With perfect conditions, my
hubris swelled, and I ended up placing a friendly wager
with my fishing buddy, John Frazier. We had arrived in Puerto
Jimenez, Costa Rica, two days earlier and caught a half-dozen
sailfish on our first outing. On our second day of fishing,
Frazier was scheduled to fly-fish on one of Parrot Bay's
30-foot Sea Vee center consoles, and I would fish conventional
tackle on a sister boat. We each had our own captain and
crew, but the odds were stacked in my favor. Frazier, an
expert fly-fisherman with years of experience catching snook,
tarpon and redfish, had never targeted billfish with the
long wand. I, on the other hand, got to use some very familiar
20-pound conventional tackle. How could I lose?
Our breakfast conversation
that morning went something like this: "Man, you ready to
land your first sail on the fly?"
"You know it."
"I guess so. The mates gave
me a quick lesson last night while you where bragging about
how badly you were going to out-fish me today."
"I bet I out-fish you at least
two to one."
"OK, you're on."
The Perfect Bite
We set out our spread of teasers for some pitch-baiting
about 15 miles off of Matapalo Rock. The crews of the various
lodges in the Golfito and Puerto Jimenez region use Matapalo
as their waypoint. The large rock sits just off the point
and marks the entrance to Golfo Dulce.
Before heading offshore, we
filled the baitwell with a nice supply of blue runners and
threadfin herring. After an hour run from Parrot Bay, Capt.
Darren McClave eased back on the throttles, and we set out
four teasers — a skirted ballyhoo in each outrigger and
ballyhoo-and-bird combos on the shorts. We ran one horse
ballyhoo way back off the shotgun should a
dorado or marlin decide to crash the party.
About a quarter-mile off our
starboard side, Capt. Cory Craig set out his fly-fishing
spread for Frazier. They ran three teasers, leaving one
of the 'riggers up to give Frazier plenty of room to make
We trolled for about an hour
and hadn't seen a single sailfish when the radio crackled
"John just made a cast to a
sailfish," Craig said. McClave looked at me and picked up
"Did he hook it?"
The sailfish fought deep, putting
Frazier and his flimsy 12-weight rod to the test. It took
him a good 35 minutes to inch the 90-pound fish up to the
surface. When he got a glimpse of the tired, all-jumped-out
sail, the look on his face quickly transformed from pain
"A bit different from a tarpon,
aye, Johnny?" I yelled. He smiled and took one last look
at the fish before Craig released it.
With some ground to make up,
McClave and I quickly got back into the groove. I watched
the baits for another two hours or so, ready to pitch a
livey at a moment's notice. Then the damn radio crackled
again: "John is hooked up." McClave and I looked at each
other, suspecting beginner's luck. "You might want to come
over here — it's a blue marlin!" Craig said. That's when
our jaws hit the deck.
Frazier made two casts that
day and caught both fish — a sail and an estimated 150-pound
blue marlin — on a 12-weight! And, he retrieved his fly
both times. We didn't raise a single fish (it even happens
in the world's best sailfish spots). The only consolation
was throwing Frazier in the water when we got back to the
A Winter Bite
After several years running a research boat and various
sport-fishing operations up and down the East Coast, Capt.
Darren McClave and his wife Katie moved to Puerto Jimenez
full time in 2001 to manage Parrot Bay. They have since
built up a large clientele of avid anglers by putting them
on fish and providing world-class amenities.
The sailfish action heats up
in December and lasts until April. "Mid-January to April
is high time for sailfish and marlin," McClave says. "We
generally troll teasers and pitch baits, but we try to accommodate
the guests and fish however they want. On a banner day,
we'll raise at least 25 sails."
crews also encounter a strong yellow-fin bite. "Whenever
we find a school of spotted porpoises, we change gears,"
McClave says. "We'll make one pass by the school with
ballyhoo or jet heads. If that doesn't get a bite,
we drop down a live bait." These tuna regularly beat
the 200-pound mark.
You might want to take
at least a half-day to cast live baits into the surf
for roosterfish as well. The waters of Golfo Dulce
and Cabo Matapalo produce some of Costa Rica's hottest
Clean and Classy
Parrot Bay's accommodations suit anglers perfectly. Situated
on the shore of Golfo Dulce, the grounds back up to one
of the most biologically diverse rainforests on the planet.
Scarlet macaws hang out all over the property, and you can
typically find iguanas, monkeys and even salt-water crocodiles
After arriving back at the
lodge, sweaty and sun-baked from a long day of fishing,
anglers can grab some shade and a cold drink at the open-air
bar. You don't need to wash up and change for dinner, but
if you want to, you can head to your air-conditioned cabin
for a well-deserved shower.
Guests can choose from one
of seven private cabinas or two houses for larger groups.
The cabins are spaced about the lodge with pathways through
botanical gardens that make the resort feel more like a
home than a hotel. You are far enough from town to feel
close to nature, but close enough to walk into town should
you want to check out the local watering hole. In many ways,
Parrot Bay is a perfect compromise between nature and civilization.
You'll know you're in a foreign country, but you won't feel
too detached from home.