Friday, February 3, 2017

Arrival at Rio Mariè - Realm of Cichla Temensis Rex

Breno and I took the second plane for the flight from Manaus in northwesterly direction towards Saint Gabriel de Cochuella. The plane was a two engine with six seats. We shared the space only with the pilot, some Russian luggage and a 150kg generator that I was supposed to hold with my feet during takeoff and landing and possible turbulences. The Russian group was on their direct way towards the mother ship Untamed Amazon with the jet engine powered float plane. It is good for two pilots and 8 passengers. From Saint Gabriel we would fly the last 40 minutes to the ship with the float plane as well. The newly introduced float-plane access made the long boat transfer of the first season obsolete. 

At take-off in Manaus it had a sweating 40°C, no need for any warm clothes. Our small plane took off and gained altitude up to around 7.000 feet. After a while that was kind of chilly and I started to freeze badly in my shirt and shorts. Luckily I had a thin IceBreaker with me. So the cold was not so bad. After flying some time - which in my opinion was close to several hours - my bladder did send some signals that a soon relief would be highly welcomed. It was more than that, it was more like an emergency call from a soon to burst holding device. Asking about the remaining flight time the answer was kind of shocking: One hour and ten more minutes remaining flight time! I probably would not stand that and would cause some spillage. Thus my brain started to find an appropriate work-around. I had bottles on hand, but their opening was much too small to do the procedure without a mess. And as I had no knife I could not cut one in half to produce a funnel. Doing it directly into the ice chest? No way. But I had juice tetra packs that would provide as a funnel as they could be modified by ripping them. And there was the important missing link: I had tape in my back pack I had access to. With and accordingly prepared juice tetra pack, a 0,33l bottle, some tape and a M.Sc. in Industrial Engineering I produced my device for relief. The last problem was to do it seated and concealed from the pilot and Breno because if they would get notice of my maneuver, they would immediately have started to laugh so much that the plane would be in great danger. With all tricks available I managed the procedure and the bottle was full to the neck within seconds containing some characteristic colored fluid.

The last hour of the flight went smoothly circumnavigating some big clouds, passing the erratic and impressive granite mountains near Saint Gabriel and touch down at the air strip in Saint Gabriel. After that the running joke was: “Did I mention that I peed on the plane?”

Saint Gabriel is a very basic and remote airport with probably less than five plane movements a day. Reloading to the much bigger jet turbine powered floatplane (including the payload of 150kg generator) and we were on our last 40 minutes flight towards Untamed Amazon. Very smooth touch down on Rio Negro and taxiing to Untamed Amazon – the impressive boat was reality! No fake! I already knew it from the ship yard a year before. In August 2015 before the exploratory trip with Breno to Kendjam (see according blog posts for that adventure) we visited the ship yard. Back then the construction was in its last steps and we saw the plans of the finished ship. But now I could see it in reality, beautiful and impressive at the same time: Untamed Amazon.







We reached the landing stage on the stern of Untamed Amazon and set step on our home for the next week. Breno and I made home base in the right front cabin, lacking one of the huge panorama windows that are typical for the six main guest rooms, but cooler and les noisy at night. In addition we had our own porch, as we could step outside and had direct access to the small platform at the bow of the ship. As the solar power plant on the ship’s roof, supposed to charge the batteries in its hull during day and powering the ship during night, did not yet work, the generator would have to run 24/7. Making the whole ship sounding with a background noise, not to bad but not exactly silent. In the basement where the ship crew had their rooms it was definitely kind of noisy. Besides that minor and soon to be solved issue, the guest rooms are just perfect.

The ship crew is a special topic for itself. To do them justice I will start with them. First and foremost there are two persons that are the good soul of the ship: Manuela a truly wonderful, charming, friendly, beautiful and heart breaking hostess. A hostess every lodge owner or camp manager could only dare to have! She is an avid fly fisher as well. And there is Leandro the chef/ cook that made and exceptional good job, avid fisherman as well; he managed to surprise us every single day. Main course and desert were always a delight, wine and alcohol were plenty and good as well. Besides his task behind the fire, Leandro is the boat manager and in charge of keeping the mood on this vessel at an acceptable level. A task that at times is far from easy.

Besides these two crew members there is Maria Paula the very friendly assistant hostess and the guide team of five avid guides (Agustin, Everton, Marcos, Nico, Pablo (head guide)). During the day on the 20-foot skiffs (very well made, perfect boats! Equipped with bow mounted Minn Kota motors to maneuver and drift the boat silently while fishing) the guides are supported by a local “boatman” as an assistant local guide that knows the river and the fish very well. Untamed Amazon is piloted by Orleans who does an exceptional job as well. One evening Breno and I were lucky to follow a difficult landing maneuver during a pitch black night directly from the bridge. Imagine a totally dark bridge, outside nothing but stars, every now and then a bright light beam was turned on to scan the surrounding and the distance to the banks, the ship moving upstream with around 9 km/h, only few words on the otherwise silent bridge. Decelerating and approaching the beach determined for night-anchorage, very carefully, meter by meter, with that big vessel in the middle of Rio Negro, very gentle contact to the beach and there we were at our spot for the night to come. I was in awe of Orleans.

Next day (post) fishing will start.... stay tuned and share if you like it.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Rio Marié – Rio de Gigantes – let the second week begin!

Transfer from Belo Horizonte after INHOTIM Art Museum (see pictures and brief information in the post before) was straight via Brasilia and last leg to Manaus. Reception and transfer to the hotel - as usual with Untamed - went as it should be: reliable and quick. Check in and shower at the hotel. 
It was good to be back in serious fishing business with friend Breno! The week was supposed to be good!

