Finally, it was here... the day we head off on our Panama fishing trip adventure! 10 of us met up at Amsterdam after picking up connections from around the UK ready for the 10 hour flight into Tocumen International Airport.
Panama Fishing Trip
A motley crew of anglers with various experience and 1 non fishing partner (myself, George, Dennis, Ron, Andy, Phil, Simon, Martin, Mark and Yvonne.) This was the maximum number of people that the lodge can accommodate fishing wise, although 4 to a boat is available I think that 3 is the safe maximum.
The idea of the trip was to get a few seasoned anglers together with a few overseas novices to create a balanced group where everybody could help each other. I would be acting as the representative for SFC Travel, but I would also be fishing with the guys out there.
It soon became obvious that this was going to be a fun trip no matter what was caught, the cast list read like the beginning of a bad 1980's joke: 6 Southerners, 1 Bristolian, 2 Geordies and a Scotsman walked into a bar...!
Panama Fishing Lodge
We arrived in Panama and loaded up the minibus for the trip to Pedasi, we had decided to travel straight through and get the journey over and done with in 24hrs door to door. We arrived at the lodge just after midnight and were swiftly shown to our rooms.
The fishing lodge rooms are practical, cleaned daily, have air conditioning and excellent showers. The focal point of the lodge is the pool with 2 blocks of 2 rooms on 2 sides, with the bar and dining area on the other plus additional accommodation and a workshop on the remaining side.
The staff leave you wanting for nothing, Cindy and Leah look after all meals and laundry supervised by Pierre's wife Clemence, it doesn't take long for them to pick up each individuals requirements and after each day we were met with either cold beer, coke or a cup of tea or coffee depending on the individual.
The lodge has 3 captains, Xavier, Chino and Eduardo, all of whom have been there since the lodge started about 9 or 10 years ago, massively experienced and very helpful and hard working.
Panama Fishing Diaries
Panama Day 1
This was a rest and prep day. We spent it making sure that everybody's gear was up to scratch and leaders etc were tied up ready to go. Everybody was equiped with excellent kit including well balanced and high spec Saltiga's, Saragosa's and Stella's, Black Hole and Saltiga rods plus a few more equally acceptable lesser known brands.
In 9 hard days of fishing we suffered no tackle failures, so it was money well spent.
That afternoon we visited the local beach for a couple of hours just to fine tune kit and start loosening up shoulders. A nice looking beach with some big breakers coming in and lots of terns and pelicans working a large baitball about 30 yards out. Very small fry and no big fish seen but good to be out there and getting salty.
A couple of lady fish and small bits but nothing special, this was totally expected and was just a little bit of casting practice really.
We returned back to the lodge for a lovely evening meal (the first of many) and a few beers whilst looking forward to the next day. This also gave us an ideal opportunity to discuss lures needed with Pierre and to buy a few of the recommended colours and patterns.
These also complimented all of the additional hardware I had previously purchased from the very helpful and knowledgeable guys, Allan and Duncan, at Rok Max.
Panama Day 2
This saw us heading for the boats that were moored about 15 minutes away, we were collected after a 6:45 breakfast and loaded onto a pick up to take us to the beach. Once on the boats, which were perfectly adequate, the fishing started in anger!
It was mainly an average day to be honest but everybody caught something. Water was a little stirred up but everybody caught fish on poppers, sticks and jigs. Jacks, bonito, amberjack to 40, silk snappers and a 50 lb broomtail that was one of my target fish, this fell to a Namix soft plastic.
Panama Days 3 - 6
These passed really quickly as people began to get to grips with new methods, everybody catching on surface poppers, jigs and stickbaits. We didn't use any livebaits at all on this trip which made all the fish seem a little more valuable and well earned.
