A Memorable Guide Retreat
The Guide Retreat is a long and noble tradition for Scott lake guides. Every year they go somewhere for fishing, bonding and even some company brainwashing. After covering the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Florida and various other destinations, this year’s spot on the map was in the vast Amazon watershed. It’s a long way from Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Whitehorse or White Fox to the headwaters of the Agua Boa River in the far northern reaches of the Amazon basin where the legendary peacock bass inhabits the Rio Negro and its many tributaries. But most of our guide team made the long trek to Manaus, Brazil, a frontier city on the banks of the Amazon. It’s a sprawling metropolis of nearly three million people. The crew did an urban tour of the city which included a stroll through the fascinating fish market where very day thousands of fish from Amazonia are brought for sale. Every strange fish imaginable is on display, available for purchase. It was everything you might expect in the equatorial heat and humidity. You like the smell of fish? Go to the Manaus fish market. The day also included a boat tour of the harbor area and to the “meeting of the waters”—the place where the two major rivers of the Amazon, the Rio Solimoes and the Rio Negro join to form the true Amazon River. Many people consider the longer Rio Solimoes arm upstream of Manaus the Amazon, but locals make a clear distinction and the two rivers could not be more distinct. The Rio Negro, the homewater of the peacock bass, runs cool and dark but it relatively sediment free. The Rio Solimoes, which has no peacock bass, is muddy and warm. The line where these two mighty rivers meet is visually distinct for many miles before they completely merge. It was a tourist thing to do but hell, we were all tourists. We even went to a riverside tourist trap where they have dozens of huge Pirarucu (the lung fish of the Amazon), some weighing a couple of hundred pounds, in an enclosed area. Using a hardwood pole, a heavy line and a fish tied (but no hook) to the line, we watched and felt these primitive fish fight for the bait. The game was to see how long one would hold the bait and how much water would be sprayed on the onlookers. It was a wonderfully chaotic scene: the guides loved it. Dinner at a traditional Brazilian steak house (the meat just kept coming and coming) ended a full day.
Then it was time to start the real trip. We flew in style in a private plane for two hours north to reach the Agua Boa Lodge airstrip, a short landing area carved right out of the jungle. It’s a cool way to start an adventure. The Agua Boa Lodge is an oasis of comfort in a remote and wild location, sort of like Scott Lake South, way south. It’s a fabulous lodge place with a fantastic fishery. The river was a bit high due to recent rains but that did not stop the Agua Boa guides with their Scott Lake guides as clients from finding lots of big peacock bass. Our guides fell right into the rhythm of this type of fishing. It is remarkably like fly fishing for our pike at Scott—same rods and essentially the same flies. Whistlers, big Deceivers, and all the other flies we use at Scott worked their magic on peacocks. After just a day and a half in the jungle Jon Wimpney and Jan Phoenix found their pot of Amazon gold—an 18 and 15 pounder respectively. Over the next five days dozens more double digit bass followed. Everyone got fish in the 12-14 pound range. Even owner Tom Klein (the only non-guide on the trip) added to the big fish parade with a 16 and 17 pounder caught within an hour of each other. But he gives all the credit to his fishing partner and good luck charm that day, Jon Wimpney, who passed along his peacock touch to everyone who happened to be in his boat. Must have been the rum. Graham Coulombe nailed a 16 pounder and Paul Hamilton, Curtis Woloshyn, Mike Demyen and Cory Craig all landed 14s. Cory, the Scott head guide, had to be patient though. He went quite a few days without a double digit bass and was starting to feel like some Scott customers who see everyone else getting their trophy pins for big pike or trout. When he did cash in though, the big fish were on his line several times a day. It’s all about patience, just like up at Scott, but he now better understands Scott customer’s “need” to get those big fish. Even though this was just a fun fishing trip, the pressure to get a big one or two was there. Everyone got their imaginary peacock trophy pins.