Diner was at Soho Lounge a no frills Sushi place with delicious Sushi just some 500 meters away from the hotel. We walked. No Taxi. For European standards, that is a nonsense annotation but for Brazil that is not common for kind of tourists.

Just weeks before the Trip, Breno told me that we would be accompanied during our week at Rio Marié by a group of seven Russians and the personal (!) Norwegian (!) photographer of one of them. I was looking forward to ask them about global politics (just kidding). Seven Russians?! WTF was our first thought? Let’s see what the week would bring. It could be funny with a lot of alcohol, hoping that the boat’s supply would never end. Because addicted without their toys are hard to take. I had that once on the Seychelles. But I stop here with any prejudice.

Next morning we had the luck to be in the second smaller and later plane, so we could have slept longer, but I did not manage to adjust my iPhone to the appropriate time zone, thus I set the alarm clock to 5:30. So we had more than plenty of time to have breakfast and to prepare our gear. Breno, I must admit, was kind of irritated why this German did set the alarm clock so early, but took it professional with humor of a good friend.

What about Rio Marié, what makes it so special? In the first post about my ULTIMATE JUNGLE BLAST I mentioned the exceptional high quality of Giant Peacock Bass fishing of this venue. Giant Peacock Bass live in several parts of South American Amazon and are one of the most regarded fish to catch in that area. Catching a “tenner”, thus a fish of 13lbs or more is an achievement, catching a fish beyond 20lbs might be the GPB of your lifetime, catching a +20lbs GPB on fly is over the top and having the real chance to catch more than one +20lbs GPB within one week is kind of beyond the charts. And exactly that is Rio Marié by Untamed. It is beyond the charts!

I have to confess that I am not into GPB fishing at all and can only hardly imagine what it means to catch such a +20lbs “Temensis Rex” (their correct name is Cichla Temensis). It might be as exceptional as catching a 30lbs Huchen (aka Taimen) in Bavaria on the fly. But I am just guessing. For me the special appeal of Rio Marié definitely was to add a good week fishing with Breno in an extraordinary setting and to add another week of fishing one of the best spots for one species on this planet after the first week at Tsimane. It is kind of spoiling yourself but considering setup cost and travel time from Europe it just makes sense to fish two or even three destinations of Untamed in one back to back trip. 

Source of Rio Marié is in Colombia, flowing to the east it oxbows its way through the northwest Amazon jungle of Brazil, joining Rio Negro, a huge tributary of Amazon, after more than 500 miles. The whole system of Rio Marié and its tributaries are inside the Indigenous Territory of Medio Rio Negro. In the past this area was only “used” by native indigenous tribes for sustainable fishing. In 2014 the Brazilian government and the local native communities granted ten years of exclusive fly fishing access to Untamed Angling. Altogether this adds up to some 500miles of fly fishing including several tributaries, creeks, lagoons and old oxbows of the river. Combined with the careful and caring development, characteristic for Untamed Angling, this provides the best possible fundament for an exceptional fishing experience.

As GPB are not uncommon you might ask what is so special about Rio Marié to produce such a high percentage and number of fish beyond that magical mark of +20lbs? There is not one answer to that question. Several facts might have an influence. The area is very remote and pretty much untouched by any fishing pressure by locals let alone fly fishing tourists. Thus there is no harvesting and fish can grow as long as they survive their predators. GPB in that area – might be kind of trout in NZ – follow survival of the fittest and a steep pyramid develops: low total numbers of GPB but the ones that are there develop a very high average weight. 

GPB occur in two distinct color stadiums: the Paca (bronze with white spots) and the Acu form more greenish, yellow with the thick black stripes. The Acu form is actually the spawning and post spawning color of the fish. GPBs built a nest on the river ground that is kind of a 1,5 meter diameter bowl. In that bowl they “breed” and protect their descendants. For spawning they can gain considerable weight. Fishing takes place in that post spawning time and some of the takes might be related to parents protecting their kids.

In loose order during the next weeks (as of late January 2017) I will post the story about my week at Rio Marié and the very special fish I caught...

To get a sneak preview check out issue #61 of This is Fly. Link and share my blog if you like what you read.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Once in a while a healthy brain needs some change – art at INHOTIM

After Tsimane I planned some cultural distraction. Flying via VVI - GRU towards CNF aka Belo Horizonte I spend two days south of Belo Horizonte to visit INHOTIM. INHOTIM is a marvelous land/ art/ museum/ park. The day there was impressive - I loved it. Exploring the various galleries, buildings,sections, pieces, artists! This museum should be explored thoroughly and a whole day is invested very wisely. Two relaxed days might be a good choice.

Not really close to INHOTIM but very nice is the Pousada Estalagem do Mirante. The three nights there were a good choice, overlooking the landscape, cool and windy at night. But do not expect overwhelming food at the pousada. Nevertheless a perfect and peaceful place to spend some days. Thank you for the good company and guiding!

Wednesday very early, the flight towards Manaus via Brasilia was about to leave from Belo Horizonte. Breno  “my partner in crime” and I were ready to start the upcoming week at RIO MARIE - The river of the Giants. Marie is the river of truly gigantic Giant Peacock Bass in the middle of the Brazilian Amazon close to the Colombian border. Probably one of the spots on earth with the largest distance to any man made street. But that is the next chapter of the ULTIMATE JUNGLE BLAST.

Enjoy some pictures of INHOTIM and the Pousada (the last pictures far down - they are worth it!).