Fishing

Rocky Point In Panama

My story begins as I board a gutted out Fed-X plane on the outskirts of Panama City, Panama. I am on my way to fish the fabled Hannibal Banks of the coast of Panama and to evaluate a outfitter for a company I worked with called XTreme Angling. It’s my job to look at all aspects of his operation and see if it’s worthy of our clients from the states.

rocky-point

The plane shutters as the engines crank up. The pilot’s voice chatters something in Spanish on the intercom as I tighten my seat belt. We are seated 3 across and it’s really quite nice, I guess, for a gutted prop plane.

As we start to take off, Panamanian men to the left and right of me did the cross and forehead number as we lifted from the runway. I said a few words of my own. The jungles below gave way only to the mountains that seemed to engulf Panama City as we rose to a cruising altitude of 31,000 feet.

I am alone and I am heading to a remote town in Central America armed only with a few fly rods, a camera or two and I speak limited Spanish, the things I do when it comes to fishing.

One hour later I land marking the end of my air travel. Flights that took me from Dallas Texas to Miami Florida to Panama City to Da’vid Panama by lunch.

It’s Saturday, a little after noon, overcast and about 85 degrees when I arrive at the marina just outside of town. From here, a mere hours drive and you would hit Costa Rica to the west and all the remote islands of the Pacific and coast of Panama lay to the East. The marina was in a perfect location.

A bit about the crew and the 55′ Hatterras.

When I walked down the ramp and saw this boat,{they named her “The Angler”} I was very impressed. It looked like something right out of a James Bond movie. This is what they referred to as a ” live-aboard” sport fishing boat. With twin 650s and rigged to the hilt right down to satellite hook ups this baby was hot. Ever hear of the term, Eat, Sleep and Fish? If you’re in to it like I am, then this is the trip for you. Dark to Dark.

Just Image. Each night you get to crawl into a nice comfortable state room with AC and are lullabied to sleep by the sounds of the Pacific Ocean right outside your bedroom window. In the morning, you wake before sunrise to the smell of bacon & eggs. Fresh fruits and exotic Danish’s await you and the coffee is wow…really good stuff.

Each morning, just as the sun would start to peak over the emerald green waters I would walk through the galley and pick up a cup of this coffee and head to the upper deck where the crew was. We would talk about the day’s adventure and what our plans were.

I have got to tell you, sitting there each morning, listing to Travis, Che Che , Captain Jay and their stories as we watched the sunrise was something I will never forget. The smell of the coffee and the salty breeze, they way the mangos tasted and the way the sun felt on my skin, everything seemed special, this was truly an adventure!

A FYI on the crew:

Captain Jay Gustin:

Owner \ operator of the angler, Jay also owns and runs a larger rig in Alaska. Super nice guy and loves to fish….but lives for big fish!

Capt. Che Che Gonzales: What can I say about this guy. Currently holds over 40 world records, a 30 year veteran Captain and angler on the Pacific, he landed the world record Marlin on rod & reel…over 1000lbs a few years back.

Capt. Travis “Roberto” Peterson:

Captain Travis runs the boat when Jay’s not around and keeps her in tiptop shape. His vast knowledge of the “business at hand” was very apparent and when it came to dealing with the fish and the equipment, he was one of the best I had ever seen.

Jr. Degracia {The Cook}

Either you know your stuff or you don’t when it comes to cooking, and he did. We had the fresh Tuna salad, Amberjack soup that was fantastic and grilled lobster that you would die for. From the fresh fruits to the frozen margaritas to the full course meals I gave the food and service 5 stars!

So the adventure begins

I will be fishing for the next 6 days, like I said, dark to dark.

We catch the high tide out and head toward an island called La Groanias about 70 miles away. We raise 6 Sail fish but never hook up on the way over so it takes us about 5 hours to reach the first island we plan to anchor at for the night.

The next 5 days we caught Wahoo, Snapper, Tuna, Amberjack and more. I landed one monster Wahoo after another and an awesome Amberjack that weighed close to 50 pounds. And the Dolphin were incredible, I could catch them all day!

The in-shore fishing was incredible too. One afternoon and I asked Jay if he had ever fished the surf off this one point that was West of where we had anchored. He laughed and said more than likely we would be the first people to ever even set foot on this island much less fish the points.

Che Che had told me earlier that Roster fish liked the big surf and rocks so I thought I would try it. Using a 9wt, fly rod and a floating line with a popper I decided I would brave the rocks and the powerful waves.

Travis motored me over to the beach in the zodiac and dropped me off a few hundred yards from the point. The big rocks were obviously the best place for casting but I had to be careful. Razor sharp lava, a very strong tide, and these deep holes around this area could kill a man in a heart beat if he fell in.

Now before I decided to try this I asked the crew about safety factors, you know, for the clients { yea right Dave} and that this was an okay” thing to do. Che Che told me ” Maybe few things you watch for amigo” …” he told me about a deadly viper that liked the beach, and knowing snakes and research I did on Panama I figured this to be a snake called the Fer De Lance, not your standard East Texas cottonmouth .

