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.
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
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
|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
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).
further in the last chapter