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Bocas Del Toro, Panama

Shameless selfie from Red Frog Beach; one of many Snapper species I found while prowling the warm waters of Panama

Just back from an adventure to Panama. Fly rods were taken and waved around. Here’s my report for others wondering about the DIY fly fishing down there…

Never really thinking much about Panama, I was intrigued when Jamie and our good friend Connie invited me to tag along on a beach adventure to Bocas Del Toro, Panama. We flew from Jackson, Wyoming to Panama City, spent the night and then took an hour flight to the island of Bocas Del Toro. The Bocas area is a series of islands located on the northeast side of Panama along the Caribbean. After landing and some food and drink, we got a water taxi to Bastimentos, a nearby island that would be our home for 8 days.

Just off the boat. Connie and Jamie walk the dock into the Jungle. A short walk through the jungle led us to Palmer Beach Lodge on Bastimentos. Later that week we would see a sloth climbing in the trees just off the boat ramp.
Red Frog in the jungle. Lots of these little poisonous frogs live in the jungle on Bastimentos, hence the name “Red Frog Beach”

Despite a lot of research on the internet, I wasn’t able to find much in the way of fly fishing intel for the area. There were some whispers about bonefish, permit and tarpon, but most fishing-related content focused on the great offshore fishing there. So with rods, flies and quick dry clothing, we took the quick 10 minute panga ride from Bocas, the island hub of the region to Bastimentos where Palmer Beach Lodge was located. This small “lodge” catered to travelers from all over, offering a variety of jungle accommodations ranging from tents and screened cabanas to a few air-conditioned rooms. It also had a small bar/ restaurant for meals. Overall it was a good place to stay; clean, friendly staff and fairly small with a nice beach- front location. I would definitely recommend an air-conditioned room, an upgrade we happily paid for after a night in a cabana spent sweating in the jungle humidity. We spent our time lounging around the beach, exploring other beaches, both by walking and going on a boat with a guide for two days, and renting e-bikes one day to get to some beaches on Bocas. While I enjoyed Palmer a lot, I think if I was doing it again I would split the trip between there and a few nights on Bocas just to have access to more restaurants and beaches without having to travel by boat.

Jamie and I help Victor beach our boat while exploring Zapatilla #2. Beautiful here but not much in the way of fish (for me anyway)
Me and Jamie enjoying Zapatilla

Now for the fishing report…. Fly fishing doesn’t seem to be done by anyone there, save a few anglers who travel a ways up the coast to fish for giant tarpon in the river systems. We went out two days with “guides”, a term I’ll use loosely since they didn’t have any fly fishing knowledge but were able to take use to some shallower reef areas where the girls could snorkel and I could wander around fishing. While these areas looked fishy, I failed to find much, save some needlefish and a Remora (a species that attaches itself to other larger fish). Another day we explored Polo Beach, a stunning beach about a 1.5 mile walk from where we were staying. Polo looked great; reef protecting the shore making for some good looking flats. There I caught a number of snappers and saw a couple barracuda, but nothing in the way of sight fishing. Rays and sharks were also lacking, something I notice everywhere I waded. An old local there told me to come back in the evening because the fish leave the area during the day because the water’s too hot. Unfortunately I never made it back in the evening so I don’t know if it would’ve been better.

Hoping for Jacks, this Remora decided to eat my Clouser minnow instead. Not something I was expecting….
Remora are usually found holding to other larger fish like sharks. They have an oval spot on their head that feels like ski skins and helps them latch on to other fish. Then they ride along their host feeding on scraps. Weird that this guy was hanging out unattached and wanted a fly. A new species for me but not one I need to catch again!
Panorama of Polo Beach, a gorgeous reef-protected beach a short walk from Red Frog. Despite looking like an ideal place for cruising fish, I caught nothing but snappers. A local said the fish go to deep water during the day to escape the hot water temperatures. Another told me the area is fished out.. Who knows? Definitely one of my favorite areas we explored.
One of the many snapper I found along Red Frog Beach. A slowly stripped white and Chartreuse Clouser in some coral/sand cuts got the job done repeatedly

In addition to Polo, I explored and fished the Red Frog beach area where we were staying. The beach here had pretty good size waves and strong currents making it tough to fish and best left to the surfers and swimmers. I did walk left (north i guess) to a small cove/coral area where I was told they’ve seen bonefish. Again, this area was pretty tough to fish with waves breaking and a lot of seaweed floating. I did however find a few cuts along the beach near this area and caught a lot of decent snappers (this was the most productive fishing water I found). Keep in mind though this was just blind casting. One sunny day there were some fish milling around along the beach but I couldn’t get them to show interest in anything I cast and I’m still not sure what they were.