He warned me about big snakes too,” maybe 6 meters” he said, I figure that could only be a anaconda. They liked the rivers and deep jungle, that shouldn’t be an issue. Then there was the big cat that’s black, what we call ” a Lion ” he said laughing, I figure Jaguar, and from what I had read they were everywhere down here.

Okay, lets go fishing!

As I walked alone down this beautiful beach, the jungle to the left me was impenetrable. The sounds of exotic birds came from deep within and monkeys could be heard barking at each other high in the canopy, and, the sound of the crashing surf, was ever present. Soon I forgot all about 6 meter snakes and black Lions.

ROCKY-POINT-fishing

This place was amazing.

At the end of the beach, I find that massive rocks lead out to the point. Ferns and plants grew up a sheer rock and soil wall that towered 200 foot above me. Exotic trees and plants were everywhere. The rocks leading to the point had some huge cuts that were exposed during low tide, and I could walk right through them.

Big Fish On

Thousands of small crabs scurried away as I made my trek towards the point. I wanted to be able to get on a rock formation that would enable me to make my casts as long as possible and still remain dry. I had to be careful, I didn’t want a wave to knock me down, which would have meant certain disaster.

I took a minute to survey the area and pick my casting location. The waves were in sets of three and between each wave I had about a 30 – 40 second window to retrieve a cast.

Elevated off the water about 8 feet the water depth was 3-4 feet around the rocks with a big drop off into what looked to be about 30 feet. Finding my footing, I begin with some false casting to check my distance and then get a retrieve down.

I remember thinking what Jay had said about this point and that it had probable never seen an angler and how I was quite possible the first person to ever even stand there. Believe me, I was soaking it all in.

Standing alone, fly rod in hand, on this beautiful point in the “Land of 1500 Islands” here I was, fishing for the famed Red Cubera Snapper or the battling Roster fish. The first few cast’s I watched my bait, darting behind each set of the emerald green waves as I stripped the line.

A nice 50′ cast set the popper between the next set of waves, I immediately dropped the rod tip and started ripping line in 3-foot strips. The bait sliced through the water just inches under the surface. Classic, textbook, everything was perfect!

Now I want you to try and understand something: From this point on, time seemed to stand still, race by and go in slow motion all at once. I think I had ripped the popper three times when out for the corner of my eye I saw a dark shape engulf it from out of nowhere.

The strike was like something I had never experienced before, it was intense and it was violent. The swirl alone was 4-5 feet across, the vortex it left was like a tornado, the splash, and the fish……. was on……!

The fish ran really hard to the left on the strike for maybe 2-3 seconds,…my fly rod was holding its own when my drag begin to sing…..All I could do was hold on, palm the reel, and let her go. I could not turn this fish, I could not stop this fish.

Within seconds the monster turned, and raced straight down the edge of the rocks skirting the deep water…it was a huge Roster Fish. I saw the long fin that arches off a big Rosters back slice through the water at lighting speed….and she was dumping my reel.

When she turned for deep water, I tried tightened my drag and tried to “Horse” her around, that’s when she nearly pulled the rod right out of my hands.

I slipped and fell onto the sharp rocks.

Now this is where it seemed everything was really happening in slow motion. I kept trying to keep the rod back, holding tension, the spool was screaming as she went for deep water and all I could do was hold on!

I scrambled to regain my footing and stand up…there’s blood streaming down my left shin…..the sight of it running down my wading boot shot adrenalin through my veins….

The power of this fish was absolutely amazing,….. and this fish was trying to take the rod & reel right out of my hands!

I fight back….One last hard pull and the line breaks. I stumbled backwards and fell on the rocks…..I looked at my leg, the cut was not bad, just looked good with all the saltwater, the wading boots…where I was…what I was doing …it’s a man thing I guess….this was what I later referred to as “Full Contact Sport Fishing”.

Within a few minutes I had another set-up tied on and a new popper. I stood back up and gathered my wits. Still shaking from what had just happened I have at it again.

In the next 5 minutes or so, I proceed to have 8 consecutive casts and have 8 consecutive explosions resulting in another break off!

These massive blow ups, and I mean massive, would rival the largest peacocks ever seen….my adrenaline levels were as high as I had ever experienced while fishing…

All alone on this island point in Central America I had just gone a few rounds with what was a monster Roster fish and got my butt kicked and good, wow, what a fish, what a fight!

I see the zodiac headed my way as darkness approaches. I make my way back to the beach.

Davies Pointe

The next day, Travis, Pete and myself returned to the dangerous rocks and surf in the zodiac. This would turn out to be a fleeting attempt to fish this spot. Timing the swells, we would go in and out. Hitting the spot at least a few dozen times before giving up, we still had a repeat of yesterday.

Massive blowups and break offs were to be handed to us numerous times as we battled the surf in the small craft. Pete and I landed a few Blue Trevally but the rest must have been Rosters in the 40-60 pound class we guess.

That night the captain logged in the computer and officially named the point “Davies Pointe”, we all did a high five, drank frozen margaritas and marveled at the day and what I had experienced the evening before..

That wonderful afternoon on a Rocky Point in Panama is with me even now as I write this story months later, an experience that has been engraved in my mind & my soul forever.

Article Contribuor
Dave Masterson

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