I have been incredibly fortunate to fish many of the world’s most exotic and productive fisheries. I have fished Kola’s finest Atlantic salmon rivers, Kamchatka’s best trout and steelhead systems, I have fished darn near everything in BC and Alaska, chased 250 pound tarpon in West Africa, enjoyed the Amazon, explored northern Australia and visited more exotic saltwater spots than I can count. I don’t mention this to brag but rather to calibrate a bold statement that doesn’t slip easily from my lips: That being that my recent trip to Tsimane in Bolivia was the single most interesting and rewarding trip of my fishing career. For me, it had all the elements: True virgin wilderness; noble non-westernized indigenous people; ridiculous biomass/diversity; challenging and at times spectacular fishing; wonderful food, accommodations, guides and service; and just enough risk and rigor to place it outside of the average angler’s comfort zone. After all, the most remote reaches of the Bolivian Amazon are somewhat dangerous by definition!
Ever since seeing my first image of northern Bolivia’s jungle freestone rivers, I have been dying to make the trip. It was four years ago when owner of Untamed Angling Marcelo Perez showed me the images on his laptop in a Buenos Aires café. I have been blubbering excitedly about the green boulder strewn rivers, lush native jungle and fierce acrobatic golden fish ever since and biding my time until I would be wheels down on the jungle airstrip that marks the starting point of the Tsimane adventure.
Before this trip I had never caught a golden dorado. After this trip, I have a deep affinity for the species and consider it one of the world’s greatest game-fish. They are brutal hyper aggressive fish but in the same breath they are wary and well attuned to their surroundings. If I had to make one from scratch, I would use one part salmon/steelhead for where they hold, one part tarpon for how they leap, and one part barracuda for their teeth and attack speed. Then I would stir that up with some gold spray paint, steroids, Red Bull and a sprinkle of methamphetamine for good measure. Just one look in their eye and you can tell they are crazy…not the kind of fish that make good neighbors.
I give them the “Uber-Gamefish” award for a number of reasons. First off, they are the right size and typically range from 3-35 pounds with larger specimens possible. Second, they absolutely crush flies and if one wants it, you cannot strip the fly too fast for them. Third, each and every fish jumps wildly a minimum of three times irrespective of its size, and fourth, they don’t fight forever and they are well behaved for hero shots. I also like the fact that when an angler is playing a smaller member of the species (say under 8 pounds) that larger dorado often maim, kill or devour the smaller fish in the process. And last but certainly not least, they absolutely crush fast moving top water flies under the right conditions.
So I hope that sheds some light on why I think Tsimane is such an outrageous experience. At the end of one particularly impressive day of fishing, world traveler and fly fishing rep extraordinaire Van Rollo Please, announced to the crew that he had just had the single best day of fishing in his life.