Monday, February 29, 2016

Here is a First

Here's a first:
Yesterday, I went fishing.
This may not seem like big news to you, but I live in Wyoming. I rarely fish in February and if I do, it's on a tailwater like the Bighorn. And even then, stripping guides freeze up, lines become stiff and cumbersome and feet and hands quickly go numb. But not this year. This year, we've had a prolonged and somewhat scary warm spell almost all of February. Given this unusually mild weather, I decided to give a local freestone a try. I guess I just wanted to say I fished a freestone stream in Wyoming in February one year... back in 2016.

In previous years, this stream would have been effectively locked up below a thick plate of ice and snow... as would any of our other freestone streams. Not this year! Yesterday was 55 degrees! The water was still achingly cold, but still... IT WAS 55 DEGREES!

The fishing was slow. I did manage to catch a couple big browns including this magnificent 20 inch hen. She was fat and obviously well-fed which bodes well for her survival this summer... 

But here is the first that I referred to at the beginning:

While stripping a streamer through a large lazy pool, I felt an unusual tug. No, let's call it a grab... then within seconds I felt a second grab... then a third.

Odd sensation #1. 

Then all of a sudden my line zipped off as if a fish had hit then immediately run off without feeling the bite of the hook.
Odd sensation #2.

Then, my catch jumped and emitted a high pitched squeal. Now, I've never had a fish scream before!
Odd sensation # 3. 

I had no doubt I had hooked a muskrat. Muskrats are always about in trout rivers and over the years, I have foul hooked a few. But it felt like this one had pursued my fly.

Knowing this was weird, but obviously possible, I immediately took all the tension off my line hoping my pinched barb would quickly work itself free.

Suddenly, the animal broke the surface again and jumped up and onto a huge plate of river ice that lined the stream's banks. I could now plainly see it was an otter. Probably a yearling and at most 3% of the size of the otters I just had spent time with in the Amazon. This otter squealed in pain and indignation. It clawed at it's chest as it pushed itself across the ice on its back. Then it stopped and whined. It looked at me the same way my dog looks at me when he is in pain: a look that's an unsettling mixture of fear and confusion. I instinctively threw a loop into my fly line as if trying to free a fly from a log and miraculously, my hook came out on the first try. 

Amazon otters although much bigger, have similar blazes on their chest

The otter emitted one last yelp then rolled over onto its belly and slid back into the river. He soon surfaced and looked directly at me. I could see a white blaze on his chest. He was cute... adorable really, and I felt awful. He stayed like this with his head out of the water staring right at me for quite awhile. He seemed to be trying to figure out how something over there could have this effect on him over here. I reeled in my line up knowing full well there were probably other otter with him and moved upstream to fish a different run.

Geez, now that was a first!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Agua Boa Lodge 2016: More Photos from Our Last Two Days

On our second to the last day, Scott Sawtelle and I hiked into a small lago where our burley guide, Preto, had built a raft out of some trees he had felled with a machete (no small task). He had strapped the trees together with vines and bits of collected cordage. The buoyancy of his creation was augmented with an air mattress he had slid between the logs. Unfortunately the mattress sprung a leak so we had to be constantly pumping a small foot pump to keep our feet above water. At the end of a circumnavigation of the lake, we had to muck thru knee deep mud to reach shore. Not an adventure for every angler, but it sure was a hell of a lot of fun!

Foot pump!

Stand on the air mattress inadvertently and you're in the drink.

Wading thru the muck

Back to the main river.


Tapir tracks


Blue and Yellow Macaws

This spectacled caiman was run down by Pedro, our long time friend and guide. Pedro pinned the caiman with his poling stick! When you pick up a caiman you want to make sure you have a good hold on it!

Pedro and Anna

Friday, February 12, 2016

Agua Boa Lodge 2016: More Photos from the Amazon

I decided to post a ton of photos from this years Amazon trip so it's going to take a few days to do so. I'll post expanded captions as a way of explaining some of the better moments of which there were many. I hope you enjoy them.

Dawn on the Agua Boa River. It's cool and calm.

