WITH TEAM YELLOW DOG
Yellow Dog’s Ian Davis and Bessie Bucholz took the opportunity during the second week of the hosted trip to Bolivia to visit Aguas Negras Lodge, another destination in the Tsimane program that sits high on a cliff above the Secure river. They were picked up at Pluma Lodge by Carlos Nieto, the manager of Aguas Negras, and were taken by boat to the lodge where they were met by Tom Kersbergen—another Yellow Dog team member and active guide at Aguas Negras. They were received with warm hospitality and had a great meal that evening before retiring to their respective tents for the night. These “tents” are on raised decks and are spacious with two twin beds, fans, and hard-sided ensuite bathrooms. They are connected to the main lodge by a wooden boardwalk. The lodging accommodations at Aguas Negras are designed for 4 anglers but with 3 tents the maximum occupancy of the lodge is six, which lends a sense of intimacy to the experience.
The usual fishing program for the Aguas Negras Lodge is a midweek transfer with the Secure Lodge allowing anglers to see two lodges in one week. Because of host duties and time constraints, Ian and Bessie were only able to stay for two nights one at the Aguas Negras Lodge and another night to see the headwater outcamp, which is the newest addition to the Aguas Negras program.
Guests at the Aguas Negras Lodge focus their attention on two main drainages; First is the middle Secure beat which encompasses 35 km of river below Secure Lodge and above Pluma Lodge. Anglers target Dorado in the middle Secure River by wading large riffles and runs or by using a local hand made boat called a coambma to drift along the submerged logs, rock piles and the deep hard banks. The boats are fixed with 5 HP long shaft mud motors and are poled down the river by two local Tsimane boatmen and a guide to coach and retrieve the occasional snagged fly. The second body of water guests will fish is a major tributary of the Secure; The Aguas Negras River which is the lodge’s namesake.
The following morning, Ian, Bessie and Tom began their hike up the picturesque Agua Negra river with the intention of fishing every bit of the seven miles upstream to the jungle camp that is located next to the confluence of the Agua Negra and Kerosene Creek. This river was also experiencing historically low water levels, which translated into some awesome pocket water fishing. The dorado were holding exactly where one would expect them to be—in the seams, tail-outs, riffles, and amongst the snags. Many were eager to take dark-colored streamers such as the Enrico Puglisi patterns, resulting in dramatic chases and takes on poppers and mouse flies as well. Local boatmen followed up with the overnight gear and did an impressive job of poling the canoes up the tight channels and big riffles. The group reached camp at dusk and were exhausted after a big day of fishing, but the location of camp was spectacular and you could hear fish feeding in the pools right next to camp. Everyone took a crude bath in the river and changed into relatively clean clothes for the night. Darkness began to set in as they cooked up a hearty meal of spaghetti with steak, flavored with a healthy peppering of insects. They drank dirty martinis (also enriched by insects) out of modified Fanta bottles and marveled at the spectacular southern hemisphere stars overhead as a fire crackled in between them. Most jungle creatures are nocturnal, so in this isolated camp on the banks of the Agua Negra river, they could hear everything. And it was loud. But it was amazing.
It was a bit difficult to fall asleep inside their tents due to the cacophony of insects and other unknown critters just outside, but the total lack of ventilation in the tents exacerbated the issue. Being so deep in the jungle, it was hard to ignore the possibility that a hungry jaguar could be watching you sleep from within the trees. Needless to say, dawn couldn’t come soon enough for most of the campers. By the time everyone emerged from the tents in the morning, the local boatmen had already killed a few birds, a mutant jungle rat closely related to a capybara, and were cooking some other specimen that was harvested during the night. Ian, Tom and Bessie watched in awe as they ate their pound cake breakfast and sipped their Nescafé coffee.
The Yellow Dog crew geared up with 8 and 9 wt. Winston BIIIx + rods (as well as one of Winston’s new Jungle rods) and Hatch 7 Plus reels lined with the newest Airflo Bruce Chard tropical fly lines, while the Chimán locals pulled out their homemade bows and arrows to shoot a few sabaló to bring back to the village. For the morning outing Ian, Bessie and Tom fished up above the camp—as far as a deep pool that was home to a big dorado—before turning back and fishing and floating back down to Aguas Negras lodge. Had they continued further up, the fishing would have likely continued to improve. After a quick nap it was time to head back to Pluma lodge to join the guests for the remainder of the trip.
The headwater outcamp next season will feature new tents with more ventilation and a large open walled tent over camp for rain. This will ensure the guests are more comfortable if it remains hot into the night, which is pretty rare in the mountains and upper reaches of the rivers. The outcamp opportunity is always available and offers great chances to sight fish to overly aggressive dorado, pacu and yatorana as well as some serious Dorado hunting behavior that has to be seen to believe. Camping in the jungle is not for the faint-hearted: there is a considerable amount of hiking and boulder-hopping involved and the camping experience is far from luxurious. However, the experience of being so deeply immersed in the wilds of the Bolivian jungle on such a productive freestone river is something that we won’t soon forget.
Ready to go fly fishing in Bolivia? We thought so!
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