Monster jungle tarpon
TAPAM means TARPON
Dream just for a moment that you were able to design the perfect fly-rod quarry – what would you conjure up?
Something big, no doubt… but how big? Five pounds? Ten?
Why not be greedy? Come on, let’s stop messing around and really push the boat out – how about 100 pounds apiece, with the odd monster ranging to 200 pounds and more?
OK, so far, so good – our fantasy fish is more than big enough – but what does it look like? And how does it fight? Well, how about we design a majestic silver sky-rocket of a fish – a chrome-bright berserker that puts even the freshest salmon to shame. What say we bolt on an outsized tail and have it fight like a demented lunatic, catapulting eight feet into the air in huge, wild cartwheels and tearing off huge quantities of backing in a heart-beat.
How does that sound?
Where does it live – in cold, frosty climes that require thermal insulation and a thermos full of oxtail soup?
Forget it – let’s pop our creation into warm waters in the tropical sunshine.
Sounds just about perfect, doesn’t it?
Happily, this absurd fantasy is actually a reality. The fish you’ve just dreamt up is in fact Megalops Atlanticus. The Silver King. The one and only Tarpon.
There are any number of places to target tarpon throughout the warm tropical seaboards of the Atlantic Ocean, but few can boast fish of a size to rival that of Nicaragua.
Be warned. This is not flats fishing. If you want to fish for tarpon in crystal-clear water four foot deep, this destination is not for you.
However, this hugely underexplored tropical paradise can offer Megalopsthat are bigger than just about anywhere else on earth. If you are looking for a true monster, Nicaragua really does give you as good a chance as anywhere in the world.
Tapam means ”tarpon” in the local Miskito language, and it is the name that we have given to our simple but comfortable lodge. Welcome to Tapam!
LEARN MORE: www.tapamthelodge.com
FLY TO: Bluefields via Managua.
PRICE: From $ 4950 without flights and hotel in Managua.
Arrive in Managua, stay at an airport hotel.
Fly domestic from Managua to Bluefields and transfer to the jungle lodge by speed boat. Have lunch, rig up tackle and maybe a couple of hours fishing before dark.
Early breakfast and then start fishing at first light. Fish until noon and run back to the lodge for lunch. After a siesta of a couple of hours hit the water again, and fish until dusk.
As Day 3. In total six long days on the water. 10-11 hours on the water each day!
Early breakfast, fish around seven hours and run back to the lodge for lunch. Then leave for Bluefields, reaching the dock before darkness. Stay in Bluefields for the night.
Morning departure from Bluefields to Managua for your international flights.
THE WORLD’S BIGGEST TARPON?
When the summer rain sets in, the fishing comes to an end. Sometime between late June and early July heavy drops of rain start falling from the sky, and the relentless downpour doesn’t stop for a long time. The river rises, the water becomes murky and everything from leafs and branches to big trees are washed out to sea – along with the big tarpon and snook that had left their salty homes for the annual feast on shrimp, mullet, crabs and whatever else the brackish lagoons and rivers are full of. The season is over, and we close down the Tapam lodge and leave the area. By then, the anglers having fished with us the previous four months have possibly hooked more really big tarpon on fly – by that we mean true 150lb+ fish – than anywhere else in the world – at least if you take into consideration that we are fishing a maximum of three boats per week.
We assume that these huge fish are here – and that they grow so big – because of the abundance of food, and the lack of predators. But we don’t know. What we do know is that the area we fish has attracted adventure-seeking anglers long before we secured the fishing rights from the local village and received the blessing from the Nicaraguan authorities.
Gillnetting has been banned for decades and the locals are only fishing with hand lines and casting nets. The great snook fishing has returned and we have caught some impressive specimens – even though it can be difficult to reach them with a fly. And the big tarpon, as in really big tarpon? Well, they are still around in good numbers.
While our operation isn’t really about targeting IGFA-record tarpon on fly (this would mean fishing short bite tippets and 20lb shock tippets for 200 lbs fish!) it is very likely that we do fly fish for some of the biggest tarpon in existence. Along with West Africa, Central America probably provides shelter for the world’s biggest tarpon and biologists believe that tarpon well over 300lbs are still swimming these waters!
Believe us: A 300lb tarpon is not the fish you want to hook on a fly rod. A 150-pounder, on the other hand, is an amazing sight when it catapults itself out of the water to shake off your fly, and we do hook a good number of fish north of 150lbs during the season. We should add, that we are very conservative when we estimate the size of these fish. Sometimes, our guests might get a little carried away and we have heard of many 200 pounders lost – and some landed. A particular fish: One that ate a shrimp fly on Catfish Flat in the lagoon, comes to mind. It was a massive fish that was lost after an hour and a half of intense battle, more than three kilometers upstream one of the rivers. Here, it finally wore through the 100lb fluorocarbon tippet. A 200-pound tarpon is an enormous fish! Even for Tapam.
In this day and age good fishing news travel fast. After only a few seasons the Tapam lodge is known all over the world and tarpon enthusiasts from more than fifteen countries have already fished with us for giant jungle tarpon.
When the tarpon are busting bait the choice is easy: Almost any big baitfish pattern will work during a hot feeding frenzy. We tie them on super-strong hooks and fish them fast. Sometimes, we find tarpon feeding off smaller baitfish in clear water. Then we downscale a bit.
When the big jungle poons are popping shrimp on the surface, the fly choice is easy. However, when the tarpon aren’t really feeding, it can be harder to pick the right fly.
Last season, we had a lot of success fishing with smaller shrimp flies when the fish were less active. Our guess is that during a feeding frenzy – when the fish are really turned on – they will go for our bushy baitfish imitations. However, when they aren’t feeding hard, a small shrimp imitation looks a lot more realistic will lure the tarpon more easily.
GEAR FOR TARPON
Make no compromises when choosing your gear for Tapam. Tarpon fishing is basically just a big accident waiting to happen and chasing the giants of Nicaragua will push your gear to the limit. Most things can go south when setting the hook in a 150lb+ tarpon, so make sure your gear is top-notch and double-checked from the backing to the point of the hook.
Finding ideal fly rods for Nicaraguan tarpon is a quest of compromise, and whether to choose 11 or 12-weight rods is an on-going debate. It’s a tough job casting these rods all day and, as a result, part of the answer borders on your physics and your skills. We like a rod with the feeling of a 10-weight and the power of a 12-weight. Therefore, we often choose 11-weight rods.
Unless you’re determined to set new line-class world records, we recommend leaving all the complex tarpon leaders, fancy knots and short shock tippets back home. Every knot is another risk and we’ve seen big fish wear through conventional 100 lb shock tippets. Most of the time we fish a leader of straight 120-130lb Seaguar fluorocarbon.
Remember that this is jungle fishing. Yes, most of the time it is very warm and sunny – but when it rains, it rains a lot. In fact, if there ever was a place to test rain gear this would be it – the jungle showers are THAT heavy! Sun protection must also be taken seriously, but honestly – we love to fish in shorts and bare feet when chasing tarpon. We do not encounter the jungle nor the sun that often, and wearing nothing but shorts and a thin shirt just makes us more comfortable and agile when fishing. The advantage of fishing barefoot is that you will feel your fly line if you end up standing on it.
The go-to rods for tarpon in Nicaragua:
9’ #11-12 saltwater rods
Don’t go without a back up rod!
#12 saltwater reels with 300 m 50-80 lb braid backing
#11-12 intermediate tropical saltwater taper line
400-500 grain tropical sinking line
Saltwater leaders 6-10 ft. with 100-130 lb shock tippets