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  • No Frills Fishing
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    Nicaragua/Costa Rica Fishing Report By Torgeir Hansson We were three Norwegians (Tor Hansson, Inge Solberg, and Knut Mellbye) heading for Nicaragua and Costa Rica for fly-fishing in late March this year. We were targeting tarpon and snook in El Castillo, Nicaragua, and sailfish out of Quepos in Costa Rica. Our research had led us to a guide named Martin Bernard and his outfit No Frills Fishing based out of Los Chiles, Costa Rica. Martin advertised himself as “somewhat” skilled with fly-fishing. (This claim would prove to be fairly debatable.) A little more about Martin Bernard: a gentleman rogue, frontiersman, biologist, bon-vivant, philantropist, an utterly politically incorrect man’s man given to exaggeration and obfuscation in anything that has to do with fish, fishing, and women. Female anglers may consider ear plugs to cut down on the linguistic surprises and a riding crop to keep the old boy honest. Nevertheless I can’t help thinking that any Mark Twain or Jack London would be late to bed from enjoying the outrageous company on offer.

    After a somewhat rum-soaked night in Costa Rica’s capital San Jose we were off to Los Chiles, where No Frills’s hotel/motel cum fishing camp receives you in relative comfort. The food: a cross of English deep frying and Costa Rican ingredients, leading to a result that is actually quite good (the tilapia fish and chips is A-OK.) The hands-down winning discovery: Flor De Cana rum, which no well-stocked bar should be without. Both the four-year and the five-year are fabulous, and strange as it may sound easier to drink than the seven and the twelve.

    On to the fishing. Our first day was spent on the Rio Frio in the Cano Negro national park. The summation of our experience has to be that at least in March/April No Frills has little or no experience in locating fish for a fly fisherman on this river. Our results for six hours on the water: two machaca, around two pounds each. These can be described as chub with teeth, and will not rate high on your list of fly species. We saw no tarpon, no snook, and no guapote. (This may not have been anyone’s fault, but those are the facts.) Martin swears the fishing is on fire in December/January, when large lagoons form along the Rio Frio and the tarpon cruise in skinny water before your unbelieving eyes. So there you go, book a trip during these months, and be the next to write a report from the Costa Rican frontier.

    The next day we boarded Martin’s very well outfitted boat, destination Nicaragua. Modern electronics, dual engines, life vests, fire extinguishers, flares—the works. Whatever else can been said of Martin he runs a first rate operation as far as security on the water is concerned. In spite of being in the middle of bum-frig nowhere we always felt safe and prepared for whatever would befall us while in the boat. Martin is also a well-respected individual by both Costa Rican and Nicaraguan border officials. He is able to cut through the formalistic nonsense and get you in and out of Nicaragua without much fuss.

    A quick trip down the Rio Frio had us on the southern end of Lake Nicaragua, a massive body of freshwater (South America’s second largest inland sea, to be exact) with untold opportunities for fly-fishing if they can be found, accessed and negotiated. We only made a cursory stop in San Carlos for customs and immigration and headed down the mighty—and muddy— San Juan river, the border river from the lake to the Caribbean. (After it splits down towards the estuary it takes on its alter—and much better known—ego: Rio Colorado. After about an hour’s trip we made our first stop at Martin’s first tarpon flat. Drifting around in a spot wide as two football fields we didn’t have to look for long before we started seeing gigantic swirls around us. There were many tarpon, and they were big as submarines. Their flanks had a golden hue as opposed to the usual silver; Martin maintains that this is a trait of the San Juan river tarpon, whi
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