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Event Article

Amazon 2011 Part 1 : Fishing the Headwaters


Date: 12/18/11
Location: Manaus, Brazil
Event Dates: 11/05/11 - 11/13/11
Reviewer: Cal



Introduction: A year ago, in celebration of our 10th year bringing you the latest and greatest in fishing tackle news and reviews, we embarked on a journey many would refer to as a trip of a lifetime. Certainly the mere thought of travelling to the Amazon Rainforest let alone living on the river for a week is an experience most would find difficult to comprehend let alone knowing where to start in booking such an adventure. But similar to the experience of purchasing your very first piece of JDM fishing tackle, once those barriers are lifted and the taste of that meat fed on the grass from the other side of the equator is still fresh on your travel weary mind, thoughts of returning soon dominate your very existence.

A year ago, in celebration of our 10th year bringing you the latest and greatest in fishing tackle news and reviews, we embarked on a journey many would refer to as a trip of a lifetime.

As chance would have it, just as we were wrapping things up on that first trip, our host, Steve Yatomi of Adventure Travel Alliance, informed us he and his Brazilian alliance partner Marlon Otero of Peacock Fishing Expeditions, were working on an experience to not only rival, but perhaps surpass what we had just lived through both in terms of living accommodations and the fishing experience. This new trip would be way up river where the houseboats cannot travel and few people get to fish because access is limited and the time and cost to travel that far up river is prohibitive. They were putting together a trip that would grant us access to the Amazon headwaters.

Shortly after our return, Steve Yatomi told us he was working on a new experience ...

On a different pipeline, not long after publishing our four piece Amazon write-up from last year where we shared the intimate details of our first trip, I received a message from a good friend, and fellow outdoor writer, Pete Robbins that he had already put his soul up for auction and was ready to apply all proceeds and small print memoranda towards his own trip to the Amazon. He wanted to know, once the sale was complete, what it would take in tax and licensing fees to have me join him in the adventure. I told Pete, if I join him, it would be on the condition we book the new Headwaters experience. Apparently, I had him the moment I depressed the shift key.

At the same time, TackleTour Contributing Editor, Pete Robbins was ready to sell his soul for a similar experience. Turns out, the price he had to pay was to bring his wife, Hanna.

On an experience such as traveling to and living within the Amazon, it's difficult to wrap your head around exactly what you are doing the first time around. I mean literally, the Amazon Rainforest (Amazonia) is the largest Tropical Rainforest in the world and home to the world's greatest amount of biodiversity. The Amazon River stretches across at least half of South America touching Peru, Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, Equador, Bolivia, and Guyana with over a thousand rivers and tributaries (some of which are over one thousand miles long by themselves) feeding into the main river that snakes a course over four thousand miles long across Brazil.

So Cal returned to the Jungle in 2011 to stay at a new camp up in the headwaters of the Amazon.

Too many words and numbers? How about this picture? Imagine a body of water with its primary river snaking its way across the United States from California to Virginia. Along the way, tributaries beginning in Washington, Montana, Minnesota, Michigan and New York to the north, and Arizona, Texas, Mississippi and Georgia to the south all feed into this main river. The Mississippi itself would be but a tributary. Imagine the entire state of Virginia along with parts of its neighboring states being a vast marshland or delta where this mighty river empties out into the Atlantic Ocean. Vivid enough for you? This is the approximate scale of the Amazon River and its tributaries.

I thought it was going to be a ground based lodge, but turns out, it's a floating barge capable of reaching spots other operations and houseboats simply cannot.

The Accommodations: But enough geography, when Steve described to us, the headwaters camp Marlon was having built early in 2011, I imagined an actual ground based camp or lodge. What it actually turned out to be is a floating barge, slightly wider than a traditional houseboat, but more importantly, with a much shallower draft. This allows the headwaters lodging boat to be towed into areas most other operations simply cannot access.  

