Sunday, 7 December 2014

A good day fi we - Essequibo river Guyana 2014

Bigfish boys. - Me and Navin Roopnarain with my huge Jau catfish
 from near King William falls - Essequibo river - Guyana

Having missed out on catching many of the target species on my last trip to Guyana I booked a return 9 day extended adventure with Steve Townson at for late November 2014.  It turned out to be even better than I had hoped.  Read all about it here on D Heaps Fishing Adventures.

The return

Please see my previous adventure blog post for details of tackle etc and pictures of the lovely Thelma.

Preparing for the 2014 Guyana adventure was not as intensive/expensive as for the 2013 one as I had already bought most of the tackle. (See the previous Guyana post for details)  I did treat myself to a Shimano BIG-Baitrunner for my big fish casting rod.  Steve Townson was to be our host as usual and he'd promised to take me out for a few sessions after peacock bass.  Previously I'd only caught bait sized ones so I was keen to see what all the fuss is about.
The plan for this trip looked good with a flight from Georgetown by small plane to Annai replacing the arduous drive to Kurupukari.  We were then to boat down the Rupununi river to meet the Essequibo river by Apoteri and head upstream to the camp by King William falls for the worlds best catfishing.  This year has been very dry and, a few days before departure, Steve informed us that the Rupununi was too low to navigate so we'd have to drive down to Kurupukari and boat the whole 130 miles up taking an entire day.

The flight to Georgetown was as tedious as before. Heathrow-Re-check bags at JFK-Port of Spain-Georgetown.  Arriving in the early hours of Wednesday 19th November I met up with Navin the main man in Guyana.  I knew at least 2 of the 4 guests would be on the same flight as me and I had been doing a bit of informal racial profiling on the plane to guess which of the passengers was them.  Turned out it was a big burly Belorussian called Andrei and a tall American guy from Vancouver called Ken Jones.  We were taken to the Sleepinn international hotel to spend the remainder of the night and Thursday.  Our flight to Annai would be 10am Friday while Navin drove the bags down Kurupukari by road to meet us.  Already in the hotel was Damien Tredwell  from Australia who was working in the Philippines for the same gold mining company as Ken.

The formidable team Essequibo.
Left to right. Damien Tredwell, Ken Jones, Andrei Bylchynski and midget Dave White

The next day we all got to know each other a bit over breakfast and beers by the pool.  Fishing wise Andrei was a hardcore tropical and domestic Salmon fisherman who'd been on several of Steve's trips catching an enormous world record destroying golden dorado in Argentina.

Andrei with his vast golden dorado

  Damien was into GT poppin'/Tuna sportfishing and had a load of Shimano's flagship spinning reels - the amazingly expensive STELLA plus some heavy GT rods for him and Ken.  Ken admitted he wasn't really a fisherman being more into rock/mountain climbing and gnarly skiing.  A fun concept introduced was pessimistic optimism e.g. 'Well I've been buried in an avalanche but at least my leg's broken'.  Several of these happened later in the week.
Ken, Damien and I went out for dinner in the evening to Triving chinese restaurant and then, refreshed, on to Palm Court where Navin had said there might be some sort of action.  We ordered a few El Dorado rum and cokes before being confronted with this vision of female pulchritude.

Pam court bird caning another shot.  Notice pimpy gansta types behind.
She poured us some complimentary shots of some liquor (she was unable to explain what it was) before attempting to engage us in conversation and make us go blind.  Ken got his excellent Spanish out to discover she was just out of the Dominican Republic.  She went on to smash a load of shots herself.  A little later the barman came up and told me they were going on our bill.  'I would hope not' I replied and Ken gave him a straight 'NO'.  Seeing as our friend had not explained this at the outset they did not press the matter and we went back to the hotel alive.  She went & sat at the other end of the bar looking pissed-and-vacant.

The Saga of the journey to King William Camp

An early start with sandwiches from the hotel saw Oma (Navin's wife) pick us up for our domestic flight by small Caravan plane to Annai.  There had been a biblical tropical rainstorm overnight and it was still raining.  The radio announced that Georgetown was flooded and the schools were all closed.  There was a lot of water (and, I suspect, sewage) about the place but Oma could get through it all in the big 4x4.  At the airport it was clear that planes were still running and we could expect nice weather in the interior. All aboard the Caravan of Love for the 1.5 hour trip to Annai.

The 12 seater Caravan at a rainy Ogle airport in flooded Georgetown

The flight was very pleasant  I was sat next to a sexy little Brazilian lady and looking out the windows gave beautiful views of the forest covering nearly all of Guyana.

 The Essequibo river coiled through the jungle beneath and we saw some tributaries and not a lot in the way of houses and roads.  Infrastructure inland in Guyana is basic to non-existent.  There was remnants of railway built by the british in Georgetown but there is no operational rail in Guyana now.    I found it reassuring that the pilot 'Ricky' was a dead ringer for ex England batsman Mark Butcher.  Eventually the jungle abruptly turned into savanna grassland and we descended quickly to an exemplary landing on the tarmac airstrip at Annai.