This giant Amazonian otter had recently killed a 10 lb. peacock bass. We didn't know this when we spotted the otter, but we thought it odd that he refused to leave the area and hung around near our boat while we fished the bank. We were later to learn this fully grown male (approx. 75 lbs.) was guarding an important prize. We finally saw the big peacock on shore hidden under a log jam. An eagle had its eye on the fish too and watched every move the otter made.

Tim Lee and Brian Haberstock headed downriver heat starts to fill the morning air

John Riggs probes with a popper

Almost invisible bats
Self portrait

Dog fish

 Caimen magic: Now you see the popper... you don't! 
Catch and release caiman popper fish may be the most fun you can have fishing, I guess you would call it crocodiling.


One afternoon, Peter Greenleaf and I caught over 60 borboleta peacocks from 2-7 lbs. on a small shallow, lago! The piranha were a constant nuisance. I lost a sink tip to one, but the fun we had was worth the loss. Simply spectacular!!

Joseph catching some tasty matrichan off the dock on pieces of apple.


In case I forget as I post these photos, my thanks to all my fellow trip members! We had a great time and some great fishing despite the low water. To Peter Greenleaf, Jim Young, Nancy Keil, Doug Jeffries, Scott Sawtelle, Anna and John Riggs, Brian Haberstock, "Pops" Bahorich, Tim Lee and Dan "Twig" Smith... you all were a pleasure to be with. To our guides Caboco, Preto, Samuel, Pedro, Bacaba, Joseph, our hosts Charlie and Carlos and the many people behind the scenes that makes this great lodge work, many many thanks.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Amazon: Agua Boa Lodge 2016

Lining up on the runway at the lodge

Last Saturday, our annual adventure to the Amazon concluded and we all reluctantly began to make our way home. For this year's trip, our water conditions were far different than in past years and alas, far from perfect. Unfortunately, Brazil is in the middle of a drought due to El Nino and the Agua Boa River was as low as it has been in the last 20 years... certainly the lowest I have ever seen it! In addition to the low water, we also had unusually windy days.

Scott Sawtelle with a big 14 lb. peacock

Another 10+ lb tameness peacock

To avoid spooking cruising peacocks, the low, clear water required long accurate casts  and the winds made the achievement of those requisite long casts quite difficult. At times, I felt more like I was fishing for permit or bonefish in the ocean than for peacocks on a freshwater river in the Amazon. The fact that many of the best fish we caught were initially sighted on the backs of sting rays didn't do anything to dispel that illusion.

Unless you were right on the mark, the prized big boys... the 10+ lb. big peacocks, were easily spooked. Without a doubt, this was the toughest year we've ever had on the Agua Boa and yet, fish were caught, the sight fishing was very engaging and we all had a good time. Each day, we caught numerous smaller borboleta (butterfly) and paca (spotted) peacocks, but the bigger temensis peacocks were quite a bit tougher to catch. That being said, the majority of the fishermen in our group landed double digit fish, with big peacocks of 14, 15 and 16 lbs. being caught each day. In addition to these large peacock bass, we also caught red tail and surabim catfish, arowana, jacunda, bicuda, payara, oscars. piranha and pacu (on dry flies).

The day begins

The day ends
In between, John Riggs and Peter Greenleaf make a statement!
...and Peter Greenleaf and Doug Jeffries sum up another day.

When on the river, huge sandbars framed clear shallow sand flats laced with green bands of deeper water. We blind fished with sink or intermediate tips any structure and these deeper seams. We sight fished big peacocks in shallow lagos and poled the main river scanning the flats. Here, we threw floating and intermediate lines with lightly weighted or unweighted small streamers. After starting out with the traditional 4-5 inch flies, we either switched to smaller flies or trimmed existing flies to present a less intimidating profile and a quieter entry.

Anna Riggs with a solid fish 

Paca or spotted peacock

The low water also had an upside. We had many encounters with a wide variety of wildlife as most of  the animals were concentrated along the river corridors. Monkeys, agouti, tapir, otter, deer, dolphin and the ubiquitous caiman were commonly sighted. Many beautiful birds were ever-present making trips up and downriver a pleasure. We saw channel billed toucans, roseate spoonbills, jabiru storks, black collared hawk, cocoi heron, sun bitterns, macaws,  kingfishers, eagles, just to name a few.

Giant Amazonian otter

Black hawk

More photos and trip moments to follow: