TSIMANE ADVENTURE ANGLING ARAPAIMA IN THE AMAZON THE CHARM OF CHALKSTREAMS #13
Photo by Hans Van Klinken
We’ve recently started up a new Instagram account – www.instagram.com/intheloopmagazine, and we take it as a sign of being on the right track that we’ve already exceeded 3000 followers. We focus a lot on images that capture the thrill and excitement of fly fishing, and we’re hopeful that you’ll be thoroughly thrilled and excited when reading this: the March/Spring issue. It features work by fly fishing industry heavyweights such as Hans Van Klinken, David Lambroughton, Rodrigo Salles, Bessie Bucholz, Ken Morrish, Dylan Rose, Barry Ord Clarke, and Bill Latham. Tight Lines// The In the Loop Crew
Photo by Ken Morrish
Tsimane Adventure Angling by Ken Morrish The Charm of the Chalkstreams by Bill Latham Baby Tarpon at Tarpon Cay Lodge by Dylan Rose Chasing Silver in Tuckamorland by Hans van Klinken Trouting Down Under by David Lambroughton The Spirit of the Jungle by Rodrigo Moreira Salles And much much more...
Contributors KEN MORRISH
In the Loop Magazine C/O Cast Away Media Org no: 999 320 147 www.intheloopmag.com
By David Lambroughton
Fourth generation fly fisher who has guided throughout Alaska, Oregon, and California. He has taught hundreds of students the fundamentals of the sport, managed fly shops, consulted with leading fly rod manufacturers and designed an extensive line of popular fly patterns produced by Umpqua Feather Merchants. Ken is Chief Operating Officer of the travel agency Flywatertravel, which is based in Ashland, Oregon/USA.
Bill was brought up on the banks of the River Avon at Amesbury and the pursuit of trout has been his life since the age of 10. In his younger days Bill occasionally fished with Frank Sawyer on the Services Dry Fly Association water and was introduced by Frank to Charles Ritz and Oliver Kite. Since then, Bill has fished competitively for England and travelled around the world with a rod in his hand. He now heads up the Aardvark McLeod (www.aardvarkmcleod.com) southern chalkstream program and is often found guiding on the waters he loves throughout the trout season.
We choose not to print this magazine and we are happy not to use paper and harmful inks as used in a conventional printing process. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher.
Bessie is Yellow Dogâ€™s (http:// www.yellowdogflyfishing. com/) program director for New Zealand. An angler since she was learning how to walk, Bessie grew up on a ranch outside of Saratoga, Wyoming, where she spent numerous summers working in the hayfields and fishing on the upper North Platte River. In addition to her time spent living and working in New Zealand, Bessie has travelled and fished extensively throughout the U.S., Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Canada and the Cook Islands.
Saltwater destinations manager for Fly Water Travel (http://www.flywatertravel.com/); a highly successful Oregon based booking agency. Dylan travels and fishes extensively throughout Mexico, Belize, the Bahamas Christmas Island, Cuba, Venezuela and near his home turf in beautiful southern Oregon. Dylan began his fly fishing career working for a fly shop in 1997 and has since been involved as a professional guide, operations manager, manufactures rep, blogger and eCommerce specialist. Dylan’s passion for the sport has taken him to countless destinations throughout the world and his love of the sport revolves around a deep seated respect for the natural world, and a desire to protect wild places and the fish that inhabit them.
HANS VAN KLINKEN
Hans Van Klinken is a Dutch fly fishing journalist, photographer, instructor and fly tying guru. With articles published in leading angling magazines all over the world, his influence on the international fly fishing community is undebatable. The same goes for the contributions he made to dozens of books, written by renowned authors. Being not only a dedicated angler but also a concerned one, Hans extended his spheres of activities to giving workshops and lectures, as well as to supporting and sponsoring environmental and conservation projects.
RODRIGO M. SALLES
Rodrigo Salles grew up near the headwaters of the Paraná river in Brazil, and he has fished all over South America – and beyond. Besides being a freelance fly fishing journalist, Rodrigo is a partner and vice president of Untamed Angling (http://www.untamedangling.com/index.html#) and he is responsible for establishing commercial agreements with agencies of international prestige for fly fishing in the United States, Canada, England, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Russia, South Africa, Australia, and Japan.
David Lambroughton splits his year between British Columbia and New Zealand and lots of stops in between as he gathers his photos for his annual Fly Fishing Dreams Calendar (http:// www.davidlambroughton. com/fly-fishing-dreams2016-calendar). His calendar comes full of info on the people, places, passion and fly patterns of our sport and is sold all over the world.
WANNA CONTRIBUTE? Do you have any great fly fishing photos, videos, or stories that you would like to share with our readers? If so, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We are always looking for quality material for In the Loop Magazine, and we look forward to reviewing your material.
Adventure Angling where the Andes meet the Amazon By KEN MORRISH, FLY WATER TRAVEL
The story of how the Tsimane operation came together is almost as crazy as hooking a 25 pound dorado on a short line. In the beginning there were just the Tsimane and the YuracarĂŠ people living simple hunting and fishing lives in a portion of Bolivia where the base of the Andes meets the lowlands and the rivers flow north into the Amazon. Then, in the 1980s, as the demand for cocaine soared in the northern hemisphere, intrepid narco-traffickers boldly made their way up a very special river to an ultra-remote Tsimane community. Once there they somehow enlisted the tribe to hack a primitive airstrip out of the jungle. Once completed they landed planes loaded with raw coca leaves,
and through a process of bathing the leaves in diesel, made raw cocaine. They did this for many years but ultimately, through tracking diesel purchases, the little lab in Tsimane territory was shut down by the authorities and the locals returned to life as normal. The only real difference being that they now had a secret airstrip. In time an ambitious young Mormon missionary learned of this band living in the Asunta region and their airstrip and headed in for a visit. He liked the place and the people and saw it as an opportunity. He must have also liked to fish because word spread of what he saw in the river; packs of big bright golden dorado mercilessly tearing through schools of unsuspecting baitfish.
These rumors made it back to the Argentine dorado fishing intelligentsia and soon Marcelo Perez and his contemporaries at Untamed Angling were on their way to making the Tsimane operation and Bolivian fly fishing history. Today the operation is a multifaceted collaborative effort that works closely with the Isiboro Secure Indian Territory and National Park, its tribal leaders and over 70 local families that help support this remarkable operation. The Ultimate Game Fish The golden dorado (Salminus brasiliensis) is without question one of the worldâ€™s greatest game fish. With massive powerful jaws, razor sharp teeth, vicious predatory instincts and wild aerial displays they represent one of the ultimate target species for the adventuresome fly angler. Indigenous to Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina and Bolivia they often hunt in packs chasing down their favorite baitfish the sabalo. They can grow to over 60 pounds and while most are in the 10 to 25 pound class they are all too happy to attack baitfish in the six to eight
pound class. While fishing dorado at Tsimane it is common to hook a four or five pound fish only to have it attacked and in some cases completely swallowed by a larger dorado. Sometimes you get half of your fish back, other times, just a shredded mess that looks like pasta with red sauce. It is equally as common to observe aggressive dorado trying to steal or eat the fly that is hanging out of the mouth of the fish that you are fighting. Generally speaking they display very poor manners. Were one to take the best elements of a tarpon, a steelhead and something nasty, like a barracuda, spray paint it brilliant gold and highlight it with black pinstripes you would have a golden dorado. Were you to put that fish in the most pristine jungle environment imaginable, with untouched freestone rivers, massive log jams, incredible wildlife, countless bird species and kind fascinating native peoples, you would have Tsimane. While the Tsimane systems have resident dorado year-round they also have a strong migratory population.
Each season, typically in late May and June, millions of baitfish migrate up the greater Secure system and with them come thousands of large, aggressively feeding dorado. Here it is common to see packs of fierce dorado herding baitfish into the shallows and mercilessly ripping through them. From a great distance you can see the frothing commotion as the bait leaps into the air in a desperate effort to escape. From a quarter mile away the raining down of sabalo sounds like a dump truck dropping 20 yards of gravel. When you find yourself in the midst of this carnage frantically casting a six inch fly into a fray of sharklike yellow fins and tails you will have arrived in the Tsimane Zone. The Programs To date, the Tsimane programs have had a number of configurations but moving forward there are two closely related yet distinct programs from which to choose. Both trips begin with an overnight in Santa Cruz followed by a two hour small aircraft charter flight to a remote jungle airstrip. The hardest part of planning the trip is deciding which of the two options to select as they are both highly desirable and productive. In both programs anglers access the rivers by boat.
In some cases you will move about in large motorized dugouts and in other cases, you will use smaller traditional pole pushed dugouts captained by skilled native boatmen. Irrespective of the program both trips into the heart of the Bolivian jungle are best suited to adventuresome travelers who enjoy wade fishing and a fair amount of walking. Secure/Agua Negra Combo Trip: This is a remarkable and diverse fishing trip where anglers will split their time between two newly constructed jungle safari camps during the course of their week. Both camps have handsome hardwood main lodge buildings where anglers will enjoy great hors dâ€™oeuvres, an open bar, Wi-Fi and delicious meals paired with excellent Argentine wines. Additionally all anglers will enjoy their own deluxe single accommodation safari tent complete with attached bathrooms, hot showers, bedding, and ceiling fans. Each week four anglers will begin at the Agua Negra Camp and a separate charter flight of four anglers will head into the Secure
Camp. On the morning of the third fishing day, all anglers will pack their gear into motorized boats and fish their way to the other lodge for the remainder of their trip. Both lodges offer a primitive overnight out-camp option that takes two anglers. The Secure out-camp is easy to reach and more developed while the Agua Negra out-camp entails a good deal of hiking and is a true primitive camping trip. The Secure is a beautiful midsized system with significant bedrock structure. It is a very productive system that has countless water types. The Agua Negra is much smaller and offers not only big dorado but the regionâ€™s most forgiving terrain as well as the greatest diversity of species including large pacu, pira pita and the elusive striped catfish known as surubi. Agua Negra anglers will also fish the main Secure often casting at large woody debris from the boat. This combination trip is as good as it gets and a natural for parties of four keen on seeing a wide range of what the region has to offer.
Pluma Lodge After landing at the Oromomo native airstrip, eight anglers will head up the Secure River by boat and then seven miles overland by rugged jungle road to the incredible Pluma Lodge. Pluma Lodge overlooks the Pluma River and has four handsome double occupancy hardwood cabins as well as a handsome main lodge building where meals and cocktails are served. Additionally Pluma is very strategically located beneath the confluence of two worldclass systems, the upper Pluma and the Itirizama. Downstream of the lodge there are miles of clear water on the main stem Pluma. Beneath that anglers can access more than 30 km of the larger main stem Secure by motorized boat. These lower beats are the biggest water in the Tsimane program and reminiscent in some ways of classic steelhead fishing. For hearty anglers Pluma offers one or three night trips to primitive out-camps on both the Upper Pluma and Itirizama. These camps represent the ultimate jungle adventure and offer unparalleled sight fishing for large dorado and pacu. In the case of the upper Itirizama several hours of aggressive hiking and river crossings are needed to reach the camp.
