A Triumphant Return To Los Roques

by Charlie White

You are going to Venezuela?  Really?  I didn’t think it was very safe down there? 

These and many other questions were posed to me in the run up to a return trip to Los Roques and whilst I was more than confident in the operation and was looking forward to the trip, I had no idea just how good it was going to be.

In 2003 I was given the opportunity to have my first saltwater fishing experience and I remember, to this day, being utterly blown away by it.  The colours, the variety of fishing, the sheer strength of the fish, the eagle eyed guides and the utter beauty of the surroundings.  Nothing has changed and bits have got even better.

At that time we arranged a lot of trips for clients to Los Roques and despite things being a bit “Third world” it was a very special experience and it was a very popular destination.

Chavez, US sanctions, UK sanctions, Covid and an increasingly de-stable economic and political climate in the country meant that we last sent clients there, in any meaningful numbers, in 2016.

Earlier this year I was contacted by Ramon Paz who we used to work with before.  Out of the ashes of the old company, he and his new partner Felipe Reyes had launched a new company called Fly Fishing Los Roques and whilst sensible precautions needed to be taken in Caracas, it was now all very safe and the island was better supplied by the mainland than ever before.

So it was that 7 of us (one very sadly missed at the last minute) flew out together and to be joined by 4 others half way through the week.

Caracas could not have been more simple.  Jon, our transfer guy for many years, met us and took us 5 minutes to a very comfortable hotel where we stayed the night and had an excellent dinner.

Early next morning we were picked up again and taken to the domestic airport (again 5 minutes) for our 45 minute flight to Los Roques.

Flying in over the stunning archipelago really does get the adrenalin going and we were an excited team by the time we met the guys on the ground.

All of the guides had come to the airport to greet us which was a lovely touch and we then walked/jogged to our lovely posada/hotel.

Los Roques is a Caribbean island and has that wonderful laid back feeling. The staff in the lodge could not do more for us and everything was done with a beaming smile.  The food was quite simply superb.

So the fishing….

We were a mixed team with some very experienced and some doing it for the first time – we all had an epic week which is really as much as can be said but in terms of specifics…

The water levels in November are too high for the legendary pancake flats to be working so for sight fishing we tended to walk the beaches and the smaller islands that pop up everywhere.

The population of bonefish is so strong that I don’t remember going anywhere where we did not see fish and whilst there is a lot of nonsense spoken about “the average size of bonefish” in any destination, the reality is that these fish are fat, fast and almost ridiculously strong.

I hooked one which I could do nothing with and even the very experienced boatman said “big fish, maybe 4kgs” – 15 minutes later I handled a very angry, and absurdly proportioned 4lbs bonefish.  Backing was flying around and if you have not done it before, then just take the plunge – you will not regret it.

We landed tarpon in the mangroves but felt that this fishing might be better in the Spring when lower water would mean they would have to venture further out and we saw permit but as is normally the case, we saw, they conquered!

However, beyond the Holy Trinity that make up most of the best saltwater fisheries, it is the sheer variety of fish that makes Los Roques stand out.  Every evening, over cocktails and delicious canapes, we would all discuss our catches and they went on and on.  Jacks of every variety, snappers of every colour, barracuda, pompano, trigger fish, parrot fish, needle fish, Spanish mackerel and so on – just astonishing and they all fight ridiculously hard.

We also landed and hooked some simply massive tarpon in the bay.  It is only fair to say that we did this by bait fishing but before anyone sniffs at it, seeing 200lbs tarpon lazily flick by you is something else and when hooked, all reality goes out of the window.

Being in a bay means there are mooring lines, boats, children swimming and goodness knows what else to avoid before you have a chance of landing them.  It is utter mayhem, utterly mad and monumentally good fun.

My wife was with me and she adored the diving, which is world class, and we also had an excellent system where we would find a stunning and deserted beach, drop her off with a cool box full of wine, an umbrella and her favourite book before heading off to fish for a couple of hours and then coming back to take her to the next absurdly beautiful beach.

Los Roques is well and truly back.  A gloriously productive fishery, a superb guiding team, a great lodge with gorgeous staff and wonderful food and an island life all of its own.  It offers everything for the very experienced, the total novice and the non fishing partners.

As it stands, US citizens cannot go there but I do expect this to change at some point and tourism will roar back to life – if you can, I would try and get there before that happens.

Charlie White