Giant Jungle Tarpon
Brian Gies
January 1, 2021
There is no doubt that tarpon are the saltwater gamefish by which all others are measured. From juveniles to 200-plus pound monsters they all elicit a powerful response from anglers and have caused many to go off the proverbial deep end in their pursuit. For those looking to test their skills against some of the world's largest specimens, we have your destinations. They are found in the colored waters of some of Central America's most pristine jungle systems and the utterly wild coastline of Gabon. These are not always easy destinations to get to and, once there, often require somewhat unconventional tactics but the rewards are typically well worth the effort. These three trips offer the most intrepid traveling anglers the opportunity to target true giants, fish that can exceed 150 pounds, in Costa Rica, and Gabon.

Gabon, West Africa

Officially known as the Gabonese Republic, Gabon offers the most intrepid fly anglers an unparalleled adventure into the heart of West Africa’s most pristine and prolific coastal waters. With a backdrop of virgin tropical rainforests, angler fish barefoot in the surf, often into darkness, and also venture inland by boat to fish for some of the world’s largest tarpon. While Gabon is a hotspot for giant tarpon, it is equally if not more famous for a host of additional super-sized species including cubera snapper, threadfin, barracuda, and jack crevalle. This trip is for the most adventurous anglers willing to travel, seemingly back in time, to rough-it in an ecological Eden. Few of our offerings can compare to Setta Cama.

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Jungle Tarpon Reserve, Costa Rica

Northern Costa Rica’s Jungle Tarpon Reserve is a vast inland system of freshwater rivers, creeks and flooded lagoons surrounded by verdant rainforest and swampland. During the dry season the lagoons and creeks are reduced to nearly a trickle, but come August, the area literally springs to life. Runoff from surrounding volcanoes fills the creeks, rivers, and lagoons creating a vast inland sea teaming with migratory baitfish, monkeys, wading birds, and caiman. Somehow the primal tarpon of the Pacific sense this and journey over a hundred miles inland to feed on the bounty of the jungle’s flooded interior.

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Florida Keys Fly Fishing School

Interested in fishing for giant tarpon but want some instruction before you take a destination trip? Consider attending the Florida Keys Fly Fishing School - the longest-running and most sought-after saltwater fly fishing school available. Run by the Keys legend Sandy Moret, these schools teach anglers of all skill levels the most important aspects of targeting the grand slam species: tarpon, bonefish, permit and snook. You will leave the school prepared for giant tarpon - with the skills, knowledge and confidence that would take months or even years of trial and error to overcome.

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Fishing for giant tarpon in the jungle is different than classic, light-bottom flats and Florida Keys-style fisheries. As such, there is a unique set of tackle required to ensure success. Whereas an 11-weight is typically considered the standard rod for adult tarpon, we recommend stepping up to a 12-weight for the massive fish in the jungles. The extra strength helps in effectively fighting these over-sized specimen. It is also necessary to have a variety of fly lines in various densities to target these fish. An ideal setup combines floating, slow-sinking and fast-sinking lines. For reels, a strong, reliable and adjustable drag system is required. Lastly, having spools of both nylon and fluorocarbon tippet material, from 20- to 100-pound test is necessary to build appropriate leaders.  Working with our friends at Sage and RIO Products, we've put together the setup below to ensure your success.

Fly Water Travel's Favorite Giant Tarpon Setup:

•Rod: 9' 12-weight Sage SALT HD
•Reel: Sage SPECTRUM MAX 11/12
•Line 1: RIO Products DirectCore Tarpon WF12F (floating)
•Line 2: RIO Products DirectCore Flats Pro Intermediate WF12I (intermediate sink)
•Line 3: RIO Products Leviathan 26ft Sink Tip - 400 gr (fast sink)
•Leader Material: RIO Products Saltwater Mono 20 - 100 lbs & Fluoroflex Saltwater 80 - 100 lbs


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