Friday, November 18, 2016

Upstream in Paradise



The morning greeted us with hundred Macaws presenting their morning performance in the trees on the other side of the creek. We had kind of a warm breakfast, after we put on our wet fishing clothes we were prepared for new adventures! Off we went to explore the creek upstream. Upstream in paradise! 

Step by step the water became clearer and clearer. Fish were lying in the creek pretending they would be trout. Unbelievable. Magic. Some pools were inhabited by half a dozen or even more Dorados of 15-25lbs. Chances were good but it was not default to catch fish in every pool. We fished very fine small deceiver style flies around size 3/0 without any weight, casting left or right of the head of the fish, if he was in mood, he would turn and take the fly. Very slowly, sometimes, exactly like a trout in NZ. Sometims just smashing it with brute force.



One situation made a long lasting impression as it was kind of absurd. We reached a riffle and above us in the end of a gliding pool were around 5 to 10 very reasonably sized Dorados close to each other facing upstream on the edge of the pool, around 5-10 kg each. I did cast my fly in their direction and immediately all, literally all of them turned around and darted for my fly. As if their heads would bang against each other none of them reached and took my fly! Seeing that was marvelous. 

Sometimes the fish you do not catch are the most memorable. Six years ago I had this on a remote atoll in the Seychelles. We were fishing there for 12 days mainly for Bonefish. One of the last fish I spotted on the flat, I intentionally did not cast to but memorized that dark eye of the flat’s ghost in my visual memory for the rest of my time. That fish, not caught, not harmed, never forgotten.





Fish were abundant (we did not take pics of all caught, but it was not given to catch every fish). The place was magic. Still we only saw part of its potential, as our time was limited and the water still not perfectly clear. I could continue to write here about some trivial details such as the unspoiled nature (it was absolute pristine), the unbelievable Dorado population, the chance to see a Jaguar behind the next corner, the birds, the trees, but as words would not do it justice, I won’t. As words might not do justice, you have to experience it. The strange thing was, that I felt just as comfortable and "at home" as on my backyard river Loisach in the Bavarian Alps. The remote wildernes was just there. I loved it. We loved it.


  



With only less than an hour left to fish, Chris managed to catch and land the most magnificant Golden Dorado I saw to date. It was not the largest of that trip but it was the most beautiful Dorado. No marks, no scars, just pristine. It was sheer power and muscles. Nevertheless it was beyond 20lbs.

At around 1:30pm we had to turn around and start the long way downriver to the camp and further on to the lodge. Our way back was comfortably supported by the fascinating dugout canoes of the Tsimane. They are made of just one tree and carved to a wall thickness of something between one and two centimeters. Perfect boats for that location as the wood would easily glide over rocks or sunken trees compared to modern aluminum hulls. 

Floating downriver and wading the shallow sections took around four hours. Even here in that remote place the distance or around 25km we floated showed the difference in the jungle and its structure. The trees and the plants changed as the river reached more flat sections downriver. 

We reached the Lodge without any issues and had a nice last evening with cigars, whiskey and talking fish.









 



Next day, packing, boating down towards Oromomo, passing the junction of Secure and Pluma river and fly out towards Santa Cruz. There our team had a nice farewell dinner at a local restaurant with good filet, lots of salad and plenty of red. That way we ended our nice trip. 

Thank you to Daniel from Fly Fishing Caribe, Chris from The Caddis Fly Shop, Carlos (aka Grandpa), Hernan and Alexis and to Fernando and Carlos and their teams for friendship and the good time!

The highest appreciation and admiration for Fernando and Carlos and their guiding and camp teams for making all that possible!

That was Asunta and Aqua Negra Lodge at Tsimane by Untamed Angling in September 2016!

Fishing was far from easy but overall we all caught our share of fish. We lost a day due to flooding, but that should be expected by every seasoned fly fisher - perfect conditions are not granted. Company of the group, food, (part-time) friendship at the Lodges were outstanding. That is not given as there are some severe fools jumping around on some destinations. Tsimane is THE place to fish in pristine jungle combined with the best and most comfortable service for this crazy golden fish and king of the jungle rivers of Southern America: Golden Dorado. 

This ULTIMATE JUNGLE BLAST ist not yet over - the next stop over will be Rio MariĆ© for Giant Peacock Bass in the Brasilian Amazone. Stay tuned! 

