Jungle Boogie

 

As I write this I am sitting in my usual spot in the Lima airport, having just arrived from Iquitos to wait through an already excessively long connection time for my flight back to Atlanta, then receiving the news that said flight has been delayed an additional six and a half hours.  Travel to and from the jungles of the Amazon is an exercise in patience and contrasts.  For the last few weeks I’ve been “out there”, mostly at the camp I work with outside town in the jungle towards Nauta, but also with some time spent in Belen and the surrounding areas, which always provide a spectacular variety of experiences for the open minded traveler.  This time, I bought a monkey!  Found the little guy tied to a pile of fruit in the market itself and looking just like the “Charley” I had in mind from a conversation earlier that week, so my buddy Sunay and I each pitched in and made him ours.  I had always wanted a monkey you know?  I mean, why not?  Other highlights of the trip have included all the usual hanging out with street dogs, navigating native shamanic practices, dining in, on, and of the great river herself, and generally just having a hell of a good time in a place that is as unique as they come in the world.  Now it’s back to the states though for a week of heavy office work, then off to Kamchatka for a couple of months of different sorts of rivers that run at markedly lower temperatures and tend to host the kinds of fish that all of us think of first when someone says the word “flyfisherman”, which is a word I sort of like the sound of, if you catch my drift… Charley likes to eat Bananas as we walk around BelenWhich is understandable considering what most of the other offerings there look likeStill getting the hang of my new Nikon Digital SLR, but some of the screw ups look cool Typical Peruvian Amazon Architecture – Photo by Jen KeirCharley in the driver’s seat on Sunay’s hatAmazon PharmacyLittle dude gets grumpy sometimes tooJungle camp machetes – Photo by Jen Keir Carmencita (La Bonita) my newest preferred vendor of Mapacho  The tools of the trade  Charley’s new “Home Tree”  Iquitos Boats – Photo by Jen Keir  Dogs of Iquitos Calendar Candidate  “Still Life with Hat and Fruit”  Big Greens  “Mesa Elegante”

On the Sailing Vessle Gitana

I’ve just completed a course that has been a long time coming, and which left me (after some serious final exams) with three different accreditations from the American Sailing Association.  Those of you who have known me for a long time, or have ever seen my bookshelves back in Georgia or down in Patagonia, know full well that the idea of sailing occupies a lot of my mental real estate on a daily basis and has for over a decade now.   It’s no secret that I have ideas about doing a long and open ended trip in one of these vessels someday, but for too many years there has always been some other project which has gotten in the way.  Well, steps are steps; and this was one of them.  Having saved up for quite sometime with the idea of buying a boat, and then actually beginning that search for the perfect vessel several months ago, it occurred to me that actually spending some time on the deck of one might be a good idea as I sort out what I am looking for in terms of design.  And this course did not disappoint.  Lots and lots of hands on experience was the name of the game in the course I signed up for out of Fort Lauderdale, as I found out upon leaving the dock the first day when the captain put me at the helm straight away as we negotiated drawbridges and maneuvered our way around container ships on our way to open water and our route South into the Florida Keys on the sloop rigged Gitana.  It was a wonderful experience overall, and I think I got out of it exactly what I needed, plus a great deal more I hadn’t even imagined when I signed up.  My sincere thanks to Blue Water Sailing School for a well run experience. Nothing quite like the feel of a well heeled sailboat under way.Plotting a course for the day – who knew there was so much mathematics involved!Early mornings I spent studying my notes from the day before.It’s a cool feeling when all you need to get under way is a little bit of wind.Our crew was only comprised of four students and our captain, all good folks to be sure.Looking East from the galley as I pour my first coffee of the day.A point of view I intend to increase my use of in the years to come.And a corresponding vista that isn’t too bad either…

 

Still a few spots open for Kamchatka Fly-Ins

I know, it’s early – but the calendar is filling in fast!  I’m on my way to the Bahamas at the moment, but since I’m scheduled to guide at one point or another this year in every single hemisphere of the Earth (not an exaggeration), it is probably worth mentioning that my Kamchatka schedule is filling in faster than I thought.  I’ll be up there this summer starting early July, and guiding wilderness float trips through mid-September.  The setup for these is with tent-camps, but very comfortable, and the fishing is nothing short of spectacular.  Mouse patterns over lots of big hungry rainbows is the order of the day for this program, and it promises to be an experience none of us will ever forget.  Email me now for pricing and details, and let’s go fish Kamchatka!

