft of line and waited for the first strike. I’m here to tell you, it is way out of a trout fisherman’s reality to be holding a 12- weight fly rod with a reel the size of a 3lb coffee can, bobbing on a calm sea waiting for a silver nightmare.      

            Calypso didn’t have to wait long, maybe 10 minutes. We were talking some trash when his reel exploded like a bomb, the line just blew into the distance, two heartbeats later the enormous beast blasted into the air, clearing the water by five feet. And then it was gone, total time elapsed: a brutal 8seconds. Delroy, man of many words just looked at Calypso and said, “Tarpon frightening”.

             I had roughly the same experience a few minutes later. All I can say is it’s like an electric shock jolting through your body.

            There are only two things you need to remember to do when you get the strike from a tarpon. No1.  strip- set the fish , don’t lift the rod like trout fishing, And No. 2, when the fish jumps, drop the rod tip to throw in some slack or you will break the monster off.

             It took me six Tarpon before I could remember No.2.

            That’s how our week went, breakfast at 7:00 into the boat at 8:00 back for lunch at 11:00, swimming, beer, nap, back to the boat at 2:00, cocktails at 5:00, Dinner at 6:00. 

            Calypso and I jumped and fought 37 tarpon, ranging from 70 to 200bs in less than 40 hours of fishing. And that really is all have to say about that.

            I must say however, this trip exceeded all my expectations; fun companions, great food, an exotic and friendly country, and the fishing was pretty good, too. Calypso and I will miss Delroy our black ninja tarpon guide with the gold tooth and nerves of steel.

More Trout Bum Articles:
05/01/2015: The wolves will always eat the sheep by R.Sumner
11/17/2014: Red Fish Redux by R.Sumner
08/01/2014: Retirement by R.Sumner
07/02/2013: Custom by Randal Sumner
05/01/2013: Subaru Magic by Randal Sumner
01/19/2012: Ding Ho by RandalSumner
04/06/2011: A Cautionary Tale by Randal Sumner
01/26/2010: Redfish Round-up by Randal Sumner
11/24/2009: Kentucky Don and English Bob by Randal Sumner
08/25/2009: A word about Bears by R.Sumner
06/30/2009: Polar bear hugging by Randal Sumner
01/27/2009: Christmas letters by Randal Sumner
08/07/2008: Mime Time by R. Sumner
06/02/2008: fuel vs fishing by R. Sumner
05/01/2008: Long sleeve Hawiian shirt by R.Sumner
02/07/2008: The Empire by R. Sumner
11/29/2007: Troutbum self-help by R. Sumner
09/04/2007: The Perfect Client by Randal Sumner
07/02/2007: High Anxiety by R.Sumner
03/29/2007: Grasshopper by Randal Sumner
01/25/2007: Chinese food by R. Sumner
11/30/2006: Old Whitey by R.Sumner
09/28/2006: Chief Holland USN retired by R. Sumner
07/10/2006: BBQ by R.Sumner
05/30/2006: Cashmere by R. sumner
03/30/2006: Sterling Choices by Randal Sumner
01/26/2006: Tying with Pablo by Randal Sumner
12/01/2005: Brrr by Mark Littleton
11/24/2005: Thanksgiving 2005 by randal Sumner
09/01/2005: Anchors Away by Mark Littleton
07/01/2005: Some kinda fun by Randal Sumner
05/01/2005: The Base Lake by Randal Sumner
04/01/2005: Humble Pie by Mark Littleton
03/01/2005: Dance monkey dance by randal Sumner
01/01/2005: Where are the Instructions? by Randal Sumner
12/01/2004: Das Boat by Mark Littleton
11/01/2004: What me Worry? by Mark Littlton
10/01/2004: Priorities by Mark Littlton
09/01/2004: Falling In by Mark Littleton
08/01/2004: Ice Fishing by Randal Sumner
07/01/2004: Honey, I flooded the basement by Randal Sumner
07/01/2004: Elvis Lives by Randal Sumner
06/01/2004: Coyote by Randal Sumner
05/01/2004: Redfish and Capt. Dan by Mark Littleton
04/01/2004: Vested Interest by Randal Sumner
03/01/2004: Are you a Troutbum? by Mark Littleton
12/01/2003: Christmas presents by Mark Littleton
11/01/2003: Oklahoma by Randal Sumner
10/01/2003: Steel heading JuJu by Randal Sumner
09/01/2003: Motor Home by Randal Sumner
08/01/2003: Life is Funny by Mark Littlton
07/01/2003: Deschutes by Mark Littleton
06/01/2003: Class of 2002 by Randal Sumner
05/01/2003: BOAT FISHING by Mark Littlton
04/01/2003: ALASKA, LAND OF THE MIDNIGHTBLUE TARP by Randal Sumner
03/01/2003: MARCH BROWNS by Mark Littleton
02/01/2003: DEEP IN THE HEART OF IDAHO by Randal Sumner
01/01/2003: TOP TEN by Mark Littleton
12/01/2002: SAN MIGUEL by Randal Sumner
11/01/2002: DISNEYLAND by Randal Sumner
10/01/2002: CAMPING by Mark Littleton
09/01/2002: MMMM MAYFLIES by Mark Littleton
08/01/2002: CARNEGIE HALL by Randal Sumner
07/01/2002: CRAWFISH PIE by Randal Sumner
06/01/2002: Sons and Pals by Mark Littleton
03/01/2002: Visitation by Randal Sumner
02/01/2002: Ouch by Mark Littleton
01/01/2002: Death by Randal Sumner
11/01/2001: Leakers by Randal Sumner
09/01/2001: Poser by Randal Sumner
08/01/2001: Snake River Diary by Mark Littleton
08/01/2001: It's Hard by Mark Littleton
07/01/2001: Etiqutte by Randal Sumner
06/01/2001: June by Mark Littleton
05/01/2001: Road Trip to Paradise by Randal Sumner
04/01/2001: What Are They Doing Up There? by Mark Littleton
03/01/2001: Gear by Randal Sumner
02/01/2001: Soft Hackles by Mark Littleton
01/25/2001: Motivation by Randal Sumner
12/28/2000: Winter Fishing by Mark Littleton
11/30/2000: Old Blackie by Randal Sumner