Rio Negro 3

Rio Negro 3


Up the Rio Negro 3
By Uncle Bill

After dinner, which consisted of the afore-mentioned fish, rice, toasted manioc and some canned peaches we had brought, it was getting dark. Crispin, Silas' son, was preparing his dugout canoe for what, I didn't know. With the help of Silas, I began to hang our hammocks in anticipation of a good night's sleep. It had been quite a day.

Retiring for the evening was not what Crispin had in mind. Now that it was dark, we were going fishing for Altum angels. I was both exhausted and exhilarated at the same time.

Setting out for discus.

The canoe was ten or twelve feet long and only 1.5 to 2 inches separated us from the water's surface and swamping the boat. For someone who has never been in a dugout canoe, let alone been in one at night, this was more than a little unnerving. Our only source of light was worn by Crispin. It consisted of a head-mounted beam powered by a 6 volt car battery which was recharged each day by the boat's generator. The power lasted for about 3 hours. This was long enough for us to go fishing and to return, most of the time.

We shoved off, rounded a bend in the igarape and were at once absorbed by the rainforest. Gliding silently through submerged trees, I was immediately struck by how Crispin was at one with his environment. Sculling with one hand while scanning the forest with his head lamp, he would slowly and carefully approach a group of tree trunks, reach out with the net in his other hand and scoop out a dazzled angelfish without making the slightest sound. The fish didn't even struggle. It was truly amazing to watch him at work. Our troops in Special Forces could take a few lessons from this guy.

Children of the forest

We awoke the next morning to a beautiful sunrise on the Rio Negro. Awhile later, Silas and Crispin pulled up to the boat in their canoes with breakfast. We had fished the night before until after midnight and here they were at dawn, back from catching breakfast. I could see that there was going to have to be an adjustment on our part regarding the 40 hour work week. The rest of the day was spent fishing for apistos and assorted tetras.

Waiting for us upon our return was a steaming pot of strong, delicious Brazilian coffee. After coffee and a swim, which was the daily bath, we untied the boat and headed for our next fishing spot: Igarape Maki Puki.

We arrived at our destination just before sunset and began fishing for dinner. We caught huge uaru, pike cichlids, peacock bass and lots of pirana (my wife's favorite). After dinner it was back into the canoes for night Altum fishing.

Monday morning, the third day of our expedition, we caught mainly apistos of three different species, three species of pencilfish and rummynose tetras. After lunch we headed for Igarape Puxurituba, arriving at 3:00 P.M. The same fishing schedule followed: first dinner and then Altums.

A view of the flooded forest where discus and altum angels are found.

Day four mirrored the previous days and by noon we were off to Igarape Zamulo; the home of the Cabeca Azul or "Blueheaded" Heckle discus. This is the fish that I had come all of this way to collect.

I took a water sample and was surprised to find that the temperature was only 26 C, or 79 F. We would try for discus tomorrow.

Another thing that I learned from Silas is that the supposedly rare blue-headed Heckle is the only kind of discus in these waters. It is not a rare fish. It just doesn't get exported to the United States in any quantity.

After the usual fantastic sunrise, we headed out to find discus. We looked everywhere but there wasn't a discus to be caught. Although the discus were here, the water had risen to the point that they had moved back into the thickets. These "thickets'' were the tops of 30 - 40 foot trees sticking out from the water. It was impossible for us to catch a single fish. According to Silas, the best time for catching discus is in mid September when the water is at a lower level and the fish are still healthy, strong and well fed. They then move into those areas that are more accessible. My wife said: "Don't even think about it!" After dinner we didn't take our customary angel fishing trip but went straight to bed (hammock).

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