*Photos courtesy of The Fly Shop

A Snowy Christmas in the Austral Summer

Happy Holidays Everyone!  As I write this I am sitting in the altillo here at home in Patagonia, with the sound of the centrifugal honey extractor humming up from down below where that lovely substance is being spun from its combs for safe packing into jars; while the snow, yes I said snow, falls on the mountains outside my big bay windows to the West.  I am going to miss this place.  A lot.  But as a famous writer once said, “Everything moves and changes, and no two days are ever the same for a fly fisherman.”  And so, I am winding down a shorter than normal season here and getting ready to head north, then farther north, into a year that will see me guiding at one point or another in every single hemisphere on Earth.  Such is the way things move and change these days.  On that note – my house in Trevelin is currently for sale.  Don’t everyone panic all at once; I am certainly not closing up shop here in Patagonia. It’s just that with my upcoming cycle of work between Argentina and the Bahamas, the Peruvian Amazon and Siberian Russia, it just doesn’t make sense at the moment to let the place sit here un-used.  Like I said in my last post, operations will continue as normal while I’m gone, as well as when I am back in between other locations, but in the meantime the house has to be let go.  Anyone interested or who thinks they might know someone who will be interested can click here to see details.  In the meantime, when it sells, all of my stuff will be stored with friends here in the area, and I’ll still have a more than adequate base of operations down at the lodge in Rio Pico until I find something else I want to buy.  It’s been a busy season so far (hence the long time no update) and both the weather and the fishing have been excellent.  Hernan and I did a couple of dot-connecting excursions down to Rio Pico last month where we enjoyed catching on both the Spey rigs and the dry fly throwers, spending a few nights as always beneath the bridge at the Corcovado Boca with Don Arias and the gang.  This is always such a wonderful experience, and one I wish I could share with more people than I do.  The folks that congregate beneath that bridge for the opening and closing of each season are some of the most knowledgeable, and nicest in all of Patagonia.  I don’t think a thousand dinners with them would be sufficient to hear all the stories that might get told, or to learn all of the useful tricks that might be learned.  The time was cut a bit short this year though due to a re-paving project that the province had (in my opinion) rather poorly timed, which caused the Madrugon II to be disassembled and hauled back to Rio Pico after the first week of the season.  But no worries, April will be here soon enough, and Maestros Paulino, Raul, and Pedro will be there to serve, as always.  Hernan and I had other business to attend to anyway at that point, and made our way North and then West to see about the wedding of our good friend Zachariah Tweed with the beautiful (and to be honest) practically perfect in every way, Marcela.  This event was held in Chile, on a lake, and despite the less than cooperative weather every single person in attendance wore a smile.  As a means of post ceremony celebration we then enjoyed two days of thermal pool frolic that even the curmudgeonliest of curmudgeons would not have been able to prevent from putting to good healthy use.  Afterwards Hernan and I headed back East, then South, anxiously awaiting throughout the first part of that drive our arrival at a creek which had attracted both of our attentions as we crossed it on the way to Chile – the Arroyo M. Malal.  This thing just sort of screamed to have hoppers thrown into it, and the throwing of them was exactly our intention as we anxiously parked beneath a clear blue sky that afternoon and rigged our rods.  No sooner had we done so though, when Hernan said “Che, Justin, has viste ese letrero?”  I could hardly believe my eyes.  We had parked right next to a sign which read, in no uncertain terms, “No Fishing”.  Arghhh!!!  I grabbed my regulations and looked up the creek.  Sure enough – closed.  But why???  Only thing we could figure was that it was an important spawning ground for the fish of the nearby river into which it flowed.  So – licensed guides and law abiding citizens that we are, we took down the rods and pulled out the cameras for a walk. Sure enough the thing was chock full of beautiful trout, some of which we even managed to photograph, but a fishing we did not get to go.  Another interesting note from this particular trip across the Andes was that it was Hernan’s first into the “interior” of Chile, and the roads made quite an impression on him.  I mean, they’re paved!  And not full of potholes!   Plus there is the embarrassing question of the cow crossing signage.  You see, in Argentina we have this sign: that of a cow, crossing.  In Chile, on the other hand, they go full-bull:  Whether this is simply an issue of greater impact iconography to make drivers even more cautious than they might otherwise be, or some sort of pseudo-Freudian complex about terminology differences between the two cultures along the lines of “Pico” vs. “Pito”, I don’t know, but Hernan was laughing pretty hard, so we took pictures.  Back in Rio Pico it was client/fishing time again, and we enjoyed some wonderful weeks on the water with folks who had come down to do just that.  I was a bit surprised at how low some of our streams and rivers have fallen already, considering the excellent snow pack the area had this last winter, but the fishing was spectacular, as usual, all the same.  Of special note was a visit by one of my favorite clients, Mr. David Capen, who this year took advantage of both our Rio Pico Lodge package and a portion of the Trout Bum package, following Hernan and I with packs into one of the back-country drainages we love so dearly in order to make camp and fish for trout that have most likely never seen a fly, as well as enjoying the campfire and natural surroundings of a puma-tracked and little accessed area of Patagonia he had not before been familiar with.  As usual, the fishing was great.  And now with the new snowfall I am watching and the rain which is forecast to follow, I am certain the coming weeks will be more than superb as well.  There is definitely better moisture in general though this year, as noted with the year’s crop of Llao llao, an orange tree dwelling mushroom which is sweet to the taste and a delicious treat while we are out on the streams. Taking a quick break before my next group comes in though I just got back from the annual “scenalada”, or marking/castrating of the lambs, out at my good friend Marcelo’s place on Lago Rosario just down the road.  A bittersweet if also delectable affair as always, we got started at dawn and wrestled with the poor creatures all morning through the process of ear marking, castrating, and tail-docking, before eventually slaughtering and roasting one of them for the afternoon asado.  This year was a low-attendance event to be sure, with only myself and the always reliable Toledo from the peninsula puesto doing the pin-downs, and Marcelo doing the cuts.  The resulting feed was awesome though, and I washed all of the blood off my skin by swimming myself out most of the way across the lake that afternoon.  So anyway, here I am folks!  Write me back!  I would love to hear how all of you are experiencing the holidays, and where you are and what you are up to in the world.

