Sam (the man on the telly) Wadman had Invited me along for a kayak fishing trip to Panama several months ago and, along with the other members of the party; Kyle Waterhouse and Paul Harman, we'd been enthusiastically exchanging messages on 'Facepack' in the run up to the even,t whilst spending copious amounts of 'hard earned' on an outrageous collection of lures.
Finally , after much anticipation, the day of our departure had arrived , and I met with Paul and Kyle, at Paul's picturesque pub in East Sussex-'The Jack and Jill' to catch our flight from Heathrow to Panama City via Madrid.
Two days later and ,after a one night stop at the 'Hotel California' in the capital, and a fascinating cross country road trip, taking in the Impressive Panama canal en route, we finally caught up with Sam ,and his wife Leila, who had spent their winter travelling down the Eastern seaboard of the United States and Central America, at a small Pacific coastal town.
Here we were met by our host for the trip Pascal , a dapper French expatriate with a passion for fishing who had set up an Isolated beach camp several miles along the coast.
To get there, along with our fuel, food and beer supplies for the trip, we travelled in a pair of Pangas- open decked, flat bottomed 20ft plus, tiller steered outboard powered boats which reminded me very much of a tank landing craft, and would also serve as our Kayak transport and back up craft for the fishing .
These were handled extremely skilfully being beached stern first with the skipper raising the 75hp two stroke by hand, which Impressed me greatly. Imagine doing that on a Littlehampton beach.
The camp is a series of timber built cabins set among lush vegetation in stunning surroundings just yards from a black sandy beach- a true paradise. Amenities were basic, but more than adequate although the presence of huge spiders and scorpions in one's toilet facility were a bit of an eye opener requiring some deft handy work with the fishing pliers.
The Hobie kayaks were pedal powered and the major advantage of this form of propulsion would become apparent when we started catching fish, especially the larger specimens. I will admit to being a little apprehensive of the kayaking at first, especially with my lack of experience, but I learned an awful lot very quickly from the other guys in the party and by the end of the trip, my confidence had Increased considerably, as had my ability to catch.
A lot of the action Involved close Inshore lure casting to various structures, whilst ten foot swells would catch you completely unawares leaving you dangerously close to some pretty gnarly rocks if you didn't keep your wits about you, and learn to pedal hard.
All the fishing was done with artificials-big surface poppers, or sub surface plugs and stick baits with my two favourites being a Daiwa saltiga popper, and a Yo-Zuri mag darter, although a jerk bait design similar in many ways to what we would use at home for pike also proved very successful.
On occasion we would fish slightly offshore with jigs or troll deep diving plugs whilst on the move between marks. Outfits were one and two piece popping/jigging rods armed with High quality Daiwa and Shimano fixed spool reels and loaded with 50-65lb Braid.
Everything we caught wanted to pull our arms out of their sockets regardless of their size and the bigger species were more than capable of dragging the kayaks where they wanted to go-usually where you didn't want to go. To say the fishing was exciting would be a gross understatement and a huge variety of species were caught.
Blue trevally-stunning markings and pound for pound one of the fastest, hardest fighters we were to encounter.
Yellowfin tuna-we dined on this one but watching the braid cut through the water at speed when I hooked it will be an enduring memory......and, this is just a 'tiddler'.
Every day was filled with fishy action but I suppose the highlight of the trip for me personally came in the last hour or so, on the final day.
Kyle and myself had peeled off from the guys and the support boat, chasing down a shoal of red snapper and picking off the odd one or two on poppers-terrific sport in itself. This eventually led us very close to a huge sub surface rock structure just yards from the shoreline with evil swells breaking violently over It's craggy surface.
At that point I hadn't caught a cubera, and desperately wanted one but , on my first cast which landed just a few feet from the rock, my lure was Immediately hit by a modest sized specimen that I was more than pleased with. I could go home a happy man but, there was more to follow.
Paddling (pedalling) the kayak back into position, I launched the plug once more to exactly the same spot and, a split second after it had hit the surface, a huge dark red shape literally engulfed it on the spot. Then it was game on.
The fight was spectacular and nerve wracking, with the big snapper diving strongly trying desperately to pull me into the rocky trap but, with Kyle guiding me with constant advice 'pedal.........PEDAL like F*** mate' I managed to steer the Immensely powerful fish clear of the snags, and out into clear water.
I did wonder whether the light popping rod, and fresh water sized reel I was using could handle the strain as at times it was literally bent over double, and I was hanging on as hard as I dared on maximum drag, but the outfit managed to survive, as did I,and win the battle.
When I eventually managed to surface the fish, I could not believe my eyes-It was truly 'monsterous'. After a bit of a struggle faffing around with the lip grips like a complete 'tyro', I did manage to pull the stunning fish on to my lap but, it was too heavy for me to lift up.
Kyle did the honours with the camera (superb lens work mate) and then the fish was released back into the sea swimming down strongly to the depths. That sight will stay in my mind's eye forever.
But, there was even more to come.
My first cubera snapper. I was over the moon with this one but there was much, much more to come on the next cast.
Next it was Kyle's turn and once again, On literally my mate's first cast, the big popper was smashed and he 'In' to another huge snapper, and the roles were reversed with me guiding 'my man' to safety and doing the camera stuff. Priceless.
At this point Kyle and me decided that, we'd finished the trip on a high note, it was time to 'call it', and head back to the Panga.
Meanwhile a few hundred yards away Sam was battling with some big roosterfish. At that point I'd not yet set sight on one of the big girls so when I spied Sam was into one, was keen to race over (relatively speaking) and catch a glimpse of these most Impressive looking fish.
It was well worth the effort as Sam's 'rooster' was truly huge, and hugely impressive, and I was priveleged to be able to assist in unhooking, filming and photographing it for him- a really fantastic end to the fishing it has to be said.
So a fitting end to a truly amazing trip with terrific people and by far one of the best foreign excursions I've personally experienced .Somehow I think we might return again next year as we've all got targets to meet....mine is one of those big roosters.
From left to right; Myself, Paul Harman, Kyle Waterhouse,Leila Haghihi, and Sam Wadman. Fantastic people to spend time with.
Kyle's made a pretty neat video of the trip editing some of his go-pro footage...it can be found here;
Check out the whale shark in the video footage...Here's the still shot, again by Kyle, with Pascal taking a ride. Pretty impressive eh.
If you'd be Interested In experiencing this superb fishing for yourself, further details, and booking availability can be obtained from Sam Wadman- email@example.com or by giving him a bell on; 07813 640066.