Expedition Bolivia

It’s Wednesday night. After almost a year of preparations, my brother and uncle, usual fishing party, are sitting in the car. My father-in-law who took us to the airport just shakes his head incomprehensibly at the amount of our equipment and about the sensational stories in which we overtake each other, who saw something more sensational about the Bolivian jungle on the Internet. Our last member of the expedition, Rasto, a cameraman and photographer in one, is also here. We are full of adrenalin and enthusiasm. We get on, my brother closes the door of car very quickly. Unfortunately, he forgets my fingers, still lying in the door frame. Millimeters separate me from the broken fingers of my right hand, fortunately nothing happened. It’s not a very good start, but on the other hand it’s a sign that luck is still on our side. We head in direction of Bolivia.

As we spent our budget on fishing tackle rather than first-class flight comfort, our butts enjoyed three international flights, one domestic Bolivian plane, and a full-day boat trip upstream a tropical river. Finally we are in place, lying in a tent and the edge of the rainforest and I think about tomorrow when we will finally reach the dream river after 5 days of travel and start catching fish. It is the end of the dry season, so low flows force us to give up ships and we will walk the rest of the trip by foot. We will be helped by an experienced guide, without whom a foreigner in the Bolivian jungle is simply lost and a group of local guys, thanks to whom we do not have to worry about carrying the tents and food.

The basic equipment of jungle boys includes a loudspeaker and a power bank, so we are supplied with the rhythms of South American reggeton all the way. To reach our chosen river, we have to overcome a half-day march through the jungle. Unfortunately, halfway through the jungle path, we find that not only do the boys not have a machete, our guide is lost, but also that no one really knows where we are and where we are going. The rescue came from an unexpected source, our cameraman pulled out a phone with the mapy.cz application, from which we did not expect much, but which surprisingly precisely led us from the jungle to our dream river.

Although we lost one day, it doesn’t matter, without watches and phones, the concept of time takes on a completely different dimension of importance. We are pleased to throw ourselves into the water, which does not refresh in these heat, but at least pleases and washes away at least the gross dirt from our sweaty bodies. We quickly set up fishing rods, tie up leaders, attach flies and go upstream to look for places where we can sense the position of our dream goldfish. The aim is to proceed as far as possible upstream, up to the mountains where the stream acquires a character in which flowing areas with large boulders and sections of deep and slow pools alternate.

At first glance, we are surprised by the amount of life in the water and beyond. Day and night we must have every inch of skin covered because of mosquitoes, sand flies and other insects, whitch are waiting all the time for our momentary hesitation. In the river, we have to be careful of freshwater paradises, which merge with the bottom and have sharp thorn on the tail. The river is about 10 meters wide and is crystal clear. It can be waded in almost any place except deep pools. The specifics are incredibly slippery stones, on which, despite the fact that we have quality shoes with screws in the sole, I sometimes feel like a circus artist on a hanging rope. The river is full of life, from many different aquarium fish of various shapes, colors to various species of smaller and larger catfish. In addition, there are 5 species of fish in the river, which are worth to target with fly fishing equipment.

Sabalo, a vegetarian who looks like a cross between our mermaid and the aquarium sucker. Pacu, a piranha with teeth resembling a human. Unfortunately, we did not even see this fish because with the exceptionally low year-round flow of the river, they did not have the opportunity to enter this river. The Yatorana, an incredibly fighting fish, with the look of a piranha,  surprised me the most with its speed, velocity and fighting spirit. It is an ideal target fish for fly fishers in the rainforest. Silver dorado, the smaller brother of his golden colleague. And finally, the golden dorado is the top predator of local rivers, and the main reason for our entire expedition.

After a few days, we got used to the daily routine. Shake the wet clothes from the previous day from all the annoying insects. Dress with pleasure in it. Since in these climatic conditions it was only possible to wade wet, we put on wet neoprene socks, we tie our shoes, wmake a quick breakfast and we proceed tirelessly against the current at the tourist pace of the Slovak guys. We try our luck in every promising place. Every day we are surprised by something monkeys, parrots, taranules or many colorful butterflies. Up to the tracks of a jaguar on the sandy beaches of the river we cross. In the evening, we often observe reflections of crocodile eyes in the light of a headlamp while trying to at least partially dry clothes, equipment and a constant fight against insects.

We fish mainly on large streamers, which we sometimes change for bright color poppers. Depending on the nature of the river, we also manage to catch individual species of fish. In the slower lower parts, we only catch silver dorada and yatorans, whose attacks and the ensuing fight I really enjoy. After the attack of the yatoran, it immediately jumps out of the water, uses the shape of the body together with the force of the current, and to the fly fisherman is often more than an equal opponent. The further we go to the mountains, the stream is stronger, and we begin to meet and catch the first golden dorado.

It’s a perfect killing machine for me. Simply when it smells prey, it will have such a strong hunting instinct that I have never experienced before with another fish.

Almost every day we pray that it does not start raining, because rain would mean cloudy water, which automatically significantly reduces the activity of other species. After seven days, we finally reach the confluence of two streams, which form the source of the river where we caught all the time. There is an unreal pool, which at first glance promises nice catch. This feeling is confirmed by my uncle after a few casts, because he turns on a beautiful finish on the way out of the pool. From a distance with my brother we watch the fight, which is traditionally full of adrenaline. Suddenly we notice that something is different, my uncle is trying to indicate something from a distance, other than just catching another beautiful fish. I grab the rod and we both make a slalom between the slimy stones to him. As I run, I begin to understand what’s going on. When we came to the pool, we see that the aggressive movement of the fought fish has triggered a pack of other dorados. We both pull the line from the reels with a few movements and throw the flies into the pool. My head can’t handle adrenaline and emotions. I stopped shaning just after we return, the last third dorado, back to the river. An incredible experience and a reward for all our efforts.

We also explore the last sections of river, which I can already call jungle streams, we conquer the last fish. We got to places where, according to our guides, apart from the indigenous lumberjacks, who were already everywhere, the leg of a white fisherman had not yet entered. The rain on the last night of the trip will make a last point behind the expedition. Weather cools, which completely stops the activity of the fish and we have no choice but to return back to civilization full of experiences.

On the way back, I wonder why we do this, what’s the point? After all, we all can’t wait for the warmth of home and we don’t have much visible profit from it. We didn’t even catch any world records, we didn’t help anyone with our journey, so why? I didn’t find the answer until I got home. Although we have not made a hole in the world. But we have strengthened mutual friendships and experienced an unreal environment that may no longer exist in a few years. And above all, we left the comforts of home, and experienced so many new things every day that we will remember them for the rest of our lives. Even today, months after returning, when I close my eyes, I still hear the night rainforest philharmonic and in my mind I return to the magical river and its golden rows.

You wcan see more in a short fishing film, which was cut out of the way, so that you can believe that the whole thing is not just our traditionally inflated fishing talk. In addition to fish in it, you will see what happens to fishermen when they try alpine hiking at an altitude of more than 6000 m above sea level.