First I will apologize for the giant delinquency in our blog posting to the 7 of you who read this. While 16 of us have access to post, I and occasionally a few others actually get around to putting what is on their mind to keyboard, sorry for that as well.
I just spent 2 weeks in Bolivia at Tsimane Lodge pursuing, yep you guessed it by the scales above, Golden Dorado!! And Pacu if you find them fascinating enough to take your mind off the antics of these brilliantly colored eating/killing machines!!
I have done my fair share of fishing around the world and have come to conclusions on what I really enjoy; small group sizes, good/great guiding and food, comfortable enough lodging and an experience that is representative of the culture you are traveling to. This place is IT baby!!!
Imagine if you will sight casting to fish like this, upwards of mid 20 pound range, some even larger actually in water the size of let’s say, the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie, South Fork of the Boise, Metolious, San Miguel, Rock Creek, etc. You know what I am talking about, small streams where stealth is important to catching trout of 14-18 inches and instead, when you peak over a rock, you are slapped in the retina with a 15+pound fish. Not just any fish either, one that jumps multiple times and typically well over 4 feet out of the water and one that also requires the use of at least 30# wire to the fly and not even that guarantees you are landing it – AWESOME!
What the wire should tell you is to keep your freaking digits WAY away from its mouth and yet that not so subtle indicator escapes many, yet this isn’t always the fault of the angler as these fish can actually turn their body around enough to bite their tail if they wanted to which makes a last second shot at your hand as it leaves pretty easy work. It just makes even the release a bit more exciting.
Tsimane Lodge is actually 2 and soon to be 3 camps in 3 regions of Bolivia with access to some of the most beautiful jungle meandering streams you can imagine. The camps are located along the rivers, close enough that as you fall asleep at night you can easily make out the voracious Dorado feasting on the Savalo (perch like fish) all night along the banks. It actually makes falling asleep a bit tough, that and the numerous insects that want a piece of you for their dinner and they make fast work of you too. Don’t dream of coming here without serious Deet.
This takes all but about 2-3 minutes without bug repellent, seriously!
The view from the first camp at Asunta.
What was left a a Savalo after a brief feeding frenzy. This fish was 14 inches long.
After looking at this shot, pretty sure they about 100 or more teeth in that mouth.
Here is a good look at a 20 pounder, certified by boga.
If you can actually tire of such fly angling, surface poppers across fast water or big streamers though the obvious looking water where any fish in its right mind would be, then there are the Pacu. Considered, and are, the toughest of the species to target down there, they are much like a freshwater permit in shape and attitude towards flies not representative of what they want. Spooky too just make sure all parallels are in tact.
This one was kind enough to fall for my lack luster skills. While they do like to run and put up one hell of a tug of war, for me, Dorado are king here.
While Pacu will take small streamers, this seems to be their preferred food, good luck with that.
One more thing to keep in mind for this trip, actually a couple. This is a culturally immersed trip as you spend each and every day with at least one if not two of the native people from the area as “hosts” but in fact, if they could speak English or rather when they can, they will be guiding you. They can spot fish that you swear there is no way they are there, I mean in 8ft of murky water from 75 feet away type stuff, bonefishing would be cinch for these guys. On my down time, with my broken Spanglish, I would teach some of these guys some new knots, share some flies and otherwise laugh at the others when they would pooch nice fish. One of my favorite memories from here is watching these guys on “point” helping one of us spot a big Pacu. When the angler would get a take they would jump up and down and when the fish would be lost, they would throw a rock or jump up and down again. What a rich experience to watch their enthusiasm rub off on all of us.
Secondly is that you will want to be fit for this trip. Spending all day in the sun on a flats boat, being poled around or slowly and carefully walking a flat is NOTHING until you have hiked over uneven boulders and rocks for miles, carrying your fishing gear (and 30 pound camera case for me) in the same tropical conditions. Casting big heavy flies only to strip them back as fast as possible only stopping to hike even further from point of origin to the next spot, then repeat. We drank water as fast as we could and one day when it was particularly hot, after 10 bottles of water each at least, none of us took a leak. Sweat just poured out of us as fast as we could put liquids back in. Just another reason it is called adventure travel!
All in all I am still blown away by the fact that a fish like the golden Dorado exists on our planet. Any angler that enjoys the hunt, the pursuit of a fish would find this nothing short of life changing. This was simply the most thrilling angling experience I have ever endured and can’t wait to go back. Even watching others as much as I did was spine tinging, just waiting for what lay ahead on the next cast, around the next boulder.
Brings me full circle back to steelheading now that I think about it… welcome home!