“Amazon Adventure – Part One” by Steve Rinehart

Fishing in the remote Amazon jungle was a unique experience. On my recent trip to Brazil, I had a lot of success catching a variety of fish, and a pleasant experience overall. But this story is about the exception rather than the norm. On one particular day, I was frustrated, losing several fish and only catching one all morning. That afternoon we stopped our boat near the river bank to fish for catfish and noticed something in the water coming toward us. It was a black caiman, the South American version of an alligator. The South American black caiman is the largest caiman species in the world and lives in the slow-moving rivers and lakes surrounding the Amazon basin. Caimans are predators and have longer and sharper teeth than alligators. Due to the large size and ferocious nature of caimans, they have few natural predators within their environments.

The guides on this river enjoy feeding fish scraps to caiman, so when a caiman sees a boat, they head right toward it. When this caiman came next to our craft, our guide gave him a piece of fish. Of course, the caiman hung around hoping for more, which made me uncomfortable for two reasons. First, I don’t trust wild animals that can eat you, and second, I thought this creature would try to steal any fish we might reel in alongside the boat.

This six-foot-long caiman watched intently as I brought the chunk of fish meat on the end of my hook around behind me to cast it out into the river. He was only two or three feet from the boat, floating on the water directly behind me. Fishing for catfish is usually relaxing because you throw out your bait and then sit back and wait for a bite. It’s hard to relax when those red caiman eyes are staring at you from striking distance, right behind you.

After a few minutes, my nerves began to fray, so I took my fishing rod and swatted the caiman on the end of the nose, hoping he would go away. He nearly bit my fishing rod in half in response. That made me mad, so I took the butt end of the fishing pole and poked the caiman in the nose. That sent the caiman scurrying, and he splashed us with his tail as he swam away. However, he only went about six feet before turning around and giving us the evil eye. It wasn’t long before he was back to his favorite hang-out spot, three feet behind me.

At about the same time, a bee started buzzing around my face, adding to my already frayed nerves. He didn’t want to leave me alone either, and I wondered if these creatures were in cahoots to drive me bonkers. I turned around and smacked the caiman on top of the head with the butt of my fishing pole. In response, the caiman soaked us with a splash of his tail.

During the ten-minute reprieve before the caiman came back, I checked my bait and discovered a bare hook on the end of my line. I was so distracted I didn’t even realize I had gotten a bite. Our guide put another chunk of fish on my hook, and I stood up to cast it back out into the middle of the river while the caiman watched that potential snack fly away. The bee resumed his perpetual route around my face when I sat back down. I took a peek behind and saw the caiman sneaking up behind me. Then I felt something on my ankle and saw a fly biting my bare ankle. After swatting him away, I reached for my bug repellent and sprayed my ankles to keep the flies at bay.

At that moment, my rod started moving fast, causing a loud noise as it banged against the side of the boat. I grabbed the rod before a fish pulled it into the water. When I tried to set the hook, the fish stole my bait again, leaving me with a bare hook.

My fishing partner said, “You’re kind of busy there, huh, Steve?” That was the understatement of the day. Dealing with a buzzing bee, biting fly, stalking caiman, and hungry catfish simultaneously was more than I could handle. I breathed a sigh of relief and smiled happily when our guide told us we were moving to a different spot. Adios, Senor Caiman!