Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Falling Star

Early the next morning I had to follow the call of the nature, walking a stretch away from the camp, positioning myself on the bush line, I rose my eyes towards the sky and discovered Cassiopeia and my beloved Orion (from European perspective upside down) and in that very moment a decent falling star made its way right through Orion... I was just shivering and in love, respect and grateful for that moment. That perfect moment had a very deep meaning to me in just one second it condensed much more than could be described by words... 

We left the camp around 7:30 in the morning to push our way back towards Kendjam. And pushing was literally the case. As the river level was dropping fast during the last days some of the sections where tight and shallow demanding us to walk besides the boat. Or in my case to help Ramiro and the two Kayapós in our boat to push the boat back upstream through the rapids and low sections. As the Kayapó had no sturdy shoes and even lost their sandals they had a hard time to pull and push the boat. We had the one or other tight situation with the boat more dominating us than we the boat. Thus it was my turn to help and bring in some energy, sometimes pushing or pulling the boat faster than the Kayapó could follow and a couple of times even fast than Ramiro. That was the physical work out I was waiting since a week. 

Looking back I am sorry that I was upset in that moment about the Kayapó as they were more than once more interested to look for turtle eggs, following the call of the nature or just not showing a sign to catch up to the boat. My upset mood was wrong. What is time to them? There was no need or even logic reason for them to push as hard and without shoes they were slightly handicapped. Right in that moment I did not understand it. But there is no right for us to force them to accept our way of thinking.

I am sorry for that.

Chief Pykatire Kayapó

After a long boat ride or boat push we reached Kendjam, the way back up to the village took us close to 4,5 hours. A good preparation for the flight in the small airplane of 3,5 hours.
At Kendjam we were received by the village chefs and guided to the central house to tell them how much we liked it to have been guests in their garden. As only Breno could thank them with less language barriers in Portuguese it was his honor to express our thank and awe of their nature and culture.

Later on Rodrigo told us that Chief Pykatire Kayapó said to him while setting up the whole idea of Kendjam Fly Fishing some years ago, that the Kayapó would allow the white man to visit their Garden, but not to sleep in their huts.
For Chief Pykatire and the whole tribe it was of high importance that we took good care of the Iriri River, its fish and the nature and would did not do any harm.

As the Kayapó slowly adopt the meaning of money - 'sad leaves' as they call it - they were more or less eager to sell some of their crafted hunting clubs and artisan bracelets and necklaces. I could not resist buying some more of these characteristic and beautifully crafted bracelets. 

Breno's power ant bracelet

As there is a school house and several satellite dishes and even a pay phone in the village the regular contact with the world outside of their community is obvious. It will change their live and eventually year by year their habits and trades will change.

As even in that remote village soccer in general and Bayern München are well known and part of their culture as well, I received a special Kayapó nick name: "Florian sete a uno" that means "Florian seven to one" based on the legendary match in Belo Horizonte where Germany won seven to one against Brazil in the world soccer half finals 2014 (Germany later on won the Championship). 

Eventually the engine sound of the approaching plane became louder and louder. The twin engine plane touched down and spit out the next group of four American fishermen. As the globally traveling fishing community is small there were some contacts or well-known faces and hellos.
Bye bye to Kendjam! Thank you so much for these unique impressions!

We entered the plane and had a bumpy take off over Kendjam, the characteristic Granit monolith two kilometers away from the village and set course to Nuovo Progresso. A village that cannot be described, hot dry in the middle of nowhere. It is supposed to be more or less kind of capital of jungle destruction, mining business and agriculture. We refueled there and loaded a copilot. Copilot and pilot where flying the next two hours blindfold as the front window was covered with a sunshield and where talking constantly about topics that were strictly located under that line where fishermen usually wear their belt... 

Touch down in Manaus. Welcome by Rodrigo and Marcellus from Untamed. Hotel, shower and nice welcome dinner with some good Malbec and meat in Manaus. Thank you Rodrigo and Marcellus for that lovely reception and evening! And thank you for the whole venture!

That was Kendjam with Untamed, exploration season 2015! A great, a marvelous experience!
If you are a seasoned traveling fly fisherman, able to cast a popper more or less precisely a whole day, thrilled by new experiences and variety of jungle fish and are not shy of sand between your toes: that is for you, secure your slot right now! Contact me for further assistance, guidance and reference.

Friends after a perfect week

My main love will be more with New Zealand trout, I love the visual aspect of sight fishing in absolute clear cold water and the slightly lower temperatures their so much, that I would choose NZ if I had to. But that is me and only my personal highly subjective opinion of a NZ-addicted fly fisher hunted by water…

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

All good things have to come to an end… but there are other galaxies with unexplored rivers!

The last day of the fishing week started. We fished our way back up to the main camp. Catching fish as usual. But usual was not usually as we had two half days with very slow action. It turned out - thanks to Steff's watch with barometric pressure graph - that in both cases the air pressure dropped massively. There was no weather change involved, just pressure change made the fish behave differently. I never believed in such influence but that coincidence was striking as both boats observed it.

We all packed our belongings for an early next morning start back to Kendjam. That night the Kayapó Djokrô approached Breno to teach him some more English phrases. Djokrô is the son of the village chief Pykatire. A family that might indeed have the mindset to foster development and make wise decisions. Djokrô was the most interested, approachable and open minded Kayapó of the mates that guided us. Thus this evening we explained him the basic principles of steering a boat while fly fishing such as the constant distance to the bank, holding the boat at good spots and the clock scheme to give the crazy tourists hints where to cast. Breno recoded the phrases in English and Portuguese on Djokrô’s smart phone (!), he was highly motivated to increase his knowledge. At the same time he sold us a couple of more Kayapó bead-bracelets. 

Are we supposed to influence their strong culture in such a strong way as we already started? Should we deny it and leave them and wait till their land is destroyed by exploration? Wouldn't be a sustainable form of tourism the best way to those people, this unique nature and thus to protect it? Wouldn't their culture change anyway during the next years with smart phones already in the village?

I sat long into the next day under this marvelous sky full of myriads of distant stars, the Milky Way and millions of other galaxies, some of these galaxies with planets such as our blue ball… Do these worlds have such a fun think called fly fishing as well? Could you imagine tour planet without the gift of fly fishing? 

I sat outside on the big sand bank our camp was located on, thinking about such crazy questions, gazing at the stars and the Milky Way and thinking of that magnificent experience we all had here sharing the Iriri River, the garden and source of food of the Kayapó. We shared their land and home for a week of many impressions that were burned deep in our memories ready to be remembered in such moments of grey dull mood that make us want to escape to pristine flowing water…  

Writing these lines I was just slightly missing a glass of red or a cigar...

... to be continued with the last part.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Another day in Paradise and relocation to Paradise II.

Third day fishing... Can not remember well anymore. It’s the same with counting fish caught, after the first hand (five) I usually louse count. Think we went upriver towards more structure and had a good day, as all of the days at Iriri River were good. Above the main camp (as of 2015 exploration season) the river shows more structure. In the lower part that is fished, long slow runs dominate and interesting rapids are much further apart.

Some thoughts about tossing poppers all day: Personally, that is kind of boring after a while especially if action is low. To maximize your hook up rate make your fly fish the most time by casting it quickly and efficiently as close to the structure as possible. One meter away is not close, 10cm are good. Avoid false casting, one or two hauls/false casts and then let the line shoot. No need to strip all the way back to the boat, watch if a fish follows and if not recast quickly when there is still enough line on the water to load your rod quickly. Casting nicely is good for the person watching you, but you want to catch fish. Over gun your rod by one number heavier line, which will transport even sailfish popper kind of efficient.


To cover more water and to give the fished water a rest, the fourth day meant to move downstream in an out-camp. Normally moving is related to work and effort, in that case it is related to fishing as we fished the way downstream to the out-camp. As mentioned, further downriver the river shows less structure, but that offers for a change and still provides good fishing. Depending on the water level it might be related to more drift fishing and less wading. It is pretty obvious that the wading stile is comparable to saltwater flats: wet wading in very warm water but combined with big Granit rocks, thus decent wading boots and neoprene socks are the way to go. Actually wading is a good change after a hot drift in the sun. The sting rays can usually be spotted easily, still care should be taken to avoid them.