Top bigfish angler and Guyana kingpin - Navin

Navin was there to meet us as planned and we drove to a nice little lodge/cafe to wait for the arrival of Captain Peacock - Steve Townson coming by car from Brazil.

Steve Townson with a large Piraiba/Lau Lau

After a short wait the man himself arrived and we had a couple beers and some lunch before Navin drove us the 2 hours down a very decent road to Kurupukari.  We met the river on the Fairview side and it was a great sight to see - especially for Damo, Andrei, Ken seeing it for the first time.  Two of Navin's aluminium boats were already waiting for us.

Andrei takes his first paddle in the Essequibo at Fairview. 

We loaded the bags and guests plus Steve and Navin & proceeded upstream through the now-familiar rapids and rocks for 1.5 hours to the same camp I had stayed at on the previous 6 day trip.  The cast were now all assembled.  Navin and Steve were to be fishing with us for most of the trip - leaving a couple days early to get Steve out to Brazil.  Boat captains and guides were Mark and Raymond who were friends from the last trip plus a new man - 32 year old Steven.   He was brother to Raymond and Brian who was my man on the last trip.  Steven turned out to be the best boat pilot I've seen.  Camp staff were lovely Thelma, who enchanted me on the last trip with her sweet bird-like laugh, and her sister Maria.  Maria was 22 with only one child at the village and pretty fit and sweet.  Completing the team were Thelma's husband - boat driver/Miner/Logger 44-year old Elvis and handsome young apprentice gopher/skivvy Ricky - 16.  I think we had a bit of a fish in the afternoon but cannot remember details.  The fishing experiences blend into one over 9 days and will not be presented chronologically as I can never remember which day things happened.
We all got a chance to check each other's tackle out.  Damien had some lovely and eye-wateringly expensive GT (Giant Trevally)  kit for him and Ken to use.
Plans were hatched over dinner and rum (we had about 2 gallons laid on - hooray). Boats were to launch early at 6 to get the guests and some kit up to King William camp a full day's steaming upstream.  The camp would be packed up and brought up in the bigger boat but all boats had to take a drum or more of fuel and a load of supplies/suitcases etc.  Raymond was already up at King William camp with some stuff.
Complex loading arrangements: A shitload of petrol plus..
L to R Andrei, Navin, Steve, Mark, Steven
The day dawned & after a brief breakfast of bakes and eggs we set off.  Andrei and I in Mark's smaller boat with 30hp, Steve and the boys on Steven's boat with a 40.  It must have been Nav, Thelma, Elvis AND Maria in the big boat with the freezer etc..
This is where it began to go wrong.  Mark's boat was heavily laden and wouldn't get up on the plane - burning loads of gas.  Lower in the water, we had to go slow to avoid rocks and Mark is quite a conservative safety first driver.  I'd say the best fishing guide but the slowest boat captain of the 3.  We steamed all day - being overtaken by the last boat around lunchtime below Apoteri at Ladysmith where I'd had a run in with an arapaima on a light spin rod the year before.  And that was the last we saw of anyone.  Andrei - being a bit keen-  was casting around when we were dead slow avoiding rocks.  He did pick up a small peacock which we kept because it was badly hooked.  All the while Mark was scanning the water for the small perturbations in the surface indicating rocks beneath.

Apoteri seen from the river heading south upstream.
When a tropical downpour hit us mid-afternoon he had to almost stop as we couldn't see the rocks anymore. I had a raincoat but the wet soon soaked up from my drenched balls.  As it got later it Andrei and I became concerned that we were not going to make it and began asking 'how much longer/further?'    The answer was always about an hour an a half.  Some hours later it was dark and we were proceeding at a snails pace spotting rocks and trees by the feeble light of my little head torch.  New batteries went in but it was still terrifying.  We'd already dumped the fuel barrel on a beach a way downstream. Eventually we pulled up on a beach and Mark explained it was still miles to King William Camp up 3 sets of actual waterfalls.  So there we were with no camp in the jungle.  The place was a camp with the poles for a camp but nothing to help us.  We didn't venture up into the camp part from the beach.  I saw a few pairs of eyes looking down when I shone the light up there.  I poked around to get some firewood and came up with enough sticks plus a hollow joke one full of termites.  A brown scorpion crept up the trunk of the overhanging tree that was our only shelter but for a 5' by 5' bit of plastic sheeting we'd covered the bags with in the rainstorm.  I was praying that it didn't rain in the difficult night ahead.  Supplies in the boat were.  Biscuits, the rum (woohoo), a couple crates of very warm coca cola and beer and not a lot else.

Peacock roasting on an open fire - Caimans nipping at your toes.

Andrei's small 2lb peacock to the rescue! We got the damp wood burning with some petrol and Mark soon had the two fillets roasting over the fire on sticks.  I kept having to explain to Andrei that the 3 caimans lurking around the beach would probably be too scared to eat us.  Perhaps I didn't sound very convincing?  Dinner was served on a plank with strange sweet/salty biscuits.  I had a couple stiff rum n cokes with dinner before we settled down for no sleep.  I was winning in Marks sports hammock tied on the scorpion tree. Andrei settled down in a picnic chair and captain Mark had the plastic sheet and a tent liner/mozzy net as a sheet.  A couple hours or so after dozing off I woke and scrambled from the comfort of the hammock and ran down the beach for some explosive motions.  The pessimistic-optimist in me said 'Well we may be left for dead in the jungle but at least I've shit myself at 3am surrounded by crocodiles'  I stood and sat for the rest of the night as I didn't want to shit Mark's hammock.  There was only brief light rain in the night and it didn't make the sodden campers any less comfortable.  I remarked that it would have been nice if someone had come down to see if we were alive.  It later came out that Navin and someone had come down below the waterfalls some way and waited the night for us but we had come up a long way short.

Off at first light
Nobody died and we moved off again at first light about 5am.  After a couple hours steaming Raymond appeared coming down at top speed in the empty big boat with a 40.  Andrei and I were whisked up to camp at what seemed like a hundred miles an hour.  The waterfalls really were waterfalls and were negotiated by blasting the boat at them head on and then launching out the top and landing with a mighty crash.
As we launched out of one we were presented with a scene of devastation.  Andrei and I grabbed a couple floating suitcases aboard and the whole place was filled with pop bottles floating around. Navin was perched up on a rock in his pants.  The handle of an outboard motor stuck up from the wreck of Elvis' sunken boat and Steve and the boys were in another boat fishing out bits of gear and floating supplies.

What could possibly go wrong?

Elvis struggles to stay afloat under the weigh of his gold chain

Raymond set us down with the girls on the camp beach on a nice little island amongst the falls and went back to assist.  Some spuds, beer crates, the tools, towels etc were all lost.  Amazingly the boat was raised and outboard dried out and working by the evening.  All done with a screwdriver and a file for sharpening hooks.

Steve-o retrieving the sunk supply boat up the waterfall!
Once the boat was working poor old Elvis was despatched back to the bottom of the river to get replacements for the beer/towels and other lost supplies.  It took him 3 days to make it down and back.
So that was how we found ourselves at King William camp alive and with some beer and a full complement of boats and personnel.
Over the next 9 days of fishing we would relocate the camp twice.  After 3 days fishing we moved back to the camp where Mark, Andrei and I had spent the first night in the jungle where I would be reunited with my shat pants.  This was called Tracy camp.  For the last 2-3 days we moved all the way back to camp 1 above Kurupukari (Scale and Weight) so as to be in easy striking distance of the plane back and also more beer.

The fishing.

Saturday afternoon we did some fishing and I was out with Steve Townson in Steven's boat.  We fished a few rock piles with lures and I picked up a small peacock bass or two.

Still catching small peacock bass.  Evidence here of an actual peacock caught on
Steve's bucktail jigs.
So theyre not just piranha food.
With some bait in the boat we tried drifting and jigging for payara and after a few of the usual dropped hooks and missed runs I CAUGHT A PAYARA,  It was a small one but, of the 20 or more I have been attached to, the only one to end up in the boat.

My only payara ever

Dem teeth

Payara.  They look spectacular but are so difficult to hook and land that I really can't be bothered with them.   I remarked later to Damien that payara are wankers. "Yeah it's all about tits & glamour with them" was the reply.  Another catch-phrase for the week was born.  The mad front teeth of the payara fit into sockets in the top mandible.  We examined a skull from one we'd eaten and there is a spare pair of the big dracula teeth lying down in the bottom jaw ready to swing up and replace them when they get broken off.

 Sunday 23rd of November was to be my first full fishing day.  And what a day it was.  After this it becomes hard to recall which day what happened but its one I shall never forget.  Sunday I was with bigfish Navin in Raymond's big boat and we were to go the remaining 30 mins up to King William Falls proper for a look before doing some real monster catfishing.  To boat above King William IV requires hard labour to haul boats/fuel/kit up the large waterfall and those above.  A spectacular gorge called Jacobs Ladder is up above somewhere and Steven knows the river well even up there.
Secret top bait for Jau catfish is Pacu and Raymond shot us a couple with his bow and arrow before we headed up.

Big Raymond having shot us a pair of Red Pacu for bait

Jau and pacu both like rocky streamy water so it would make sense for one to be eating the other.

King William IV falls

King William falls - boat that!

After checking out the falls we dropped back downriver a way to a catfish hole and set about fishing for the big 3 - Redtail, Jau, Lau-Lau(piraiba).   Anchored up over the hole Navin and I lobbed out our Pacu baits.  I was using a 12/0 wicked-sharp tuna hook on a 12" 108lb wire trace with a 4oz weight sliding on the main 100lb braid line.  Reel was the Daiwa SL40SH on the Shakespeare 20-30lb boat rod.  Navin had a similar - heavier type of outfit but with some kind of supertanker mooring cable for braid.
Beer drinking in boats is usually best performed in the morning while the beer is still relatively cold so we started in early.  I don't think I managed to properly consume one as after a couple of slurps my rod began to show some taps from a fish.  The taps developed into a short run and I manfully struck into a fish.  It was strong but clearly not one of the monsters and I soon had catfish number one in the boat.   A nice little redtail catfish about 20lb.  One off the list of species I'd failed on the previous year.

First redtail catfish

About that beer... Oh no.  Another redtail catfish.  This time about 30-40lb

The next redtail catfish

Amazon redtail catfish in Medium
My beer was still just about drinkable so I carried on only for Navin to get a run on his rod.  After a relatively easy fight an enormous grey brown fish hove into view.  A Jau - zungaro zungaro.  I'd seen them up to about 30lb on the previous trip but nothing like this.  This thing was well over 100lb and really long.

Bigfish Navin with his huge jau catfish.

BOOYAH!  A huge Jau for Navin

A new cold beer was brought out to celebrate but no sooner had I started on it but another modest bite was developing on my rod.  We left it a while to get going but the thing was just sort of tugging at the bait,  I struck the hook in again and immediately felt the weight of something huge.  The fish went on a couple of unstoppable short runs and I tried hard to gain line and get it up off the bottom of the deep hole but then it all went solid.  A snag!  Jau are know for being dirty fighters using all the rocks and snags to avoid capture.  It felt like the fish had somehow dumped the rig in a crack and buggered off.  After 5 mins or so I was all for snapping off and trying again but my expert colleagues knew better.  Shortly afterwards I felt a gentle pull as the fish - still attached- nodded its head.  The brute had jammed itself under a rock and was trying to wait us out.  We tried giving the fish slack to see if it would swim out by itself but that didn't work.  Next Raymond started pulling at the line with his hands to see if he could annoy the fish out to fight fair.  We tried changing the angle and pulling too.  After about 20-25mins Raymond's tugs paid off and the fish began to loosen its hold and eventually was drawn out.  After that it was relatively easy as the fish had been somewhat tired before getting stuck.  I was able to gain line and pull it up towards the boat by pumping it with the sturdy boat rod and reeling in the slack created.
Eventually a U-boat surfaced by the side of the boat.  It was a Jau for me.  And it was truly enormous requiring a gorilla to lift it into the boat.  The nearest thing we had was Raymond -who is a big strong guy.  He grabbed the two front fins, which are stiffened by a big spike, and heaved the thing into the boat.

Monster Jau.  The bottom of the boat is about 4 feet across.

By this time I was laughing hard like a demented John Wilson and did not stop until a couple minutes after the fish went back.  We boated across to a rock for some photographs and I went in the water with the creature.  I was still amazed by the size of it.  It wasn't as long as Navin's one but was incredibly fat.  I could only just get my arms around it.  A weed like me couldn't easily lift the fish but I managed to support it with a knee under it and Navin took some great shots which nicely show the river and forest too.

World record beating Jau catfish 115-120lb est

Jau (zungaro zungaro) has a mouth like a bucket

Already fulfilled for the trip after only 2 days.
Jau - Highlight of the trip
Now.  The IGFA world all tackle record for Jau is 109lb caught in Brazil by a Mr Russell Jensen.  My fish was estimated at 115-120lb and was the biggest catfish caught by anyone on this trip.   I'm not going to be blowing my fish trumpet as the holder of the biggest Jau in the world for one very good reason.  This mind blowing 137lb fish caught a few weeks previously.

Essequibo river record Jau at 137lb! by Matt Alexander Sept-Oct 2014
I nursed my fish in the water for a bit until it swam slowly back, leaving me feeling fantastic.  If I didn't catch another fish all trip I could still call it a success and I had banished the spectre of bad luck hanging over me from the last trip with the best fish I have ever caught.
Another beer then produced another bite from a Jau.  As it began to move off I set the hook and tried to stop it making for a rock - which it immediately did.  I couldn't stop it again because it was another huge one.  "We fishin for monsters here - y'unnastan'?" Navin had said earlier and he was so right.  As the great lump of a jau made itself comfortable under a rock I heaved mightily at it and snapped my rod 2/3 of the way along.  The rod tip slid down the line to the bottom and another tug of war ensued.  This time I was out of luck as the line eventually parted on a rock somewhere after 15 mins or so.  Navin kindly lent me a rod for the rest of the day as the end of mine was gone forever. I had the Flag with me in the bag but I'd promised not to put it up until I had something to crow about.  That lunchtime I raised the union flag  over King William camp and we all had much rum late into the night as bigfish Dave and bigfish Navin ripped the piss out of no catfish Steve.
The rest of the day passed without much action.  We caught some peacocks for bait and tried a spot for Lau-Lau for my grand slam at the end of the day but only a redtail that got away disturbed the peace.

The luxurious Benny Hill lounge at Scale 'n Weight camp

Essequibo crib nights

After fishing finished with the sunset at around 18:30 we had to find other ways to amuse ourselves.  The ladies would run the generator during the day to provide cold beverages/beer from the freezer most nights and dinner would be about 7 and usually be bloody rice.  The food was actually not bad given the basic camp conditions and we had beef/pork and a lot of chicken as well as fish we'd caught during the day.  Best eating fish for me was peacock bass. Lovely white flesh and only one big set of bones to deal with.

Dave trains for the Essequibo Classic world crib tournament

I like playing crib and I had brought a deck of cards (Battleships of WWII) and a small travel cribbage board but didn't think anybody would be interested.  The second or third evening Ken came to the table after dinner bearing cards and a full size crib board.  Ace.  Turns out he was a long time cribbage player but  he is so crap and I am a way better crib player than he is.   This was a brilliant move as he and I went on to teach the beautiful game to Damien, Andrei, Maria & Thelma.  Rum fuelled international cribbage 4-way world championship events took up most nights from then on. There were a couple new features from the American version.  On the board an S was printed indicating the skunk line where, if you were beaten by a full street of 30 points you were skunked incurring some penalty.  In the old-men-in-the-pub version of cribbage that I play this would probably mean buying a round of stout but here in the jungle it meant doing a lap of the beach or round the clubhouse in the nude.  
The dreaded double-skunk would mean doing the same with a boga grip on your balls but this never happened.  We got the idea for this from a lovely anecdote of Steve's where a jolly angler would attach 3 of these about his person and dance with them spinning in unison.

Boga grips.  Obv I'd need the one on the left.

The game was further developed by doing beach night fishing for catfish at the same time.  The rods were all baited and cast out with drags left loose while we played crib on a table set up on the beach sitting on some ropy improvised furniture.  Not much was caught over the week.  I managed a small redtail and Ken got a blinker catfish to add to his impressive species count.  People listened in vain for the bites that would save them from exposing themselves when facing a skunking.

The holy grail - a 29 hand in cribbage
Happily I was a total pro crib player and skunked the shit out of everybody before finally having to expose my scrotum to scrutiny near the end of the week,  Some people did not do their penalties.  Poor Damien had been stung by something early on and had a very painful massive swollen foot which he bore with great stoicism.  He had to walk with a stick so escaped full nudy-running several times.  As did Maria which was disappointing for us.

Back to the fishing

At the moment I only have photos from my own fishing so I'll just describe that for now.  Everybody caught plenty of fish of all sorts with Andrei (probably the best fisherman) getting 16 species and Ken 13.  Fish of note were a 100lb Jau for Andrei and a large 20lb Payara for Damien coming late with the tits 'n glamour.  I think it was Monday when I hooked something a bit different when payara jigging with Steve.  The fish stayed deep and swam steadily around unlike mental payaras.  I really should get a stronger spinning rod as I couldn't really influence the fish's excursions much with my (light) medium-heavy rod.

Blinker(?) Flat whisker catfish.
I think I caught one of these flat whisker catfish/barba chata last year but it was smaller.
One of the things I really wanted to do was catch decent peacock bass.  Many Americans come to the Amazon just to fish for them and they are a bit of a cult thing.   Last trip I caught a few on lures but nothing over 3lb.  This time Steve Townson ( - the only man to have won the world peacock bass championship (twice) -  was going to come out with me and teach me the way of the peacock.  We had several brilliant sessions out with Steve-O and I caught some really nice ones and was converted to a brilliant sport fish.
PB peacock bass - about 8lb

Fishing for these is generally from the boat with the captain positioning the anglers by paddle power in positions enabling them to cast into rock piles which abounded on the Essequibo.  In the day peacocks tend to hide from piranhas and other predators in cracks emerging only to smash into anything smaller than they are.

Captain Peacock - Steve Townson with ace Sukura Shinjin neo travel rod.

Casting lures into these spots produces incredible strikes where the fish appear from nowhere in the blink of an eye and annihilate your lure - occasionally getting hooked.  Often they will launch all the way out the water on a strike.  Best sight I saw was a good 6-7lb peacock come blasting across a rock shelf only about 3" deep to hit at a lure and miss.

Another nice peacock bass on the trusty Abu Atom spoon
 Tackle wise it was mostly surface lures such as spooks that did the damage.  Surface lures can be cast right into cracks without worrying too much about them hooking the rock.  Damien lent Steve a large size Rapala skitter-pop popper in Firetiger and it came back utterly smashed up by peacocks after he took the place apart with it when out with me.  Steve really is very good at peacock fishing and was getting about 4-5 fish for each one of mine.  This earned him the title of Captain Peacock.

Steve Townson confronts Thelma about the breakfasts
I'm always up for trying something different and found that the most effective peacock lure was a cheapo Abu Atom spoon in Firetiger pattern.  Its great to cast and I was hitting all the cracks and getting loads of big hits from peacocks.  I bought some blades from that turn jigs into chatterbait type lures and fitted one to one of Steve's Stevie stinger piranha jigs. ;)  It worked and I got a really nice peacock on it (possibly the personal best one below?) making me the thinking angler's thinking angler.  The jig was utterly destroyed next cast by a huge horrible piranha.