This trip is the most demanding of the Tsimane offerings with truly rough terrain, challenging wading and in many instances technical and rewarding sight fishing to large dorado. For the right anglers it represents the ultimate jungle expedition in one the most pristine and beautiful places imaginable. The upper Pluma is very similar but less physically demanding. All and all these programs represent the most exciting and enriching fly fishing experience imaginable. Contact the author at: firstname.lastname@example.org For booking information check out: Fly Water Travel: www.flywatertravel.com Frontiers: www.frontierstravel.com The Fly Shop: www.theflyshop.com Yellow Dog: www.yellowdogflyfishing.com
The Charm of the Chalkstreams The chalkstreams of Britain are the birthplace of fly fishing and are steeped in a long and distinguished history. Along their courses the tactics and skills that have since grown into our modern day sport were devised and perfected, transforming fly fishing into the sport that we now recognise. The UK contains 85% of the worldâ€™s chalkstreams, a very valuable and limited resource both ecologically and financially. These streams, mainly of southern England, provide some of the finest dry fly and sight nymph fishing anywhere in the world. By BILL LATHAM
What is it that makes chalkstreams unique? Rainfall filters down into the porous chalk substrate and fills the aquifers. The resulting crystal clear spring water running at a constant temperature of 10 °C (54 °F) feeding these streams and rivers is rich in minerals but low in sediment content. This in turn leads to the characteristic bright gravel, growths of dark green tresses of water crowfoot interspersed with emerald green starwort; excellent conditions for invertebrate life providing the ideal habitat for brown trout and grayling. The flora, fauna and the crystal clear waters make chalkstreams the most beautiful and iconic of all our UK rivers. Due to the slow release of water from the aquifers chalkstreams are almost always free from flooding and hence fishable throughout the season regardless of weather. The main southern river catchment areas are the Meon, Itchen, Test, Avon and Frome and the Kennet to the north. Each have many feeder streams and all providing quality trout fishing. All of these rivers have been shaped by man since the beginning of the 17th century, initially for the flooding of meadows and providing water power for mills. Since the
demise of these operations over the last century the rivers have primarily been managed for fish and fishermen. A brief history of chalkstream fly fishing In England one of the earliest documented records of artificial floating flies used to catch fish was from Robert Venables, a soldier in Oliver Cromwell’s army in 1642. His hackled flies were tied with the hook pointed upwards so that the hackle gave the impression of the wings of the insect. There were no chemical floatants to keep the “Floaters” as they were called sitting proud on the surface of the streams. Various cotton wads and other drying agents were used but it was not long before the fly became completely waterlogged and sank necessitating a change of fly. It must have been a very frustrating time. During the next two centuries many developments in floating flies were made but not from the chalkstream areas of southern England but on the Midland limestone rivers Wye, Dove, Lathkill and the Derwent where Charles Cotton did much development to improve the dry fly.
Later W.C Stewart in his book “The Practical Angler, or The Art of Trout Fishing, More Particularly Applied to Clear Water published 1857” advocates casting flies in an upstream manner to represent naturally drifting flies, although he is describing his wet fly techniques. This book contains an astonishing amount of information on fishing for brown trout much of which is still relevant in today’s world. James Ogden of Cheltenham in Gloucester claims that he was using dry flies as early as 1840. It is a little unclear when the method became popular. Certainly Foster’s, another tackle dealer in Cheltenham, were selling upright split wing dry flies in 1854. By the 1880s the dry fly method had gained acceptance, although it was by no means universally adopted. Astonishing to think that the first recorded river Test trout wasn’t killed with a dry fly until 1888 – thirty four years after Foster’s patterns had first gone on sale. One reason why the dry fly took so long to become adopted was the difficulty to fish it. These early bulky dry flies, usually tied direct to gut, frequently landed on their sides, upside down and again sank very
quickly. False casting to remove moisture from the fly was first describe in an article published in The Field dated December 17th 1853, the writer “The Hampshire Fly Fisher” says, ‘On the other hand, as far as fly fishing is concerned, fishing upstream, unless you are trying the Carshalton dodge and fishing with a dry fly, is very awkward.’ The ‘Carshalton dodge’ was the first name by which false casting was known and unfortunately cannot be attributed. Carshalton is an area of south west London near Croydon in the Wandle valley. At this time other key developments were taking place in the design and construction of rods. Fishermen moved away from the long two handers used primarily for dapping to single handers, made firstly of greenhart wood then of split cane (bamboo) construction in the 1880. These rods were stiff enough to generated adequate line speed when false casting to help dry the fly. It was from magazines like ‘The Field’ that Frederick Halford and his friend George Selwyn Marryat learnt of the method.
Halford then proceeded to create and establish a rigid code of dry fly fishing practice that spread to all the chalkstreams of the South. Because of Halford’s writings on the subject of dry fly fishing he receives much of the credit as being the father of the method, but there were many others that contributed to the doctrine including H. S. Hall, E. J. Power, Dr.T. Sanctuary and various professionals including Holland, John Hammond. Halford’s total fixation to the “exact imitation” school led to the development of a definitive series of flies for the chalkstreams, continually refining his ideas, and his final selection, some 33 flies in number, was published in The Modern Development of the Dry Fly 1910. In 1886 Halford also attempted to define dry fly fishing as “… presenting to the rising fish the best possible imitation of the insect on which he is feeding in its natural position.” He broke this down to four conditions: 1. Finding a fish feeding on winged insects. 2. Presenting to him a good
imitation of the natural insect both as to size and colour. 3. Presenting it to him in its natural position, floating and “cocked”. 4. Putting it lightly on the water so that it floats accurately over him without drag. 5. The four previous points should have been fulfilled before the fish has caught sight of the angler and his rod. This code of practise rapidly spread across the chalkstreams of southern England and to some extent still form the basis of rules on many hallowed beats. His main lasting legacy to survive and included in all rules we still observe on the chalkstreams is the “upstream without drag” casting principle. Once mastered it can be the easiest method of catching trout feeding on a hatch of insects floating on the water surface. The tranquillity of the pastoral chalkstreams changed somewhat when G.E.M Skues who fished the Itchen for many years published “Minor Tactics of the Chalkstream” in 1910 and “The Way of a Trout with a Fly” in 1921.
Whilst fishing at Abbotts Barton, on the Itchen, he developed the theories of nymph fishing which was abhorrent to Halford and his disciples. There was an extended period of debate between the two protagonists and their respective supporters regarding the use of artificial nymphs whilst fishing the chalkstreams. There were many heated meetings and lengthy written correspondence between the members of the Fly Fishers Club in London and the Houghton Club based in Stockbridge. Fortunately all was conducted in a courteous Victorian manner. Other notable anglers that have championed nymphing techniques include Frank Sawyer, the inventor of the Pheasant Tail nymph, (which must be one of the most famous trout flies of all time), John Goddard and to a lesser extent Oliver Kite. Today some River Test fisheries still adhere to Halfordâ€™s approach, only allowing the water to be fished using a dry fly. Others are more lenient, allowing nymph fishing at certain times of the year. It is a useful tactic and has saved many otherwise blank days. Rather than random casting covering the water, chalkstream fishing for trout demands a completely
different style and attitude which sets it apart from fly fishing in our other types of rivers and lakes. Modern tactics on a chalkstream Although the same basic river equipment is used, the clarity of the water means that our method and approach has to be very different. It is usual to only cast to either rising fish or those that we can clearly see feeding subsurface on nymphs. The tactic is to start at the bottom or downstream end of the beat and work slowly upstream, stopping frequently to scan the immediate area in front, but also being aware of any movement further upstream. On well managed beats benches are often placed at reasonable distances along the bank side, usually in positions that give the angler a good view of the water ahead. These are not placed there to rest weary limbs, but to encourage the slow pace of this type of fishing. While sitting quietly and carefully studying the stream, many other aspects of the countryside can be witnessed; the bank side flowers and the birds singing in the bushes are all part of the chalkstream fishing experience.
Rods of between 7 ½ and 9’ rated from 3# to 5# lines are the norm these days, the shorter rods for small brooks and streams with the longer and slightly heavier on wider stretches of the river Test and Avon. Leader length is governed by the size of fly and wind conditions prevailing, but as a generalisation nothing shorter than 9’. Fishing pressure on the larger popular rivers means that there is usually some form of artificial stocking of mainly brown trout although a few fishery owners on the River Test system still supplement with rainbow trout. “God did never make a more calm, quiet, innocent recreation than angling”. (Isaac Walton) Fly fishing on the chalkstreams gives a person the opportunity to get away from the pressures of modern life and return refreshed at the end of the day, whether having caught fish or not. It restores the human spirit and prepares us to deal with everyday life. If catching fish were the only goal, fishing would lose is fun and excitement and become just a chore. Stealth, observation and pinpoint casting will result in success. The old military maxim of “time spent in observation is never wasted” is very true when we are fishing the chalkstreams. Those
that can be patient, watching, waiting and by casting infrequently will always be the most successful. Fishing the dry fly on our chalkstreams can be very challenging; firstly spotting a feeding fish, next selecting the correct imitation to match the hatch and finally presenting the fly accurately and without drag. These are skills need to be learnt to become successful and it is a method of catching fish that can be extremely rewarding, occasional very frustrating, but a truly sporting way of pursuing trout. The rule “upstream dry fishing only” is not set in legislative law, it is merely an edict set down by almost every owner and manager of a chalkstream fishery to which every angler who fishes the water has to comply. The principle chalkstreams in Southern England River Test The Test must be the most famous trout fishing river in the world, not only for the quality of the fish, but also for the past literary history and characters. By far the biggest of all chalkstreams 30 + miles as the crow flies from source to sea it offers over 100 miles of fishing.
