Fly Fishing in Central America

General Info
Costa Rica

Available Species


When it comes to fly fishing in Central America, there is no typical target species or standard package we organize, every single trip is different because the species, venues, and tactics are so incredibly diverse. Our fly fishing vacations can range from wading miles of pristine salt water flats in Belize for bonefish and permit, fly fishing for sailfish in Guatemala, tarpon and marlin in Costa Rica, yellow-fin tuna in Panama, and even freshwater float trips down jungle rivers or on the Panama Canal itself. Read below to learn more about where to enjoy Central America’s best fly fishing, then trust our decades of local expertise to plan your customized fly fishing vacation and see why nearly 40% of our anglers are repeat & referral guests!

Where is the Best Fly Fishing in Central America?

Asking where is the best fly fishing in Central America can be like trying to come to a consensus on which country in the world produces the best wine – it completely depends on your personal preference! This tiny corner of the world is blessed with an incredible amount of biodiversity and marine life thanks to two oceans, pristine jungle rivers, the world’s second longest barrier reef, and three of the four atolls found in the Western Hemisphere. Essentially anything we fish for here we can fly fish for as well, so that means some of the world’s most prized game fish are found in Central America. From big game offshore fishing to the saltwater flats to light tackle freshwater species, fly fishing in Central America truly has something to offer from the novice to the battle-tested expert.

Fly Fishing in Belize

Central America’s smallest country is also the most popular among saltwater fly anglers. Home to miles of pristine saltwater flats, Belize is one of the best countries in the world to target the holy trinity of flats fishing – bonefish, permit, and tarpon. Protected since 2008, all three species are strictly catch and release so the populations are robust and the habitat is dreamlike. For us fly anglers, few things can top the experience of spotting tailing fish on the flats, slowly polling or stealthily stalking them until you are within casting distance, making the perfect cast, and then waiting for the tug on the other end of the line.

Protected by the world’s second longest barrier reef, the waters along Belize’s coast are warm, crystal clear, and stocked with marine life. Whether you are trying to pull off the elusive Inshore Grand Slam or simply want to land your first bonefish, permit, or tarpon on the fly, few places can top the combination of friendly people, experienced English-speaking guides, and a well preserved fishery like Belize.

Belize’s Mesoamerican Reef stretches over 600 miles and is home to over 500 species of fish, so there is certainly more to target than just bonefish, permit, and tarpon. It would be odd to spend all day fly fishing the flats and not see a large barracuda patiently idling nearby waiting to strike an unexpecting fish. Due to their incredible bursts of speed, these can be terrific fun, just be sure to have a wire leader so you don’t lose your favorite fly on their razor-sharp teeth. Another fish that is growing in popularity among fly anglers are trigger fish, which are aggressive by nature and make for colorful photos on a sunny day. You’ll often find schools of small jacks patrolling the flats, and these notorious fighters are fun practices for novices or another species to add to your list. Last but not least, Belize’s tropical coast is lined with mangroves and lagoons that can offer great action on snapper and snook.

Fly Fish Permit Alley
Tarpon Fever
Permit Fever
Fly Fishing at El Pescador
Fly Fish at T-Flats
Fly Fish at Tarpon Caye
Best of Belize
Grand Slam Placencia
Ruins to Reefs

Fly Fishing in Costa Rica

Few countries on Earth can offer the variety of fly fishing venues and species like Costa Rica. With a Pacific Coastline over 600 miles long, a Caribbean Coastline over 125 miles long, the 33 sq mile Lake Arenal, and jungle rivers we have options to fish 15 wts on saltwater or 5 wts on freshwater. Not only do we have the option to target big game like billfish and tarpon as well as local exotic freshwater species, we have the ability and expertise to combine the different options and venues into a unique package so you can do it all. Since sport fishing has been attracting international anglers for 40 years, the best fly fishing captains and boats have separated themselves from the field and are always in high demand.

The wide open billfishing along the Pacific Coast is what put Costa Rica on the map back in the 80s. Double digit sailfish bites are common during the peak billfish season and Costa Rica always has great numbers of blue, black, and striped marlin. Costa Rica has long been one of the best places on Earth to try to catch your first billfish on the fly thanks to it’s calm waters and healthy billfish populations. With the emergence of overnight trips to the FADs (distant offshore seamounts), Costa Rica can almost offer a guarantee that you’ll have a shot at a marlin on the fly. Once you are offshore there will be opportunities to fly fish for other pelagic species like dorado (mahi) and yellow-fin tuna if they are feeding at the surface. Inshore fly fishing in Costa Rica offers a variety of species, but it tends to be much more challenging than offshore fishing and involves a lot of blind casting. For those with patience and the ability to cast 60-100 ft over and over again, you can be rewarded with up to twenty different species, including the ever-popular roosterfish.

