Sep 30th, 2011
Dear Fly Water Travel Team,
As I unpack my bags from our trip to Bolivia, I can’t help but reflect on what an amazing experience we had and wanted to write a quick report. In short, we had one of the best journeys of our lives!
The interaction with the local people, fantastic accommodations, great guides and staff, and phenomenal fishing combined to make this trip so special.
When we landed at the Asunta lodge the local members of the Tsimane tribe came readily to meet us. I had brought some candy and my fishing partner brought some cute hair clips that his young daughters had chosen for the local girls. I was really impressed as the older children guided the young children to the front to get the candy. They were so kind to each other. The hair clips were a real treat for the young girls in the tribe. They traded the clips and took turns helping each other put the clips in their hair. I noticed one little girl that had a bag that she kept all of the treasures that the fishing guests had given her. The guides and the staff at Untamed Angling treat these people with the utmost respect and kindness and I could tell the feelings were returned as the local people hugged the guides and the guides joked with and put their arms around the young men in the village the way one would a little brother.
We left the village and took a short boat ride to the lodge. We were greeted with fresh fruit juice and refreshments. Both lodges were beautiful and the food fantastic. The beds were very comfortable and the bug nets kept all the critters out. There were many insects in the jungle and riverside but most did not seem interested in us. The lodges are made out of striking local wood and are a comfortable base when not out exploring the rivers. The lodges are decorated with pictures and art from the local people. I thought that the bow and arrows hanging on the wall were decorative but one night one of the head guides ran in and exclaimed “there is a family of wild pigs close to the lodge,” and grabbed one of the arrows off the wall. He gave it to one of the locals and the arrow was later returned to the wall with blood on it. I understand the locals dined on pork that night!
The guides were world class. They possessed a deep expertise in the local culture, jungle, rivers, fish and fly fishing. At the first lodge we fished with Jean Baptiste Vidal who is the Kau-Tapen manager in Terra Del Fuego when he is not in Bolivia. I had friended him on Facebook a month or so before the trip (highly recommended) and brought him some hard to find tools and a highly coveted copy of the Drake magazine. He and the other excellent guide Fabien had tied us 40 custom flies for $7 each. The flies were the best quality flies I had ever seen and were museum quality. They also fished like magic!
At the second lodge we fished with Fernando and Pablo who are from Argentina. Pablo was incredibly skilled and encouraging when we asked him to help us fine-tune our technique. He got so excited when we made a perfect cast, “that was huge!”, or when we would land a big one. Fernando is a professional photographer who has a deep spiritual tie with the local people, jungle and rivers. He would stop as we hiked through the jungle and point out the trees that the locals used for making rope and hunting bows.
All of the guides are teamed with one or two locals and it was fascinating watching them work together. They respect each other so much and work together as a perfect team. Countless times a native guide would climb a boulder and find fish that we would not have seen even with polarized glasses. We took a break from fishing for a short while one evening when returning to the lodge and watched the local guides hunt wild turkeys. They could call them from the trees with nothing but their voices. That was a really special experience.
The fishing was exactly as advertised. There were a few days where we hiked and fished our hearts out and the fish were spooky or did not seem interested in anything we had to offer. There were also days where it seemed each accurate cast to a sighted fish or structure would be rewarded by a split second strike! These Dorado are ferocious predators and a joy to fish for. The Pacu were more subtle and elusive like a permit and were pure power when on the line!
My favorite two fish were so different. The first was with Jean. We brought our dug out canoe around a corner and came to view a magical cathedral in the jungle river! A gust of wind had blown flowers and fruits down from the trees and covered a pool the size of a football field. About 15 Pacu were gently sipping the flowers and fruit off the still surface. Jean quietly said that he had never seen this many Pacu in a pool feeding in this manner. He said you have traveled a long ways for this experience lets just watch for a moment. Then he tied on a special floating fly he had tied just for this situation and after a couple of near misses, I made (luckily) a perfect cast to a Pacu who went right for it! The fight was electric as the Pacu tore my line out many times and was eventually landed for a quick picture and release. As I was bringing the Pacu in Jean would remind me to enjoy and savor the special experience. What great advice! I hope I remember that experience forever.
The second fish was more of a chaotic burst! I really wanted to catch a big Dorado out of a feeding frenzy and had come close a few times. It is really an amazing experience to be within 10 feet of 5-10 20lb Dorado pushing hundreds of 2lb Sabalo into the rocks on the shore and devour them as white water splashes 3 feet in the air! On the last hour of the last day Fernando and I got our best chance. We had already landed quite a few “Muy Grande” Dorado and I already was considering it a perfect day when we saw a huge rush of white water in a side pool of the Lower Pluma River. Quickly doing the “stingray shuffle” we hustled over to intercept the monsters as they came over a riffle and re-entered the main channel of the river. I made a short cast of maybe 10 feet to a group of 3 huge Dorado who were coming straight at us looking like bullies who had just kicked some serious butt in a neighborhood brawl. One of the monsters took the andino deceiver and rushed straight at me within 6 inches. I did not have a chance to set the hook and did a 180 degree spin as the fish raced past me and did the most aggressive strip-set of my life! The fish took me into the backing in seconds and went airborne 7 or 8 times before we tailed him for a quick picture.
My partner’s favorite fish came 15 minutes later. He hooked a 3lb Dorado and it jumped up on a log and flopped a couple of times. My friend said to Fernando that he was going to shake it off but Fernando said to watch for a second and that there were some huge fish in the pool. As Fernando was finishing his sentence a monster with a 5 gallon bucket mouth full of sharp teeth came lunging out of the water and devoured my friend’s fish! Somehow, the hook transferred from the victim to the huge Dorado. My friend said the take was so ferocious that it actually scared him. After a great fight we took some pictures of the fish and laughed as it splashed us on its way back to the pool. I was laughing as the little 1-2” Dorado kept trying to bite my fingers while I took the submerged video. We all just sat there in the water not believing what had just happened and feeling incredibly lucky to have had the chance to experience it. Fernando taught us to say thank you to the river in the Tsimane language. It was a deeply touching afternoon.
Please feel free to share this with anyone you care to. I hope that I have presented some of the flavor for what this adventure is about.
Give us a call at 800-552-2729 to book your dorado fishing adventure at Tsimane Lodge!