The headwaters barge can go so far up river, we have to float plane into camp.

Case in point, where last year we flew from Manaus to Barcelos in order to get onto the houseboat, this year, we flew direct from Manaus to the location of the barge on the river via a float plane. That's right, we landed right on the water and were shuttled directly to the barge via the fishing boats.

Our first look at the headwaters barge, and Pete in eager anticipation.

The barge consists of four bedrooms, a dining room, kitchen, and sun deck. From the outside it looks just like a houseboat, but where you had to walk around the outside of the houseboat to get from room to room, the barge had a hallway right down the middle to connect all the sleeping quarters with the dining hall. It was a small difference in layout, but a big difference in comfort level especially on days when it rained and in areas where the bugs were out of control.

The crew of our headwaters camp.

The Crew: Like last year, the crew that runs the boat is first rate and this time around it included two cooks, an engineer (responsible for keeping things running), a head scout (responsible for gathering fishing intel from the local villages), an interpreter, a dining captain, and somewhere between five to six actual fishing guides. Hats are readily interchanged between staff members and everyone on board is genuinely concerned for your well being. During any down time appetizers, food, drinks, and adult beverage is always being offered. The hospitality is second to none.

Once again, the fishing boats were first rate.

The Boats: As we travelled from the place where the float plane met the barge, further downriver, we did eventually see one other operation. Last year the other fishing boats we saw were essentially canoes with motors with the occupants sitting in a straight row. This year, the other operation had jon boats where the fishermen were able to sit side by side at the front of the boat while the guide worked the tiller on the motor at the back. The trolling motors for these boats were also on the back. We got a good look at these boats because we were able to catch and pass them with ease.

The view experienced by other operations as we sped past to our fishing spots.

Our fishing accommodations were once again, cream of the crop with seventeen foot bass trackers sporting 60hp four stroke Yamaha motors. Carpeted casting decks were on the front and back of these boats and when we're in fishing mode, our guides sit up front working the trolling motor and directing you where to cast. Otherwise, when moving from spot to spot, we sit three abreast speeding along the river at roughly thirty miles per hour.

Steve and Pete relaxing on the sun deck prior to another day of fishing.

The Gear: With one trip under my belt, this year, I packed a lot more judiciously. With few options for quality travel rods, I had to once again pack a rod tube, so the number of rod and reel combinations I had was still over the top, but this time around, I limited my lures to one very small and manageable Plano Guide Series Field Box 1460.

This year, I was far more selective in the tackle I brought.

In this box I packed primarily choppers (like the KLures Peacock Ripper), mid-water swimming baits (like Rapala's XRap Sub Walk and Glidin' Rap), and a small handful of experimental lures - I had to have some, after all, the jersey still says “TackleTour”. I also brought a ziplock bag full of about thirty jigs, and that was it.

Fishing Guide : Marzo a.k.a. numero uno.

The reels that made this trip? My favorites from last year, my Daiwa Zillion Type R and my Shimano Antares DC7. Reels that are up for review in the coming months and that I wanted to test down in the Amazon rounded out my selection and included the Quantum EXO PT, Abu Revo MGX, Daiwa T3 Ballistic, Shimano Scorpion DC7, Daiwa Z200HL, and Shimano Chronarch E7.

Fishing Guide :
Coma Cobra - he hunts and eats snakes!

Making a return trip in my fishing rod arsenal was my Megabass F6-69XRC Racing Condition and accompanying that rod were a Megabass F6-68X4 Cover Hacking, St. Croix Avid AVC70MHXF, Daiwa Zillion TDZL691MHXB, G.Loomis GL2 804CJWR, Kistler Custom ZBone ZBLE-5H, and a last minute addition Phenix Recon PHX-C715.

Fishing Guide :
Chaquin - puppet master. Wrap your lure around a branch or toss it straight into a bush? "give me line" and he can shake it free!

Next Section: Time to work those muscles









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