Puerto Rico, Fly Fishing’s Accessible Hotspot
By: Capt. Till Brauer Mongil

The island of Puerto Rico is located a short 3 to 4 hour flight from any major city on the East coast of the United States and offers some of the most sensational light tackle and fly fishing opportunities in the Caribbean. While some other destinations get a lot of exposure through their tourism bureaus, Puerto Rico’s fisheries have evolved through word of mouth advertising and a few magazine articles. This has created a “secret” following among knowledgeable fishermen, who enjoy all the comforts of home, great restaurants, vibrant nightlife and things to do for the whole family while they are fishing.
The bountiful waters of the San Juan Estuary are located just East from world famous Isla Verde Beach, a short drive from the San Juan International Airport.
To those of us lucky enough to be able to fish these waters on an almost daily basis, it is a little bit of fishing heaven just a few steps from our backdoor.
Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus), called Sabalo in Puerto Rico are found around the island, specially around the mouths of rivers and mangrove island providing great sport along with snook, ladyfish and jacks of various species.
Fly fishing for tarpon of all sizes continues to be a sport in growing demand for the traveling angler, as more and more people realize it is easier to schedule a fishing trip to Puerto Rico than to a foreign country. Being a commonwealth of the United States, there is no passport required by US citizens to enter and leave Puerto Rico, also the local currency is the US Dollar further simplifying your travel.
There are a limited number of fishing guides available in San Juan and most are booked months in advance during the winter tourism season, which coincides with the best tarpon fishing, with many opportunities for fly fishermen to experience tarpon on a fly.
Shore fishing can be done from most the hotel’s beaches targeting several of the reef species found in the area, but the truly great fishing is available only from knowledgeable guides, who monitor the moving schools of tarpon, accessible in the huge backcountry system only by boat.
Tarpon are the favorite target for fly fishermen, with fish of every size available at all times of the year, from juveniles in the mangrove lined channels that run from 5 to 15 pounds to 150 pound or more giants that can be found anywhere the water is deep enough to cover their backs. Fly fishermen can expect some chances to hook one of these fish, with success measured in the fish you “jump” rather than catch, mainly due to the hard mouth of the tarpon, which makes hooking and landing one very frustrating at times.
The visiting fly fisherman that travels to San Juan in search of tarpon and snook will have to be equipped with at least 3 rods, an 8 wt, a10 wt and a 12 wt; these will enable the angler to address most of the fishing conditions that arise. Reels need to be preferably of the large arbor type capable of holding the fly line plus 300 yards of backing and equipped with a smooth drag system that will handle the fast, strong runs of a tarpon. Lines can be of the floating, or intermediate sinking type, with a shooting head line a nice addition to the arsenal, just in case the wind decides to get a little nasty.
The fly fisherman needs to be able to cast in different scenarios, short 20 foot roll casts in the mangrove channels and 60 to 70 feet long casts for open water fishing. It is important to practice the double haul at a park, football or soccer field.