Rainbow Trout in the Tropics

A friend recently sent me a link to an article in the NY Times about fly fishing for rainbow trout in, of all places, Costa Rica. That comes as a shock to most trout anglers, but not to me. I lived in that wonderful little country for about seven years, where one of my dad’s best friend’s was a zany, immensely talented veterinarian who, among other things, pumped his sickly Doberman so full of steroids that it grew to the size of a Chincoteague pony.

“Jack” the Doby was 140 lbs. of rippling muscle, yet docile as a lamb around kids. Dad brought him home one day, and he became our dog – presumably as a defense measure given the number of robberies in our neighborhood. Jack’s arrival did not sit well with Fritz, my scrappy, battle-scarred Schnauzer. A dust-up seemed certain. When my dad fed them both for the first time – pouring dry dog food first into Jack’s bowl, then an equal measure into Fritz’s – Jack inhaled his portion (along with the bowl, as I recall), then nudged his way in front of Fritz and commenced to wolf his dinner, as well. You could see the gears in Fritz’s mind whirring. He’d fought and bested dogs several times his size, but a horse with fangs was another matter. To his credit, he mustered a little growl, though it came out more like a whisper. Jack dropped his head toward Fritz, gently locked him in massive jaws and moved him aside like a mother lion would move a cub. As Fritz came back to earth his legs betrayed him and he fell with an audible thump. He lay there trembling and wide-eyed, his sides glistening with thick saliva like a just-foaled colt. Pitiful. We bored Jack, though, so one day – after being taunted by a group of bony strays – he ate a fence made of plywood and triple-mesh chicken-wire and lumbered after them into the jungle, never to be seen again. Not sure why I mentioned Jack – just came to mind. I sometimes forget that this is a fishing blog.

Anyhoo, my dad’s buddy hatched the idea of importing wild rainbow trout and breeding them in a large pond which he paid some locals to dig on his high-country property – might be the “pond” referred to in the linked story above. Worked like a charm. Within a few years he had chunky trout to sell. Close to the ponds was a cold-water river fed by mountain springs…which may be the very river mentioned in the linked NY Times story above. I remember watching the farm hands walking skinny feeder creeks choked with watercress, “pushing” fish toward a companion who waited downstream with a seine net. They’d flip 18-inch rainbows up on the shore, dress them out, then grill and serve them on watercress salads. Fantastic. Most intriguing to me, however, were the accounts of the many hulking trout that, having somehow migrated to the aforementioned river, would repeatedly break him off after taking dry flies.

The business never took off, and my dad’s friend died a few years later. We came back to the states shortly thereafter. I’ve often thought that – could I locate the spot and pry it away from the present owner – I could create a thriving trout lodge with an alluring tropical twist. A sweet dream.

Of course, the name “Cerro De La Muerte” (Hill of Death) might present a unique marketing challenge.


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