A few other days of the trip were spent lounging around both because of the weather (it rains here often) and some disagreeable stomachs (finally got some Pepto and Diarrhea pills). I did get a tip about a cove a little ways down the beach that sometimes has tarpon hanging out in it. Unfortunately I never made it there. Our last day in the area we rented E-bikes on Bocas and rode the 17 or so KM to Boca Del Dragon, an amazing area on the northwest tip of the island. The ride took us through the jungle and countryside eventually landing us at Dragon, a protected reef area with beautiful beaches that apparently provided Columbus and his crew shelter during his forth voyage to the Americas. After having a nice lunch and drinks along the beach, I strung up my rod and wandered the shallows looking for fish. Again, no dice. We then hoped on a boat for a short run to Starfish beach, an area renowned for its starfish populations and snorkeling. I was excited but quickly discovered we weren’t the only ones hoping to enjoy this area. Upon arrival, there were tons of boats and other beach seekers enjoying the swimming with music, drink, etc. I wandered off to wade along the mangrove coastline hoping for a game changer. All I found though were a few small barracuda and mullet. We decided if we had to do it again, we would’ve just walked the path to starfish and hung on the beach about a half mile away from the action. It looked much calmer and more our style. No biggie though, still a cool area to see.

Me, Jamie and Connie aboard Captain Marcel’s boat. While Marcel specializes in off shore bait fishing, he happily took us out for the day to areas where the girls could snorkel and I could wander around with a fly rod. Fishing was tough (though no fault of Marcels) but we really enjoyed his company and knowledge. If you ever find yourself in Bocas and want to bait fish, I’d highly recommend him. Plus he and his wife run and B&B in Old Bank on Bastimentos. He said he’s seen bonefish and Permit along Zapatillas but we didn’t come across any that day.

The following day after lunch on Bocas, we hoped a flight back to Panama City, spent the night and then took three more planes home to Wyoming.

I have mixed feeling about Bocas. I’m extremely happy and grateful I went there and enjoyed seeing the jungle, sloths, etc. but it didn’t knock my socks off. It is extremely hot and humid there and rain was pretty common. Often the humidity made for overcast days. The town of Bocas reminded me of Tulum, MX before it was ruined; a ton of young European backpackers and hippies, local poverty and foreigner owned restaurants, bars and hotels catering to a hippie disco scene. l was left with mixed feelings. While there are some beautiful beaches, etc, just about any one you go too will be filled with people and boats on day excursions.

Downtown Bocas, a mix of restaurants, hostels, hotels and street vendors.

Fly Fishing-wise, I found it difficult. I got the sense talking to some expats that the locals have fished out much of the shallow water species and that, combined with the extremely warm inshore water temps and lack of tide, don’t lend itself to much of a fishery. Keeping in mind though that I only was there a week. Maybe I hit it wrong or like many places, just need much more time to figure out the fishery. All that said, definitely take a fly rod along if you’re going. You’ll find some snapper to keep things interesting and maybe a bonefish, Permit or Tarpon. The surf here along the beaches is pretty tough for fishing. Waves and strong current turn up the sand and offer limited predicability on how the water moves and when rogue waves will hit. Plus, there isn’t much of a tide change here; maybe 6-12″. While I took a couple rods, a 9wt (or 8wt) is fine. I tied on some bonefish and permit flies but the old chartreuse and white clouser was really all i used. Wouldn’t hurt to carry some white baitfish type streamer patterns too.

Aside from walking the beach, flats boots are crucial to fishing the reef coral flats area. The “flats” are deeper (3-5 feet) than other places I fished and currents were stronger too. Partly to mostly cloudy skies were common for us do to the humidity. One place I saw but unfortunately didn’t get to fish was the Playa Pauch beach area on Bocas. We saw this while riding bikes but it was getting too late to fish. Out of all the areas that I saw for fly fishing, this area looked best. due to the inshore reefs and shallow water. This looked like the place to be looking for Permit, Jacks etc. We spent two days fishing out and snorkeling the Zapatilla islands. These were beautiful but by noon are filled with boats and day tours making wade fishing challenging.

Spring fishing at its finest (and a desert detour)

April is flying by and I realized I haven’t written much about what’s going on out here in Jackson Hole. We’ve been experiencing the usual spring weather; sunny and warm one day followed by snow squalls and wind the next. Regardless, the spring fly fishing on the Snake River has been really good! Midges have been hatching like crazy. Add in tiny black stoneflies, the emergence of Skwala stones and Blue Wing Olive mayflies and you have the makings for some great dry fly fishing!

I had the pleasure of taking out a few visitors over the past few weeks on wade fishing expeditions. We’ve found plenty of fish, both native cutts and whitefish. Some days getting the fish to eat our dry flies were easier than others. This time of year fishing can be technical; tiny flies, selective fish in shallow gin clear water, etc. Regardless, days were a hoot and it’s always fun teaching folks the ins and outs of fly fishing. Hopefully we’ll squeeze out another week or two of good fishing on the Snake before runoff sets in. When that happens, it’s time to fish area lakes with leech patterns.

