Fly Fishing for Machaca in Costa Rica

by | Aug 7, 2018 | fly fishing for machaca | 2 comments

fly fishing in Costa RicaA delayed Delta flight set me back today.  I was supposed to leave Los Angeles at 12:40 am this morning.  Instead I torturously had to stay awake until 2 because our flight delayed until 2:30 am.  That’s three international flight delays this year alone with Delta.  The consequence, each time I’ve lost fishing time.  An ultimate no-no under the rules of “Currier”.


flyfishing Costa RicaI arrived in Costa Rica two hours late where I met my friend Sam Vigneri and our driver Albin.  We’re here to break my marlin on the fly curse with a blue marlin from the Pacific.  This trip is organized by my friend Tom Enderlin, owner of Jungle Tarpon Reserve.  The tarpon reserve is where we met last August when we filmed a piece for “Atlanticus”.




fly fishing the jungleThough our focus this trip is marlin, that starts tomorrow.  In order not to waste today, Tom organized us a jungle float fishing trip on the Rio Tenorio with a young guide named Chuta.  Unfortunately, Rio Tenorio is a four-hour drive from San Jose and with my flight arriving late, we didn’t start fishing until noon.


fly fishing guide in Costa RicaChuta is an energetic young fishing/whitewater guide.  He’s good friends with an old pal of mine, Gary Willmott.  Gary moved to Costa Rica more than 20 years ago.  We’d have fished with Gary but he’s presently working a billfish tournament in Cabo.





Tenorio River Costa RicaChuta lives on the Tenorio River and fishes it from a frameless raft of which we slid down a steep ledge by a highway bridge.  I mention frameless because this means Chuta maneuvers with one paddle.  It’s not the best for fly fishing because you zip by prime spots at mock speed.  But when you fish on distant waters you simply deal.


jungle fly patternsOur targeted fish was the machaca.  The Tenorio has some Pacific snook and guapote as well but murky river conditions from a storm only hours earlier made it unlikely that we’d find them.  The machaca is a vegetarian fish that thrives on fruits, nuts and even flower pedals that fall into the river.  When I was in Central America often back in the 90’s I fished machaca every chance I got.  My flies back then were colorful Chernobyl ants and hoppers.


flies for machacaSince then machaca flies have improved.  Tom sent us down with a few special ones and sure enough Chuta had the same.  The best looks like a green golf ball on a strong hook.




fishing for machacaBecause machacas are plant eaters, todays conditions required a special presentation.  We had to smack this big green concoction of a fly to the water as hard as we could.  The machaca may not see the fly in the murk but they can hear it splat.  And they came a “runnin”.  Sammy was hooked up before we got around the first corner.


Sam Vigneri fly fishing for machacaThe average machaca is about like this.  But they get bigger.  In 1993 I landed a monster on Lake Nicaragua. I have a slide picture somewhere at home but I remember the fish was near 5lbs.  Chuta says he once saw a bait fisherman hoisting a 9lber over his shoulder for dinner.


machaca in Costa RicaOur fishing started fantastic but things took a plunge for the worst.  As we proceeded downstream the water became muddier and the water level came up a foot.  The day turned to more of a whitewater trip than a fishing trip.  “Monsoon Currier” strikes again. . . .


fly fishing for machacaChuta estimated our float to be 20 kilometers (more than ten miles).  With only an hour under our belt and big distance remaining, there was a chance the river could start to clear again and drop.  From my experience with other fish and places around the world, when this happens the fishing can turn back on.  In the meantime, Sammy and I kept casting.  We were able to land the random machacas.


machaca fliesMy machaca rig is my 6-weight Winston and a fly line that can handle hot temps.  Today I was using the Scientific Anglers WF6F Tropical Titan Taper.  Luckily these fish aren’t leader shy.  Machaca have voracious molarlike teeth they use to crush nuts and fruits.  These teeth can easily bite through light tippet so I use 25lb fluorocarbon.


Pacific snookWith the Tenorio high and muddy, each time we passed an entering creek we made a huge effort to get a couple casts there.  Most of these creeks ran clear in comparison to our river and it made sense fish would be here.  Creek mouths are a favorite hangout for snook so I rigged one 6-weight with my double streamer rig.  I believe I caught the smallest snook in the world!


Jeff Currier fly fishing the jungleIn a blink it was almost 6 pm.  Our driver Albin was waiting for Sammy and I at a downstream bridge.  He must have become concerned for us along with fearing the long drive back to San Jose at night.  At 5:45 pm he called Chuta.  I could hear the tone in Albin’s voice.  He wasn’t thrilled we had an hour to go.  I should’ve told Chuta to paddle us off right then but of course we continued to cast into the sunset.  And I had one of those feelings. . . .


At the same time the river was clearing and dropping.  Just as expected the flush of mountain rains passed.  We began to catch machacas along the banks on the green fly fast like catching brown trout along the bank during a stonefly hatch.


big machaca in Costa Rica

The fishing was awesome.  Eventually I hooked up to something special.  It was a massive machaca.  These fish jump the second they’re hooked and when this dude left the water Chuta let out a roar!


I was thrilled as well.  Few fish excite me as much as an oversized exotic.  Knowing the grit of the machacas teeth I fought this fish as gently as I could.  I took a good five minutes but ultimately I got him next to the boat.  That’s when it hit me – no net.


machaca fishing

Normally no net wouldn’t be an issue because I could go to shore and beach the fish.  But on this jungle river there was no shore.  Only thick bush.  While Chuta offered to help it was best he steer the boat.  Sammy was on photo duty.


I’ve lifted big fish into a boat with my hands a million times before.  What made the chance of failure higher than normal was the teeth of the machaca.  How long could my tippet hold out?  The good news however is that when I want a fish this bad I make it happen.  In one swift swoop I had the true beast of a machaca in hand!


MachacaAfter a few photos I removed my fly and released the handsome machaca back to the Tenorio River.  That was it.  We knew Albin was waiting and Sammy was tired.  We pushed off the river and soon we loaded into Albin’s car and made the four-hour drive to our hotel in San Jose.


Jeff Currier flyfishing for machacaToday was a heck of a day.  It started in the wee hours of the morning with delayed flight in Los Angeles and ended with a long drive on the dark jungle roads of Costa Rica after a day of fishing.  A day that will be etched in my memory forever.  What a fish!


Costa RicaBeyond exhausted, we just checked into our hotel.  Its 11 pm and I feel like I’ve been awake for days.  But great fishing trips aren’t always easy.  Albin picks us up at 5 am to take us to the domestic airport to catch a flight for Puerto Jimenez.  This small town on the Osa Peninsula is where we’ll climb aboard a boat and head for the marlin waters.  Some trips you get some sleep but on the best ones you don’t. Watch out marlin – HERE WE COME!


Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing


  1. Vern Scharp

    Tight lines, Jeff!

  2. John Sargent

    We’re flyfishing in Costa Rica in December/January. Never been before.
    I have a fair amount of saltwater flies, but am lacking brackish/fresh water flies for Costa Rica.
    Can you please recommend fly patterns, and/orprovide fly recipes / photos , especially for machaca “poppers”?
    That big green berry-looking thing on a hook is make of what?
    And you just “slam it” on the water?

Welcome to the Blog of Jeff Currier!

Contact Jeff

I started fly fishing at age 7 in the lakes and ponds of New England cutting my teeth on various sunfish, bass, crappie and stocked trout. I went to Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Naturalist Degree while I discovered new fishing opportunities for pike, muskellunge, walleyes and various salmonids found in Lake Superior and its tributaries.

From there I headed west to work a few years in the Yellowstone region to simply work as much as most people fish and fish as much as most people work. I did just that, only it lasted over 20 years working at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, WY where I departed in 2009. Now it’s time to work for "The Man", working for myself that is.

I pursue my love to paint fish, lecture on every aspect of fly fishing you can imagine and host a few trips to some of the most exotic places you can think of. My ultimate goal is to catch as many species of fish on fly possible from freshwater to saltwater, throughout the world. I presently have taken over 440 species from over 60 countries!