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Subscriber Gene Burrus is unhappy with a tarpon fly fishing trip to Costa Rica, handled for him this past May by Rio Parismina Lodge ( and booking agent Angler Adventures ( Rio Parismina Lodge is on the east coast of Costa Rica on the river of the same name. Burrus gives the food and accommodation at Rio Parismina Lodge “good” ratings, but rates everything else as “poor,” including condition of equipment, overall service and guide’s knowledge of water, ability to communicate, and overall personality. He says his success at the lodge amounted to catching 10 to 12 mojaras on a fly and one tarpon on a casting lure. The weather was “OK” during his visit, Burrus reports, so that was not the problem. He goes on to write:

“My fishing companion and I contacted Doug Schlink with Angler Adventures requesting a lodge that offered the best tarpon fly fishing opportunities in Costa Rica. He suggested Rio Parismina, and we booked the trip. Immediately on arrival, we realized this trip was a mistake and had been misrepresented to us. That became clear as soon as we told Fernando, the head guide, that we were there to fly fish for tarpon. His response was that it would be very difficult to catch a tarpon with a fly rod and that most fishermen used artificial bait. He insisted we go offshore and fish with artificial lures. I did as he suggested and indeed I caught one large tarpon.

“Unfortunately, based on information from the outfitter, we did not bring our own gear with us. That was a big mistake because our guide was not knowledgeable about fly fishing, as witness the fact that he rigged up my line without tippet, using fly line as a leader. He offered us very little guidance. He also lacked skill in the handling of the boat to facilitate fly casting. At one point, he had me casting ahead of the boat as he paddled toward the fly. The rod and the reel he let me use were of very poor quality. His selection of flies was very limited. The opportunity to fly fish offshore for big tarpon turned out to be nonexistent, and the one time we got into some rolling tarpon on the river, my guide handed me a spinning rod and reel.”

Burrus gives the cost of this trip as $3,000. He does not recommend it to fellow subscribers. “I sent several follow-up e-mails to Doug Schlink of Angler Adventures and to the owner of the lodge, Judy Heidt, in which I described the issues we had with the trip,” Burrus says. “I requested a partial or full refund, but all they offered me was a discount if I came back. I would never go back to this lodge.”

Postscript: At press time we received the following comments from Judy Heidt of Rio Parismina Lodge and Doug Schlink of Angler Adventures.

Judy Heidt writes: “Thank you for forwarding Mr. Burrus’s report on his trip this past May to Rio Parismina Lodge. While I never spoke to Mr. Burrus personally, I did promptly answer his e-mail. He didn’t inform me that he was unhappy until six months after his trip to Rio Parismina. We offered Mr. Burrus a discounted trip but he does not want to return. I am very sorry that Mr. Burrus was unhappy with his trip to Rio Parismina Lodge. We always strive to keep our clients happy, and we have a high rate of client loyalty, with over 86 percent of our business consisting of repeat customers. Fly fishing for tarpon in the Caribbean Sea off Costa Rica is not a typical sightcasting experience. It is done mostly by jigging with heavy sinking line. This can be very productive, and we have groups of fly-only anglers who visit us every year. One group from Italy that consists entirely of fly fishermen has been our client for over 15 years. We deeply regret that Mr. Burrus was displeased with his trip. If Mr. Burrus does not want to return for a discounted trip, we are sorry, but we cannot fully refund his trip cost.”

Doug Schlink writes: “We’re also sorry Mr. Burrus was unhappy with his trip to Rio Parismina. In a conversation I had with him upon his return, he did tell me the lodge was very nice, the food good, and the staff very attentive. His main complaints were about the fly tackle provided and the guide. I think the chronology of my communications with Mr. Burrus regarding tackle is important. On January 16, I sent Mr. Burrus a letter describing Rio Parismina tackle requirements as follows: ‘They have a selection of fly rods (which must be reserved in advance) but fly fishers must bring their own reels and lines. It’s a specialized fly fishery and requires specialty tackle, including hi-density shooting heads, 550 – 850 grains. Recommended tackle to bring is described in depth along with techniques for this fishery in our “What to Bring” material which accompanies this letter.’ On April 19, Mr. Burrus emailed me that he really didn’t want to bring his own fly gear, and he asked me to check again with the lodge. I spoke with the Rio Parismina reservationist at that point and was surprised to learn the lodge at that time did have complete fly rod and reel outfits. She did not know the brand names but she assured me it was good quality tackle and that about 35 percent of their fly-fishing guests used these outfits. I asked that she reserve fly tackle for Mr. Burrus and discussed the importance of assigning him a knowledgeable fly-fishing guide.

I’ve been booking Rio Parismina for 25 years. The dozens of clients I’ve sent there have enjoyed very positive results. Mr. Burrus was an exception. He e-mailed us on October 2 that he had been directly in contact with Judy Heidt, the owner of Rio Parismina, and that she had denied him a refund and he wasn’t happy about that. On October 18, I replied to Mr. Burrus as follows: ‘I was traveling when your e-mail arrived, then wanted to speak with Judy Heidt before contacting you. I finally reached Judy and she is very sorry you were disappointed with your guide and would like to make amends by offering you a 40 percent discount on a return trip. Judy acknowledged that you’d requested a refund but said she couldn’t offer one, having incurred the expenses of the charter flights, food, lodging, and the guided fishing. I pressed her to offer the discount and she agreed. I realize you may not want to go back to Rio Parismina. If that is the case, I’d like to offer you a discount in the amount of 20 percent on any trip you book with us to any lodge in our lodge list. As mentioned in our phone conversation following your trip, I am very sorry you were so dissatisfied with your guide at Rio Parismina. I would like to try to make this up to you.’

Mr. Burrus’s initial contact with me was very specific about wanting to fish for tarpon in Costa Rica. Most of my communication was via e-mail. I can’t help but think if I had spent more time on the phone, I might have perceived that this fishery was not right for him and made another recommendation. I am truly sorry he was disappointed with his trip. Our offer to him of a discount for future travel with us still stands.”

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