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Small-Water Tarpon in Guyana’s Jungles


Guyana has a few of South America’s largest unspoiled rainforests, and they’re veined with rivers working to the tropical Atlantic Ocean. It’s prime territory to search for tarpon. (Tim Romano picture)


This text was initially titled “Tenkara Tarpon” within the Horizons column of the April-Could 2016 concern of Fly Fisherman journal. 

The market apothecary was stuffed with cures like “stomach clear out,” “wind medication,” and “males builder tonic.” The crab oil salesman appeared of Indian descent, with a white beard and a form face, and he introduced his potions in outdated Coke bottles labeled with a everlasting marker. He was definitely nearer to a witch physician than a pharmacist, and nearly as good as he made it sound, I wasn’t risking my well being in the beginning of a fishing journey. His stand was throughout from a dreadlocked lady promoting baskets of hen toes and bowls of unidentified organs. Cow tongues hung at eye degree subsequent to an indication studying “Halal Butchered Meat.”

Twenty paces away was a purveyor of mangoes and pineapples, with product stacked like cordwood and spilling into the streets. One other lady tried to promote me a bundle of bora—a skinny inexperienced bean that appears very similar to spring onions. A younger woman peddled the most recent motion pictures from her basket of pirated DVDs. Curry and cumin and different indistinguishable spices crammed the air, a nod to the East Indian heritage outstanding by the nation. This was the market in Georgetown, Guyana.

Avenue markets are a superb option to immerse your self within the native tradition—a glimpse on the genuine individuals most vacationers miss of their travels. It takes you out of your consolation zone, as your private area is commonly trampled by individuals bumping into you. The noises, smells, and crowds will be overwhelming, however for me it’s one of the best ways to style the essence of a spot.

Small-Water Tarpon in Guyana's Jungles
There’s a lot to be discovered in road markets in Third World nations. A fishy wild goose chase is at all times a good suggestion, however don’t strive the medicines. (Oliver White picture).

Past the cultural side, it is usually useful gizmo for any fisherman. A stroll by the fish market can provide invaluable intelligence about any close by fisheries.



Greater than as soon as a fishmonger has shared some perception on a location or bait that helped my very own fishing. I’ve discovered tables stuffed with allow in Mexico, big snook in Panama, bonefish within the Bahamas. It’s disheartening to see gamefish displayed this manner, however fishing for leisure is a luxurious few locations on the planet are afforded.

The Georgetown market provided tables full of normal fare like mullet and snapper, unrecognizable species of catfish, and one vendor had a desk lined in tarpon. They’d all been butchered into 12-inch slabs with no heads—however the scales had been undeniably tarpon. My greatest guess is the fish had been all 15 to 30 kilos, and there have been a number of them.

A fast interrogation yielded a small quantity of useful info. The fish had been caught in a internet, and though Georgetown is a coastal metropolis, the tarpon had been harvested in a river north of the town—far sufficient upstream that tide had no impact, he mentioned. Additional, he caught them inconsistently, none for weeks on finish after which at some point, a internet full and a visit to the market. In my thoughts, that meant he was discovering them as they moved from the river to the salt. The fish had been nearly at all times the identical dimension, however he had seen greater fish rolling within the estuary of the identical river.

My cease in Georgetown was only a quick layover on the best way into the inside to chase monster arapaima. However with this tarpon discovery the seed was planted, and I knew we’d be making one other journey to Guyana particularly to see if we may discover a viable tarpon fishery.



In the meantime, we saved up the questioning. We met a tilapia farmer who had been catching tarpon on fly in his ponds, and he had heard of tarpon on the coast as nicely. He pointed us to Tony Mekdeci who provided the true breakthrough.

Mekdeci owned the constitution firm we already deliberate on utilizing to get to the nation’s inside. His household was accountable for constructing the vast majority of roads in Guyana. His information of the realm and geography is unmatched, and extra essential he’s a fly fisher. This was the man we would have liked.

He was full of knowledge and was keen to share it. He rattled off tales and locations within the inside for arapaima, peacocks, big catfish, and arowana. He had fished with Stu Apte within the Seventies and had been exploring the nation ever since then. He was invaluable, he had been in all places we had been headed, and once I requested about tarpon he smiled and mentioned, “Guyana has the very best tarpon fishing nobody has ever heard of.”

Tarpon on Tenkara?

Broome Airstrip in Mabaruma is a tiny city within the northwest nook of the nation, and the closest airstrip to our remaining vacation spot—the Amakura River on the border between Venezuela and Guyana. We hit the city for vital provides similar to rum (Guyana has a few of the world’s greatest) and beer.

Our final purpose was a small tributary known as Luri Creek the place we had been instructed the tarpon stay. The plan was to camp with river individuals who have small farms and stay a easy existence. The children paddle canoes to high school because the river is the one street and the one technique of transportation.

There have been no guides or boats to hire. We employed some gas smugglers—guys who earned a dwelling working their boats into Venezuela, shopping for barrels of gas for pennies a gallon, after which promoting the product again in Guyana for an enormous revenue. The boats had been crudely handmade and formed with a pronounced upturned bow and an oversize engine for the smuggling commerce. They met us in Mabaruma, and we began the three-hour journey to camp.

We had been an awesome group of buddies and largely gifted anglers—Al Perkinson from Costa, Wealthy Hohne from Simms, Kirk Deeter from Trout Limitless, Tim Romano capturing photos and sticking his fair proportion of fish, and Patrick Henry our in-country contact who helped with all of the permissions and logistics.

Henry works underneath a contract from US AID, the arm of the U.S. authorities that gives overseas help and he was largely accountable for getting the whole lot off the bottom in Guyana for each the tarpon exploration and the earlier arapaima mission. We additionally introduced Rovin Alvin, the Amerindian we had been coaching to be a fly-fishing information for arapaima.

We had angling expertise, however the river was an enormous mess. It appeared extra like a processional mud slide than a freshwater stream. Visibility was nonexistent, lower than a few inches. The primary river provided little encouragement, no construction, nothing to focus on or give attention to, only a muddy wave of water. As we cruised upstream, the one issues of curiosity had been quite a few primitive fish traps. Stakes within the mud created pure funnels towards massive nets. The nets had been tied within the again, making it simple for fishermen to untie the online shortly and dump their harvest into the boats.

The biomass extraction was staggering, we noticed 1000’s of kilos of fish taken from the river. We stopped a number of instances to observe the harvest, however we didn’t see any tarpon.

Our camp upriver was extraordinarily primitive. There was no working water, plumbing, or electrical energy. The bathroom required a protracted stroll down a gang plank by the marsh, and consisted of only a gap within the floor. It proved to be a dangerous endeavor after ingesting an excessive amount of rum. The barn the place we strung our hammocks was stuffed with tarantulas, big frogs, and wasps.

When our host Auntie Phil locked up the canines at night time in a hen wire enclosure, I requested her if they’d been working away at night time. “No,” she mentioned. “A jaguar ate one among them final night time.” Welcome to the jungle.

The refrain of loud night breathing at night time saved the jaguars at bay, and our camp critters didn’t boring our enthusiasm for the tarpon exploration. We headed upriver in the hunt for magic, and our expectations had been excessive. The water was uninviting, however we ducked up each tributary we discovered on the lookout for fish. It was fruitless. We hacked our manner into many smaller tributaries and fished them arduous, however discovered no fish or signal of fish within the feeder streams or alongside the shore of the primary river.

For a few days there was nothing to be discovered wherever.

We felt like we had been chasing dragons. Had all of it been a hoax? Then, midway by our journey, we discovered the spot—legendary Luri Creek, dwelling to probably the most ridiculous juvenile tarpon fishing I’ve ever seen or heard of.

A tiny physique of water, 60 toes large at its most, and doubtless solely 3 or 4 miles lengthy, Luri Creek is exclusive in that it begins nearly on the ocean. Actually, on a brilliant tide the saltwater spills into the creek’s headwaters. It then flows slowly downriver and at last into the ocean 20 miles later.

As quickly as we noticed Luri Creek we knew it was completely different. The water was tannic and tea coloured however maintained nice visibility—a stark distinction to the mud tub of the primary river. Immediately we noticed the telltale rolling of tarpon. In all places. The primary solid wasn’t even a solid, whereas stripping out line to make a solid I dropped the fly within the water, and as quickly because the feathers received moist a fish devoured it. Each solid after was the identical, fish after fish, as my private rely of tarpon landed was rising exponentially by the hour.

We threw the whole lot we had—tarpon flies, poppers, Chernobyl Ants, it didn’t matter. They ate all of them with reckless abandon. I hooked a fish that jumped instantly into the opposite boat. There have been instances all six of us had been connected, with tarpon leaping each which manner.

A lot of the fish had been within the 2- to 15-pound vary, and whereas a number of fish approached 20 kilos, nothing broke by that. I placed on a sinking line with the thought perhaps there have been greater fish feeding under the smaller ones. I additionally tried greater flies to discourage the small ones. It led to a couple of the bigger fish within the 20-pound vary however no indicators of something actually massive.

Fishing was completely ridiculous, in three days we landed greater than 1,000 tarpon. My greatest mistake was not packing a lighter rod. I had 7- by 12-weights however would have killed for a 4-weight.

Small-Water Tarpon in Guyana's Jungles
Al Perkinson (left) and Wealthy Hohne showcase one among many tarpon doubles. A couple of of the smallish tarpon had been even taken on tenkara rods. (Tim Romano picture).

Kirk Deeter presciently had packed a tenkara rod, he broke it out and rigged it with a small tarpon fly. Most individuals equate tenkara rods with small streams and pan-size trout, however they’re additionally good for juvenile tarpon. A 5-pound trout or bonefish would destroy the tippet on a tenkara rod, however a tarpon instantly goes airborne, burning up power, and the up-and-down battle typically stays shut. After they soar, simply bow to the fish, and also you’ll discover they’re very landable. It’s actually tenkara fishing at its best.

Patrick Henry is what we fishing guides name a “by no means ever.” He had by no means even touched a fly rod. We caught the tenkara in his hand, gave him a 30-second tutorial, and he shortly landed dozens of tarpon, an ideal introduction to fly fishing on what’s most probably the world’s best creek for juvenile tarpon. That rod landed dozens of fish earlier than one of many greater tarpon received maintain of the fly and skyrocketed out of the water right into a bathe of shattered graphite.

This was my first publicity to the tenkara craze. I had been a naysayer, however the simplicity of tenkara is interesting, and I used to be a fast convert. It’s an ideal rod for studying. Budding fly fishers can give attention to simply the casting stroke with out the issues of line management. It’s easy, enjoyable, and efficient. As quickly as I received dwelling I purchased one. Beginning with tarpon didn’t harm.


Oliver White owns Abaco Lodge within the Bahamas and co-hosts with Jimmy Kimmel, Jim Belushi, Yvon Chouinard, and others the TV sequence Buccaneers & Bones on the Out of doors Channel.

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