Iriri River is the garden of the Kayapó, it is even more, it is their main road and supply of food. So we shared their resource of food. We ate their fish and we shared their turtle eggs. Right. As it was turtle egg season, they went to sandy beaches to test the hardness of the sand with their feet and started to dig at some kind of soft patches, digging more than a dozen turtle eggs per nest. The eggs pretty much consisted only of egg yellow. They liked to beat them up with (lots of) sugar, add some rather hard manioc and eat it. The taste was good, only the very junky manioc was irritating. Another day we asked for turtle scrambled eggs. Their texture and taste was bewildering as it was more similar to polenta than to scrambled eggs. Not bad but just unfamiliar.  

On our late last kilometers downriver towards the out-camp, the sun already very low, we discovered a Tapir crossing the river. We followed it and came very close providing us up close contact and shots of that characteristic South American animal. Our boat, so Breno and my boat (we were changing guides and boats every day back and force) was very lucky as we saw around four Tapir during that week. Later on the last Tapir would cross our way as we went back to Kendjam, thus the "other boat" had their first Tapir sighting at the very last call as well. 

The out-camp is beautifully situated on an island tucked in the trees, smaller single sleeping tents but no compromise on comfort such as camp shower, outhouse and eating tent.


That night Guiermo with some support from the Kayapó tried to hand-line some catfish. The whole camp was sitting on the beach and watching with big loughs. Piranha after piranha came to the beach some were feed right to the Cayman that patrolled around attracted by the action. Some of these Caymans came very close to the beach waiting for their share. After close to a dozen fish finally a small redtail catfish came to the beach. Making funny noises that small catfish went back to the water after a big hello from the spectators.

A new morning in paradise dawned. Beautiful early morning light over the steaming river. The night before I removed the fly of my tent and was using only the inner layer of the tent allowing for a well-tempered sleep under the trees and the southern sky with its thousand stars.

Based on the island of the out-camp we fished the fifth day from there downriver. Long glides with low structure are typical for the lower section below the out-camp. Still there could be some action found from Peacocks or Matrinxas with fruit flies or popper flies fished from the drifting boat close to the banks, structure and trees.

After lunch, that as usual consisted of a couple of freshly caught Bass, Pacu and Matrinxa, with rice and some vegetables (carrots aka “yellow wood”) and water (you might probably imagine that I was sick of fish after that week and was looking forward to some decent beef!), one of the Kayapó guides, his name was Kokoti showed us a special natural source of good taste. A walk of around 10 minutes following a path through the jungle lead us to a giant tree that produced a very special fruit: Brazilian nuts or more commonly known sometimes as Para nuts. A large solitary tree under which we found big hard balls around 12cm in diameter that could only be opened by a machete or other powerful means. The big fruits/nuts contained around 15-20 seeds/nuts that again where within a hard shell hiding a big peace of junky nut protein. To keep the natural process of seeding going, there is one mammal that opens these super hard big balls and allows the single seeds to do their job. Absolutely fascinating. These nuts are one of the few trading goods of the Kayapó.

During the lunch break, Kokoti was carving a club out of a piece of very heavy wood (Brazilwood) that would turn read within days. These clubs in various forms are used to hunt pigs. A very strenuous hunt as the Kayapó pretty much search for the pigs and then hunt them down and club them. 

These clubs later on get a handle cover made of woven strings adding some kind of "decorative touch" to them.

Brazilwood gave Brazil it’s name. When Portuguese ships discovered these trees on the coast of South America they called the trees “pau brasil” as they produced red dye, ‘pau’ means wood and ‘brazil’ red/ember-like. These trees are on dangerously low levels as their wood was highly regarded due to their dye wood in the past and today because no other wood is better suited for violin bows.

Back at the camp on "our island" the huge spinner fall under the camp lamp repeated again, the ground beneath the lamp was covered with thousands of dead mayflies, so much that even the Cayman took a mouthful of them. And the catfish session was continued. This evening with higher success as Ramiro caught a decent sized redtail catfish of around 30-40lbs with its hand-line and bait.