Dat PB peacock bass again

I was told that Steven had said me and Steve were the best peacock bass fishermen he'd seen.  I think that would mean Steve more than me but I still got to love the sport of peacock fishing.  Its actually hard work as you are continually casting and retrieving/snagging/banging fish out and being chewed up by the ever present black piranhas.  The Heddon Spook type surface walking lures were a main choice and got a load of fish.  There is a muscle in the middle of the back which is only used for spooking and mine was killing me.

Once hooked peacocks fight like demons and vibrate their tails at incredible speed.  They can jump way out the water.  I saw 4 or 5 being chased by something shoot about 5 feet high in a synchronised display.

Another cracker taken on a SALMO slider down near Apoteri
(are you watching Salmo - sponsor me - please)
As well as fishing in the main river we fished for a bit of variety in a nice little landlocked pond off the main river by Tracy camp.  We were to drag/carry a boat in there to do this.  All us guests plus a couple staff performed this feat.  First Mark's boat had the motor and gear removed.  Then we hauled the thing up an 8 foot steep bank before dragging it about 10 minutes through the jungle and re-launching it in the secluded pond.  Smokers Andrei and myself nearly died doing it and all of us were covered in sweat and filth.  
Pairs of anglers took turns fishing with Mark moving the boat quietly around with his paddle.
I had a couple of half days with Andrei and Ken and the fishing was excellent. Andrei caught a small trairao or wolf-fish and also the even smaller version the traira.  There were peacocks under all the trees and bushes smashing into things all day long.  The peacock bass were a different species to the ones we caught in the main river and were really up-for-it.

Peacock bass from the pond

In a hectic 40 minute spinning session Andrei and I hit loads and loads of fish with me getting another new species in the shape of two shovelnose/Surubim/Tiger catfish on my light Sakura Shinjin spin rod on Salmo Slider 7 floating lure.  Andrei got a little sunfish too and a hatload of peacocks.  One time we both launched our lures to a nice looking spot about 18" apart simultaneously and started to race the lures back.  A badass peacock of about 3lb smacked Andrei's Thai MIMIX froggy lure before veering left and hooking up when it laced my crankbait MIMIX one he'd kindly lent me.

Small Surubim on lure

Larger Surubim on same Salmo Slider 7 lure.

Eventually Ken and I were the unlucky people in the pond when it was time to haul the boat back out and we did so with Mark and Elvis getting absolutely filthy again.

jungle boaters

I had pulled the boat most of the way

Back in the main river Ken pulled a switcheroo where a hooked payara shakes the lure off into an attacking piranha and buggers off leaving the angler questioning their sanity.  He did it again later too.
I caught a dear little sunfish casting my spoon up under a tiny bush on a rock pile.

Sunfish - ah sweet
 Mark was dead right when he said it was "a good day fi we" as I thanked him at the end of my day with him.  There were a couple of days when fishing could be described as slow but that's fishing.  I even dozed off for a while on one of those days and the lads said they'd heard a jaguar but only while I was asleep.

Photos beginning to appear from other anglers now.  Here is a sweet 75lb Jau from Ken taken on the last day.
Ken with a nice Jau

And here is Damien's Big Payara on jigged bait.

Tits 'n Glamour.  Payara of the week for Damien

On the last day Ken & Damien had a fantastic session with Mark and both caught big catfish.  The one we all wanted was the lau-lau but nobody had managed one until then.  Damien had a big scrap with a smallish (by lau-lau standards) express catfish of about 55lb.  It must have been worth at least 6 points.

The one we all wanted.  Damo's lau-lau (piraiba)
As elder angler I was appointed arbiter for the fish-of-the-day category and had to give it to the lau-lau because we all wanted one so much and nobody had one.  Kens jau was a better example of its species because lau can grow over 400lbs.

The beasts.

One of these should eat the other one.
Capybara and Caiman

The place itself is just breathtaking and is truly unspoilt Amazon forest with all the diversity of incredible wildlife associated.  Turtles and the caimen were boss reptiles with Anaconda and horribly venomous Bushmasters and Labarias doing it for snakes.

Hugest venomous snake Bushmaster.  Fatal every time

Out on the river the Amazon Giant Otters were seen by everybody.  Mark Andrei and I even had to chase some out of the pond when 4-5 of them turned up and started messing up our fishing.

Giant Otters eating what looks like a Payara.  Serve it right

  I talked to Steven a lot on our boat and he told of many experiences with dangerous animals.  Jaguars were present where we were as we saw fresh footprints of a jaguar where it had been hunting turtles on a little island.

Jaguar - King of the jungle

  Ken, Mark and I came back to meet Elvis for lunch by the pond but when we arrived we could hear him but not see him.  He was up a tree.  He'd been down behind the bank and heard something coming slowly through the dead leaves.  When he stood up the jaguar turned and split into the forest again.  That was where we had lunch.  The forest has a full range of cats from Jaguars via mean pumas and
black panthers - all the way to ocelots and whatnot.

