Ankle Biters

ADMITTEDLY, I’M A LITTLE LATE late to this party. The Bolivian Tsimane golden dorado adventure has been online for several years, but I’ve just recently found my way down there. When the first snippets of dorado video began filtering north from the Bolivian jungle, I immediately took note of a fishery that I knew I’d enjoy. What’s not to like about huge predators blitzing baitfish among clear tumbling rapids in a Jurassic Park-like setting? While I’ve done my share of “exploratory” fishing over the years, these days I’m more inclined to sit back and observe while the initial rush of anglers dash and scramble for the early spots. And such was the case with Bolivia.

As with any river fishery, there are trade-offs with weather and water levels. At “normal” flows a fishery is at max efficiency with predators and prey able to disperse and use cover to their advantage. At high-chocolate flows the predators hunker down, forcing us to blind cast and hope for the best. At low flows, the fish are easier to find, but often more difficult to catch. Such was the case during our trip…but when the catching happened, the catching was spectacular.

When Blake and I first looked at this trip, we both decided that low and clear was what we’d angle for. Just like in the videos, we wanted to sight-cast to big dorado in clear shallow boulder gardens. And we wanted to witness the feeding melees when hunting packs of dorado pushed schools of sabalo into the shallows and hacked them to bits. On those fronts we were not disappointed, but between those events we put in a lot of boot miles and slung heavy streamers into thousands of fishy-looking spots. Was it an easy fishery during our visit? No, it wasn’t. Was it rewarding? Yes, off the scale.

For me the highlight came on the third morning when a wolfpack mob blew up a shoal of sabalo and sent them dashing between my feet. That gave me a head-on shot at a big dorado that ate my fly at about 1.5 rod lengths. I was looking right down his maw when he inhaled the streamer. For Blake, it happened on the last afternoon when we spotted a massive dorado laid up in a shallow slot on the Upper Itirizama. It was a tough lie, with opposing currents, rocks, and not much room to land the fly without spooking the fish. From his perch atop a huge boulder, Blake laid the fly inches from the fish’s nose and it sipped his steamer like a rainbow eating caddis. From there all hell broke loose and Blake’s only option was to lean into the fish and keep it from diving down a deep chute between massive boulders. The fight was over within minutes, and I’ve never seen my son more excited. He had jumped off a couple of big ones the day before and this fish was a fitting end to a great trip.

Beyond the fishing, we also give a huge hat tip to the team at Tsimane Pluma Lodge. Manager “Chuky” Lorente and his guides are as skilled a team as we’ve encountered, the lodge and meals were exceptional, the native Tsimane boatmen were an invaluable part of the equation, and the jungle setting was even more spectacular than I imagined. During our week we saw scarlet and blue macaws, raptors, caimans, a tapir, jaguar tracks on the sandbars, and more tropical bird and butterfly species than I could count. It was buggy at times, but never overwhelming, and we had no problems with dengue fever, bot flies, narcos with Uzi’s, natives with poison darts, or giant constricting snakes. Not that we were worried about those things, but…hey…

Thanks, as always, to the team at Frontiers International Travel for their impeccable planning services.

If you’d like to see the entire shoot, please click here.

Jungle commute

Morning rigging and bull session at Pluma Lodge

Low-water maneuvers on the Pluma River

Blake Brown tight to a jumper on the Lower Secure

Alejandro Gatti holding the part that doesn’t bite

Go catch one of these, they’re awesome

Oh sure, he SEEMS nice…

From a deep clear bucket on the Itirizama

Working a pool on the Pluma

Bring wire, heavy wire

Tsimane native subsistence program

Me and Augusto on the Lower Secure

Measuring a good one    

Look up “work ethic” in the dictionary and you’ll find this man’s photo

Blake working the boulder gardens on the Upper Itirizama

Skinny water cage fight

The winner

Release

Guide Lucas Mora cooling off after a marathon walk-n-wade

Farewell asado at Pluma Lodge

Piñata party at the Oromomo airstrip

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