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Ron and Dan’s excellent Amazon adventure

My fishing pal, Ron Cross, a Pro Bass Circuit fisherman from Pahrump, Nevada, and I finally realized a life-long dream — a marvelous adventure to Brazil’s Amazon basin.

Not only did we explore the Amazon River’s greatest tributary, the Rio Negro, we searched its backwaters and bushwhacked our way into lagoons seeking the magnificent Peacock Bass. This while keeping a sharp eye out for the dangerous giant anaconda and jaguar. Ron even swam with the piranha.

It all started at the Safari Club International Convention in Reno. I ran into a fellow named Phil Marsteller. He built and operates a unique fishing lodge in the center of Brazil’s Amazon region, Amazon Tours, Rio Negro Lodge and the associated Amazon Queen Riverboat.

The area is known for its fierce fighting Peacock Bass, which attacks a lure like no other species. Exploding from the water, these beautiful black, gold and red fish strike a large surface lure with the power of an angry beast and strip line from the reel. The angler must be ready to set the hook hard, or risk having it ripped from his hands. These are powerful fish and that’s what makes them such a sought-after prize.

I showed the lodge’s video to Ron and he responded, “Let’s go,” and arrangements were made to fish from the Amazon Queen Riverboat.

We would meet representatives of the Lodge at the Miami International Airport and be escorted to Manaus, Brazil. Manaus is the hub for the Amazon’s commerce and famous for its once lucrative rubber exports. From there we took a second flight to Barcelos, a river community on the Rio Negro where we caught the Lodge’s fast riverboat taxi for the two-hour ride up river to the Rio Negro Lodge and the Amazon Queen.

On the way we passed smaller indigenous riverboats and canoes with people using the river highway to transport produce and other products to Barcelos or Manaus. It seemed another world, and as we traveled further upstream, and lost cell phone contact, we saw fewer signs of what we consider civilization. Ron and I were enthralled, excited and captivated by the region’s wild beauty.

Upon reaching the lodge, some of us boarded the “Queen.” Yes, we were in the Amazon, but our new home for the week of fishing was not at all primitive. We settled into our comfortable staterooms with hot, private showers, had beverages on the afterdeck and enjoyed a wonderfully prepared meal in the large dining room. Weary from the day’s travel, we slept well. The next morning the fishing would begin using the fast Nitro Bass Boats which were towed behind the mother ship.

That’s where our story, and the fishing, begins. Our guide, Val, was masterful at casting the large lures and he was a skilled teacher of the necessary technique. Using Shimano Curado bass reels we would cast 20 to 40 yards to the edge of cover and “rip” the large Lure Jensen Woodchopper lures to deeper water. When done properly he appeared to be chopping at the water as he drove the rod tip down, thus the name woodchopper. This causes the lure to propel forward, the word propel is appropriate as the lure has a large, loud prop like spinner at its end which is supposed to attract the fish’s attention and cause a vigorous attack. It works.

As the fish hits explosively, I’m ready. “Set the hook,” the guide says with a quiet but emphatic instruction, and the battle begins. “Feels like a 20-pounder,” I say, as it runs stripping line. I’m able to turn it and slowly bring it to net. “What, only a six-pounder?” I exclaim, “These guys can fight. I’m not sure what I would have done with a 20-pounder.”

Ron, being more experienced, was much more adept at casting long distances and placing the lure exactly where he wanted. A competition soon evolved between him and Val. Having guided for many years Val was able to cast not only far and accurately, but could reach back under overhanging trees in pockets where Peacock Bass like to hide. Ron was soon doing the same, but not before he had to pull many lures from the bushes and trees. Master it he did, though, and this added to his respect on the river.

He caught fish; his competitiveness kept him working from dawn to dusk, searching for the elusive 20-pounder. It didn’t happen, but he caught what all consider “big fish.” I guess he’ll just have to go back again next year and try for that world record.

Not only did we catch Peacock Bass, but it was exciting and equally rewarding, for me, when I hooked a Fresh Water Barracuda, Amazon Dog Fish, or my favorite, the piranha. All have serious teeth and fight aggressively.

This trip, however, like all adventures wasn’t about the number of fish or game caught. It’s about the road, the trail, or the river: the things you experience, and the people you meet along the way.

By the way, Ron wasn’t intimidated as he bravely swam with the piranha; nor were the many children who swim and bathe in the river daily. It seems there are two distinct species, the Red and the Black Piranha. It’s probably not a good idea to go in the water with the Red ones, but the Black ones, which are in this part of the river, are safer unless you are bleeding or giving them fresh meat. My guess is they didn’t consider Ron fresh, or particularly tasty. But, Ron is my friend and a Legend of the Amazon, in my eyes.

This story is an excerpt from “Sportsman’s Quest-the Book.” It’s available at the Pahrump Valley Times, or give Dan a call at (775) 727-9777.

Upcoming Events

It’s THAT time of the year again! Conventions and banquets abound. There is something for everyone who enjoys the great hunting and fishing traditions. I know I will be attending as many of these as I can. It is a great opportunity to meet like-minded people and to learn about some of the newest innovations in the hunting and fishing world. You can also find great travel deals on trips of a lifetime.

January 22 – 25, 2014

Reno will play host to Wild Sheep Foundation’s The Sheep Show 2014 Convention and Sporting Expo at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. This is considered the premier mountain hunting exposition in the world. Contact www.wildsheepfoundation.org for more information on this event.

January 25, 2014

The Nevada Sportsmen Unlimited will hold their banquet at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino. Doors open at 5 p.m. There will be guns, sporting equipment, hunting and fishing trips, and an excellent meal. Bring the whole family. There will be a kids raffle also. For tickets call 702-558-2825.

February 5-8, 2014

The big one, Safari Club International will be having its annual convention in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay convention center. If you attend only one this year, this should be it.

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