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Fishing Nicaragua's Rio San Juan With Nestor Plasencia

Just got back from Honduras and Nicaragua and the tobacco looks sweet. Will post more pics and videos. I mentioned I was going to journey into Nicaraguas Southern interior on a great fishing trip with Nestor. Play by play and pics are below.

It was a busy Thursday at work and I was trying to get ahead in advance of my Monday flight to Nicaragua where I had planned on spending the week in Nicraragua and Honduras to see the tobaccos from the first harvest make their way to the curing barns. Suddenly my phone rang and I saw a familiar number in the caller idea, my good friend Nestor Plasencia. I have written about Nestor several times before but for those readers not familiar with him, he and his family are the largest growers of premium Cuban seed tobacco in the world. In fact, 90% of all cigars sold in the US contain at least one leaf of tobacco grown on the Plasencia farms. As I answered the call Nestor immediately said enthusiastically, "primo, can you change your flight and come tomorrow?" Nestor and I know each other well. We have traveled quite a bit and last year spend a week in Canada hunting for black bear and fishing for Northern Pike. He had chartered a boat to fish Rio San Juan for the weekend and wanted me to join him. If there is anything I may enjoy in life as much as cigars, it may very well be fishing and hunting. I decided the work could wait, called the airline and made the arrangements.

Being in this business, I have gotten to travel all over the world in the name of cigars and tobacco, and on many occassions, I have had the privilage of exploring some of the world's most remotte areas. I have been all over Nicaragua, from the Pacific to the Carribean and even to the remote and not easily accessed island of Ometepe. That said, Rio San Juan has been on my list of places to see for a multitude of reasons, especailly its historical significance. Rio San Juan connects the Carribean on Nicaraguas East coast with Pacific to the west by way of Lake Nicaragua. In the hundreds of years preceeding the Panama canal, this route to the pacific was the preferred way of crossing the America's by boat. The lake itself, Lake Nicaragua is located in Nicaragua's interior and was the central hub for trade and shipping in the new world. Because of its centralized location not only in the country of Nicaragua, but also in Latin America in general, the Spanish Conquistadors brought their gold, tobacco, and other plunder from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica to the lake city of Granada (North America's first colonial city) where it was loaded onto ships and sent back to Spain using Rio San Juan. Given the value of the shipments going up and down Rio San Juan, it did not take long before piracy took over, sacking ships and the city of Granada itself on several occasions. In the 19th century, Rio San Juan provided safe passage for early settlers looking to get to California during the gold rush years. The river in all provided passage for over 200,000 people in the US moving west. In additional to its historical contributions, Rio San Juan and lake Nicaragua is an ecological and scientific anomaly which is what attracts fishing enthusiasts from around the world. The river is home to tarpon (weighing in as much as 300 lbs), bull sharks, snook and some people have caught marlin and tuna in Lake Nicaragua. While many of these fish can be found from time to time in fresh water, mut never 120 miles inland. Not only are the fish there, they are massive!

Friday 3am: Waking up early and still having the taste of Johnny Walker black label in my mount, I quickly started to regret the extra glass of whisky I had the night before. 3am never sounds early the night before. My bags were ready and the driver was outside. Here we go!!

Friday 1145am: A long flight from Chicago, passing through Miami I finally land in Managua Nicaragua where I met Nestor and his cousin. We walk to the south terminal of the airport where Nestor's Sesna 183 is fueled up and ready to go. The three of us pile in the four seater and put our gear in back.

nestor flying the plane

Friday 130pm: The flight was a beautiful sight taking us over lake Nicaragua and over Ometepe where some of Nicaragua's finest and most rare tobaccos are grown. Nestor who was flying the plane went on too tell me that the route from Granada to the Carribean was the first route used by traders getting tobacco from Central America back to Spain. Nicaraguan tobacco is my favorite and as I listened to Nestor talk about its history, I could imagine the first bale of Nicaraguan tobacco making its way back to Spain and earning its first following among cigar lovers. We finally touched to down in San Carlos facing a strong crosswind on a dirt runway. San Carlos is a small quaint town situated where the river meats the lake. It is here that we boarded a boat to get us to the fishing camp.

