Nicaragua is a destination that has really grown close to my heart for various reasons. I was fortunate enough to head back into the jungle a couple of weeks ago to try and dance with some big jungle tarpon once again. This is one of the destinations where failure is definitely possible, and you really have to work your ass off every day to connect with one of the jungle giants. We don't sight fish here, we often cast at rolling fish, but most of the time we dredge the depths waiting for a freight train to come by. When these fish hit your fly it's the most chaotic experience that one can have in fly fishing, you are completely out of control. You have to go with what the fish wants to do.
Gearing up for these fish you want to eliminate any weak link in your setup. My preference in gear is as follows. To be able to bomb out long casts from 4 am to 6 pm my rod of choice was the Exocett 12wt, an absolute beast of a rod with more than enough pulling power.
The reel I like is the Mako 9600. It has a large arbor, strong smooth drag, and it's just an all-around solid reel. Looking at the backing I decided to go with 250 yards of 80lb backing, in most cases, it's only the first run that can potentially take all the line you have, if you survive this run, you're good.
My backing to fly line connection is a double bimini twist connected to a braided (Kevlar re-enforced) loop, which in my opinion, is one of the strongest connections you can have. My fly line of choice was the 550gr sinking line by Cortland, a really nice line to cast, strong core and also longer than a 100ft. To top it all off, we fished 130lb Hard Seaguar Fluorocarbon; this is by far the best fluorocarbon in the heavy lb range.
The fishing has been tough this season with unusually late rains for the area. This meant high and dirty water for the most part. We were lucky that the water clarity started getting better during our week and we saw a fair amount of big tarpon rolling and feeding. All in all our week was a major success with many small tarpon landed, many snook and then also landing three world-class Tarpon, 80lb, 150lb, and 170lb not even to talk about the ones that got away.
We really do push the limits with fly gear when targeting these monster fish in the jungle, but it's a very exhilarating experience knowing that something might break at any second, you, your fly line, your leader or in an ideal scenario the fish's spirit. I will be back someday as I have made eye to eye connection with fish in the high 200lb range... Nicaragua has and will always be on the top of my list for destinations to fish.
Learn more about Christiaan Pretorius on his Thomas & Thomas Ambassador profile here!