It had taken three days to arrive at our destination but at last we were in the camp and waiting to go out onto the river for our first session. With temperatures of 35C+ in the shade we would wait until about 2 hours before dark before we went, then fish for two hour into dark, it seemed a good session and with luck plenty of time to catch fish.
We already knew the river was not in the best of conditions since the rainy season had been weeks late and instead of the moderately low river we had hoped for it was at least two metres above normal levels. This gave two different detrimental effects to our chances, first was that the water had gone well back into the trees in many places and some fish went with it. The second was that many of the previous trips productive areas could not be fished since the flow was too fast at these higher levers, we should be fishing many holes that went down 70ft or more and we would not hold in the main stream over quite a number of them. That first afternoon was enough to show that things were not going to be the same as the previous trip in Sept 2012; then numerous fish were caught, and four of the anglers caught 200lb plus fish with three of these getting yet another 200lb plus fish of a different species. We would still get our chances and knowing that any moment a monster could pick up the bait makes for exciting fishing.
My tackle comprised of a four piece travel spinning rod of 30gr-50gr power, this was added to a three piece 30-50 uptider rod. As a back-up for extreme power there was also a 5ft 50lb boat rod that looked a real beast and could tackle anything this river could offer. The spinning rod was primarily for bait catching on bits of fish and the grubs that we were shown. These grubs are found inside a local nut similar to an almond nut and just as hard. You find one without a small exit hole and cut it with a machete to give access to the centre where the grub is waiting to emerge. Great bait but I would not like to try and get a gallon of them for a barbel fishing attack. The peacock bass would also be targeted using the spinning rod using lures and they would give terrific sport on the light rod. It had been coupled with a standard fixed spool reel loaded with 50lb braid and when bait catching, it was necessary to use a wire trace to beat the piranha. It would appear that there are five different species of these notorious fish in the area and I saw three of them with the black piranha being the largest.
These were to prove to be a right pest since they will bite through 150lb braid as though it was not there. Time and time again you would reel in and find the lower of the two hooks in use had gone along with half the fish bait you were using. For some of the target fish it was necessary to use wire and for this we had 100lb test available although the black piranha can bite through even this. Hooks were size 10.0 singles and about 5.0 for the trebles, both in a very strong pattern. My line on the uptider rod was 100lb+ braid using a Shimano 6500 reel, a choice I was to regret but more of that later. I find it extremely difficult to use the standard RH multiplier reels and the 50lb class boat rod had such a reel in place with 200lb braid loaded for bear but I rarely used it.
Over the next few days we fished hard, out just after dawn, about 6.0am and we fished through to 11.00am when it began to get very hot out on the river in direct sunlight. Back out again about 4.0pm to 8.pm and then back for the evening meal. I had taken factor 100 sunblock and it was one of my better decisions as for the first time ever I did not burn at all. Quite often one or more of our smaller fish would be taken back to the camp to form part of the meal, I must admit that although I’m not a lover of fish the fresh samples done in batter that were delivered up were very tender and second helpings were often taken. The guides had fish stew and that they can keep!
It was the Tuesday before we got one of the specimen fish we had come for and I was fortunate that it fell to my rod. Andy and I had been fishing further up river with Mark as the guide and Raymond on the motor. Mark knew the location of many deep holes and places where fish tended to stay and we had fished about half a dozen of these spots when we headed for what would have been our last chance for the morning. Joe had gone with Laurence to a location downstream in the hope of catching a fish called a wolfish; one that needs wire to beat its formidable teeth although he was to fail on this particular trip.
There are submerged rocks here!
Back to our spot, we had now come into an area of rocks, lots of rocks and travelling in the boat was quite an experience, one of these obstructions could be just below the high water level and it is a credit to Raymond that in the whole holiday we only hit a rock once. We had been fishing both holes and long glides, but this time we stopped at just a smallish eddy where the slight depression in the bank allowed comparatively still water to stay just off the main flow. My tackle at this stage was the uptide rod; the trace was 200lb braid with a single 10.0 hook attached. Having been fishing in strong flows I had an 8oz lead on but now I felt it ok to take the lead off and fish free line. The bait would be the head half of a fish of about 2lb, lots of blood and hopefully just what was needed. I cast into the slack and Andy placed his bait into the flow down from the boats position, then we sat back to wait. It was some 45 minutes later that my line began to move and when I struck the clutch literally did begin to sing with the aluminium sound of the spool as it spun, the clutch was set quite tight but that did not matter to this fish and he was heading for the waterfall a little way down from us. Holding the spool with my left hand I eventually stopped the fish and began to retrieve line, not quickly, but definitely he was forced to come back to the boat. When I had made plans for this holiday one of my main hopes was for a big redtail catfish, I had already caught them to low double figures over the last few days but now I could see I had my hoped for specimen. Once landed, the fish was made safe and we went to one of the rocks where it could be weighed and photographed. At 64lb it met my hopes with a lot to spare and we went back to the camp with me having a big smile on my face.
Redtail near to being landed.
A prize 64lb Redtail Catfish
The following afternoon Joe put another big redtail on our list, at 62lb it was well below his best but never the less it brought a big smile and we could only hope the river was recovering as it slowly fell back from its flooded position.
Joe with his 62lb Redtail Catfish
Both Andy and I caught nice stingrays that need to be handled with care, the photo shows the smaller of the two barbed stings that can inflict a terrible wound to the unwary. Hooked in 70ft of water they give the impression of a much larger fish since they initially will not leave the bottom, once you manage that they still give a good fight but at a far lower level of power.
I lost three fish over the two weeks on the river that I would have loved to have seen. The first picked up a bait and tore off at the usual great rate of knots, it is amazing just how fast these monsters can take line off a well tighten drag that is difficult to pull line off by hand without it cutting you. I did the usual and slowly applied pressure to stop it and it was going to plan until the hook pulled. The same thing happen with a specimen that may well have gone over that magical 200lb mark, but hook pulls are part of the scene with these very big fish. The last fish I lost goes back to the earlier comment on my Shimano reel and 100lb+ line, strong enough for most occasions but not this one. We had gone into one of the many creeks and I drop a bait off the end of the boat and hooked into an absolute monster, 6ft or 7ft of angry fish and all I could do was lock up completely and pray. I did stop it and was playing the fish if that is what it could be called on perhaps 15ft or so of line, but even then it got into woodwork below the boat and I could feel it see-sawing back and forth over the few feet it moved until finally the line broke and tears nearly came to the eyes. In very similar circumstances Andy did hook and land a fish of 230lb plus but that is his story to tell one day, I’m just pleased I was there to see it. Joe has caught many big fish here on his previous trips and he did his best to ensure we got the chances this time, but it was not to happen above that already related. He did catch a new personal best wolfish of 23lb, and a medium sized Jau of 44lb amongst those he did take along with a couple of peacock bass but those other species that were about on the last trip did not appear. I’ll include a few shots of those catches just to illustrate what we missed by the river being up throughout the stay, hopefully on my next rip it will be right and numerous monsters will be landed.
If this story has wetted your lips and you would like to try it for yourself then you need to contact Gary Newman on 07971475818 and he will be organising trips with Navin who comes with at least my recommendation for a very good holiday.
Navin’s website is www.adventureguianas.com but it does not really show these trips since it is a new venture only now being developed over the last year.