Colombia: Of Tarpon and Caiman

Casting from a distance.

The coast north of Tayrona National Park in Colombia`s La Guajira district is broken by hundreds of rivers. Majority are large and effected by rainfall. And all scream fish! We unfortunately arrived on the tail of two weeks of rain and the rivers were running high and muddy. My first thought was that my chance of tarpon was gone. And it almost was!

Except for the fact that all along the beach from our campsite were short blind lagoons that had not been affected by the recent rainfal. I identified one in particular that was rather larger than the rest and arrived at the crack of dawn on our second morning. My first few casts with a bigger brush fly were harassed by smaller fish. I changed down to a 10lb tippet and a #2 brown and tan EP Brush Fly. Immediately it was eaten by a small snook. My first!

I moved about 15m down the edge of the lagoon and put a long cast to edge of the lily pads hoping for a bigger snook in the deeper water.

The lagoon, soon to called Crocodile Creek!

A massive swirl behind the fly made me literally sh1t myself. The fish was huge – especially for the 10lb tippet I had on. I lifted my rod hard and tried to lift the fly out the water to change up the tippet. Fail. The fly merely created a beautiful fleeing baitfish just sub surface. The surface where the fly was appeared to be effected by some underwater upheaval as it was inhaled by the fish below.

Oh crap! No choice now but to nurse the thin tippet.

The reel screamed as soon as I set the hook. 20m down the lagoon a tarpon did a backflip. My heart sank. How would I ever land it?

But somehow the tippet managed to sustain the first few jumps. My heart was roaring as I actually managed to turn the fish. (I think he actually turned around!) Working him slowly back towards me I tried my very best to protect the tippet. The next run he made was into the water lilies. I could feel the tippet being abused – the normally thin and easily broken stems suddenly seemed in my mind to be rough, sharp-edged tippet cutting rasps. I was sweating!

Out! He was tired and I could feel it. Now just to get him through the lillies in front of me.

He was on the surface in his silver magnificence. Wanting to end it as soon as possible I mistook his his lying there as him being beaten. I wanted him landed and I lent in too early to grab his gaping mouth. A final last effort lurch on his part parted the tippet like it was tying floss. I stared helplessly as he sank back into the brakish water.

Casting the next morning… Hoping!

The next morning I was bank on the bank. Hoping. I could see a tarpon rolling every 5 or so minutes about 80m up the lagoon. The problem was that I couldn´t get within casting range thanks to the overgrown banks. I could a sight clearing on the left bank about a hundred meters from where I stood. I had to get there. Dodging big spiders, climbing through a barb-wire fence and climbing through thick undergrowth I found myself knee on a muddy bank uptream from the rolling tarpon. The cast was almost makeable!

Those rings are seconds after a tarpon rolled.

Slowly stripping line from the reel I noticed a different movement of water out the corner of my eye. I knew it immediately. I´d seen the same on the Zambezi and other other east bound rivers of Southern Africa. My blood went cold. Cruising about 8m from me was a solid, toothy reptile.

¨It´s a f&%$#?g croc!!!¨ my mind screamed at me.

Somehow I kept my head and slowly moved backwards towards the bank. The amount of water the reptile moved as it saw me sent birds on the far bank flying. For a second I thought I was going to be breakfast! However I think it got a bigger fright than me. When I looked again I was 5m off the bank and about 2m off the ground in a tree!

My heart eventually stopped beating twenty minutes later. The tarpon kept rolling in the distance and I simply admitted defeat!

Casting from a distance.

5 thoughts on “Colombia: Of Tarpon and Caiman”

  1. Conrad Botes says:

    Well done, it’s not easy to stay connected with a poon, especially on 10 lb tippet. I’m sure there will be more poons coming your way. Are you on the Atlantic Colombian coast?

    1. fdavis says:

      I wish I could have held it longer! Was on the Atlantic Caribbean but now in Peru. Off into the Cordellia Blanco to look for trout and other Peruvian piscine possibilties 🙂

  2. Vladimir Moreno says:

    Great!! Nice to hear about americans and other foreigners having adventures here in Colombia. Even for many Colombian Flyfishermen, places like the one you are telling us about, are still unknown. Congratulations and repeat your trip. There are places with really big fish still being anonimous.

  3. St.John Neilson says:

    Brilliant write up. I am travelling with my rod and have come up from Mexico fishing all the way. Am 6 days away from Palamino and the Tyrona area. Will definitely have to find some decent spots. If you are still in Peru I have a friend Anthony at Orotongo lodge in the Amazon who is a crazy mad fisherman. Bring heavy tackle though and probably a spare rod!

    1. fdavis says:

      Thanks so much for the info – pity I’m back in SA already. Look for the blind lagoons, that’s where I found big snook and tarpon. But watch out for the caimen; I almost got to know one intimately! Stunning area though. Enjoy, I’m jealous.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *