Never Before Fished
Exploratory Camping Trip
Never Before Fished
2021 Multi-species "Exploratory" fishing trip
If "never-before-fished" water doesn’t interest you,
don’t read any further.
In 2019, Wellington Melo and Paul Reiss, at the invitation of a Northern Amazon tribal council, spent several days taking a first look at a complex, headwaters fishery formed by the confluence of 5 small rivers, emptying into a broad central channel in the mountainous Kwamasamutu area. This essentially inaccessible region is separated from the lower river by a massive, convoluted complex of rapids and waterfalls. The almost impassable blockade has obliged the tribal communities to settle in the relatively more navigable lower river, leaving the headwaters totally uninhabited - an angler’s dream.
Acute Angling routinely searches for new fisheries with a quick, two-day first look. We’ll send in two of our decision makers to take the first tentative steps in new waters like this, usually a floatplane drop-off, two days of fishing while exploring the region in a boat or two with local resident guides and then a floatplane pick-up to take us out. It’s fairly efficient and it allows us to survey new regions every year without complex contracts, just a friendly invitation. If it looks promising, we’ll get organized for a larger scale exploration a few years down the road. That’s how we find many of our exclusive fisheries.
Not so simple with this one. First off, our visit was preceded by reams of applications, paperwork and permits due to the protected nature of the region. Moreover, a two-day drop-off wasn’t in the realm of possibility here; no local resident with a boat exists in the uninhabited frontier region above the rapids. Our floatplane dropped us off at the most upriver community in the reservation, where we had arranged for boats and four strong young tribal men to help us drag the boats up through the ridiculously wild set of rapids, braids and waterfalls that separated us from the fishable parts of this waterway. But we weren’t heading upriver anytime soon. Most of the first day was spent in a community meeting, negotiating for what we needed, explaining our intentions and the potential future ramifications to the chief and the entire tribe. By the next morning we had two decent aluminum boats and four excited volunteers. We brought our own motors, mounted them and started off, learning as we went that it would take a full day just to pass the rapids. We set up camp in the dark. It wasn’t until the next morning, Day 3, that we would finally begin to probe the waters.
With only a day to get a feel for the fishery, we set to work at dawn, fishing our way upriver. Our first stop was a lagoon-like pool just off the main channel. That probably ruined our ability to do our job the way we should have. The place was absolutely loaded with hefty C. vazzoleri peacock bass and we were having such a stupefyingly good time catching them that we forgot to leave. Sixty fish later we realized we had stayed more than two hours and were still not more than a mile from our campsite. With sheepish grins, we left the peacocks behind and started running upriver like two bad boys late for school.
But we kept getting distracted. Every creek mouth called us and we just had to investigate them all; each time falling victim to time-consuming attacks by surface-blasting wolfish. Probing massive mid-river rockpiles took up yet more time. Before we knew it we were looking at late-afternoon shadows without ever having dropped a line for catfish. It was time to catch some piranha for bait, normally a quick and easy proposition. Oddly, this time it turned out to be difficult. With the shadows lengthening, I finally hooked a small piranha. As I bent to reach for him with a boga-grip, he disappeared in a massive flash of silver. It was a huge payara! … and he was wailing line off my light piranha reel at high speed! But as quickly as my adrenaline began pumping, my line went slack—of course he took my piranha with him too.
So there we were, a good hour downriver of the catfish hole we had targeted, with the sun setting and no bait. And, we were still a good hour upriver of our camp. Sometimes, in a rocky, fast river, with light fading, discretion becomes the better part of valor. We headed back to camp. It was the right choice. After a meal of grilled peacock bass and a recounting of our day’s experience, our hammocks beckoned and sleep came quickly.
The next morning, (Day 4) we broke camp and headed back downriver. Going down the rapids, although a hairier ride than going upriver, was quicker and easier. We had time to fish some of the isolated pools and plateaus formed by the braided rapids, netting us lots of big chunky pacu. These tasty critters accompanied us back to the village, an offering of thanks for the effort the community and their young men put in to get us here. One of our young helpers, apparently as taken with us and our ideas for future fishing trips as we were with him, invited us to dinner at his parent’s home that evening. It was an unforgettable experience, talking about tribal life as we feasted on the fish that we caught earlier. We sat at a wooden table carved from a massive tree stump that had once grown in the middle of the hardened dirt patio in front of the family’s one room home. In spite of the primeval setting, dinner was a surprisingly formal and elegantly staged affair. It seems that people are people, wherever they are and entertaining guests is just as important an event and is done with just as much pride as any affair we first-worlders stage for guests of our own.
Day 5 of what is normally a two day affair dawned with the chief summoning us to another community meeting. We reported our findings (and lack of them) and expressed how promising this fishery appeared and our desire to learn more. We requested the tribe’s permission to return the next fall to explore further, with a bigger group, a real camp and a floatplane flying directly to it. We explained that this is the mechanism by which we can better evaluate the wisdom of an investment in a locale. Once we could make that determination positively, we would do our best to make this fishery become a resource for the tribe and a destination for our anglers. The chief understood and we left with eagerly offered permission, great optimism, smiles and handshakes all around.
And then came Covid. While our American world ground down to a low level of essential services and limited movement, tribal communities were totally shut off from all external contact. Although Covid was successfully kept out of this village, entire communities found that their access to non-perishable food items disappeared; rice, beans, cooking oil, salt, powdered milk, flour, etc. There were no tools, no fuel, no services. Life in the Indigenous communities reverted to the world of their grandfathers. Thankfully these communities still had lots of grandfathers and wilderness knowledge to guide them through these times. We were unable to make contact with this remote community during this time.
And then came the vaccine. As quickly as Brazil’s government shut down the reservations for their own protection, they raced right back in the moment they had vaccines in hand. By mid-March the entire population of the reserve was vaccinated—and by month’s end, our rapids-guiding, dinner-inviting young tribe member had made his way to Manaus with the chief’s authorization for us to return. We had no plans to run an exploratory trip this year - heck, we were scrambling just to keep up with the craziness of restarting and rescheduling hundreds of trips just to get ready for the upcoming season. But it seems we have a type of disease perhaps even less preventable than Covid—it’s a form of fishing addiction. We just can’t turn down the opportunity to cast into untouched waters, no matter the difficulty.
So now, game on! We’re going in. We’ll take two groups with us during the first half of November. We’ve got our preliminary plans in place and a schedule. If this is your kind of trip, let us know, but keep in mind that this is not for everyone. You’ll be living in a jungle camp, although a much more civilized one than the hammock hideaway in this article. More like “glamping” - complete with flush toilets, tents and electricity. You’ll be fishing with untrained guides in rented boats - but, you’ll be in untouched, unfished, primeval waters. Let us know.
2021 Exploratory Trip
Fall 2021 Trips
|FX-02||Nov 2, 2021||Kwamasamutu||Nov 9, 2021||$6950||Full|
|FX-03||Nov 9, 2021||Kwamasamutu||Nov 16, 2021||$6950||1 Opening|
|FX-04||Nov 16, 2021||Kwamasamutu||Nov 23, 2021||$6950||1 Opening|
|FX-05||Nov 23, 2021||Kwamasamutu||Nov 30, 2021||$6950||8 Openings|
|FX-06||Nov 30, 2021||Kwamasamutu||Dec 7, 2021||$6950||Full|
Our last Exploratory used our very comfortable camping system.
If this is for you, give us a call → 866-832-2987 x 1