Costa Rica, Pacuare River Lodge, June 24-June 28, 2016 Trip Summary: Lesson learned. When traveling to any lodge on a river, always plan for the contingency of being prepared to go fishing. Now what originally started as an eco-trip to Pacuare River Lodge, one of National Geographic’s most Unique Lodges in the world, resulted in a flashback to my childhood when I couldn’t wait to catch bluegill on worms. We originally added on the Pacuare River trip to the front end of our blue marlin fly fishing trip because it was an opportunity to see and explore the side of Costa Rica most people experience and rave about which is not being 140+ miles out at sea bobbing around on a 35 foot boat. The lodge we would be staying at required rafting downstream through Class III whitewater into the heart of the jungle, and rafting out through a deep class IV Canyon dripping with ferns, brightly colored tropical flowers and sugary waterfalls that cascaded into the frothy river. The first sight of Pacuare River Lodge is absolutely gorgeous, a personal Robinson and Crusoe styled retreat hewn into the dripping rainforest where stealthy black jaguars creep down deep, dark game trails and howler monkeys chortle overhead. Every sense is lit up with colorful, peculiar shaped tropical flowers, brightly colored Toucans and Jurassic size insects clinging to oversized dinosaur shaped leaves. Our place for the next four days would be a private bungalow overlooking the rainforest with a jeweled infinity pool that stretched into the lush forest while the river rumbled below us. Pacuare River Lodge is an eco-lover’s dream with miles of hiking trails and the nearby ancient ruins of Colonia El Guayabo to explore, a private zip line course that careens down the side of the mountain through old growth trees smothered in flowering vines and “The Nest,” a private treehouse 60 feet off the ground where you have to zip line in for a romantic candle lit dinner and repel out in the pitch black of night. It is resplendent with healthy natural cuisine, a romantic sun deck overlooking the river and a luxury day spa capable of putting you into a jungle trance that you might not ever wake up from. What it did not advertise was fishing and this was is where the rest of the story begins. When Diane and I first started rafting down the river, I couldn’t help but be distracted by the eddies, current lines and riffles wondering what, if any, fish lurked in the turbid waters. The first day we were at the lodge, my mind kept wandering to the river. We ate dinner in front of it, we heard it from our room, and it was all around us. Finally, as chance would have it, one evening we went to the central meeting area to see some pictures of jaguars that had been filmed on various trail cams around the lodge. As our environmental curator, Luis was flipping through still shots of these ghostly phantoms, he accidentally scrolled past some photos of him holding several fish down by the river. Catching the images just momentarily, I asked him to go back so we could see the fish he was holding. Luis mentioned that he had caught these fish out in front of the lodge and explained that they were called machaca. Finally the mystery of what was in the river was close to being solved. As it turned out, Luis was as obsessed with fishing as we are and we immediately switched from pictures of jaguars to pictures of machaca and other mysterious species he had caught from the river. He then asked us if we wanted to go fishing the next day and indicated he would bring his rod and reel from the village where he lived so we could try to catch a machaca our self. As promised, Luis brought a single Shakespeare spinning rod and reel with a snap swivel attached to a hook. Diane and I were elated at our luck and our chance encounter with Luis and his fish pictures. He said machaca will only eat large grass hoppers and he taught us how to rummage through giant dead banana leaves feeling around for a 4 inch grasshopper while hoping not to run into a poisonous centipede or better yet a snake. The grass hoppers liked hiding under the dried out leaves to avoid the rain and the hungry birds. The technique was simple, catch a half dozen grass hoppers, and tear the wings off the first unlucky one to be impaled on the hook. Then cast the giant floating grasshopper upstream and let it free drift with the current. The machaca would grab the grasshopper and you would let them run with it before giving it a quick hook set. Diane went first under Luis’s expert instruction and was immediately rewarded with a modest sized fish. Next it was my turn and the machaca robbed me blind of my bait. We traded off, taking turns casting these giant grass hoppers into the swirling currents and catching scrappy machaca from the Pacuare River . I asked Luis about some of the brightly colored grass hoppers with red markings and he indicated the machaca won’t eat them because they know they are poisonous. He showed us the powerful set of teeth machaca’s have to tear apart their prey, which explained why they are both hard to hook sometimes and why they are adept at stealing the bait. This also explained the snap swivel attached to the hook as these teeth would instantly cut fishing line like a pair of scissors. Fishing for machaca’s was great fun and casting a simple grass hopper on a hook with a spinning rod brought us back to a time well before the advent of technical high modulus fly rods, shooting heads and all manner of modern cutting edge equipment, but I couldn’t help but wonder, if these fish would eat a giant grasshopper off the surface, would they also fall victim to a well presented fly? I’ll have to wait to find out, because I can guarantee one thing. If Diane and I ever go to an eco-lodge that has a river running in front of it again, you can bet we will have a travel fly rod stashed somewhere in our luggage along with a broad selection of flies. Thanks to Luis for taking the time bring us out on the river during his time off to share is love of fishing with us and help us catch some Costa Rican machaca!

Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In