The Scott guides learned a lot from this trip. Graham noted how critical guide to customer communication was for fishing success and customer satisfaction, reinforcing his desire to communicate clearly and effectively to his customers when there is a big fish around. Even with a language barrier (Portuguese is the local language), the Agua Boa guides did a great job in helping all the Scott guides get their fly in front of big fish. Paul Hamilton approached this trip with no expectation regarding the size of the fish but with the confidence born of years of fishing. Paul appreciated every fish he caught, even the smaller ‘butterfly peacocks”. That’s of course the right attitude about fishing (and maybe life). One thing they all commented upon was how much work it was to throw a sinking line or sinktip line on an 8 or 9 weight fly rod all day long. Mike Demyen feels that he can now better relate to the Scott customers who choose to cast a fly rod ten straight hours. He had done a lot of small stream fly fishing but waving the big sticks was work. All of the guides also noted that own skill level with fly casting and fly presentation improved over the seven day trip. That will have payoffs for Scott’s fly fisherman. Fishing was the core of the trip but keeping with long running Scott Lake guide tradition these guys partied as hard as they fished. The beer and rum inventory of the northern Amazon basin was seriously dented. And they really crushed the peacock bass, both with numbers and size. After a slow start (luck is always part of the fishing equation) Curtis put on a virtual clinic over his final two days at the lodge, catching 20 peacocks over 10 pounds, including a gorgeous 14 pounder on his last cast of the trip.
And this was not just a peacock trip. Most of the guys landed some Arawana (a cool looking snake-shaped fish). Jan Phoenix just loved sight casting to Arawana, a surface loving, insect eating fish. They readily take shallow running flies and put on quite a show when hooked. He caught a bunch. Many caught the vampire fish of the Amazon, the Payara, with two vicious looking fangs. Some caught piranhas and even a couple of catfish ate flies. Mike Demyen landed a hard fighting and very tasty Piarara (the red-tailed catfish) of over 30 pounds the old fashioned way– “soaking “a piece of meat on the bottom. Cory Craig started every morning throwing a 5 weight fly rod off the dock landing many two to four pound Pacu on dry flies. Unfortunately no one landed the “lung fish of the Amazon”, the legendary Pirarucu. We had to be content with the captive critters at the Manaus tourist trap. Many were sighted and some had flies thrown their direction but there were no takers. There was almost a take once when a Pirarucu was spotted by the guide within 20 feet of the boat. Tom Klein put the cast where it should have gone but out of nowhere a tiny butterfly peacock grabbed the fly before the monster could react. Sounds just like many Scott Lake sight fishing opportunities when the 20 inch pike darts in to grab the fly before the 45 incher can move. There was one dramatic taker though that doesn’t quite qualify as a fish. A huge black caiman (maybe a 14 footer) moved in quickly on Curt Woloshyn’s big peacock and devoured it in a huge spray less than two feet from the boat. Curt fought the huge reptile for six minutes before the line went slack, peacock and caiman gone. Mike Demyen was quick with his video camera and captured the attack. (It will hit YouTube down the road). That kind of activity puts a little edge to fishing as do the electric eels and the piranhas. Swimming was not part of the program.
As the group gathered in the lodge swimming pool every day after fishing the phrase “best guide trip ever” was heard more than once. From the gluttonous dinner at the Brazilian steakhouse (The Buffalo) in Manaus to the video and photo sharing on the morning of departure this was a trip to remember. There was substantial team building, individual bonding, and even some serious meetings in the mix to complement seven days of great fishing. We offer our thanks to all the 2013 customers whose trips last summer make this adventure possible. Our guides will never forget you or the trip to the Agua Boa.
THE BOYS IN THE NORTH
While the Scott guides felt right at home fishing for peacocks, they are at home on Scott Lake. Nearly all our guides are in their second decade of guiding on Scott Lake. Cory Craig is on his third decade starting his 21st season in June. All our guides know and love their home water. At Scott Lake Lodge we fully realize that a great guide is the difference between a good trip and a great trip. There is still some room for the 2014 season. Jon Wimpney can catch more than 18 pound peacocks. He can catch a world class fishing trip for you. If you want a great Canadian wilderness fishing trip this summer give Jon a call at 306/209-7150 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org You will catch some lifetime memories.