Over the centuries man’s manipulation for irrigation and milling purposes have resulted in a braided river system of many carriers, most of which are fishable. The literary heritage is probably the richest of any river, with the writings of Peter Hawker, Plunket Greene, John Waller Hills and probably the most famous of all F M Halford. From the source ½ mile to the east of Overton at Ashe, the river flows west to Whitchurch before turning south to continue the onward journey. Primarily the Test is known as a trout fishery, but at Testwood before the river spills into the Solent double figure salmon and sea trout are caught regularly. The river is joined by four main tributaries of the Bourne Rivulet, Dever, Anton and Dun and some lesser streams including the Wallop Brook and Blackwater. Another notable to the river is William Lunn who was appointed in 1887 as river keeper to Houghton Club and devised some forty artificial fly patterns, some of which are still in use today. The most famous are the Lunn’s Particular, Houghton Ruby, Sherry Spinner and Caperer. When William
retired his son Alf took over as head keeper followed by his son Mick who continued until his retirement in 1992. The majority of fishery managers open their trout season on 1st May through to 31st September with limited grayling fishing until the end of the year. For any avid trout fly fisherman the river Test is a “must do” at least once in a life time. It is an honour to walk in the foot steeps of fly fishing greats. River Itchen The River Itchen is formed by the streams Candover, Arle and Titchbourne coming together just west of New Alresford. The Itchen to Winchester is some six miles in length and must be considered as some of the finest trout fly fishing but also for the serene beauty of the countryside through which if flows. The valley in this part has remained fairly untouched, unlike the urbanisation of motorways and airports which has occurred lower down the river system. The river between source and Winchester is mostly run by private clubs and syndicates, very occasionally day rods become available.
There are many notables that have fished the Itchen over the years including G.E.M. Skues. Skues fished the river mainly at Abbotts Barton for 56 years where he developed the theories of nymph fishing writing to classic books (Minor Tactics of the Chalkstream, 1910 and The Way of a Trout with a Fly, 1921). Viscount Gray of Falladon who was Foreign Secretary from 1905 to 1916 would also frequent its banks. Grey would travel down by train on Saturdays leaving London on the 6 am train and be on the water very early after walking from the station via his cottage to collect his fishing tackle. This is all described in his classic book Fly Fishing first published in 1899. F. M. Halford also fished there, along with the enigmatic figure of G. S. Marryat, who it is believed greatly influenced Halfordâ€™s ideas and thinking. Apparently Skues was not very complimentary about Halfords choice of gut. Good fly hatches can be expected but, mayfly hatches are generally lighter than on the River Test system.
River Avon There are two headwater streams that feed the Avon, both rising in the Vale of Pewsey. The East Avon comes from chalk whereas West Avon stream rises in greensand and it is because of this that the Avon cannot be considered a true chalkstream in the strictest sense of the word. Persistent heavy rain can leave the river a little coloured but it quickly clears, only affecting the river for a few days. Below the confluence just above Upavon the river runs through chalk, down the valley to Salisbury and beyond. Named the Hampshire Avon, the river actually flows for the majority of its length through Wiltshire. The river Avon trout season starts on 1st April in time to catch hatches of grannom and large dark olives and continues through until 15th October. The Upper reaches of the Avon, at Netheravon, was home to two more of fly fishingâ€™s greats, Frank Sawyer and Oliver Kite. It is from their observations on the river here that led to numerous creations that continued to shape fly fishing around the world.
Consistently good fly hatches, especially mayfly (greendrake), make the Avon a firm favourite for fly fishermen. River Kennet The Kennet Catchment stretches from the upper reaches of the Winterbournes above Avebury west of Marlborough in Wiltshire, to Reading in Berkshire where the Kennet flows into the Thames. The catchment is defined by the chalk uplands of the Marlborough and Berkshire Downs to the North and the Hampshire Downs to the south. Much of the area falls within the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
(AONB). The river is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) from near its sources west of Marlborough down to Woolhampton, between Newbury and Reading. From Newbury downstream the river starts to run through clay and has to be classed more as a coarse fishery rather than trout. There are many small tributaries that feed the Kennet but only the Dun and Lambourn can be considered as trout fisheries. Once again we have to thank the water engineers of the eighteenth century that created over 80 miles of fishable water although it is only some 22 miles from Marlborough to Newbury by
road. The river below Hungerford near Kintbury usually experiences massive hatches of mayfly to rival and surpass anything that can be seen on the Test or Avon systems. River Wylye The river Wylye is one of the three true chalkstreams in the Avon catchment. Rising in the Deverills close by to the Longleat Estate and Warminster and running for 22 miles through the chalk valley before joining the Nadder just south of Wilton, three miles from Salisbury. In the late 1980s and early 90s the river suffered badly after a succession of low rainfall years and heavy abstraction. Fortunately there is now much less abstraction and with weather patterns returning to something more normal during the last decade, the river has bounced back to its former glory. There is very little stocking taking place on the river with most owners supporting the Environment Agencyâ€™s wish to turn this river back to its natural state. Excellent natural spawning conditions on the upper reaches including the winterbourne tributaries of the Chittern Brook and Till and careful fishery management will result in a self-sustaining wild trout population.
The Wylye is probably one of the most sympathetically managed fisheries giving good hatches of all the up-winged flies. The mayfly hatch is usually a week to ten days later than those on the Avon and Test. The trout fishing season officially starts on the 1st April continuing until 15th October although like other rivers, riparian owners and fishery managers can set their own seasons within this period if wished. Fly fishing on the British chalkstreams is nothing less than walking in the footsteps of those that created our sport. Watching the mayfly dance along the rushes on a long summer evening and later, experiencing the thrill of a splashy rise as they swoop low on the water to carry out their life cycle is a thrill that every fly fisherman should experience. The visual element that we love so much is the essence that makes the style of upstream fly fishing so exciting. The history and tradition on so many of these beats remains, allowing one to make parallels from old texts and walk the same banks as those that came before us.
The chalkstreams of southern England offer crystal clear sight fishing opportunities throughout the season, whether you are a first-time angler or a seasoned hand. If you would like to fish the Test, Itchen, Avon, Kennet and their delightful tributaries or join us on a guided day please contact us. Tel: +44(0)1980 847389 Email: email@example.com Web: www.aardvarkmcleod.com
Tarpon Cay Lodge’s “Loco Sabalitos” Mother Nature needed a fish that jumped high, was adorned in stainless steel plates of armor, and attacked with reckless abandon. She needed a durable fish that induced shock and awe from all that encountered it, was capable of migrating thousands of miles and was comfortable in murky oxygen-depleted water. She needed an ambush predator with a bucket-sized mouth that could chase, strike and devour a prey item with a simple flick of its tail. She needed to create the fly angler’s dream quarry and a fish that had the potential to thrill, infuriate and addict anglers from near or far and so she created the tarpon. Mother Nature created perfection when she created the tarpon and luckily for us there is a place to experience them unlike any else on Earth. By DYLAN ROSE
Tarpon Cay Lodge Tarpon Cay Lodge is the world’s premier destination for targeting juvenile tarpon on the fly. Located in San Felipe, Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula, this charming and somewhat rustic hotel is home base for fly anglers keen on tossing flies to “loco sabalitos” (crazy baby tarpon!) in the 5lb – 25lb range. The expansive open water turtle grass flats and mangrove estuaries surrounding San Felipe are some of the most productive habitat found anywhere on Earth for rearing tarpon. The lodge is located in the charming and essentially tourist free commercial fishing village of San Felipe on the northern tip of the Yucatan. It is positioned squarely between the expansive Parque Natural San Felipe marine preserve stretching some 20 miles to the west and the Rio Lagartos preserve stretching 30 miles to the east. Cumulatively, these conservation corridors ensure that miles upon miles of prime tarpon rearing grounds are protected in their entirety. Tarpon Cay Lodge is actually a small hotel called the Hotel San Felipe.
Rooms at the hotel are not over-thetop in terms of luxury but instead offer simple surroundings with clean, comfortable, and air-conditioned rooms and common areas. Rooms feature private bathrooms, ocean views and plenty of hot water. Added to the charm of Tarpon Cay is on-site manager Beto, who remains one of the most popular hosts we have ever come across. His pleasant and good-natured humor, attention to detail and unfailing desire to help you have a great time keeps anglers coming back year after year. Prehistoric, Air Breathing, Sex-changing Hermaphrodites Tarpon are fascinating and prehistoric creatures, capable of breathing air and changing sexes late in their life span. Yes, they may be strange, but we do not discriminate! Scientists continue to research and study all that they can in an attempt to understand these incredible fish. In as much as we know, the majority of baby tarpon grow and begin to mature in the estuarine eco-systems of the Gulf of Mexico where they take refuge in the vast mangrove lined coastlines of the Yucatan.
These babies develop in this environment for the first 7 years of their life, typically growing to an average size of about 35 pounds. At this point the relatively small fish are all males. As they continue to mature, grow in size and build confidence they begin seeking refuge and prey items offshore. Eventually these young males encounter other migrating adults in open water, where they in turn join with the migration and seek out mature females for mating. The main portion of the migration is thought to begin somewhere near Panama (or even further south) and extends north through Guatemala, Belize, Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico to the Florida Keys. As juveniles become adults, itâ€™s thought that at somewhere around the 35 year-old mark, when averaging near 100lbs and they switch to become females. Females are thought to spawn in open water where their minute larvae eventually are washed back towards the mangroves where the cycle repeats. The Fishery The fishing program at Tarpon Cay allows two anglers to fish per boat with a single guide. The guide team
is a seasoned crew of experienced tarpon hunters, deeply familiar with their local waters. All of them were born and raised right in San Felipe. They are a highly skilled and savvy team with expert knowledge of the area and the specific needs of fly fishing clientele. Tarpon Cay is a small operation that only places three boats on the water each day, keeping the fishery fresh and unpressured all season long. Anglers are able to fish the entire expanse of available terrain without worry of other operations infringing on their fishing zone, which is a huge benefit and rare in the scope of available saltwater fishing destinations. Anglers are typically outfitted with fast action 8 and 9 weight rods, high-quality saltwater reels and floating fly lines. The black golden hue of a tarponâ€™s back blends perfectly with the color of the bottom in this area making it nearly impossible to see them through the water. The guides are instrumental at reading the surface of the water for telltale signs of fish moving underneath. At times schools of moving fish from a half dozen to more than 200 can be spotted.
At other times you may cast to a single rolling fish, only to find that you spooked a school of 40 fish ten feet from the boat. Sometimes blind casts or exploratory casts are made in likely areas to find fish, especially if they do not seem to be rolling. Depending on the tides fish can be found cruising open water flats or at the mouths of dozens of mangrove lined creeks that drain the area. Tarpon Cayâ€™s 18ft pangas are specifically designed with fly fishing in mind and are extremely stable fishing platforms. Smaller size 2 - 2/0 tarpon flies, in natural colors that are designed to imitate baitfish or shrimp work best. Fishing surface and waking patterns can be incredibly exciting and addicting while other times a subsurface baitfish imitation might do the trick. Neutrally buoyant fly patterns tied with spun deer hair or bits of foam smoothly glide over the vegetation without hanging up and a whether youâ€™re fishing on top or below the surface a well positioned cast to feeding fish almost always draws attention. Few things will make you happier as a traveling angler then the split shift fishing program at Tarpon Cay Lodge. Each morning the fishing day begins around 6am and extends to about 11am. After the morning session, anglers have an opportunity take in a fabulous home-cooked Mexican lunch back at the lodge, have a siesta, tie flies and prep tackle for the evening session which kicks off by about 3pm. Anglers have the opportunity to fish through the evening sunset and typically arrive back at the lodge around 7PM for cocktails and dinner.
