KENDJAM JOURNAL DAY FOUR – JUNGLE CAMPING
Tailwaters Ambassador, Meredith McCord and staff photographer, Matt Jones, recently returned from an R&D trip to Kendjam – Untamed Angling’s new jungle program in the Amazon Basin of Brazil. This is part four of Meredith’s multi-part trip report along with some Matt’s amazing imagery from the trip. Stand by for the proper destination page for Kendjam coming to our website soon.
Day 2 Fishing:
Camping day. Our plan was to run the 4-5 hours downriver to camp, fishing along the way.
We started paddling with six in our boat, and fishing here and there. We each caught a small peacock and about a half dozen fat piranhas that destroyed our flies. All fish were caught on baitfish patterns with a Sage ONE 8wt paired with RIO Outbound Short line with an Intermediate Tip. White heads and green or chartreuse seemed to be the winners. Then I switched to Dan Blanton’s Flashtail Whistler in white, yellow and blue. This held up a little better to the piranhas. We found that they hit the best when you strip it 3/4 of the way to the boat and just let it free drop to the bottom. It’s usually on this drop that a school will attack.
Next we decided to try our hand at some pacu and matrinxã on my Pool Toy dry fly. Roberto chose a little Umpqua red and white Salt Popper. Lots of hits by little guys and a good solid follow by a matrinxã for Roberto, when I finally made contact with one and brought it in. I did my typical release right before the net. I’m often jinxed when there’s a camera around.
After another hour in the boat, we met up with our co-campers for the evening, Ken and his nephew Brian. They reported a few pacu were caught, along with a handful of other species.
Sandwiches and salad for lunch, which was perfect for another hot day in the Amazon. Then we jumped back into the boats and traveled another hour downriver before taking a beautiful detour. We managed a few peacocks and had the most fun sight casting (aka dropping my fly on the head of a big wolf fish!). Dangling my blue, white and yellow Blanton’s Flashtail, it lunged at it in a split second. A great fighter even at just 5 pounds. Then Roberto and I picked up our 7wt rods (Thomas and Thomas Solar) to a rip small white heavy-headed streamer size 4 on RIO 7wt Redfish floating line across the rapids. I got three eats from matrinxã but failed to go tight on any.
After some gorgeous casting off the boulders, I finally landed my first bicuda of the trip. Then the piranhas came out – and now I understand why the guides roll their eyes when these are caught. They end up being a bit of a nuisance and fly destroyers while you try to catch peacock bass and matrinxã, so we left.
Another hour downriver with promises to fish another great spot. But when we arrived, Ken and Brian were already there, and the water had dropped several feet since the last time the guides were there. This meant very few fish in the runs. Roberto managed to get a brightly colored peacock, which Matt was able to get some great macros of. But for me, it was a bit frustrating to have a huge river and be fishing right on top of another boat. But the guides knew what I did not: the next hour or two would just be foggy waters, almost like a lake. Honestly this four-hour “constant fishing” adventure downstream had proven to be a few 30-45 minute sessions amidst 5-6 hours of driving downriver. I worried about the return trip. If water is low, do NOT go downstream. Jeff Currier had warned me. Totally my fault for not listening to others (including the two guys that we passed on our way in). Hate it when I am stubborn. Ha.
Lesson learned. I just hope the others will forgive me for convincing them to head north.
But the camp is perfect. Two double-bunker tents (with a divider, so everyone has a private area) and a single for Matt. Turns out that although we each had an air mattress, I was the only one with a full sheet set. Aaahhh … the comforts of home. Plus I always bring my Egyptian cotton down pillow with me everywhere I travel!
I decided to make my bed before trying a popper (Umpqua’s peacock painted crease fly) among the rocks for a peacock or two. The guys informed me about two resident caimans, so I tread carefully, mindful of the pair of eyes nonchalantly cruising across the river. On my second cast with my 7wt Thomas and Thomas Solar/Abel/RIO Redfish, I hooked up to a nice 3 pound tucanare peacock. But then I heard the guys back at camp yelling that a second caiman was heading straight towards me and my fish. “Get it off, let it go,” Rafi and the boys hollered at me.
Honestly, I didn’t know caimans could swim so fast. It was like a 10HP motor boat. Luckily, I was barbless, so I released the tension and the fish got safely away. But Mr. Three Legs (this 7-foot gator was literally missing his back left leg) was lingering just a few feet offshore, knowing dinner was coming soon. The Indians knew exactly how to entice the caimans to perform, and we got some great videos and photos with them, barely 15-feet from our feet.
Okay. So how does one attempt to shower or bathe in the river with caimans around?! Very carefully! Thanks to the guides, who kept the gators’ interest with fish remains, and Brian keeping an eye on the water around me, I was able to rinse off the day quickly.
Finally we sat down to a very civilized dinner at a table with five chairs. During the Caiman excitement Rafi was working over the fire, prepping our dinner quickly, knowing that the insects would descend in full force at sunset. Our dinner consisted of beef steaks marinated in soy sauce, fire grilled onions, and pesto spaghetti pasta. Perfect camp dinner.
True to his word, the moment the sun set, it was an insect’s world. Gnats, mosquitoes, ants, you name it, but the food and company was so good we barely noticed, except to occasionally step away from the table to douse ourselves in Off.