Machaca on the Rio Sarapiqui

Still riding the high from our success on the Rio Colorado, we started the second leg of our journey. It’s 11am and we’ve got a 4 hour drive to meet our river guides on the Sarapiqui. It’s a tight schedule, especially when you're traveling with 2 photographers and a videographer that want to stop every 10 minutes to capture something cool they saw out the car window. We’re not sweating it though; “this will be the easy leg of the trip”, a lay-up if you will. “These fish are abundant where we’re going, we’re going to catch so many fish, you guys are going to love it.”

An hour into the drive we started hearing a knocking sound coming from under one of our vehicles. It started faint and occasional and grew louder and more frequent with every mile. “Damnit! This is the last thing we need happening to us in the middle of nowhere.” We finally conceded to the fact that our transmission was gone and brought the car to a stop in front of a small farm house. “Now What?” Three hours to go, loosing daylight and now we’re down a car. Thankfully we have Mark and Micah, our two trusty guides who are as committed to the mission as us. We left Micah with the broke down car; a bottle of water, the rest of the beer and a promise to send help as soon as we got back to civilization and cell service. A little while later we found a small service center and a few bars of signal on the cell phone. Help was headed Micah’s way. We kept rolling.

Seven deep with tons of gear, we rolled through the backroads in our trusty Toyota troop hauler. To pass the time, Kai suggested a game of “Name that tune”. He grabbed his headphone and plugged them into his trusty IPOD. Yes he still has an IPOD that he’s somehow kept running since high school. To say that Kai has an eclectic selection of music is the understatement of the century, but it passed the time and kept us from thinking about how jammed and contorted we were in the back of that Toyota.

We finally met up with our river guides and the remainder of our bags that had not made the flight and the first leg of our journey. Unsure now if we had enough time to float the river and catch a few fish before sunset, we were pumped to hear our guides were still willing to take us. We moved quick; changed clothes, rigged up our rods and jumped on the rafts for a few hours of machacha fishing. Standing there on the rounded rocks of this mountain river, it was hard for even us to believe we were tarpon fishing earlier.

This part of the country is more typically visited in the rainy season by the whitewater crowd. Most of the tourist that travel here are looking to navigate their way through the more turbulent sections of the river in search an adreneline rush. We were seeking our rush in the calmer sections of the river in the form of fish none of us had ever caught. The Machaca, an omnivorous member of the Piranha family, feeds occasionally on bugs but predominantly feeds on berry and nuts that fall from the trees. Armed with 7wt fly rods and flies that were actually wooden balls glued to a hook and painted green, we headed out to check our second species off the list.

The fishing was slow! What was supposed to be a lay-up, was starting to look like a shut out. We were getting bites from some smaller ones, but just weren't coming tight on these fast biting fish. Our ever optimistic crew never lost hope though. We kept casting, kept enjoying the view and trusted that it was going to happen at any minute. It eventually did; Josh caught one machaca. Not a big one, but it was respectable and we were one more fish closer to our goal.

It’s hard to be anything but content in a setting like this. A beautiful mountain river winding through a lush jungle teaming with iguanas, macaws and monkeys. Fun fact, machaca often gather under monkey filled trees to eat their droppings. A so-called “shit hatch” that can go off at any time lead to some great fishing opportunity. We made it to the take out without a moment to spare. Sun down, fading light and weather coming in.

We arrived at our home for the night in the dark and in the pouring rain. Two dogs voraciously barked at us from behind a fence until our landlord arrives. The house is a bit hard to describe; almost more of a tree house than a regular house. Up a flight of stairs from the ground floor, you push up and open a gate to reveal the main living area. There were three rooms with 2 beds each and a few hammocks scattered around. Completely open aired. You could hear the river running as if it were under the house; almost loud enough to drown out the frogs. Oh, there are also bats in some of the bedrooms. Maybe the bats will help with the bugs. This is going be an interesting night...