It’s easy for anglers to assume that because they are targeting “babies” the catching will be easy. Sometimes, this is absolutely the truth, but more realistically juvenile tarpon can be very challenging. Even though they may be smaller then their adult migrating counterparts they are still tarpon, and at times can become very sensitive to their changing environment. Whether it’s due to increased rain, the moon, wind, a changing barometer, or other unknown factors the fish can at times become quite finicky. At other times a well presented fly falling anywhere within a 30 foot radius will be greedily inhaled and instantly attacked. Every day and every trip is different with tarpon, further adding to the joy of targeting these fish. The Launch Factor Excellent fly casters will excel in this fishery, and owner Marco Ruz is fond of letting those anglers keen on visiting the lodge know that this is a “casters game”. The better your accuracy, speed and distance, the better your chances are of hooking multitudes of fish. It’s more a factor of how fast one can deliver the fly then
it is extreme distance. An angler that can reach 70 feet in three or less false casts with a powerful double-haul will have the best access to traveling fish cruising the flats. Tarpon are highly sensitive, so at times the guides will attempt to keep the boat quiet by keeping their distance from the fish. This means that the angler may be asked to reach great lengths quickly and thus good casters will be rewarded with higher catch rates. Tarpon have brutally hard mouths and can repel even the highest quality and sharpest hooks with amazing proficiency. Often, anglers need to remain patient as they learn the insand-outs of properly strip striking on a thrashing 20lb tarpon. There is a sharp learning curve that comes with developing the skill on how to set the hook and it can take a couple of days of missed opportunities to get the hang of it. “Bowing the king”, or the “prince” in this case, is the practice of giving line to a jumping and thrashing fish in an effort to avoid the leader being cut by the tarpon’s sharp mouth and gill plates. Patience to get it right is required!
When To Go? Baby tarpon are available at Tarpon Cay year-round; however, late spring through summer offers the best opportunity for stable weather, lighter winds and the most consistent action. As the mercury rises and calm winds settle in by late May, the season kicks in to high gear. Throughout the summer warm regular rainfall keeps winds calm and the tarpon actively feed. As the temperatures rise, and oxygen content on the flats goes down, the tarpon stay comfortable by rolling and breathing air, which gives us great chances to spot them, particularly in the cooler morning and evening hours. As fall approaches, opportunities for larger migratory fish can sometimes yield truly out-of-this-world tarpon angling. Long runs from the lodge to the migratory fishing grounds are possible in late August and September for those interested in trying to find migrating fish of a 100lbs or larger. Finding targetable numbers of migrating adults is always a bit of crapshoot, but it’s certainly nice to have the option during the fall months and all it takes is one fish to have a truly memorable encounter. As the winter
months settle in, chances increase for cold weather from the North, which can greatly inhibit fishing and so the season typically winds down with the arrival of October. The Final Bow The northern Yucatan’s beauty will steal your breath away and the bountiful opportunities to chase the Silver Prince at Tarpon Cay are a fly anglers dream. The casual atmosphere, friendly staff, great local food, skilled guides and an insanely productive tarpon fishery make Tarpon Cay Lodge our favorite spot in the world to chase baby tarpon. The entire tarpon life cycle can be encountered in a single trip to San Felipe. From 6-inch babies hiding in the mangrove roots to full-fledged 100lb migrating adults (in season). This fact alone makes Tarpon Cay unique in the landscape of the world’s tarpon destinations. Coupled with fantastic guides, one of the best on-site hosts we’ve ever seen and the heart pounding thrill of a leaping tarpon on the end of your line and it’s impossible to see how a trip to Tarpon Cay shouldn’t be the very next destination on your saltwater hit list.
Chasing Silver in Tuckamoreland Tuckamore is a typical Newfoundland term for the stunted balsam fir and spruce trees that grow all along the shoreline of the Great Northern Peninsula and the Labrador Straits. Even more unusual, at certain times of the year, this vegetation can produce a very nice fragrance. This odour becomes stronger especially after a little rainfall or when trees are covered with dew. On windy days, the costal air can reach far inland and the people in Newfoundland call it the smell of Tuckamore. Personally, I describe it as â€œthe perfume of the wildâ€?.
By HANS VAN KLINKEN Photography by HANS VAN KLINKEN AND INA STEVENS
Why Atlantic Canada? The answer is quite simple. I wanted to study and discover the crucial similarities of Atlantic salmon taking (dry) flies in Norway as opposed to those in Atlantic Canada. My ultimate goal was to find out why a salmon takes a dry fly aggressively in certain rivers and yet refuses to come to the surface in other streams. In addition, I wanted to test twenty five years of knowledge of water quality, water levels, water flows, bottom structures and weather conditions which I had gained in Norway. The only study material I had available was some very detailed data I had written in my fishing diaries over the years. Since the early seventies, I had caught many grilse and even a few big salmon on dry flies. However, very few people believed me. This forced me to continue my exploration on my own. By the end of the eighties, I was successfully able to catch grilse in different parts of Norway using dry flies. However, my success was limited to only seventeen river systems in central and southwest Norway together
with my early salmon experiences in the far north of Norway. Another important observation I made was that my success in catching salmon with dry flies was limited to warm or even extremely warm weather conditions. A similar striking observation was that nine of the seventeen rivers were either tidal, or still in estuary regions with a nice tidal current. The salmon or sea trout I caught in these rivers were some of the largest I have ever landed. In the late eighties my interest in dry fly fishing for salmon and sea trout had become so intense that I began to look for articles and stories about Atlantic salmon caught on dry flies. My search quickly lead me to fly fishermen and fly tiers who were familiar with fly fishing in Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick, Quebec and even in parts of the State of Maine, USA. Barb Genge â€œThe Lady of the Wildâ€? In the mid nineties, my wife and I began taking extensive trips to fish the salmon rivers in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador. And fish we did!
Although we learned a lot, we found the most successful fly-fishing techniques we employed on these trips were not so much different from what I had been using in Norway for so many years. For us, Newfoundland quickly became our favourite destination to catch the elusive Atlantic salmon on dry flies.
and not to forget our singing guide Keith Cornier. But in the end, wherever we went we always seemed to end up at the Tuckamore lodge with Tuckamore Barb. I have been continually amazed by Barb’s enthusiasm and skills – and, not least, her ability to bring people back to nature with her stories of the wild.
That is not to say other provinces in Atlantic and Eastern Canada are not also spectacular for dry fly fishing. To explain this you need to understand that the work schedules in our regular jobs only allowed for travel in June and early July. Fortunately, this period of time coincided with the Newfoundland salmon runs.
Blood, sweat and tears Not many people will ever appreciate that Tuckamore Lodge has survived solely because of the perseverance and dedication of one great Lady. Barb Genge found herself in a marriage and an outfitting business, both of which had just broken down. Facing huge debts and all by herself, except for her 12 year old son, many people just wanted her to give up and go away. It was a difficult time and she was entering a male dominated business.
In addition, we had many friends who were willing to guide us and that made the Newfoundland trips easy to organize. Anyway, during all these wonderful trips we stayed at many great locations and fished with experienced and knowledgeable guides: guides like Bill Stephens, the late Marc Madore, Tony Tuck, Gord Robinson, Barry and Janice Sweetland, John McCarthy, John Parson, Tuckamore’s Junior, Brendan and Clarence
Knowing there would be no support from government and no hunting licenses available; she began the journey of recovery. She found strength in knowing and believing that anything worthwhile never comes without hard work.
Although Tuckamore Lodge originally started as a hunting lodge, she was quick to realize she needed to give the lodge a new identity to be successful. Getting the salmon to return in serious numbers again would be her goal. In addition, she knew she would have to improve her personal skills. The first step in her effort to get the salmon to return in serious numbers again was to restore the nearby rivers from the neglect and the aftermath of the logging industry. To ensure that returning salmon would be able to follow their way upstream to the best spawning grounds, an enormous clean-up program was required. Under Barbâ€™s watchful leadership, a few dedicated enthusiasts and highly motivated individuals began cleaning up the Salmon River with their bare hands. Thanks to them, we now have a new generation of salmon returning in record numbers. It was not an easy task for Barb to achieve her dream of creating a real fly-fishing paradise in the north. However, each guest and returning angler is in awe at what she has accomplished at Tuckamore Lodge.
The past, present and future During our very first visits to Tuckamore Lodge, Barb was already offering her fly fishing guests a real fishing paradise. The nearby Salmon River and Southwest River were perfectly suited for my research in identifying any connections between my fishing successes in Norway and those salmon that took the dry fly so well in Newfoundland. The travel time from the lodge to the nearby rivers is short, and the watercourse, current and bottom structures were very similar to the rivers I had fished in Norway for so many years. The similarity of the river systems was very important to test and evaluate my Norwegian fly-fishing techniques in an objective manner. In the past, I always found a good run of grilse in the Southwest Brook and Salmon River. The salmon fishing season begins in late June and continues to the early days of September. The Atlantic salmon in this area weighs, on average, between six and ten pounds. Real salmon (salmon over 3 kg in weight that have stayed longer than one year at sea) I have only caught in the Salmon River and the number of real trophy fish grows every year.
In addition to the salmon there is also the challenge of brook trout, Arctic char, and sea run brook trout. I caught a whole bunch of the latter in some sheltered water of the Grey Islands when experimenting with my leadhead and some streamers. While fishing the Salmon River and Southwest Brook quite extensively over many years, I was also lucky to deal with some exceptional weather as well. I ran into very cold temperatures and experienced very high water levels, but also had to fight a few serious heat waves in which the water had dropped to dramatic low levels. Air temperatures around 10 degrees Celsius and lots of rain during our 1997 and 2011 trips were responsible for us not doing so well with our dry flies, but we did well while using wet flies in much bigger sizes than most local people used. My Bondal series of flies, for example, were absolutely great under those circumstances. While I studied the Salmon River, I discovered that at several places the current was rather slow, almost dead. When most fish rolled at the edge of each current, it came to my mind to
try to tempt some fish by using small, unweighted nymphs. I never tried it before in Atlantic Canada, so the challenge was born. I could use the dead water to let the nymph sink well under the surface, and if I would move it with a very slow retrieve, it might work. It’s a technique that is extremely popular for catching whitefish on fly, and since I use several of my grayling techniques to hook salmon by dry fly, why couldn’t this work as well? I prepared a new leader and tied on a 4 lb, almost two-meter long tippet, instead of the normal 6 lb. I believed any trick to present the nymph as deep as possible under the surface could improve my chances. When my equipment was ready, I gave it a try; at first it didn’t look very hopeful. I started to experiment by giving the nymph more time to get down and started to use the Charles Brooks method to present the nymph as deep as possible. Maybe a dozen casts later I hooked a fish, and it felt like a big one too. I was afraid I might have false-hooked it, but I also had my doubts about this because the retrieve was too slow and I didn’t strike or set the hook either.