(Before that I might add some art/ cultural insights on that marvelous INHOTIM art and land art exhibition close to Belo Horizonte, Brazil)



Some notes for the memory and packing list: leader 40lbs level with 40lbs or 30lbs wire. Flies very small and light for the creek. Black, violet/ red/ yellow/ orange/ green for the main rivers. Size 4/0 fits all, just vary with the size of the fly. Smaller hooks only for the creek. Weighted with muddler head (could be substituted with modern string material) for the main rivers. Insect and fruit flies (wooden balls) for Pacu. Three to four rods 8 or 9 (the big Dorado was caught on 8# rod with WF-F 9 line and a Alfa Fishing reel from Finland) with warm water WF-F (creek and popper) and WF-I-tip (main river). A WF-S (300 grain or so) might be a good option to have on hand in case the river is high. Take at least one spare of everything. Do not forget stripping gloves or finger protection. Take wet wading gear that does not rub your skin between the legs, NZ-style tights, tight fitting boxers and shorts might be the best way to go wet wading. To avoid slipping around felt and studs would be the best option, or very soft soles. My two year old Simms Vaportread Vibram without studs where a nuisance and their quality is questionable as they are falling apart after just 35 days of fishing. There is a laundry service at the lodges, so do not take to much clothes. Take a real rain jacket and some warm top in case you hit a cold day. Take watertight backpacks such as the ones from Patagonia.

If you have any questions in terms of tackle, advice or booking, feel free to contact me.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Pacu that was mistaken for a Yatorana and ended up to be a … surprise by a mysterious pool



After a quick check of the camp we continued our way upriver and started to spot and catch fish. As always I am very bad on keeping the count or remember any average fish and catch experiences. And we learned that average up here was something of around +15lbs of Dorado.

Both of us had contacts and caught some fish. After a while fishing and tramping upriver we reached a big, deep, long, very slow gliding and totally murky pool. A Pacu-looking spot and thus Chris caught a decent Pacu (Pirapitinga) and landed it after a good fight. I took some pictures of his catch, before I said: “now it is my turn on a Pacu.” I started with a likewise cast and slow retrieve to catch a Pacu as well.


After a quick check of the camp we continued our way upriver and started to spot and catch fish. As always I am very bad on keeping the count or remember any average fish and catch experiences. And we learned that average up here was something of around +15lbs of Dorado.

Both of us had contacts and caught some fish. After a while fishing and tramping upriver we reached a big, deep, long, very slow gliding and totally murky pool. A Pacu-looking spot and thus Chris caught a decent Pacu (Pirapitinga) and landed it after a good fight. I took some pictures of his catch, before I said: “now it is my turn on a Pacu.” I started with a likewise cast and slow retrieve to catch a Pacu as well. 

Just after a couple of cast I got a solid take. Hard and constantly pulling so that none of us was in doubt it would be a Pacu, it took quite some time till the fish came near the surface and we could get a glimpse of its tail: tat was not a Pacu!




It looked like a huge Yatorana as we could see some reddish taint of its tail in that very murky water. It’s fight could have been one of a Yatorana as it never jumped. Not bad either, as Yatorana are said to be pound by pound the strongest fish in that environment. Some more minutes and repeated strong thrusts towards the pools depth made us doubt the Yatorana hypothesis. It was just too long and too hard for a Yatorana. Finally the fish showed up near the surface and it was obvious that I hooked a very big Dorado! Now as we saw the size of that “cow” I was anxious to land it and hold it in my hands. Trying to keep the fish off balance and pulling with the low rod from left and right against its direction. Afraid that the barbless hook (only barbless fish count) would fall out. Finally this golden slap became more tired and after several attempts Luciano managed to hold the leader and securely grab the fish’s tail and “land it” (as the fish was in the water all the time, landing is not the precisely right term here).

 
 

Taking pictures was kind of difficult, as handling a camera with default settings and no need to change anything and clear advice to do exactly that, does not necessarily lead to that. So we had to do the photo session twice to get some acceptable shots. Weighing the fish in a weighing bag resulted in close to 29lbs, a length of 92cm and a girth of 69cm. A real cow! One of the largest fish of that season at Tsimane. Wow! A moment to remember.

Reviving the fish took some time as the fight was long and the procedure after that very gentle and care taking but not without stress. After a while the monster swam away with strong strokes of its huge tail.

I was just lucky! And thankful for the support by Chris and Luciano. And thank you Daniel Beilinson for that trip! 

That was the mysterious pool… who knows what else is in there...

We continued to fish upstream. The creek became eventually clearer, but it was kind of smoky the rest of the afternoon. Fishing well beyond the camp site and catching fish by fish. Fishing up here was special. As the fish were laying on the etch of current or at the glide out of pools as if they would be trout in South Island New Zealand. Nor ordinary Brown Trout but Trout on golden steroids. 
Casting for them was even close to casting for a trout in Fiordland. Light flies just left or right to the head of the fish, kind of dead drift, the fish would eventually turn around and take the fly, just as a trout, but the take and the fight are way different. Brute force and power! Marvelous it was and far to short…

Eventually we turned around. Sad to end this day that provided such a marvelous afternoon.   





