A rumble in the jungle with Jim Curry
Where’s the wildest place you’ve ever gone fishing? Here, Guideline’s very own Jim Curry talks about his journey into the depths of the Amazon, on his mission to find (and catch) the mighty golden dorado.
After 12 months of planning and three flights on increasingly smaller planes, I and four of my friends found ourselves deep in the Bolivian Amazon jungle. Flying over the Amazon in a single prop plane and touching down on a landing strip cut out of the rainforest had been a humbling experience in itself – the scale and remoteness were difficult to comprehend. But our journey wasn’t over yet.
The five of us piled into a dugout canoe for the final leg of our journey – a two-hour boat ride to Agua Negra, one of three Untamed Angling camps at Tsimane. The camps form part of Untamed Angling’s stable of lodges in Bolivia and Brazil, which connect anglers like us to those wilder, hard-to-reach locations all fly fishers dream of. And so, exhausted and exhilarated, we climbed off the canoe and into the jungle.
It all started when I came across the Tsimane 3X on Facebook. I still remember the hairs on the back of my neck standing up as I watched the huge golden dorado chasing flies and hammering into baitfish in the crystal clear water. It looked immense. Within two hours, the guys and I were booked on.
Now here we were – sitting on a hill overlooking the Sécure River, drinking cold beers and listening to the briefing from Ezequiel, the head guide, about what our week would look like. We assembled our kit over more cold beers, watching the sun set over the rainforest, before we settled in for our first sleepless night in the camp.
The following day, we set off upriver in our small dugout canoes. The plan was to take advantage of the remote camps high up the Agua Negra, a tributary of the Sécure. Our aim was to get to the camps as quickly as possible, fishing only when we saw ‘frenzies’ – those times when the golden dorado gang up and hammer into the shoals of Sabalo, the dorado’s prey.
Frenzies erupt quickly and finish abruptly. Water sprays everywhere as the Sabalo are driven into shallow water by the marauding dorado. You have to move quickly and deliver the big streamer pattern on the nose of the fish, stripping long and fast, moving the fly away as quickly as possible.
If the fish gods are smiling, then an earth-shattering take happens. Strip set again and again, and then you’re attached to a fish that pulls harder and swims faster than anything I’ve ever experienced. As a result, our first day was spent in shock and awe. We had chances, took one or two, and blew the rest.
The following days saw us pushing further upstream, where the river shrunk but the fish got bigger and bigger. Now it was all about sight fishing, stalking and hunting these incredible predators in the gin-clear water. Everything was being pushed to the limit – our skills, our kit, our nerves. The Guideline kit we took held firm, but our skills and nerves weren’t always as sturdy.
Then came the day I found myself faced with a huge dorado holding station, in a shallow tail surrounded by sunken trees. Armed with the NT8 10´ #7 and the Fario LW 68 fly reel and mouse pattern, my heart pounding out of my chest, I took the shot. The mouse touched down and the huge fish swung up and inhaled the fly off the surface. Once hooked, I knew that stopping the fish from finding the logs was everything. I clamped down and hung on, steering the fish away from danger, forcing the NT8 into an alarming bend – so much so that I remember turning my head away as I thought the rod was about to blow.
Just as I felt I was getting the fish into a part of the pool where I had a chance, it dove into a sunken tree and the line went solid. Without hesitation, Ezequiel dove into the river and swam out to where my line had become entangled in the log. With the fish still attached, he managed to free the fly line – just as it snapped. Everything went slack and my heart sunk.
Then, a second later, I heard a shout from Ezequiel, who was swimming back towards me. He still had hold of half the line, with a large, angry fish attached to the other end. I pulled him out and somehow, with the line wrapped in my hand running up and down the bank, Ezequiel managed to tail the fish. It was 9kg of sheer perfection – sighted, staked and taken off the surface. I was thrilled that the Guideline kit stood up to what had to be the ultimate test – the hardware was flawless. The clothing and Alta packs, which had also been through the wars, came through with flying colours.
Every night at camp we swapped stories of the day. The incredible jungle, the beautiful river, the indigenous guides who we watched hunt so skillfully with their bow and arrows. Every day was such an adventure – undoubtedly the greatest one of our lives. It’s so hard to relay in words – even the pictures don’t quite capture the reality of the jungle. I’ve been lucky enough to have visited some of the greatest fly fisheries in the world, and I went into the rainforest looking for another adventure. And yet, deep in the Bolivian Jungle, we all found so much more than we could have ever imagined.
I'd like to say a massive thanks to the team at Untamed Anglers, and, of course, to our guides Ezequiel, Miguel and Luciano, who never stopped working for us and were all great company. The greatest trip of my life? Absolutely – until I return, that is. Remember – it’s all about the experience.
Words by Jim Curry, Guideline Sales Rep UK & Ireland.
Images by Jim Curry & various photographers, used with permission from Untamed Angling.
Rod: Guideline NT8
Reels: Vosso 68 and Fario LW 68
Bags & packs: Alta WP Waist Bag and Alta WP Backpack