A long way from Alabama, Emily and Brock learned how to fool some fish with the long rods on the Snake
West found a pod of feeding cutthroat trout and had the “best day of fishing ever”
can’t blame the trout for being camera-shy…. Nice fish West!

In addition to fishing, Jamie and I were able to head south for spring break, visiting (and enjoying) some family in Bisbee, Arizona. Bisbee is one of the coolest towns I’ve spent time in and I hope we get down there more often in the years to come. Our days were spent hanging with my Aunt and Uncle, playing music, hiking, painting and relaxing. It was a great week in the sunshine but it’s nice to be back fishing folks!

Jamie on Bisbee’s main drag
Got to join the “Last Call Band” on stage one night. My Uncle (left) and girlfriend front the Bisbee band and were kind enough to let me sit in for a great outdoor set. First time I’ve played “out” since my college band days!

Some fun in the sun, fishing in the canyon

I’m back in Jackson after traveling for the better part of the past few weeks. First, Jamie and I traveled to Anna Maria Island in Florida to get some sunshine and rendezvous with friends Kurt and Kelly. We all usually try and do a Bahamas trip every spring but with the Covid situation making travel outside the US difficult, we opted for Florida where Kelly’s uncle runs Sand and Sea, a small group of condo units about 200 yard from the Beach. We’ve been there once before several years back and I was anxious to return and do some warm water fly fishing. We had a great time. Anna Maria Island is on the Gulf, a little over an hour west of Tampa. The island is a nice place for a family beach vacation with restaurants, shops and other amenities without the high-rises and madness of other Florida beach towns. Of course there’s fishing too. While this area is a major destination for fly fishermen targeting the annual Tarpon migration in May and June, the area is also known for its great Snook, Redfish and Seatrout populations.

Kurt casting in a bayside turtlegrass flat
One of the many nice sea trout caught in our explorations.

Kurt and I managed to sneak away for a few hours here and there to cast a fly and were rewarded with some pretty good fishing. While it was still a little early (and cool) for the Snook along the beaches, we had a blast catching Sea Trout, Lady fish and some other assorted things. All our fishing was done on foot, exploring some cool turtle grass flats on the Bay side of the island. I got into some Ladyfish one evening while fishing the beach and was treated to acrobatic displays while the sun set.

It was really good to see Kurt, Kelly and their son. I always look forward to our warm weather trips together!

After returning home to Jackson, I packed my trout gear and drove south to meet up with my friends from Salt Lake City at Flaming Gorge. We spent last week fishing the Green river hoping to take advantage of midge and BWO hatches. While we had a great time, the fishing was pretty tough. Despite decent spring conditions, fish were in no mood to eat and made us work for the few we caught.

Back home in Jackson, snow in the valley is slowly melting and local fishing has been pretty decent due to warmer weather. I’m looking forward to getting out and taking advantage of the midges hatching.

A little fishing to kick off February

Kicked February off with a little fly fishing this past weekend. Conditions were far from ideal; wind, snow, cold temperatures, but my friends Seth, Rich and I decided to rally. We ended up doing pretty well nymph fishing, landing whitefish, rainbow and brown trout. After a few hours, we retreated to the cabin and warmed up with a fire in the wood stove, whiskey and sloppy joes.

winter rainbow
A nice chunky winter rainbow

Merry Christmas!

Thought I’d share this years Christmas cartoon I did for all my fishing client friends. All’s well out here in Jackson Hole. I’ve been keeping busy tying flies and working on some new paintings. Hope everyone has a great Christmas! Looking forward to fishing in 2021.

July fly fishing in Jackson Hole

It’s been an extremely busy July around here. My days have/ are being spent with great folks casting dry flies to our local trout. In addition to wade trips, float fishing has really gotten good. Lately I’ve been floating anglers on the Snake and it’s great to be back on this old friend. Here’s a few pics from the last few weeks.

You author (and Teton Fly Fishing Guide) starting a morning on the Green with a casting lesson. It paid off…
We were fortunate to see this amazing site on the drive home from fishing in Yellowstone a few weeks back. This Grizzy bear was feeding just off the road. One of the craziest things I’ve seen (from the safety of the truck!)
On a rare day off, Jamie, Lulu and I hiked in to a local lake and caught a few cuttbows and brook trout. Loved how this fellow posed for a few snapshots before swimming off. Funny how you don’t notice the mosquitos bitting when you have a trout on the line.
Matt landed this beautiful Yellowstone Cutthroat trout while fishing with me in the Park. He and his wife, Mercy were so much fun to spend the day with and I can’t think of a better way to end a day on the water!
Learning to fly fish is hard enough, hooking and landing a fish on your first day out can be a battle. Pam did a great job floating the Snake with me. She hung in there after having numerous fish get off and was rewarded with this awesome Snake River Cutthroat trout! Hope to see her and Dave again!