No, it was hooked properly and it was a big salmon and it gave me a really good fight. About 20 minutes later, the same happened. Again and again it was salmon, I landed and released three before another hour was finished. In just two hours I had caught the day limit! In present days and several years after my last visit, I could not wait to see how the fishing had further developed. I was totally amazed because the salmon runs had improved again, and success in fly-fishing had increased a lot as well. There also were some new salmon rivers to try and we did some amazing fly-fishing in one of the estuaries. It is now estimated that about twelve to eighteen thousand young Atlantic salmon return to the nearby rivers each year. For less experienced fly fishers or when it is simply too windy to fish the Salmon River or Southwest River it is very nice to visit the Beaver Creek and also have a look at the famous â€œunderground holeâ€? which can be seen as a real geological wonder. As far as I understood, this is the only place in the world where Atlantic salmon swim through two large underground chambers and holes to reach their spawning grounds. I heard sto-
ries that blind salmon reached their spawning grounds but that they migrate underground in complete darkness was completely new to me. The fishing is allowed until 100 meters before the underground hole and it is absolutely worth to give it a try! In 2012 we once again experienced dramatic low waters but the temperatures were much lower than in 1999, so different tricks had to be used. The river was full of big salmon and again I had success with my salmon nymphs, however, this time they were tied on my new salmon hooks and quite different from the patterns I was using in 1999 as well. The year 2012 was the year in which I caught more salmon than grilse in the same season. My most spectacular catch was an 87 cm salmon that I hooked and landed on my #5 weight outfit while fishing for brook trout with a size 16 dry fly! Lessons learned by experiences and observation From earlier lessons and experiences, I have learned that as soon as the air temperature gets higher than the water temperature that is when you can start using dry flies for salmon.
It is even used as a rule of thumb by several of my close friends. However, when the water temperatures get too high and the amount of oxygen drops to a critical level, most salmon will hide in deep lies with their nose down at the bottom and become inactive, to save their strength for their upstream journey and spawning. I don’t like rules for salmon fishing and I always keep in mind what Lee Wullf once told me: “The only definite thing that you can say about salmon, is that you can not say anything definite about them” and I really believe this rather strongly. Another striking lesson that I learned in Atlantic Canada was that fishing rising water was not so good, but from the time it has peaked and started to drop, it is prime time for many rivers. (In Norway however I experienced exactly the opposite, the best wet fly fishing for salmon was during rising water and I caught most fish during these periods). In both places I found dry fly fishing the best at
normal and low water levels. To fish a dry fly for Atlantic Salmon, you do not have to see fish move to be successful and if you are in a pool that you know holds fish, you can cover the water in a general way just as effectively as with any wet fly. I often fish a good-looking pool with the picture of an empty chess board in my mind, which I place over the pool. I only number the rows and use the columns for when I start moving in the water. The nearest row I give number one and I make the rows as long as the fish can have their lies. I don’t walk through the pool right away, but just fish it from the most upstream position first. I try to cover as many rows and squares as I can by casting slightly upstream and working my way downstream through my invisible grid. Every time I fish for salmon, I see lots of people getting in the water as far and deep as possible and take their position exactly at the place were the salmon have their lies.
The next mistake they make is casting too far and letting their flies cover water that actually holds no fish at all. Therefore in small rivers, I even try to not get in the water at all when I begin with this useful and very powerful trick. When I have a pool all to myself, I start as much upstream as I can and try to cover as many rows and squares as possible. Each square I imagine about eight steps wide and long. This makes the fishing much more effective and well organized. If I have finished all the rows within my casting range, I make eight steps downstream. Then I follow exactly the same process, starting from my second column and by starting, covering row number one first. This is how I work myself through the entire pool, with casts sometimes not much longer then 10-12 ft. I am a big fan of long drifts, but I also discovered that in some waters, too many long drifts scare the fish and keep them down, so in those rivers, the above method is a powerful trick that works extremely well. Through other experiences and observations in my dry fly fishing, I discovered that there isnâ€™t so much difference in fishing large or small rivers, as long you know the places that hold fish. How-
ever, a smaller river has my preference and I personally love fishing rivers that are about 40-50 ft wide, because you can cover all the water from just one bank. In spite of this preference, I have had some great experiences with fly fishing in estuaries, sea pools and brackish water in Norway; I have not experienced similar circumstances in Atlantic Canada, but my recent experiences have led me to believe that it does not matter how far you are away from the sea when using a dry fly in the rivers in Newfoundland. I really donâ€™t like coloured water for dry fly fishing by which I donâ€™t mean the brown tannic acid colour that you see in many rivers in Atlantic Canada. It was a huge link to my successes in Norway, because most rivers in which I enjoyed success all had concentrations of tannic acid. Unfortunately, I never performed any serious testing with regard to the correct concentration of tannic acid, which I really regret nowadays. On both sides of the Atlantic, I discovered that when rivers are getting low and fish stay longer in the pools, they come up for much smaller flies. I strongly believe that the longer salmon stay in one pool, the better or stronger their old feeding memory returns.
I remember very well how I did my fly-fishing in three huge pools directly below a big waterfall in the Nordelva River in Norway. At the time, this place did not have any road access at all. It is one of the few rivers that I know of, where salmon first start to run upstream when the river is extremely low, because the only way for them to get up this waterfall was at very low water. The pools are deep and hold hundreds of fish, but I only succeeded here when fish started head and tailing, and while using small flies presented with an absolutely drag free drift. The fish would only act like porpoises for about 20 minutes and only once every four hours or so, but each time they behaved like that, I caught fish and that has been going on like that for many years. I have had exactly the same experiences in several of Newfoundlandâ€™s rivers too. The most extreme example of any small dry fly success is my catch of four grilse on the same day on a # 16 dry fly and all fish were head and tailers. In exactly the same pool and two days later I caught four salmon on a size 2/0 dry fly in heavy rain. I also have situations in which I caught a 91cm salmon on size 16 dry fly and few hours later a small grilse on a size 1/0 dry fly in heavy rain. Everything is possible with dry fly fishing for Atlantic Salmon.
Tuckamore Lodge is a magnificent first-class wilderness accommodation that is almost entirely engineered in Scandinavian style. The lodge was built on the banks of Little Pond and fits beautifully in the landscape. After a huge renovation, which started in 2004, Tuckamore Lodge has turned into one of the best looking lodges I have ever seen. It is no wonder that Outside Magazine has recognized Tuckamore Lodge as one of the six best lodges for encountering Canadaâ€™s great outdoor activities.
The lodge is situated in the north-eastern tip of the pristine wilderness of the great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland. The exact location is about 2.5 kilometres from the small village of Main Brook, and just a twenty-five minute drive away from St. Anthony airport. For more info: www.tuckamorelodge.com
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TROUTING DOWN UNDER:
That First New Zealand Trip If you’re a fly fisherman, you’ve probably dabbled in trout fishing. And if you’ve dabbled in trout fishing, you’ve probably dreamed about traveling to New Zealand. Here’s how you make your dreams become reality. By DAVID LAMBROUGHTON
As an outdoor writer/photographer, I’ve had a chance to fish just about everywhere in the world that I ever dreamed of but nowhere has hit all my buttons like New Zealand has for me. It’s pulled me down there for the past 37 years and the past 25 have been for the full Nov. through March Season and my annual Fly Fishing Dreams Calendar usually has about a 50 % N.Z. Content. As a result, I get lots of people contacting me with their questions and I’ve tried to always include lots of N.Z. Info on my website (www.DavidLambroughton.Com) on Trip Planning/Gear and “Arriving Ready To Go” and some short seasonal reports that I add every season, along with fresh photos for my N.Z. Gallery. I’ve also listed some top lodges and great guides that can speed up the learning curve for you as well, as they most certainly did for me over the years, along with the John Kent Fishing Guide Books and the free Accommodation Guide Books. Most of the inquiries I get are from anglers that would like to do lots of fishing on their own with just a buddy or two and not be “living above the pension” as they say down here. With
this in mind, I tell them to come for as long as they can so if they hit some bad weather it will proportionally be a much smaller chunk of their trip. Secondly, try arriving with good casting skills and being able to cast 70-80 feet of line will really give you a leg up, not that you ever need to cast that far. But it will mean that you have a good grasp of the mechanics of casting and should be able to have some decent accuracy at the common 25 to 40 foot range and turning over longer leaders with some line speed, even with a bit of wind. When you are casting to individual fish in clear water, accuracy is generally much more important that the fly patterns. But as I sit here writing this on the kitchen table at one of my favorite little South Island Cottages that I frequently rent, I’m realizing that people need, as much as all the other info, is a good itinerary to build their trip around. So here’s a great route that will show you the most scenic parts of the country, have you slap the fewest Sandflies (if any), see tons of different rivers and streams, never retracing your steps and every road you take will be a new one. Here we go.
Arrive in Christchurch and pick up your rental car that you booked months prior to get a huge discount and I’d try Ace Car Rentals first. You then might want to overnight in Christchurch as you’ve already had a long journey and are overdue for a shower. Then you want to head east over Arthur’s Pass on Hwy. 73 and if you are unfamiliar with driving on the left hand side of the road this is especially a fine direction as your are heading to the lease inhabited area of the country, the West Coast. First stop; Hokitika which is the nicest town of the West Coast. It’s also really the only one. It’s a great place filled with all those wild people who headed west until they ran out of “west.” A superb place to park yourself for a couple of days or longer would be at the Hokitika Homestay (info@brenttrolle. co.nz) , home of the famous artist, Brent Trolle and his wife Grace. The food you eat was either grown in their garden or caught that day in the sea. Their son Dean (deantrolle@ gmail.com) does some guiding for them and a day or two with him will really set you up on how the game is
played down there and Brent himself is a wealth of info that can put lots of X’s on your map. They only take a few people at a time (one group really) and if they are booked up or you just want a single night , Teichelmann’s Bed & Breakfast (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the place and it’s just one block off the downtown area. Your next 4-5 hour drive will take you down the West Coast and the landscapes are worth the drive alone as you head over Haast Pass an onto Wanaka, a town hard not to love. It’s also the home of a very well respect Fishing Guide, Paul MacAndrew (paul@ aspiringflyfishing.co.nz) who guides far and wide out of Wanaka. From Wanaka you want to head to Queenstown via the Crown Range Road. It’s only about an hours drive to Q’town, and is the home of a top guide, Chris Dore (flyfish@chrisdore. com) and he’s been my go to guy when I have any questions about anything, like the best Helicopter Rates to get somewhere, etc. Queenstown itself is lots of fun and is also surrounded by some wonderful golf courses as well.
