Saturday, April 19, 2008

Second Chance Peacocks

By “No Shirt John”
aka John Rodelli

On February 14th, I was on my way to Brazil for a hosted trip to fish for peacock bass. When I got to O’Hare, I was informed that my visa was invalid, as it had not been used within 90 days of issuance. “Oh yes it was,” I said, but upon inspection, it became obvious that the Brazilian border guard had not stamped my passport when I had traveled there with my wife in March of ’06 to see Iguazu Falls. No valid visa, no boarding ticket. My appeal to the Brazilian consulate fell on deaf ears, and I had to go home and reschedule the trip.

On March 27th, new visa in hand, I tried again. I saw the same ticket agent who remembered me from six weeks before. I gave her an “Aplause Appreciation” award for being so nice to me and for trying to help on my first attempt. I boarded the flight to Miami; this time, I was going by myself. I had been told that there would be nine others at Aqua Boa Lodge, all hosted by another travel agency.

I arrived safely in Manuas, Brazil only one hour late. My fishing rods arrived safely the next day, three hours before our charter flight. My other bag with flies, clothes, etc. arrived the day after that. Since we were already at Aqua Boa, my bag, along with some other folk’s, had to be specially chartered to the lodge, at our own expense! All this was “courtesy” of TAM Airlines. I later learned that TAM had a rolling backlog of baggage that was arriving the day following passengers’ flights. During the fishing season, one whole group arrived in camp without their luggage!

Anyway, since there were three people named “John” in camp, we all got nicknames. There was “Big John,” who was over 6 feet tall; “Arkansas John,” and I was “No Shirt John.” The group, and its host were extremely helpful to me and adopted me as one of their own. The camp manager, Carlos, loaned me a shirt to wear to dinner while mine was washed each night. I was paired up with a newly retired American Airline pilot, who loaned me flies, leader material, sun screen, etc. until I got my bag. The other couple and I were the happiest people in camp when our bags finally arrived Monday night.

Aqua Boa is a fly fishing, catch and release only lodge, and is quite nice. The accommodations are very good, as is the food. The staff was exceptionally friendly, and I enjoyed being met each evening at the boat dock with a caiparinha, a Brazilian drink similarly to a margherita. The fishing and wildlife viewing is incredible. Everyone boated lots of fish in 6 ½ days. The largest during our week in camp was 18lbs., and, with one week left in the season, the largest so far is 23lbs.

There are three kinds of peacock bass: tucanare or grande, is the largest, and has black stripes; butterfly, which has three rosettes on its side, and is the smallest and most abundant; and, speckled, which is the strongest fighter. That said, they are all extremely aggressive, great fighters, and can wear a fisherperson out. Yes, you can actually catch so many that your forearm will ache from fighting fish!

And, even better, they will hit just about any fly! I caught them on Bangers, Gurglers, Whistlers, EP Tinker Mackerels, Sea Habits, Punch Series (Sabalo, Tropical, and Lime), Clousers, Deceivers, and more. For the big guys, we fished sinking lines with bigger flies, but generally, we used floating lines with all kinds of flies.

During the week we saw caimen (big ones, like 14ft.), tapirs, monkeys, giant river otters, and all kinds of birds. One tree had about 25 macaws in it, and they made an unbelievable racket! All this added enjoyment to the trip.

I was unhappy to see the week end. At the last night’s dinner, I toasted our camp host and the trip host/escort. I thanked them for helping me out in my time of need, and for adopting me as one of their own. As we waited to board our charter flight out, we told the newly arrived fisher persons how great the fishing was, and consoled the two guys who didn’t get their luggage in Manuas.

Would I go back? Yes, but only if I could ship my equipment and clothes via FedEx to the Aqua Boa staff in Manuas. Oh, and yes, make sure that the boarder agent stamps your passport to validate your visa, just in case you too decide that you want to go back.

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