Disillusionment and Rapture in the (relative) South

Hello World!  Life is good, no?  It is for me.  After not having set foot in the United States of America for three whole years, I arrived at the Atlanta airport earlier this month and began the process of re-accustomization.  (Yes, it’s a word; I just typed it, didn’t I?)  The first couple of weeks were interesting in many ways.  So much has changed!  And yet, so much has not. The most interesting parts of the process though were the realizations that things I had thought were different most likely never were.  Take my first trip to the grocery store for instance.  I walk in, grab a shopping cart, and begin my rounds.  Over the next five minutes or so my jaw slowly drops, and drops, and drops, until I am dragging it along the floor between my feet.  I mean, how can there possibly be this much selection?  I count no less than forty seven varieties of cheese.  Thirty two cereals.  Sixteen coffees???  I have landed in the land of free market bliss.  The cart fills as I calculate price per weight for each item and make educated guesses about comparisons of products; and soon enough not only am I at the checkout isle with a wider variety of foods than I can ever remember seeing in my life, at least half of them are foods that I haven’t tasted in what seems like forever, if ever, and I am happy.  My smile stretches from ear to ear, and the cashier is looking at me a little strangely too.  But then I notice that she feels it necessary to carefully inspect my hundred dollar bills, apparently ruling out the possibility of counterfeits?  When did that start?  Was it always this way? And when I unload the groceries into my truck and turn around to return the cart to its rightful place in the cart-collector, I notice that several other customers have simply abandoned their own carts in the parking lot, some even directly behind other shoppers vehicles, and I think “Wait a minute, I thought that only happened in Argentina!”  Well, apparently I was wrong.  You see we tend to do this, the expat crowd.  Through the repetition of our many moments of frustration with living in a foreign land it just sort of naturally occurs; and before we know it we have idealized our own people, and painted a fantastic sort of picture in our heads about the perfection that we left behind.  Sure, there are differences, and certain things are easier up here, especially when it comes to questions of paperwork and government processes, but as it turns out lots (and lots) of the little things that had frustrated me so much over these past years are the same!  It just goes to show – wherever you go, there you are.  And some of the other differences require definite adjustments as well.  Like, you guys have these policemen up here with those silly little radar guns; and they actually control the speed at which people drive!  That one I need to remember.  And there are so many people.  I mean, wow!  It’s kind of unbelievable.  How do they all fit into such a little space?  But like I said, the food is awesome, and I’m a happy camper.  (If still only hanging out for just a while)  I’ve been fishing very little, but have managed to get out on the water once after stripers with The Dude, and also for the usual bluegill, bass, and other fish that are fun to help people catch out on the lake here at the house.  But mostly its been taking care of business in the office since my arrival.  That’s not to say there are no plans.  I mean, the office can only go on like that for just so long.  So tomorrow, by God, I am headed to New Orleans.  Because ladies and gentlemen, it is redfish time.  Dr. Tweed will be waiting for me there with the flats skiff, and I hope to be posting a whole bunch of stories and photos from the couple of weeks I’ll spend poling it when I return sometime around the middle of next month.  At which time I head to the Bahamas.  Where bonefish live.  Er…hmmmm…  You know.  It’s sort of a life.  Till then though enjoy the video below which hopefully might give you some idea of what I am up to as you read these lines, and then drop me a line of your own so I can hear about your adventures too!  Talk with you all soon.

BULLS ON TOP from SHALLOW WATER EXPEDITIONS on Vimeo.