From Queenstown you want to head southeast to TeAnau (gateway to Milford Sound) and the Lakeside Motel is a great choice. There’s also a Holiday Park (“Accommodations to suit everyone’s budget”) like you’ll find in every town I’m mentioning. There are lots of well know rivers within an hour’s drive and if you’d like to up your chances of success, Dean Bell (www.deanbellflyfishing. co.nz) of TeAnau would be an excellent choice if you can get him. He may not have the best bedside mannor or patience with the inept, but he would be the best angler and guide that I’ve ever met anywhere in the world. Nearby, in Manapouri, Lawton Webber (lawtonweber@ gmail.com) should also be on your list as well and they often work together with small groups. Now you head east for about two hours on Hwy. 94 to the town of Gore, one of the most famous fishing towns in N.Z. You have lots of small streams to choose from in the early season and the well loved Mataura River flowing right through the middle of it all. For some good info or guiding, contact Bunny Burgess (email@example.com). His shop is right on the main drag and if it’s lunch time, try a Turkish Kabob, just two doors down.
Dean Whaanga (firstname.lastname@example.org) also lives not far away and is as well known as a great fishing guide as any of them. From Gore, head north on Hwy. 90 to Rees Junction and then north on Hwy. 8. This road take you through the old Gold Rush Towns and the warmest and driest part of N.Z., with fruit stands everywhere. It also leads to Cromwell, the home of Ronan Creane (email@example.com) who guides all over the map and also writes on the Sexy Loops Blog, which is a good source of down to earth fishing info and insights. Now the last great stop on this route would be the town of Omarama, which is less than two hours north from Cromwell. You want to stay at the Sierra Motel and Neville can point you in all kinds of directions for streams, rivers, sping ponds, etc., or hook you up with a Fishing Guide. He knows them all.
From Omarama you are also not far from Mt. Cook, the tallest mountain in the N.Z. and you can drive up for a look on your way back to Christchurch for your departure. Departing from Queenstown would also be an option as well. Mt. Cook is actually closer to Queenstown than Christchurch. So this route that I just took you through could easily fill 2-3 weeks or 2-3 months. If it’s your first trip you likely would like to want to see as much as possible and then find your favorite places to focus on during your next trip and have fewer and longer stops. Hiring a few guides, expecially early in your trip, can really help bring you up to speed a lot quickler as well. Bringing a Laptop also really helps and you can now get WiFi practically everywhere. It makes planning your next stop easy, as well as checking the river flows and rainfall (es.govt.nz.) and watching The Breakfast Show on channel one every morning will give you a pretty good idea on the ever changing weather patterns. As for the costs of fishing down here,
it’s really not that much, especially with the low N.Z. Dollar and my banking friends don’t expect that to change much in years to come. In U.S. Dollars, Hiring a guide will generally run you $500 to $600 a day motels will run you about the same as if you were in Montana. But as you find the fishing areas you love the most, and with a little sniffing around, N.Z. can be very inexpensive. For me, after fishing all over both Island for all these years, I’ve now paired it down to just my favorite places, surrounded by rivers and streams, and I now rent 4 different cottages that I orbit between. So instead on all the packing and unpacking, I just park myself for a week or two or longer at one spot, load up the refridgerator with good food, and a tank of gas can easily last the whole week. Then the costs really drop and your time on the water jumps right up as it’s often right out your front door, along with the evening hatches. So by doing it this way, I think, based on two people sharing the costs, you can easily fish your brains out for about $100 U.S. a day per person for everything.
I should also add, that if you are a golfer, you’ll find Heaven down here, especially if the rivers need a day or two to clear after a freshet. I have a course I just love and I joined the Golf Club. When I asked the Club Secretary how much the annual membership cost, he said, “$75 a year.” So in U.S. Dollars that’s about $55. This year I played about 35 rounds and mostly had the course all to myself. Do the math. Add to all this that when you drive around the rural areas of the South Island you can leave the car keys in the ignition, never lock a door, and everyone waves as you pass them on the road. So maybe the biggest gift to us from N.Z. is not just the fishing, it’s realizing that there’s lots of goodness left in the world . Thank You New Zealand. It’s been such a wonderful privilege and I can’t wait for November to do it all over again.
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The Profile of a Fly Fisherman
Name: Bessie Bucholz Born: Wyoming, USA Occupation: Program Director at Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures Country of residence: USA Website: www.instagram/besstofthebess
How did you get started fly fishing and when? I wasn’t born with a rod in my hand, to be honest. I actually was born wielding shotguns and rifles! I am grateful to my parents for instilling within me a deep appreciation for the outdoors by exposing me to the wonderful sport of hunting, but I didn’t develop my affinity for fly fishing until later on when I would join my best friend on her family’s fishing adventures. We would always float and fish the North Platte River as kids, which essentially laid the groundwork for my career in the industry and compelled me to become a flyfishing guide
on my home waters right after college. As a result of my infectious love for flyfishing, the rest of my family has taken a real liking to fly fishing and we now make a point to take at least two or three fishing trips each year. I consider myself so lucky to be able to say that my favorite hobby and my job are truly one and the same. You work for Yellowdog Fly Fishing. How did you get into the fly fishing business? My favorite word in the English language is “serendipity” and the following story explains why. As I said above, I had been
Bessie Bucholz a guide on the North Platte prior to moving to New Zealand. I loved everything about guiding, so it was difficult to trade in that life once again for a job behind a desk in New Zealand, doing something that I was decidedly indifferent about but felt that I ought to be doing because all of my peers were doing it too. While the job allowed me to enjoy the incredible lifestyle of New Zealand, crunching numbers was decidedly unfulfilling. I simply could not envision a happy future for myself if I continued on that professional trajectory. Furthermore, I could not leave the job without leaving the country, as my visa was sponsored through my employer. This conundrum forced me to ask myself some tough questions about what I was really trying to achieve with my life and how I was going to achieve those things. To nobody’s surprise, the answers all pointed me back to fly fishing, which has always been my great passion. So, at 25, I took a huge gamble and left my job, left New Zealand, and headed to Bozeman, Montana to ask Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures if they would be open to the idea of me developing their New Zealand program. As it turned out, they had been looking for the right person to do that job for over a decade, so the situation could not have been more fortunate for either myself or Yellow Dog. Now that I am finally and firmly established in the industry again, I swear I’m here to stay!
What is it that intrigues you about fly fishing? As someone who is both a perfectionist and a lover of learning, the notion that fly fishing is “imperfectable” or impossible to “master” is what keeps me coming back for more. There are literally no limits to the amount of knowledge that can be cultivated through fly fishing. There are also countless factors that can impact successes or create failures on the water, but each set of challenges, in combination with time, serve to make one a better angler. However, no number of days on the water could ever amount to “perfection” and I love that about fly fishing. Like in golf, it is the pursuit of perfection that makes a sport like fly fishing so fun and captivating. On a more emotional level, I am drawn to fly fishing because of the lifestyle and ethos it represents. For those who fish (and hunt), a common passion for the outdoors is often underpinned by a sense of stewardship and conservation. I think it is so great that engaging in the sport often forces one to engage in the critical dialogues that will help to sustain the future of these wild places that we seek out for pleasure and recreation. My personal need for nature is as intrinsic as my need for food and water; fly fishing is simply the mechanism by which I can experience nature in a very intimate way.
The Profile of a Fly Fisherman
What goes through your head when you’re out fly fishing? Sometimes, it’s a lot of things. Sometimes, it’s very little. When I am fishing by myself, I cherish the solitude and try to purge my mind of most all thought so that the focus can be on just fishing and technique. I enjoy the transcendental and therapeutic nature of fly fishing. However, I’m not going to pretend that all of my fishing is like something Thoreau could have written about. In fact, I love the social side of fishing and some of my most cherished fishing memories involve hot summer days, drift boats, friends, music, bikinis and bare feet.
And when it’s that kind of experience, my thoughts are mostly focused on how to balance a beer and a fly rod. What characterizes the most rewarding moments as a fly fisherman? I think I’m supposed to say something spiritual or selfless, like the moment I release the fish back into the water or getting to watch a friend catch the fish… but if I said that, I would just be lying. Real talk: I do love all those things, but I truthfully love nothing more than successfully hooking and landing a really nice fish on a fly that I tied myself!
Bessie Bucholz Does fly fishing help you become a better person? Absolutely! Fishing inculcates important life values, such as patience and humility as well as curiosity and resourcefulness. However, it can certainly reveal parts of your disposition that you didn’t know existed and should probably be suppressed. For example, a temper! What is your favourite species to target on a fly rod and why? Brown Trout in all their many colors and sizes have got to be my #1. However, after
my recent trip to Bolivia, I have to say that the fiery Golden Dorado is a very close second. Brownies and Dorado are, in fact, quite similar; they can be very predatory and willing to attack big, nasty streamers as well as large dries and they hold in very similar places in very similarly structured rivers. Sight fishing for either species represents, to me, the true essence of the sport—identifying a fish, observing it’s behavior and then making a perfect cast with a carefully selected fly in the hopes that your observations were correct.
The Profile of a Fly Fisherman When the moon, sun and stars align and you bring that sighted fish to hand after a heart-stopping fight, the rewards are felt both physically and emotionally. Both fish continually haunt my dreams at night. What are your fly fishing ambitions for the future? I just want to keep fishing and traveling. Fly fishing is a window to the world and
can take you to some of the most incredible places this world has to offer. Any exciting new projects coming up? Iâ€™ve got some really neat trips coming up this year to New Zealand and Cuba and then I will be hosting a trip to the Bahamas in November. More than anything, I really want to focus on expanding my New Zealand program at Yellow Dog so that it reaches
its full potential. I also want to learn more about our South American destinations so that I can become more effective in my role as the assistant program director for that region. Yellow Dog is growing so quickly, so I just want to continue discovering so that I may continue contributing! If you could be anywhere in the world right now fly fishing, where would you be - and why? The Seychelles! They are catching record numbers of triggerfish on Alphonse right
nowâ€”in addition to countless other exotic saltwater species on the fly. I have always dreamed of hooking up with a Giant Trevally on the fly; it would be so unreal to see my reel screaming to the point where it may actually explode because the fish at the other end is literally that strong. I also havenâ€™t been to the beach in ages, so I am really just craving a little sand, a nice sea breeze, and some warm sunshine. My Swedish heritage is great until I turn nearly see-through in the winter from lack of sun!
