Fly Fisher, Guide, Naturalist
Rich Cahill is a fisherman, naturalist, noted guide and expedition leader born and raised in Panama to American parents. After attending college in the U.S., Rich returned to Panama City, where he helped pioneer ecotourism in the 1990s in Panama and is a current co-founder of Ancon Expeditions, working in this field for over 30 years.
In 2006 he pursued his passion for fishing; recognizing the need, he started a guided fishing experience on the freshwater Gatun Lake, Panama Canal for peacock bass, snook, and tarpon on the Bayano River. Rich brings a unique experience being a Historian delivering amazing stories of this water-way.
Listen to Rich Cahill's Show...
Fly Fishing The Panama Canal & Pacific Coast Rivers
Rich Cahill, a professional guide, naturalist, and expedition leader, has pioneered fly fishing the Panama Canal Gatun Lake for peacock bass and snook, as well as Pacific coast tarpon on the Bayano River. This unique fishery is one of a kind and is changing and evolving as we speak. Join us to learn about this incredible place to fish and the conservation efforts Rich has been working on to conserve and preserve Pacific coast tarpon.
Learn about how the Panama Canal works here.
Just a few of the questions asked and answered during the interview:
- How did you get started in ecotourism?
- When did you start offering guided fishing?
- How does the Panama Canal work?
- How does Gatun Lake interact with the Panama Canal?
- What fish do you target in Gatun Lake?
- How do you fish the lake?
- Can you fish for tarpon, peacock bass and snook on Gatun Lake on the same day?
- Do you sight fish or blind cast?
- Where is the Bayano River?
- What is the best way to fish for tarpon on the Bayano River?
- What flies do you use for tarpon?
- Where do you go to fish for bonefish and permit?
- How do you fish for bonefish and permit?
- What's the best way to experience the San Blas islands?
As the company grew, he realized that fly fishers were more attracted to this accessible opportunity and offered flat-deck Hurricane Lake boats to meet that experience. Panama Canal Fishing pioneered this guided experience and has now expanded to fly fishing for snook and tarpon with well-experienced local captains. Panama is the only place in the world where the Atlantic tarpon transit via the Panama Canal making their way to the Pacific, giving fly fishers the opportunity to fish tarpon in the Pacific rivers.
Gaby Rangel is a renowned Panamanian-born television producer who has worked for more than 25 years in the television industry as a news producer and special events coordinator, earning accolades for her work creating documentaries and live programs in Latin America.
Together, Rich and Gaby founded Panama Canal Fishing in 2006 and as part of their work together, they became dedicated to increasing awareness of tarpon as a species by highlighting ongoing best-practice efforts to catch and release tarpon because of its evolutionary significance and value as a species and in consideration of the potential value of research.
With the opening of the new set of Panama Canal locks in 2016, Panama's freshwater bodies increased their salinity, allowing other fish to enter this waterway, like Crevalle Jack, Atlantic Needlefish, and Corvina among others. “This salinity is possibly affecting local vegetation and fish communities, sparking concern for sports fishermen and becoming a subject of increased conversation among a handful of naturalists and ordinary citizens alike in Central America and beyond,” notes Rich Cahill. “This growing interest has propelled us to embark on this study and conservation effort.”
In 2020, concerns about changes in salinity also interested Dr. Jack Stein Grove, Ph.D., marine biologist and lead author of FISHES OF THE GALAPAGOS (Grove & Lavenberg, 1997) published by Stanford University Press. Dr. Grove’s interest in the project is linked to the discovery of Atlantic Tarpon along the Pacific shores of Ecuador just a few years ago. Dr. Grove joined this project as a board member interested to see further scientific study and data on the journey of this newcomer range in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Corridor CMAR.
Although the scientific community has been studying tarpon transit along with that of other fish species for years, there remain many unknowns regarding tarpon. We intend to generate new understanding and knowledge of this important prehistoric fish that lives with us in the waters of the modern world. It is the goal of Panama Tarpon Conservation to involve the sportfishing community along with the scientific community, to collaborate in providing data for both new and ongoing research to move the tarpon and its migration from the world of mystery and sport-fishing conversation to that of understanding and fact. It is also our mission to elevate this ancient species to the protection of that of a full catch-and-release fish.