Sometimes only one single fish, makes a huge difference. It might be the one special trout or even a trophy in NZ SI or that one Permit or that one big Dorado or the long awaited Pacu. Fishing is just like that. Small details make a huge difference, either in fishing, presentation, fly, strike, fight, landing or company. We ended the day at the camp with a camp fire. 

Camp fires after good days of fishing are the true icing on the cake. Sitting with friends, chatting about something, either fishing or politics or the pain of this world, eventually drifting away and entering the land of dreams …





Sunday, October 30, 2016

Flooding of our dreams?



For the next day, Chris and I had high anticipation. The plan was to tramp to a headwater camp of a tributary of Secure. A backcountry trip with in the Bolivian backcountry only for the experienced and angler used to walk many hours a day without a patch. Marcelo, one of the shareholder and founders of Untamed proposed that to me one year before the trip, while I met him after my exploratory trip to Kendjam in August 2015. His words made me listen. 

The following night that annoying bird with its stupid night call was not the worst. Instead the super worst thing happened: in the middle of the night a thunderstorm with very heavy rain reached the whole catchment. Heavy rain was pouring down, lightning strikes right at the camp and close by several times. As if the river would flow directly down right from the sky. Lots of water, too much water for my taste.


In the morning everything was wet, Secure was up and dirty with big tress and logs floating down. How much rain came down, where and with which effect on the tributary we wanted to fish? Questions, doubt and hope at the same time. Finally Luciano came with the bad news that our tributary was flowing roaring four meters above normal level and two of four Tsimane canoes where swept away. No chance to go there this day. The other two groups tried to fish the main river but came back after less than an hour as the main river still rose considerably. We were disappointed. Our plans we dreamed of did not work out. The rain stopped early morning but Secure continued to rise till around 7pm the same day, thus around 12-13 hours later. The whole catchment got a solid storm. Our only option was to wait till the next morning. We did that, spending the day by reading, chatting, writing, sleeping and eating and possibly smoking. Sometimes a day of rest is not the worst, but with those great plans in mind it was just a nuisance, kind of like a wind knot in the leader.

This situation clearly showed that fishing-plans are related to weather and sometimes it is just luck to hit the conditions just right. In locations like that or for example SI NZ, be aware that you might lose the one or other day during a week due to high water. Don’t be upset, enjoy the other days even more!

Next morning we were very happy: we could start our tramp upriver. The tributary was still high and murky like a too strong coffee with some milk and mixed in sand. Neither good for fishing nor for drinking. Crossing the river, back and force at top of the pools, walking on the side or in the river up to the chest, swimming twice with the watertight Patagonia floating backpack as a micro raft for the rod. I did not check the time but guessing we were around 3 to 4,5 hours on our feed. After a while we started to make a few casts in highly promising water or when we could identify some likely Dorado action. Not much success though. 

As we came closer to the spot that was supposed to be our camp for the night, the expectations rose, if the camp would still be there or would have been washed away with the trees and trunks we saw floating down the river. Guide Luciano accelerated his step. Not looking back once (as he never did in my impression - strange habit when you fish with clients).


Some two kilometers below the camp spot we found the shell of one tent stuck in some driftwood. Luckily this was the tent that had the lowest location within the camp, so there was still hope. 

Approaching the camp the water was supposed to become clearer. It did that but only with a gradient as if you would slowly drip single drops of clear water in the above mentioned strong milk coffee.
 
The tributary up here normally would run close to gin clear, but this day it did not. It was still high and dirty. We finally reached the camp and were surprised to see the two sleeping tents still in place. They got some water inside and might have been under water for up to a foot during peak flood, but it meant that our plan to camp and fish the other day was not jeopardized. As the four Tsimane following us some hours later would bring Chris’ and mine dry sleeping bag, we even would not have to rest like a fish in a wet environment but would have a dry place to sleep. So this adventure could continue and we did not yet start fishing seriously.


 
 

A tremendous part of fly fishing and traveling – at least for me - is to experience truly remote place, discover untouched nature and to see places “normal” tourists barely ever might visit. After years of traveling that became kind of normal to me. But this place nevertheless was special, remote jungle within an area that was already remote. Birds, butterflies, fish, trees, plants and the river. But as remote places with frequently awesome nature are linked to the style of fly fishing I love, I am kind of used to it and do not consider it as unusual. I just soak it up in my memory and silently enjoy. At that place I would not have been surprised if there would have been a Jaguar right behind the next river bend as we were in an area with one of the highest remaining Jaguar populations on that planet.

We had very high anticipations for the remaining hours of the day…

(spoiler: some very good action was just hours away!)

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