Sunday, October 16, 2016

Tsimane and Secure here we come!

Saturday in the morning our adventure was supposed to start! Via two small planes our group took off from the tiny national airport of Santa Cruz for the two hours flight north northwest towards Tsimane area and Secure river system. After a while the landscape becomes greener and more natural as the pastoral land is left behind. One can only wonder how many Coca plantations for cocaine production pass beneath the plane. In Bolivia Coca is legally grown for traditional chewing of the leaves, but production for cocaine is illegal. Flying over that area in a fixed wing plane is ok as long as some areas are avoided, a helicopter would cause panic and possibly flying bullets from the illegal plantations below.
Our flight went safe and the bumpy grass landing strip at Asunta was visible as light green patch in the jungle canopy. Touch down and we were back on the ground safely. Don’t be fooled, that is not controlled double and triple checked air traffic such as we might be used to in our “western states”, that is basic air traffic with accidents unfortunately happening and very sad stories. But in the same way the passenger want’s a save touch down, the pilot is motivated to fly save.  

We and our gear got out of the plane and the group before us went in to end their trip and fly back to Santa Cruz. Carrying the bags to the large wooden motor boats and ten minutes transfer upstream to the new Asunta camp. I got goose bumps motoring upriver – it felt so good to be back! The first time I was at Tsimane I regularly had to remember to close my mouth.  

The new camp is located in a safer location high above the river, compared to the old (first) camp that was magnificently located close to a rapid overlooking the river, unfortunately it was washed away in heavy floods three years ago (no humans injured as it was during off season). New Asunta camp consists of a large main house for meals and hanging out with the fishing mates and four comfortable safari stile tent-huts with bathroom for two anglers each all linked with a huge construction of boardwalk. Plus a couple of huts and constructions for staff, kitchen and supply. For the clients everything is well organized and as comfortable as reasonable for such a location, you might even call it kind of luxurious. 

I was happy to see Fernando Beltran as camp manager of Asunta camp. Four years ago when I first visited Tsimane he was working at the camp, in the meantime he became camp manager. An enthusiastic, jungle loving and care taking manager and guide every operation could only wish to have! His interest and passion for the Tsimane connects the whole venue well to the Tsimane’s activities and their passion to hunt and to explore. Tsimane guides enjoy being on the river to observe and to hunt as those funny white men enjoy this fly fishing thing. And once in a while they take their bow and arrow and hunt for Sabalo which are so abundant in the system that at times you might think to walk over the river on this mass of fish. A good number of Dorados follow the annual upriver spawning run of Sabalo. Besides these migratory Dorado there are resident Dorado in the system. A other fish to target is the highly regarded and challenging Pacu (Pirapitinga, a relative of the Piranha, a fish that eats fruits and fish alike), the Surubi (a big catfish, very hard to catch on the fly) and Yatorana (the best fighter pound by pound).

That first evening Hernan, Chris and I fished the "home pool" without much success. Hernan and Chris got some pulls but nothing lasting. Dorado were just not into feeding mode. We saw a couple roling which is a very bad sign, most likely they will not take and are aware of the fishermen. Was that a sign for the week to come?

First full day fishing, Chris and I went upriver towards upper Secure. A section I could not fish in 2012 due to rain and high river level. Thus every corner was new. We went up a considerable stretch of river without fishing to leave that untouched for our mates before we eventually started to fish. Secure becomes smaller and smaller the further up you go, we took the right river arm three times and finally were fishing a mere creek. Marvelous! Dorado in a tiny creek like that – wow! We took turns and caught our share of fish each. Typical Dorado flies with muddler head, weighted eyes in black combined with some color did the job. Nothing fancy - as often it is more about presentation than the precise color of the fly.



Upper Secure can provide very good opportunities for the highly regarded Pacu. We saw a couple but did not get real shots on them. Pacu - this challenging to catch and hard fighting fish is still on my list.

As I am very bad on counting number of fish or even remembering single “average” fish, I have no idea how many we caught. But size was medium and numbers were rather low, nothing overwhelming in terms of fish, though we saw a couple of good ones. Nice to start again with the Dorados! There was only one bad thing to mention: I broke a rod handling a fish while landing, it might have been typical high sticking aka stupid angler behavior. What is striking though, I only broke three rods up to now in 25 years of fly fishing, all on their very first day of fishing. Thus the engineer in me tells me, that some material issues might not be totally unlikely. On trips like that with big aggressive fish, always, I say always, take plenty of rods with you. As mentioned, for Tsimane I would propose two 8# and two 9#, with WF-F 9, WF-I (tip) 9 and possibly a sink tip line of 300 grains and two or three reels that provide enough power to reel in a 30lbs Dorado. T&T Solar or Exocett, Sage Salt or TCX are good options. Add some (cheap) backup.

Counting and remembering fish - the astonishing ability that seems to be mandatory for most fishing guides. I am very bad on that. As long as I have the impression that something is happening and I catch fish once in a while and kind of regularly, everything is good. And most of the time fishing everything is good. I might remember the outstanding fish such as a Trophy trout in NZ SI or the very big Dorado I caught 2012 or some other special fish (of that trip). But some guides even remember fish that we caught years ago, recalling the fly and precise spot where it happened. Unbelievable. 

Some annotations to clarify on the following posts and pictures. I love to take pictures and try to make them well, but I am an amateur that loves fishing (PS back home now, doing the post production, I came to the conclusion that I should repeat the trip: the yield of ok-pictures is horrifying low). Thus I usually do not take pictures of every fish I land but only of some. Sometimes that comes with lost chances, as you might expect you would continue to catch and once of a sudden it is off. In terms of picture style a special angle on a fish or a good composition are nice to look at and I like them, but pics that intentionally over exaggerate the size of a fish are more a sign of low self-confidence. Such as holding the fish with long arms right in the 10mm ultra wide lens with the fisherman’s head (aka brain) dwarfed behind a 15lbs Dorado to make the fish looking like 30lbs. E.g. a really huge Dorado can be judged by the size of the eyes in relation to the remaining head, if the eyes look very small, the fish most likely is huge. Or by the fisherman’s hand (considering its size as well) holding the fish’s tail. If the tight hand is not closed around the tail, it is most likely a big fish. If the size of the fish is still obvious from the picture it might be ok. It is a thin line between documenting a good moment or telling myth about huge fish that were kind of average.

During that trip I met a professional photographer who very clearly expressed: "I hate exaggerated hero shots."

As a fly fisher you - at least that is valid for me - once in a while might love to have a picture of yourself holding that special fish or just catching a moment with you in the scene. In those situations friends, fishing mates or guides with a good eye and a steady hand are the friends to treat well. As most of us can not afford to bring their own private Norwegian photographer on such a trip. To all the guides, especially to Breno and Chris my fishing mates and friends who took pictures that have a level horizon, provide some area to crop (in case they were off angled), with no changes to the camera setup, pictures that are kind of sharp and are plenty to select the ones without funny faces: Thank you so much! 

To all the others: you would have the chance to make everybody happy (yourself, your company and the client) if that killer shot of your client would be taken by you! 

Enough about those ethics and oppionions for today.

If you like what you read, like the honest and sometimes ironic narrations and get the "nothing is serious" between the lines, or appreciate the first hand insights for the traveling fisherman or just some of the pictures - you might consider to share it among your friends.