Ometepe from the air

City of San Carlos as we fly in

Nestor and I on the runway

Friday 4pm: As we made our way further down river from San Carlos, the more remote I realized I was getting. After an hour, we were officially off the map. I never thought I would ever reference this movie, butt for anyone who has ever seen the movie Anaconda, it kind of felt like that. Small fishing villages were on either side from time to time and the occasional water taxi or fishing boat would pass about every thirty minutes. Camp was a small lodge with about a half dozen rooms built over the water. It was comfortable with a small bar and resturant as well as hot water.... what more does a fella need for a relaxing weekend. We met Felipe who runs the outfitter. A Frenchman, Pierre sold his business in France over a decade ago and set up shop in Nicaragua to live out his dream of fishing. He is the foremost outfitter in the region.

Rio San Juan on our way to camp.

The lodge

Friday 430pm: We wanted to take advantage of whatever light we had left so we threw the gear down and started boarding the boat when the other group that was in using the lodge started to pull in from a long day of fishing. They had landed a 200lb tarpon but what drew my eye almost immediately were the two beautiful women who where on the boat. World Fishing Network was there shooting their hit show "Hooking Up with Marico Uzumi." Mariko was as beautiful in person as she is on the show. She was joined by special special guest Lauren Alverez who at just 23 years old is a world class professional Fisherman. We exchanged hellos before headed out on our first set which would prove to be slow.

Mariko and Lauren

The Film Crew from WFN

Saturday 4am: With a long travel and slow fishing day behind us, we were ready to shake off the bad luck and boarded the boat where we started trolling. The fishing seemed cursed as had no action. By 11am, I picked up my thermous and poured myself a cup of hot coffee and right as I put it to my lips I heard the unmistakable sound of the line unspooling and the guide shouting out in spanish "fish on!!" As I jumped from my seat I spilled my coffee all over my feet but paid little attention to it as grabbed the rod and immediately felt the heft of the 150 pounder on the end of the line. My fishing at this point had been limited to light tackle, never big game fish like Tarpon and man was I in for some work. After 30 minutes of fighting the fish, I thought my arms were going to fall off but each time the fish breached, it gave me a renewed sense of excitement. Eventually my arms felt numb and I finally handed the rod off to Nestor to bring us home. After 30 minutes of fighting however, we lost the fish but we honestly didn't care. It was our first big fight and we talked about it for the following hour.

Fish On Alex!

Fish On Nestor!

Saturday 1pm: As our stomachs started to growl, we started motoring toward the town of El Castillo. Castillo in Spanish means Castle but in this case, the town was named for a stone fort built high on the bluffs to protect the trade route of rio San Juan from the pirates who prayed on it. As we made our way down river, we saw the other group from World Fishing Netword and Lauren had a huge Tarpon the line. We stopped to watch her fight the monster fish for more than an hour. Here is a petit girl that weighs maybe a little more than 100 poinds working this fish like a pro. Thinking back to my 30 minute fight and how soar I was, lets just say it was a humbling experience.

Saturday 3pm: We pulled into El Castillo for a late lunch. The menu of the day was fresh water river shrimp whichc can only be found in Nicaragua and very few other places in Central America. These tasty shrimp are found in Nicaraguas Rio Frio "cold river" and are a cross between a shrimp, lobster and crawfish (if you can imagine what that looks like). They were not cheap but boy were they tasty. After lunch we walked to the top of El Castillo and toured the fort and museum where we learned more about Rio San Juan. Amazingly, there was some interesting information about tobacco and the tobacco trade from Nicaragua and even had a quote from Mark Twain about the tobacco from Nicaragua's southern region as Twain himself made the journey to the west coast on one occassion.

The Fort

Looking down form the fort onto el castillo

Nestor and Sergio ontop of el Castillo

Nestor and Alex atop El Castillo

Saturday 4pm: Back on the boat we put the lines in the water and trolled for another 4 hours without success as we hoped for another big tarpon. After not having any luck, we retired back to camp where the food was on the table and we spent the evening smoking cigars and drinking rum with Mariko and Lauren as well as the film crew. I will say, the only thing more attractive than seeing a beautiful girl reel in a huge fish was watching her smoke some very full bodied cigarts. We drank glass after glass of 18 year old Flor de Cana as she made light work off a Diesel Unlimited and Cu-Avana Intenso.

Mariko Smoking a Diesel Unlimited

Sunday 4am: Another early start as we set out hoping to hook a fish before our departure. The coffee mustyy bring us luck as I was pouring my morning cup only an hour into trolling when we heard "fish on!" Sergio, Nestor's cousin sprang to life as he grabbed the pull for a 15 minute fight before losing the fish as it sprang into the air and was able to shake the hook.