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Many consider the permit to be the holy grail of saltwater fly fishing, and it is usually the missing link when ambitious fly fishermen head out in the hopes of landing a grand slam. The permit’s genus name, Trachinotus comes from a fusion of the Greek words trachys, which means “rough”,
and noton meaning “back”. The species name for the permit, falcatus, is a Latin adjective, which roughly means “armed with scythes”. This serves as a reference to the permit’s dorsal fin that occasionally protrudes from the water when schools of permit feed near the surface.
Visually, permit have laterally compressed bodies with leathery skin that is charcoal- and lead coloured along the backs and that glare and sparkle in silvery and golden shades along the flanks. They have narrow tailpieces and deeply forked tails that allow them to dramatically accelerate and gain speed. Besides being sublime and stubborn fighters that will test your fragile fly fishing tackle to the limit, permit are incredibly finicky and astute fish. And being anatomically equipped with big,
staring eyes that seem more befitting of a cow or horse, the permit has a keen vision that enables it to scornfully reject any fly that isnâ€™t super-convincingly tied or retrieved. Permit inhabit the Western Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Brazil, and they usually travel in small packs or schools searching for crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp â€“ and sometimes smaller fish. They are usually found in rather shallow water â€“ on mudflats, channels and close to patches of coral
reef and turtle grass â€“ but they can also be found in open water, usually along drop-offs, reefs or other types of protruding structure. Permit spawn offshore during the months of May and June, but they actually spawn sporadically throughout the
whole season â€“ usually along reefs or nearshore waters during the full moon. In terms of size, permit can reach lengths of up to at least 120cm and weights up to 40 kilos. However, catching a 10kilo+ permit on a fly rod is considered a trophy by most.
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I’m lucky enough to get to fly fish some of the most remote and beautiful destinations in the world. When I’m there, however, I don’t want to rely on luck. I want to eliminate all the stochastic variables! That’s why I only use the best gear available – and Lenz Optics have become an integral part of my gear setup. Lenz Optics keep me sharp and focused when it really counts!
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Scierra Salis: SALTWATER AND STREAMER RODS The Salis rods are designed for the coasts of Northern Europe and for the multitudes of lakes hiding huge pikes and other toothy fresh water predators. We have strengthened the deeper parts of these rods to ensure faster actions to master the stronger winds, heavier flies and generally difficult conditions connected with these fisheries, but we have not compromised with the actions. The smoothness of unbroken bending curves will always be the crucial part of the definition of an excellent fly rod and the Salis rods are all excellent. Enjoy!
Lenz Optics Nordura: ZEISS-FITTED SIGHTFISHING GLASSES When that highly prized trophy fish is finally within reach, and you get that one fateful cast, you need all the clarity, contrast and perception of depth you can get. With its tight fit, big antireflective lenses and ‘ghost light’-reducing frames, the Nordura sunglasses will offer priceless assistance. The rest is up to your nerves and casting abilities! For more info: www.lenzoptics.com
Waterproof Luggage: THE SCIERRA KAITUM WP DUFFEL BAG The Kaitum waterproof bags are lightweight, flexible, and durable. They are based on a 3-fold down principle that ensures 100% waterproofness. The bags are made from 55% TPU (Thermoplastic polyurethane) and 45% nylon combining the flexibility and strength from the 2 materials, and they are very roomy. Closed size 85x40x40cm - 136L. For more info, please visit: www.scierra.com
Zoran Tasic: INNOVATIVE FLY TYING MATERIALS Not only is Zoran Tasic an incredible fly tyer, he is also a fly tying material innovator. He has now launched a series of products that will make tying realistic nymphs a whole lot easier. Zoran has designed a whole range of weighted and unweighted silicone mayfly and stonefly nymph backs that can easily be tied onto a hook in order to make super-cool imitations. Zoran has also developed a range of die cast nymph bodies (Caddis and Hydropsyche), and lead heads for Czech nymphs. In combination with a whole series of Flexi Silicone legs that are extremely easy to tie in, Zoran has made a very versatile fly tying portfolio for making superb nymphs. Zoran lives in Serbia where the rivers are crystal clear, the fishing pressure high, and the fish spookish and selective. He has developed his fly tying materials and flies for these super-selective and finicky fish, and he has made some drastic progress with the local trout and grayling. We’ve had the chance to play around with the materials for a bit, and we can honestly say that they are superb! Not only are they super-easy to use, they also result in very convincingly looking flies. And the fish love them!!! For more information about Zoran Tasic’s fly tying materials, please visit his Facebook site: www.facebook.com/zoran.tasic.923 or send him an email: Zoran.Tasić.Priboj@Gmail.com
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THE FENDER DEER HAIR PARACHUTE By BARRY ORD CLARKE
This is an alternative method to tying the traditional parachute style hackle. The deer hair parachute technique replaces the hackle and parachute post of the normal para pattern. But just as the original this enables the body and thorax of the fly under the hackle to sit deeper in the surface film and be presented in a more realistic manner in the feeding window of a fish. There are many different techniques for tying Parachute hackles, and special gallows tools that enable you to keep both hands free for tying. This is probably the easiest technique that requires no special tools and it can be applied to most traditional types of dry flies and emergers. You will find that the results will dif-
fer with the type of deer hair you use. I have had good, but very different results with both early season and late season hair. The early season hair is fine and stiff, being a summer coat and gives a result much more like a traditional hackle. The late season hair, (winter coat) on the other hand, has much more body and volume and flares more. The result if wished can be more like a paraloop hackle if not pressed down flat and glued. Another point to note is that the winter coat contains much more natural fats and has a tendency to not adhere to glues! But if you are using shop bought deer hair that has been washed and tanned this should not be an issue.
Unlike the deer hair, moose main benefits from not being tanned and washed. The natural fats / oils make the hair much more flexible and durable. Shop bought moose main, again that has been washed and tanned can become dry and very brittle, breaking when wound or stretched. So if you hunt or know a moose hunter ask if they could get you a 30 x 30 cm patch of skin from the back of the neck of a bull. Moose mane hair is not from the beard as many tyres believe that hangs on the front of the neck, but the longest hair that can be found is on the back of the upper neck. Being a elk hunter I have access to a huge amount of select material each autumn, but the skins being the size they are I only take smaller patches of the best and most useful hair for tying. These hairs are remarkably strong, practically unbreakable when pulled between the fingers! This will be enough material for all your moose main patterns for a very long time. Normally the style of rise observed,
will give a good indication to what stage of the insects life is being taken! With emergers the fish almost seem to be anaesthetised slowly and repeatedly sucking in the water under the target, or the surface film is pushed up in a small mound without the fish actually breaking the surface. When rising to duns the rise is more enthusiastic, slashy and splashy. When rises are sparse or the fish are playing hard to get, just taking one or another emerger. You can search pocket water or fish dead drift with an appropriate single nymph, combined with a emerger dropper. This ribbed moose main (quill body) technique is an old one that I have revitalised with the help of Bug Bond UV resin. We all know the floating qualities of deer hair are hard to match but its still worth giving these patterns a coat of floatant for extra buoyancy before you fish. This is a quick and simple parachute technique that requires only deer hair and Bug Bond UV resin.
MATERIALS: Hook: Mustad C49S Thread: Dyneema Body: Moose mane hair one black one white coated with Bug Bond UV resin. Thorax: Two strands of long peacock herl Hackle: Deer hair and Bug Bond
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EASY BAITFISH TUBEFLY TUTORIAL By PRO SPORTFISHER A full tutorial on how to tie a very easy, but durrable effective baitfish fly on a micro tube.
THE FIELD COFFEE DIARY - TRAILER By ROLF NYLINDER
EXPECTATIONS - BORNHOLM By URBANFLYFISHING Follow 8 Danish fly fishermen to the island of Bornholm in Denmark, in search for big sea run brown trout, and fulfil there fly fishing expectations. All fishermen have different expectations, to the outcome of a fishing trip... or have they?
The Spirit of the Jungle “Pirarucu” means “the red fish” in the local Indian language, and it’s the name of the biggest freshwater fish of the Amazon – the Arapaima (Arapaima Gigas).
By RODRIGO SALLES Photography by RODRIGO SALLES, RAFAEL COSTA and UNTAMED ANGLING
I remember seeing monstrous arapaima in old books and local fishing magazines as a child. Especially an image of a 2,5 meter long arapaima hanging from a tree with a man standing beside it looking really small, stayed in my mind. I grew up fishing for freshwater Dorado in southwest Brazil, and geographically, those fascinating pirarucu were completely out of reach. However, I always knew I would overcome the distances! To begin with, I started thoroughly researching the arapaima: Read all articles and books I came across. The information, however, was very superficial and scarce. It was only in a few biology books that I was able to find any relevant data and information. The arapaima can reach weights in excess of 250kgs and lengths of more than 3 meters. It is a carnivorous fish with one of the highest growth rates among freshwater fish. It will devour anything from insects and crustaceans (in their juvenile stages), to baitfish like piranhas and even small peacock bass. Its distribution area stretches through the northern and eastern Amazon into the Amazon River basin, Solimoes, Japura, Negro and Madeira.
It is also found in the basin of the Rio Araguaia - Tocantins in central Brazil. Wild arapaima migrate between different environments in the Amazonian floodplain according to the seasonal water level fluctuations. During the dry season, the fish mainly inhabit the lakes, but also the Parana environments and river channels. At the beginning of the flood season aquatic environments begin to connect. For a while, the arapaima will continue to inhabit the lakes and paranรกs but they also start to migrate into new lakes and lagoons via channels and creeks. During the rainy season - as the water levels continue to rise, the arapaima migrates to the flooded forests, which are rich in nutrients. Once the water starts to drop again, the arapaima is then forced to migrate out of the flooded forests, which dry up. Reproduction The pirarucu form couples for spawning during the low water season in the lakes. At the beginning of the flood season, when the water is approximately 1 meter deep, the pirarucu couples build their nests on the banks of the marshes surrounding the lakes, channels and lagoons.
The female lays eggs in the nest and the male fertilizes them. Usually the male takes care of the alevin and juveniles for about three months in the flooded forests. At the end of the first year of their lives, the arapaima will have reached more than 80 cm in length and when it’s five years it will measure more than 188 cm. According to scientific studies from the Mamirauá Reserve, the arapaima reproduces from the age of three when it is approximately 150 cm in length. Tarpon vs. Arapaima Personally, I believe that there is an ancestral relationship between tarpon and arapaima. They are quite similar in appearance and mannerisms, and just like the tarpon the arapaima breathes air by rolling on to surface. The arapaima performs this respiratory stunt on the surface every 15-20 minutes. The indigenous tribes of the Solimoes Basin relate this behavior to the spirit of the jungle – a spirit that raises the great Amazonian river monsters to show their size and power, and urges them to observe what their human descendants are doing.
