Next up on the Behind the Lens feature of F3T we had the pleasure to sit down with Tom Enderlin from the Tropical Fly Collective to discuss their film MACHACA. The film follows three of Costa Rica’s most noteworthy botanical events, one flower hatch and two fruit hatches, in three very unique rivers to tell the story of the relationship between the machaca and the forest. The feeding behavior and fishing techniques can be easily identified with by trout fishermen the world over, but the machaca’s aggressive takes and exotic characteristics make them an adversary all their own.
Flylords: What is the machaca?
Tom: The machaca is an omnivorous fish in the genus Brycon that inhabits rivers and streams throughout Costa Rica. There are several species of Brycon throughout tropical America, like the yatorana in Bolivia or the yamú in Colombia and Venezuela. In Costa Rica, we have Brycon behreae on the Pacific slope and Brycon costaricensis on the Caribbean slope, but we refer to both by the same common name.
When they are young they eat a variety of things including insects, but as they get older they hone in mostly on fruits and flowers that fall out of the rainforest trees that tower over the rivers. This is probably why the machaca has such a wild set of teeth. Adults average about 4-6 lbs with fish over that being true heavyweights, but many of the rivers we fish have very healthy numbers of really big machaca.
Flylords: What makes this species so unique to target on the fly?
Tom: Costa Rica is famous for its whitewater rafting with some of the world’s heaviest rivers, and machaca calls many of these same rivers home. These fast-flowing rivers are best fished from super puma rafts or similar, floating down through rapids surrounded in verdant jungle. It’s very much an eco-tour gone adrenaline ride with some fantastic fishing mixed in.
Based on the fruits the machaca are munching on “matching the hatch” means tying on poppers that have just the right amount of kerplunk or plook to mimic the falling edibles. The casting is aggressive with no delicate presentations needed – snack popper down, wait a couple of seconds, lift and on the forward cast snack popper down again, repeating until a machaca erupts on your fly. They are fast, fight hard, and jump when hooked – and on the right day, one can catch quite a few.
Flylords: When is the season for this phenomenon?
Tom: Throughout the year many rainforest trees come into season. Hatches include flower petals, full flowers, and a huge variety of fruits. Due to Costa Rica’s many microclimates, some rivers shine on some days while others may have already peaked or are still coming into prime conditions. Of all the botanical phenomenons the crowning glory is the espavel, or wild cashew, which drops oblong cherry-sized green fruit around the end of our dry season.
This is probably comparable to a Western US salmon fly hatch in the biologically important role it plays in a machaca’s annual forage, and they swarm under the trees lining the river ambushing the fruit as they fall.
Flylords: What size rods do you use?
Tom: Rod size depends on the angler, but the best range is 6-8 weight fast action rods. The slightly shorter super fast action rods that companies like Thomas & Thomas are designing work really well to lift the heavy flies and lines off the water quickly and have enough power to present again in a fluid motion with only one back cast. Many times you’ll miss the first strike having to very quickly smash another fly in the same pocket of water, so a powerful rod is critical to making that happen.
FlyLords: What were some of the goals of the video?
Tom: With some hard work and a bit of luck we hope to have that unique moment where viewers think, how on earth did they get that shot and how many hours must that poor photographer have spent crouched in a blind?! The idea is to move beyond fish porn, bringing in some visually exciting natural history documentation to push the envelope of what fly fishing films could be, and make a great film about a FISH and not about a couple of dudes catching them with flies.
Flylords: Do you have any fun Machaca facts for us?
Tom: The relationship the machaca has with the forest is truly unique. They know exactly when to migrate up or down the river following the ripening of their favorite trees. As far as I know, there are very few other fish that are so attuned to a botanical event, and even fewer that mass-migrate, when the harvest is on like the machaca, does. The water can literally froth below trees as machaca cruise with their backs out of the water awaiting the next falling fruit. We hope to explore and honor this incredible natural phenomenon in our film.
Tropical Fly Collective is a Central American media production company that focuses on adventure fly fishing stories, documentaries, and commercial videos. CHECK US OUT AT @TROPICALFLYCOLLECTIVE.
Also, follow along with the film tour @flyfishingfilmtour to see where they will be next!
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