I've been going to Brazil every couple of years for a long time now; my wife's family is from Rio De Janeiro, and we go down to visit family and occasionally make some fun trips to other parts of the country. This would be the second time I was in Brazil since becoming involved in the sport of kayak fishing, and I was determined to find a way to get out and do some fishing, since the last time I had been in Rio, the guide I contacted sort of *ahem* flaked on me. This time would be different, however. in the fall of 2016, I had a chance to volunteer through the local kayak club to help out with anglers coming to Louisiana as part of the Hobie Worlds tournament. There were several competitors coming from Brazil, and since I speak Portuguese, I volunteered to hang out with them and help translate and show them around, knowing that they would one day be happy to return the favor should I make it to Brazil. Fast forward to this December - I gave my pal Rafael Renzetti a buzz, and let him know that I was in Rio and wanted to get some fishing in. Rafael is a member of the Hobie team in Brazil, but lives outside of São Paulo, rather than Rio. Keep in mind, this was the week before Christmas, and extremely complicated with family responsibilities for both of us, but after much discussion, we settled on a plan - I would take an overnight bus from Rio to São José Dos Campos, where I was to meet up with Rafael, head out to fish for the day, and then take another redeye bus back to Rio, to be back in time for Christmas festivities. The bus station was PACKED, and it was one of those "only-in-Brazil" moments that I love so much.
The bus itself was really comfortable, and I was knocked out within a few minutes of being on the road. Once I made it to Rafael's place, we loaded up, made a stop for some traditional Brazilian breakfast pastries and strong coffee, and hit the road, eventually meeting up with the rest of the crew at a gas station just outside of Vale do Paraiba. This was a combat launch location in every sense of the word, and we needed to follow one of the guys that had permission to be on this private property. The roads were the typical red clay of Brazil, and there was definitely some concern that if it rained while we were out, getting back to the main roads was going to be a challenge.
The spot that we would be fishing is a freshwater reservoir, made by damming the local river. The access point required some thought and finagling regarding where we were going to be able to leave the cars so that the locals could still pass on the road, and involved a good little trek down a slippery slope with the kayaks to get to the water.
The initial spot we planned on fishing was a short distance away, so we all struck out as a group, and made the trek before doing any fishing. The scenery was great, and the sun was mercifully popping in and out of cloud cover, rather than broiling us outright. Shortly after we left the launch, we passed a colonial-style mansion on the bank.
Once we started fishing, I spent a lot less time with the camera out, until I caught my first Tucunaré. Rafael was kind enough to angry up this fish's blood, coaxing a bunch of strikes out of it on a soft popping lure, but eventually hanging up on a bunch of nearby structure. I snuck in with a Heddon Zara Puppy topwater, and the fish immediately slammed it. Needless to say, I was pretty psyched. Rafael really served that one up on a platter! These fish are absolutely gorgeous. The guys there have a CPR tournament similar to our local Massey's Fish Pic tournament - an ongoing format with digital submissions. I thought it was interesting that they require video footage of the measurement and release of the fish, which is a great way to combat cheating.
Fishing certainly wasn't easy, but I was gratified to eventually catch another larger Tucunaré a little later, this time all by my lonesome self. Celio and I had ended up fishing a similar little cove with a bunch of submerged vegetation and small tilapia that the Tucunaré were feeding on. Once again, the fish hit the small topwater. These fish really don't leave any doubt as to their intentions, and I totally understand why people get obsessed with them - the blowup on a topwater in the middle of the day is awesome. This time, I took a few more detail shots and admired the fish some more before letting it swim off.
Shortly after that second fish, the typical summer afternoon thunderstorm started making its presence known, and we were forced to head back to the launch, getting caught up in the storm on the way back, although to be honest the rain felt amazing after an extremely hot day. After a quick photo of the whole crew, and a little bit of nail-biting excitement with a stuck car, we headed back towards the city, relieved that we had beaten the storm to the launch, and that the roads were still passable. After dinner and beers at Rafael's place, it was back on the bus to Rio for me. I can't thank Rafael and the rest of the guys enough for the hospitality and knowledge, and this will definitely become a tradition each time I make it to Brazil. It was truly magic to get out on the water there and get out of the bustling city for even a few hours. Can't wait to meet up with the Tucunaré again soon!! I'll be putting up some video from the trip as well soon. Obrigado, gente!