Sundayt 12pm: We worked our way back up river to San Carlos with Felipe where he treated us to lunch at his other lodge which was also his residence. Two labrodors made their way in and out of the water as we shoveled down some chicken and rice.

Sundayt 130pm: Back in the plane, we took to the air off the dirt runway back out over the lake toward Managua. Monday means back to work and I had a long week ahead traveling between Northern Nicaragua and Southern Honduras.

I love the little adventures I find along my travels, especially when it gets me outside. I fancy myself an avid hunter, but fishing is starting to grow on me, especially hooking monsters like Tarpon. What I had not expected from this trip, was the amount of history I would learn about the region and the role it played in facilitating the tobacco trade in all of Latin America. One thing is for sure, I will be back to Rio San Juan soon. While there, Nestor and I discussed the various aspects of the soil and cloud cover that could one day make the region a hotspot for tobacco and Nestor has already set plans in motion to experiment with some small crops. With already four distict growning regions in Nicaragua, a fifth may open the door for even more complex blends than we are already seeing out of one of my favorite cigar prroducing nations.


  • wow....just wow....and thanks for all you do, the pics are great!
  • Alex_SvensonAlex_Svenson Posts: 1,224 admin
    wow....just wow....and thanks for all you do, the pics are great!
    I should be the one thanking you guys. Getting to smoke cigars, drink rum, fish and hunt hardly feels like work and I would not be able to have my hands on tobacco day in and day out without the support of our customers. Some cool new projects came out of this trip which I am starting to work on now. Will keep you posted.
  • denniskingdennisking Posts: 3,703 ✭✭✭
    you are like the James Bond of the cigar world. I'm 6'4 280lb and the first thing I thought of was "I bet the Cessna back seat was tight for Alex". Looks like you had a blast. It's great to have a job you love that gives opportunity for cool perks like that. It's a shame those girls are so ugly and homely.....Stick out tongue [:P]
  • beatnicbeatnic Posts: 4,133
    I feel very small!
  • alienmisprintalienmisprint Posts: 3,964 ✭✭✭
    Awesome pictures, looks like you had a blast. Isn't it great getting to do what you truly love ever day as your way of making a living?
  • kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,633 ✭✭✭✭
    Nestor was a great guy when i met him in nicaragua. he always has a smile on his face.
  • JCizzleJCizzle McKinney, TXPosts: 1,913 ✭✭✭
    That's what I call "living the dream."
    Light 'em up.
  • VidarienVidarien Posts: 246
    Man, Alex's work/travel stories are going to make me have a life crisis. My job is nothing like that.
  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 3,917
    wow nice trip man. BTW, next time post more pics - I only saw this one "Mariko Smoking a Diesel Unlimited" :-)
  • skweekzskweekz PAPosts: 2,279 ✭✭✭
    You sir, are my idol!
  • Stryker808Stryker808 Posts: 269
    Great story and pictures! Thanks Alex.
  • PsychoSJGPsychoSJG Posts: 766 ✭✭✭
    Wow. I really envy your career. In all honesty, have you thought about taking on an apprentice? I would love to learn from you.
  • YankeeManYankeeMan Posts: 2,550 ✭✭✭✭✭
    It's a dirty, rotten job, but somebody has to do it!

  • KCWKCW Posts: 1,334 ✭✭✭
    Wow! Fishing exotic species, cigars, beautiful women even WFN. Livin the dream!
  • KCWKCW Posts: 1,334 ✭✭✭
    BTW. If you're (Alex) ever up North (New Hampshire) I extend an invite to you to fish Lake Winnipesaukee. I spend a lot of time at my house up there in the Summer. (Fishing is my other life). Just bring the cigars, I'll have everything else.
    No Tarpon in Lake Winnipesaukee but Giant Tarpon is one species I've always wanted to go after (as well as Snook and Peacock Bass). Sounds like a great trip you had.
  • DiamondogDiamondog Posts: 4,169
    Da life...
  • ShotgunJohnShotgunJohn Lakewood WAPosts: 1,545 ✭✭
    Wow what a great trip, thanks for sharing Alex. You da man!!!
  • RCY_CigarsRCY_Cigars Posts: 5,493 ✭✭✭
    Wow what a great trip, thanks for sharing Alex. You da man!!!

    +1 I can't wait tell I'm able to have a cigar while fishing...
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