It seems that no matter where you are from or what previous fly fishing experience you’ve had, one species that is on every fly anglers list is the mighty tarpon. Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast offers world class tarpon fishing because the population here is not highly migratory like other Caribbean destinations so they are always here. Be careful what you wish for because you won’t find a lot of juvenile tarpon hanging out in protected mangroves, you need to be mentally and physically prepared to do battle with 80-120 lb adult tarpon in the open ocean.

Due to the size of the tarpon we recommend 12-14 wt rods with 100 lb shock tippet. Costa Rica boasts historic tarpon fishing lodges and English-speaking guides that have been jumping tarpon for over 30 years.

Last but not least, Costa Rica offers some truly pristine freshwater fly fishing venues. Set at the base of the towering Arenal Volcano, Lake Arenal spans 33 sq miles and offers incredible habitat and structure for tilapia, machaca, and the prized rainbow bass. On the Caribbean Coast the tarpon and snook attract most anglers, but the fly fishing in the freshwater lagoons and canals offers beautiful scenery and a variety of exotic species like rainbow bass, machaca, mojarra, and tropical gar. Our favorite venue for freshwater fly fishing in Costa Rica are our float trips down jungle rivers. Here the main target is the machaca, which has been nicknamed ‘mini tarpon’ due to it’s silver scales and it’s propensity to take off into the air after being hooked. Costa Rica is so diverse, there are even rainbow trout in the cold streams up in the mountains. These fish were stocked a long time ago and/or escaped from nearby trout farms, but the wild ones don’t typically get bigger than six inches and are generally not worth going out of your way to target with all the other options we have to enjoy.

Fishing Report from Panama’s Mothership – June 2015 img | Central America Fishing
Fly Fish Quepos
Fly Fish Costa Rica
Fly Fishing In The Jungle
Los Suenos Fishing
Coast 2 Coast
Fly Fishing for Tarpon

Fly Fishing in Guatemala

Guatemala is known as the “sailfish capital of the world” so it should come as no surprise that it is one of the top places in the world to fly fish for billfish. Our top fishing lodges in Guatemala see an average of 15 sailfish per day throughout the entire year, so no matter if you are trying for your 1st or 100th sailfish on the fly you’ll get plenty of chances. When fly fishing for sailfish in Guatemala, a 12 wt – 14 wt is ideal because billfish rods are used more for fighting the fish rather than long casts. Most casts are no more than 20-30 ft as the mate will tease the fish right to the back of the boat for you then rip the teaser away when you are ready to cast. Your fly should be presented to the side and slightly behind the fish so it swims away from you which makes setting the hook easier. While sailfish is the main attraction in Guatemala, there will be chances for blue and black marlin as well. A standard billfish fly leader is built with an 80-100 lb shock tippet and a 20 lb tippet. The most popular sailfish flies are pink squid patterns with a foam popper head. Our fishing lodges will provide all fly rods, reels, leader, tippet, and flies for you so you do not need to bring any of your own gear to fly fish in Guatemala.

Sailfish on the Fly
Best of Guatemala
Guatemala Fishing Weekend
Guatemala Fly Fishing
Highlights of Guatemala
Belize & Guatemala Combo

Fly Species of Central America

With two oceans, the world’s second longest barrier reef, pristine saltwater flats, three atolls, and over 2,500 miles of tropical coastline fly fishing in Central America is as diverse and productive as you’ll find anywhere in the world. From Offshore Grand Slams to Inshore Grand Slams to freshwater fishing for exotic fish you’ve never seen before, Central America is a fly angler’s dream come true. Below is a list of some, but not all, of the most popular species that we target when fly fishing.

Offshore Fly Fishing Species

Black Marlin
Blue Marlin
Striped Marlin
Yellowfin Tuna

Inshore Fly Fishing Species

Jack Crevalle
Horse-eye Jack
Bluefin Trevally
Yellow Jack
Golden Trevally
Pacific Snook
Fat Snook

Flats Fly Fishing Species

Golden Trevally
Horse-eye Jack

Freshwater Fly Fishing Species

Peacock Bass
Rainbow Bass
Fat Snook
Mangrove Snapper

Fly Fishing FAQs

Do I need a fishing license to fish in Costa Rica?

YES. All anglers need a fishing license to fish in Costa Rica. These are sold by the Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Aquacultura, or INCOPESCA as they are known here. Unfortunately their website has functionality and language issues so it’s not easy to use, so you can buy the license in the morning right before you fish for the first time. The cost is $15 for one week or $30 for one month and it must be paid in cash.

How many people will be on my fishing boat?