The majority of the Amazon Indian tribes has legends and beliefs that they are direct descendants of the big mother fish or big snake. This large animal left his descendants on earth in human form, and it is the pirarucu’s duty to take care of his descendants living along the riverbanks. The respect that the local communities have for the arapaima has really captured my attention. And the allure of being able to fish consistently for the largest fish in the Amazon has become an obsession. The driving force in our explorations was to discover if any untouched places full of pirarucu still existed in remote parts of the Amazon. And its behavioral- and feeding similarity with the tarpon boosted our confidence that we could have success fly fishing for them. I’m not a master in terms of tarpon fly fishing but I’ve had numerous experiences in Mexico, Cuba, Florida, Costa Rica and Brazil that provided me with clues in terms of equipment and techniques. This alone, however, was not enough to face the Arapaima.
In search of arapaima The key to success when it came to the arapaima was to understand its mysterious and intriguing behavior – it’s way of feeding, migrating and habits throughout the year. Because it is an archaic fish that has carefully adapted to the Amazon jungle and its flooding pulse, the arapaima is a master at finding the most favorable habitats for feeding and spawning – and usually without having to migrate great distances like other jungle fish such as golden dorado or payara. We spent a lot of time exploring remote reserves and coming to an understanding of what would be the perfect place for arapaima fly fishing. The key was to find a place with a high concentration of fish, clear water (much of the arapaima’s habitat is in turbid and muddy watersheds) and ideal fishing conditions. The search took us to the largest protected arapaima reserve on the planet: Mamirauá. This reserve, which is a stunning 1,1 million hectares, was discovered in the 80s by the great naturalist and scientist Marcio Ayres whose mission it was to protect an area with one of the largest bio diversities of the Amazon - both
in and out of the water. What makes Mamiraua so special is its geography. It is one of the largest flooded tropical jungle ecosystems in the Amazon. It’s composed of lowland territory full of lakes, rivers and marshes, connecting two major Amazon rivers: the Solimoes River and the Japurá River. Mamirauá was the first Sustainable Development Reserve in Brazil, legislated by the Government of Amazonas in 1996, and it remains the largest arapaima reserve in the world. The purpose of a Sustainable Development Reserve is to find a balance between biodiversity, conservation and the sustainable development of an area inhabited by human populations. The locals call the water at the core of the reserve “black water”, but despite its dark tinting from decomposing jungle leaves, it is actually quite clear - allowing for sight casting opportunities for a variety of different species. Pirarucu Nirvana! What became our biggest challenge is that Mamirauá is a protected area with strict conservation laws, and – not least - fishing regulations meaning that any form of fishing for arapaima was prohibited within the reserve.
What we didnâ€™t know at the time of our first encounter with the place was that the local community had just received a permit to manage a small percentage of pirarucus for sale - under strict control from the authorities. We ended up presenting a proposal similar to our other jungle projects in Tsimane in Bolivia and MariĂŠ in Brazil. These projects are based on a concept of total partnership with local Indian communities to create sustainable fly fishing tourism supported by biological studies and at the same time generating income for local communities, preserving their culture, rivers and fish. In the beginning, the proposal seemed rather ridiculous to the local communities. How it was even possible to fish pirarucus with stick-thin rods and lures made of small hooks and feathers, seemed incomprehensible to them. Being accustomed to fishing with harpoons and handlines, the leaders of the local association and community members living within the MamirauĂĄ reserve, did not seem to believe in our idea. During a meeting, where all the local communities were present, I introduced our concept and proposal.
And I saw the typical reaction... it was literally carved into everyone’s faces! I was speaking in an undecipherable language and presenting ideas that were thought to be downright crazy. Our ideas turned into a laughingstock for several minutes, fuelled by the reaction of some of the most experienced local fishermen when they saw the fly fishing equipment that we proposed to catch arapaima. After several minutes of hysterical laughter some of the community members left the meeting, and I realized I had to make a bigger impact. With much effort I managed to bring everyone back into the floating barge, which was the site of the local association meetings, and I presented them with a tarpon fly fishing video. I asked for everyone’s attention, and as soon as the audience began to see the jumps, the fight and the big tarpon being caught on the fly, their faces began to change. The jokes and laughs turned into curiosity. YES! They seemed to understand that it was actually possible to catch a big fish with this ridiculously light equipment. Soon after the end of the film, the association’s president came with a big question, however: “The arapaima is different, it can sink a canoe. Do you really think
fly-fishing could work?” I responded that we should do a scouting session and find out - and that we should do it together. Now the room was filled with excitement and after some further deliberation, the communities decided that if the session was successful, they would study the proposal and change the commercial management of the arapaima in favor of the fly fishing tourism project! My self-satisfaction was now faced by the monumental task of actually catching an arapaima… A make-or-break session A test fishing session was agreed upon, and I only had one day. It was the end of the season and my odds weren’t the best. The water levels were dropping drastically, and it was probably the very last chance of the season. And to make the film script complete, I had no idea where and how to catch these monsters. The night before THE DAY, desperate thoughts were crashing through my brain: What kind of line should I use, which flies, which strip speed and where should I find the fish? I knew it was my only chance to permanently change the history of pirarucu fishing at the reserve.
I spent the night in a hammock on a small porch atop a floating shed, and from there I saw the platinum reflections produced by the full moon as pirarucus rolled calmly on the surface. Amazingly, numerous fish, from all sides, seemed to dance in the moonlight. Not a single minute passed by without another arapaima emerging from the dark waters of the Mamirauá. All these fish, and the turbulence they made seemed like a provocation: a call of the jungle. I couldn’t stop watched them rolling - and with the spirit of the jungle suddenly alive in me, I didn’t sleep at all that night. 5:30am, a small aluminum canoe came to fetch us. We took a deep breath and ventured into the humid jungle, which was now clad in thick fog. We motored onwards for 10 minutes in complete silence, and in the middle of the lake, Antonio, the President of the Association, and Sabá, its director both of them experienced local fishermen - stopped the little engine, looked at each other and said simultaneously: This is a good place. I picked up my 12-weight RL Winston rod paired with an intermediate tip fly line and an 80lbs leader.
Sabá asked to see my fly box and proceeded to carefully analyze each pattern. He singled out three flies and said that those were the ones that resembled the arapaima’s prey fish best. Out of the three, I picked my ace of spades bet - a white and gray streamer, and got the ball rolling! To boost my “confidence” in the fly, Antonio repeated a mantra every 30 minutes: This will not work out! They do not want this wig. Put a piece of fish on in stead! Sabá, on the other hand, was extremely concentrated. He showed me every fish movement on the surface – and the fish were certainly there. It was amazing to see the amounts of monster pirarucu rolling on the surface to all sides. I soon started throwing my fly directly in front of the fish that had just rolled, letting the fly sink a little bit before stripping it in. Nothing! I then changed the stripping speed. Nothing! The fish simply weren’t interested in the fly!
The break-through I asked for a change of place and so we went to a channel outlet to the lake where schools of arowana – another jungle fish - of various sizes were foraging. The arowana is a wonderful, omnivorous fish and a relative to the Arapaima, but much smaller. Arowana is one of my favorite fish in the jungle, and I particularly enjoy sight casting for them with big dry flies. So I quickly produced my 6-weight rod and put on a beetle imitation. Arowana are known for jumping out of the water to snatch food from low-hanging branches. They frequently hover just below the surface in shallow water, making for prime sight-casting targets. I had the opportunity to fish several arowanas that morning and it sparked some enthusiasm and confidence in Antonio and Sabá, who were obviously very skeptic about fly fishing in general. We then went to another place along the western side of the Lake District where several pirarucu were rolling near the shore. Because the water was quite clear we spotted two medium-sized pirarucus (40-50 pounds) very close to the surface in the shade
beneath a large tree. They seemed to rest. I immediately cast the fly in front of one of them and with a slow strip I saw that the fish on the right side began following my fly. I stopped breathing, and continued the continuous and slow stripping. The arapaima accelerated, but – alas – it didn’t take the fly. It followed the fly right to the side of the canoe, and just a split-second before colliding with the canoe, it slapped its huge tail on the surface, whirled and disappeared. It did not take long to find two other fish in the same situation, but this time I changed the fly for a smaller black and red streamer. I made the cast, and on the very first strip, the arapaima accelerated, opened its mouth and inhaled the fly – just like a tarpon would do. I reacted instinctively with two strip strikes, and a powerful surge now made my fly line and backing disappear. The fish then thrust itself clear out of the water accompanied by the excited screams from Antonio and Sabá. After the second jump, and another couple of rushes, the fish started to give in to the pressure and soon after we had the wonderful animal close to our canoe.
The brutal force of the fish really impressed me. Because they can breathe through the air, they are extremely resistant and enduring. Especially when they’re close to the boat they fight back, and landing and handling the fish is a task only for people accustomed to them! The Pater Familias Another epic battle was yet to come. We went back to a small arm of the great lake and hoped to find some fish rolling on the surface. Soon we saw several large fish rolling smoothly at the backend of the arm. Antonio approached very slowly, rowing stealthily towards the fish. He then whispered: “These are big fish taking care of their juveniles. See how the surface is shimmering as if rain was lightly falling! Cast into that area!” It was exactly where the fly landed, and the very instant I moved the fly (a large black streamer), the line stretched. What felt like a massive log turned out to be the pater familias of all arapaima, aggressively defending his offspring. The line started peeling off my reel and seconds later the monster jumped revealing his head and one third of its body. It was immense! The fish then turned towards us, left the shallows and
headed for deeper water. The line went slack for a while, only to start gushing relentlessly off the reel again as the fish fired off to the other side of the canoe. Recovering from the initial shock, I asked Antonio to start the engine, but suddenly the fish stopped. It then turned towards us again, jumped meter-high out of the water and spit the fly. That was the end. I took a deep breath, and began reeling in the line. I was sweating profusely, shaking from the adrenaline rush, and I was on the verge of crying. I sat down in the canoe with my head in my hands, and suddenly I felt a slap on my back. I turned to the side and looked straight into Antonio’s eyes. He then gave me his hand, and said: My friend, from now on we are partners in this crazy project! Those were the best words of comfort I have received after losing a big fish - EVER! The rest is history! For more info: Website: www.untamedangling.com/destinations.html#pirarucu Booking: firstname.lastname@example.org
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