Many fish were hooked and lost, I personally lost 2 big Cubera to the rocks that I couldn't do anything with. Several big roosters lost and what I originally thought was a big rooster was later considered to be a big wahoo. Other anglers also lost huge Cubera. The biggest landed was a mid 30 but that fish will stay with me for a while as it followed the lure to within 6 foot of the boat before both lure and fish stopped, a small twitch and the fish followed another 6 inches, one more twitch and bam, hold on tight.
I'll come back to day 6 later but on the last couple of days the water cleared up and despite higher winds we manged to find a few sheltered bays with surface action, Martin managed to snag a rooster on the other boat whilst myself and Ron encountered a small shoal and he hooked up, not bad for a topwater novice, a good fight ensued with the fish jumping fully out of the water next to the boat, gills flared nile perch style, a sight that neither myself nor Ron will ever forget. Finally I had seen a rooster in the flesh and it was every bit as stunning as I'd hoped.
We also found the shoals of YFT near the end of the trip and had some great fun with double and triple hookups of fish up to 25lb, great fun on any setup.
On the last day we had a bit of wind again but we found the sheltered bays again and started well with a small snapper and a decent 20lb jack in 5m of rocky water which put up one hell of a scrap, a real old warrior of a fish that I had seen mooching around the rocks on his own and thrown a lure at.
Then just before lunch we saw that unmistakeable crest cutting through the water, I had imagined this moment so many times as being a perfect cast to the shoreline and calmly tempting the fish I have been imagining catching for 20 years plus, in reality it was a pretty average cast and my heart was pacing as I had 3 or 4 fish crawling over my popper, thankfully one stuck and the fight was on, I played it softer than I had been playing fish all week but after a very tense 5 minutes, which felt like 5 hours, and in which time I probably only breathed once I finally had it at the side of the boat and she was in my arms.
Certainly not the biggest fish I've ever caught but one of the most memorable.
Now... I suppose I really should mention exactly what happened on day 6!
As 2 of the group had returned home I'd arranged to have a day out on a boat with Pierre, what followed can only be described as the most extreme up and down day I have ever had whilst angling.
Having chatted on the way out about all things we started casting at a school of tuna, a couple of 20lb'ers came to the boat before my popper was absolutely smashed on the surface, a very long run of 100m plus before the fish turned back towards me, definitely not tuna behaviour, I had just regained the slack before there was another run and then that horrible feeling as the braid went above the leader. We were all of the impression that one of Pedasi's very big roosters had just been lost. Nobody spoke for about 5 minutes as I tried to analyse what I'd done wrong, the only possible thing I could have changed was to slacken the drag with so much line out but hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Onwards and upwards though and we hit the next mark and started jigging, I was using one of Pierre's special jigs enhanced with a green muppet.
First drop and the jig was smashed on the 2nd lift, instantly the rod was almost wrenched out of my hand and the battle began. The fish just ran and ran, every time I gained a yard it took 2, more drag just didn't help. The fishing gods were obviously looking out for me though as I managed to avoid all rocks and the fish remained my side of the pinnacle. The boat was moved at some point though so the captain was aware of the dangers as well.
The captain and Pierre thought it was a big rooster so we were initially a little disappointed when that Amberjack shape became visible, this soon changed once we realised the true size of it though, she was huge. I truly couldn't believe I'd caught such a lump!
Unfortunately after such a brave fight she couldn't be revived but was estimated between 48 and 50 kg on the boat, and weighed 45kg on the beach 6 hours later. I will take an honest 100lb, Pierre said this was within the top 3 Almaco's ever seen at the lodge and certainly the biggest he had ever seen, it was a pleasure to share this with Pierre and we were both awestruck for the rest of the day.
Hopefully the picture will help to convey the true size of this incredible fish!
Panama Fishing Summary
In summary, a fantastic trip, with fantastic company, in a fantastic lodge.
Some of the guys said it was the best fishing trip they had ever been on and we 6 have already booked for next year. We have a few spaces in November, March and April if anybody fancies joining the next trip then let me know via firstname.lastname@example.org plus visit their website Spoilt for Choice Travel
Final totals for the trip were over 300 fish and 25 species!