|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 www.amazon-angler.com/ 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.
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 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.|
The Saga of the journey to King William Camp
|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.
|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|
|Andrei takes his first paddle in the Essequibo at Fairview.|
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
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.|
|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|
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|
|Steve-o retrieving the sunk supply boat up the waterfall!|
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.
|My only payara ever|
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.
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|
|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|
|Essequibo river record Jau at 137lb! by Matt Alexander Sept-Oct 2014|
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
|Dave trains for the Essequibo Classic world crib tournament|
|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|
Back to the fishing
|Blinker(?) Flat whisker catfish.|
|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|
|Steve Townson confronts Thelma about the breakfasts|
|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)
|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.
|I had pulled the boat most of the way|
I caught a dear little sunfish casting my spoon up under a tiny bush on a rock pile.
|Sunfish - ah sweet|
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)|
|One of these should eat the other one.|
Capybara and Caiman
|Hugest venomous snake Bushmaster. Fatal every time|
|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.
|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|
|Oh dear God no.|
|Steve Townson comforts me after meeting the 40-leg.|
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
Hey Hey we're Macushi - The People.
|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|
|Mark endures enforced jollity at beach party with good grace.|
|A jovial Raymond - his favourite drink is beer|
|Big Raymond and Maria show us how to dance.|
Thelma & Elvis
|Maria & Thelma begin to get Camp set up at Tracey|
|The lovely Roxanne here with Raymond.|
|Mr Parrot in the immaculate Apoteri Auditorium Hall|
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.