Black panther

A puma about to kill someone

  Pumas nearly always attack you.  Steve recalled shooting one straight in the head with his arrow for looking out of a bush funny at him.
Labaria - AKA fer-de-lance

  He had snake stories too from leaping and falling to avoid strikes from one snake to bleeding from hair and every eye and orifice when he nearly died from a Labaria bite.
Happily nobody was harmed by animals on our trip.  Insects though - Jeeesus.  I got eaten alive every evening from the knees down by sandflies (or no-see-ums?).  One evening we had several bullet ants crawling about on the tent.  They are so named because the pain of a bite is like being shot and lasts 24 hours or more.  Worst of all was my run-in with the horrific 40-leg centipede.  

Oh dear God no.
I was rummaging in my suitcase for clothes as it was getting towards dark and saw one of these awful things running swiftly about within.  I freaked out and squeaked something like 'ohmygodofuckinghellthethingitsinthereohchristshitfuck' causing Steve to come in to see what I was being a pussy about.  He caught site of it and said 'ah yeah you'd probably want to get that out of there' as he reversed swiftly out of the tent.  He did actually manage to dislodge it out of the bag on the beach where we dragged it.

Steve Townson comforts me after meeting the 40-leg.
Damo pinned it down with his staff of power and I cut both ends of it off and threw them in the river.  Have that you 40 leg bastard.  You do not need to know anything about insects to sense that one of these things is bad news when you see the speed of it.  I stayed behind talking with Thelma and Mark and Steve-o after dinner and asked what happens when a 40 leg bites you.  'Some people get it bad and bleed and vomit blood' she told me.  If there is a benign God then why do this? Whyyyy?

During my return to England a lot of horrible infected sores/bites have appeared on my legs and feet.  If you're going to Guyana jungle remember to apply DEET liberally below the knees.  I was covered in sandfly bites and my left foot got a rash and swelled up to about half the size of Damien's massive foot.

River Tiger update

In last year's Guyana trip Brian, Mark, Dan & I had a strange experience which was attributed to the River Tiger - a  semi-mythical(?) beast or demon inhabiting one of the river channels up near Baboon above Camp 1 (Scale and weight).
I was still intrigued by this and asked Steven if he believed in it after describing our experience.  A sensible guy who's word I respected replied that it definitely does exist.  Its a big web footed tiger type animal that comes out at night catching fish as well as pulling in animals from the land to eat.  Steven said he's seen it at night.
His grandmother - she and her husband were the first people to live at Fairview Kurupukari many years before the road came there and it turned into a village - had hooked a river tiger in the flipper/hand and had hauled it up to below the boat.  It clung on beneath the boat and she got scared & cut the line off when she saw the foot and realised what it was.  There are a couple of known river tigers.  The other one lives in a deep underwater cave somewhere along the river where the Essequibo passes the foot of a mountain.  A capybara was found with insides and other parts eaten half in the water at Baboon.  A jaguar would hide the kill somewhere as would a big caiman.
All sounds pretty improbable but this is a very remote area and why shouldn't there be an unknown to science species living there?  The river tiger seems no more improbable than a duck-billed-platypus or some of the mad things found in the oceans. 

Steven doing sick boating down King William

Hey Hey we're Macushi - The People.

As before our hosts and guides were all local Macushi people from Kurupukari village and were lovely people.  I wanted to get photos of everybody for this blog but I left it until it was dark and we were all drunk on our last night beach party.  Thelma and Elvis where having some sort of 2nd honeymoon up in the camp on party night so I sadly don't have pictures of them (I wasn't going to go up and ask)


Captain Steven at work

Brother to Raymond and Brian and family man with 4-5 young kids.  Steven was an incredible boat captain and doing a great job looking after them.  When not doing fishing for Navin he was a professional captain and much in demand - doing patrols for the Iwokrama reserve etc.  He also has experience & skills in the mining and logging industries.  He had plenty work lined up well into the new year.  When boating and logging stop in the rains from April to July he is the Kurupukari agent for the Ministry of Amerindian affairs - visiting everybody and reporting back on how the people are getting on (both good and bad).

Steven at Apoteri

A really sound guy who loves his girl and kids.  I enjoyed chatting with him during lunch and other quiet periods in the fishing day.   I'd wondered just how he and his brothers were able to drive the boats flat out through the submerged rocks of the Essequibo without having accidents.  Steven explained that they he has memorised the whole river a bit like a London taxi driver doing the knowledge.  The concentration required is so intense that he usually has a splitting headache at the end of a full day's driving and often wakes up in the night thinking about it.  He had our lives in his hand all day every day for 10 days and the only thing he ever hit hard (we shocked passengers thought he'd broken his leg) was a submerged floating log which he had no way of knowing about.

Damien and Steven display a Specimen Ken at beach party night

He can make up to around $250 US for the 3-4hour drive from Kurupukari to Apoteri which is a pretty decent whack but I don't know if fuel needs to come out of that.  He is proud owner of a nice motorbike and the biggest television in Kurpukari.  Interested in seeing big city life I did my best to dissuade him.  He'd really like to be making documentary films about Rupununi life and nature.  Next couple weeks he is doing some building work extending the house.