All fishing charters booked by Central America Fishing are private, so the boat is 100% yours. We do not set up any shared charters.

What is the standard tip for a fishing charter in Costa Rica?

A standard tip for a charter fishing crew in Costa Rica is 10%-20% of the cost of the charter. Most captains are paid a low salary with the idea they’ll earn more tips the more they fish, but many mates rely 100% on tips for their income. Tipping in USD or Costa Rican colones is fine. We recommend giving the entire tip to the captain and let him divide it up with the mate.

Can I bring my own fishing gear?

OF COURSE! Even though our private charters provide all the fishing tackle and bait you’ll need, you are always welcome to bring your own lures, reels, and even rods if you want to catch fish using your own tackle. Fly anglers are always encouraged to bring their own fly gear.

Which fish in Costa Rica are catch and release and which ones can I keep to eat?

By law, all billfish in Costa Rica are strictly catch and release. While not a law, we also strongly encourage releasing all roosterfish, tarpon, and cubera snapper as they are such prized inshore species. Other species like tuna, dorado (mahi), wahoo, snappers, groupers, corvina, snook can be kept and enjoyed for a fresh seafood dinner.

Can I bring fish back home with me to my own country?

If you really want to enjoy your catch our best advice is to eat it while it’s fresh here in Costa Rica. We understand many of you love the idea of a Costa Rican seafood dinner in the comforts of your own home, so the good news is there is no law against it and people do it all the time. However – we do not have the final say in this so there are some things you need to keep in mind:

1 – Unlike some other popular fishing destinations, in Costa Rica there is no service that will package and ship fish home for you. If you want to bring fish home with you you’ll have to do it yourself in your own luggage. Our best advice is to bring down a soft sided, leak-proof cooler, have your fish frozen completely solid, wrap them in newspaper, and then check your cooler as part of your luggage since it will stay cooler in the cargo hold of the plane versus in the cabin as a carry-on. If you don’t have a cooler or forget to bring one, you can purchase affordable plastic coolers here in local grocery stores.

2 – While Costa Rica does not prohibit you from bringing fish fillets home with you, your international airline might. We strongly recommend you confirm this with your airline (in writing if possible) or you may have the fish confiscated from you at the airport check-in.

3 – Even if your airline lets you fly the fish home, your local customs may have an issue with you bringing in meat products from a foreign country. In our experience most customs agents don’t seem too interested in you bringing back frozen fish fillets from your fishing vacation to Costa Rica, but it can depend on the agent and depend on the day.

What if there is bad weather on our fishing day?

First of all, it is extremely rare to have a fishing day cancelled due to bad weather. Costa Rica is too far south for hurricanes, and on top of that we custom design every single one of our Costa Rica fishing packages to factor in not only where you’ll have the best fishing but also the best weather & sea conditions for the time of year you visit us.

It does happen every once in a while however, so if the captain, local marina, or government deem the conditions are unsafe the trip will be cancelled.  The first course of action is to try and reschedule you, but if that is not possible you will be refunded in full.

Please note that rain and dark clouds are not considered bad weather. We are in the tropics and rain is a common occurrence here so that is not a cause for cancelling the trip. Many great fishing days happen in the rain – as they say the fish are wet anyway!

Why Fish With CAF?

We have been fishing, living, and traveling around Central America since 2003. Plan your trip with local experts to make sure you are in the right place, at the right time, and on the right boat. We’ll help you fish for what you want, the way you want.

Free vacation planning + the best direct rates. No booking fees!

Personalized service from pre-arrival to 24/7 in-country support.

Hand-picked accommodations, fishing captains, expert guides for the best vacation experience.


Nearly 40% of our anglers are repeat & referral guests. CAF puts you on the fish!

We are proud to have a global reach and have hosted anglers from 14 different countries here in Central America!

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Conservation & Charity Partners

All fishing vacations booked with Central America Fishing include the following:
  • Free Vacation Planning (no fees + direct rates)
  • VIP Airport Meet & Greet upon arrival into SJO
  • Private, air-conditioned transfers with English speaking driver.
  • Luxury, private accommodations hand-picked and customized for your group. Choose between private condos & villas, luxury beach resorts, exclusive boutique hotels, and fishing lodges.
  • Private fishing charters
  • All eco / adventure tours you’d like to include
  • All Costa Rican taxes
  • Free quotes on travel insurance
  • Pre-arrival assistance with dinner reservations, tee times, pre-stocking your condo or villa, hiring a private chef, and special requests.
  • 24/7 support once you are here in country
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Please fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch within 24 hours. If you wish to speak to us sooner please call us anytime at 1-855-414-FISH. Your 100% customized vacation starts here!

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