March 11, 2010
It was Paul and I today. Paul and I have been close friends for over twenty-five years. We went to college together in northern Wisconsin. We fished frequently during those years but since we both graduated we have lived far apart. Usually about once every two years he will make it out to the Jackson Hole area and I get him into some nice fishing. In recent years we’ve made a point to do some big trips together. Our most recent big trip was an epic eighteen day exploratory float trip in Mongolia. I think we would both agree, Mongolia was and always will be one of the most incredible journeys of our lives. Of course now, every time we fish we want to try and top it. Today would be nothing different.
The way things lined up we got Daka. Daka is the small muscular local guide that Granny and I had a few days ago. Daka is young and all about the fish numbers so Paul and I quickly made it clear, we wanted to get into something a little different. We decided the first move would be to go with Granny and Amanda who were also sharing a boat today and dunk bait in the already proven catfish pool.
We rolled into the catfish pool at about 7 am. The first task of the day was to nail some piranhas for bait. Paul rigged up a small silver Rapala and we took turns dragging in silver piranhas. The heads of these piranhas seem to be the best bait to use because they sink to bottom fast from the weight of the skull, but also, they are the most difficult for the living piranhas to eat off the hook.
The girls pulled their boat close to ours and soon each boat had one catfish rod out. As usual, it didn’t take but a minute for the living piranhas to clean the hook and in some instances bite the hook right off the steel leader. It is so frustrating! Then an hour into it nearly frustrated enough to give up, Granny set her hook into something much larger than a piranha. Out went Granny’s line and the game was on.
In this low water the catfish don’t run great distances because they prefer to stay deep. Granny’s burly fish simply bulldogged his way around the hole for about five minutes Then she gradually worked him to the shallows. Once in view, it was another gorgeous redtail catfish! In minutes a 24lb redtail catfish drooped over Granny.
We gave the catfish pool another hour or so then we were out of piranhas for bait. Paul and I said asta to the girls and headed out on our adventure with Daka. One thing we explained to Daka was that with the strength of the three of us, no secret lagoon was too far to try to get to. Daka took us serious on that and after a long run up the Xeriuni; we were dragging the boat for a mile up a small creek. It was a grunt to say the least, but eventually we arrived at an extremely remote and beautiful lagoon.
I stood from the bow of the boat and threw some long casts with my 10-weight Ross and one of RIO’s intermediate sinking lines. Even though I was making some seriously long casts, Paul would load that jumbo spin rod with his gigantic woodchopper lure and throw about twice as far. It was very apparent why he and Amanda were catching more big fish than anyone. They simply cover three times as much water in a day with a bait that is massive compared to my largest fly. It was awesome to watch Paul work. Naturally though, he doesn’t catch many small peacocks with his huge lure so in about an hour I had about ten peacocks up to 5lbs and he had one, however it was 9lb.
It was great just catching up with Paul. Our fishing was surprisingly slow, but neither of us noticed. That was until about 2pm when some bait started busting 150ft from the boat. Obviously I couldn’t reach it with the fly so I ducked down and Paul launched the woodchopper. What I then witnessed was something I won’t soon forget. Paul’s mighty lure hit the water like someone tossing a 2 x 4 into a pond yet in an instant an enormous peacock bass exploded on it and game was on! It was one of the most incredible fish eats I’d ever seen! That wasn’t all either. This beast tested Paul’s heavy gear to the max by making his drag sing and his 80lb braid buzz through the guides. Then the monster jumped and left me with a vision that will be with me to the grave. It was unbelievable!
I could go on and on about this fish but this is a blog not a novel. Paul landed a 16lb peacock that was impressive to say the least.
It was time for a couple beers and perhaps do something unusual. I knew just the thing. Daka had leaped from the boat several times during the morning. At first we didn’t know what the heck he was doing. He speaks little or no English. Finally he got across to us that he was trying to catch turtles. With that in mind, I suggested to Daka that we take break from peacock fishing and catch some turtles. Paul laughed at the thought of us catching one, especially as I took off my shirt and hat and put my turtle game face on in the front of the boat. Surely if Daka had made several unsuccessful attempts it would be hopeless for us.
But the “Currier” can surprise now and then. Even at 44, my turtle catching skills from way back are still with me, and after sizing up a couple opportunities at cruising bottom-hugging turtles, I made a plan of attack. When the third turtle I saw was zipping along the bottom I ditched my Polaroid’s and dove off the bow of the boat. Once submerged with momentum from the dive carrying me through the water column as graceful as a speeding caiman, I opened my eyes only to see the scurrying turtle three feet ahead. I kicked vigorously and reached as far as I could. At this second the turtle was likely to escape his clumsy predator, however he opted to stop and hide in the mud and at that second I caught up and with both hands corralled him. Up I came, turtle in hand, only to see both Daka and Paul staring at me in great disbelief. I’d caught my turtle!
One would expect that to top off an exciting day with the “Boys from Wisconsin”, but it didn’t. We had the good fortune of seeing some giant Amazon River otters on the ride home. We thought Daka was holding the boat so we could try to snap some pictures, but no, Daka decided to park the boat and try to catch one. The otters made a crucial mistake. Instead of diving and swimming away, they ran into the woods. Daka took off after them and of course so did Paul and me (much slower I might add). To both of our disbelief, Daka caught the smallest otter by the tail! I was petrified that the otter was headed to Daka’s dinner table, but luckily we took a picture that hardly came out because is was near dark and then let him run back off to his family. Wow!
That’s how a days fishing with Paul and I often go. We fished. It was an adventure. A lifelong memory of a great fish transpired, then something funny as heck that probably no visiting angler has ever done occurred and then the otter – just another day of fishing with Paul.