Mark is such a nice guy that I always enjoy fishing with him.  He's the best fishing guide and, while not as good a boat driver as Steven/Raymond/Brian is better at locating and landing fish for guests.  He works really hard too.  Last morning, after a struggle for bait the previous day, he went out in his boat before it was light and came back at breakfast with enough silver fish baits to get us all started.  He'd been spotting them with a torch and chopping them through the back with his machete from the boat!

Mark endures enforced jollity at beach party with good grace.
A family man with 2 or 3 young girls (He has a set of pics of the wife and girls with him when working) Mark has saved up to buy the cursed sinking supply boat off Navin when he gets a new one.  He's confident he can operate it without disasters.  Good luck Mark.  A lovely guy.


I've still only spent one day actual fishing with Raymond but I caught the best fish of my life and I really like him.  He's a big strong friendly guy and really enjoys the guiding work as he loves fishing.

A jovial Raymond - his favourite drink is beer

Big Raymond and Maria show us how to dance.
I forgot to ask how many kids he's got but he's got some other strings to his bow business wise.  He runs a taxi up in Lethem on the Brazilian border and has a neat line selling smartphone entertainment centres pre-loaded with music, photos, films, pr0n etc to the local people. He has a TV almost as big as Steven's.

Thelma & Elvis

I hope to get pictures of these two from someone else soon.  Thelma was camp 'Mum' in charge of the camp from a domestic angle.   She's a lovely lady with a voice like a bird who looked after us all wonderfully well despite of the loss of some important gear such as cooking pots, towels, bed sheets, spuds etc in the boat crash at King William.
Maria & Thelma begin to get Camp set up at Tracey

Elvis is her husband 44.  Another nice guy who was a stalwart, if accident-prone, boat captain.  He also did gold mining and had a PHAT gold chain from the crew gold supply.   When mining here the muck and water goes through a main box with a mat to separate the gold and then a second box where the crew get to keep the dregs of gold collected.
He was nice BUT he did tell everyone that it was ME hiding up a tree from the jaguar instead of him.


Thelma's 22 year old sister with just one child.  She was no2 to Thelma doing all the cooking/washing/cleaning that kept the camp a pleasant place to live.

Sweet Maria
As well as being a visual treat for us jungle-fever afflicted anglers Maria was lots of fun and a great dancer and tried her best to bring rhythm to our poor attempts at dancing.  She was doing that suggestive Caribbean style of dancing with the bottom moving and goin up an down with me while Steven yelled 'STRIKE DAVE - STRIKE!'  Maria sang us a sweet song at our beach party when we all had to do a turn and it made me fill up.


Thelma's 19 year old daughter Roxanne joined us for the last couple days at Scale an' Weight camp.

The lovely Roxanne here with Raymond.
Another fun loving Macushi lady from Kurupukari. I had a nice chat with Roxanne as the beach party goers were beginning to collapse from the exertions/beer intake.  And then we all said goodnight and went to bed.


Young Richard was a nice 16-17 year old lad who was coming along to learn the ropes and start off as a general dogsbody and skivvy.  Cheerful and helpful he could only get all shy and giggle when he was supposed to produce a turn for our entertainment at the party.  And he was drinking beer.


On the way back down the river we dropped in at Apoteri village.  There's no road to Apoteri so it is only reachable by small plane or boat.  Campbell welcomed us to the village from his boat as we drew near because he was the chief. (sorry no photo of him)
Downtown Apoteri

Mr Parrot in the immaculate Apoteri Auditorium Hall

We popped up to the Auditorium Hall where the village shop was to get drinks,biscuits,fags etc. Campbell likes a drink and invited me to have one with him while he told us proudly of all the cool things they have there.  As the representative of England and Her Majesty the Queen I was honoured and got us a small bottle of rum which we consumed on the spot.  Cheers.
Some local school boys (one armed with a sweet catapult) had a small baby Agouti that they'd caught and it was running about all over the place being cute while Mr Parrot looked on from the chair to which he was tied with string. Somewhere in Apoteri must have been a good hairdresser as one lad - Titus - had the sharpest haircut I saw anywhere in Guyana. 

I've been sitting back here in dreary winter England now for a couple days writing this and am running out of steam.  I could go on and on about the fantastic experience I've had in Guyana and the new friends but I must stop and accept the reality of life here now.  I could write a whole piece just on the stuff that Andrei caught.
Guyana is a fantastic country about the size of England with only 750-800,000 inhabitants full of glorious nature and some of the best river fishing, people and rum on the planet.  I'd very much like to thank Steve Townson (, Navin and Oma Roopnarain ( and all the guys and girls from Kurupukari for making this the experience of a lifetime.   I'll be back.

Thanks also to the guests - new friends Ken, Andrei and Damien for some good times.

Finally here's the piece of music that we wished we'd had available for beach party and many other situations on this fantastic fun trip.


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