On the Mid to Upper Reaches of the Essequibo River
By David Watmough
Fishing, family and work are my main focus’ in life, I’m addicted to all three. I’m busy all the time in the UK mainly with work and family, which doesn’t leave much time to follow my passion, fishing. So, around 6 years ago, I started to travel the world to the most extreme places on earth for fishing, looking for freshwater fish monsters. Fuelled by the TV series River Monsters, I had maybe ten locations around the world on my list ,including India, Asia, Africa, South America and Europe which I have managed to get to,
Guyana has been on my list from the beginning but, unfortunately, I could never get there because of commitments to other trips. So last year, after lots of advice from some close friends who had been to Guyana, I decided to take their advice and I contacted a man called Navin L Roopnarain who owns Piraiba Lodge with tourism and fishing, on the Essequibo river deep in the jungle. We agreed the dates, 1st January to the 15th January 2020. So I booked my flights and that was it, I was finally going!
January soon came around and all my equipment had been carefully packed for the trip ahead. I flew from Manchester to Miami, then to Georgetown Guyana. I arrived at around 11.30pm on the 1st January. It was easy getting through the airport and everyone was very friendly. My visa was given to me on arrival and I was met outside the airport by Navin’s son Brandon, who took me to the Status Hotel for the night. The next day I was picked up in the afternoon by Navin, ready to take the overnight bus down the jungle logging roads to a crossing over the Essequibo River. I had opted for the bus rather than the plane to get me into the jungle, as I always like to gain the full experience from my trips & not always the easy option!! The journey was long and bumpy and not for the fainthearted but I loved it. I was met the following morning on the other side of the river by one of Navin’s guides, Raymond at a village called Fair View. Then I was taken up the river by boat to the lodge.
When I arrived at the lodge I was truly exhausted, as it was now over 48 hours since I had started my journey. I quickly got all my equipment ready and I organised myself a little, ready for the night ahead. I had some food then fell asleep, in a hammock, all afternoon. That night we went out fishing but I didn’t catch anything. I had two takes, but I think from small catfish. We returned to the lodge around 1 am. I set two rods up on the beach with big baits. I slept like a log in my hammock, what a comfortable way to sleep! I was awoken at 630am to a take. I landed my first fish of the trip. This fish was a great way to start my trip. It wasn’t a monster but a very special fish called a Surubi Catfish. This must be the most beautiful freshwater fish I had ever caught in my life.
We ate breakfast and went out fishing straight away. We stayed out all day but I was really struggling, nothing seemed to be feeding. I tried everything, including moving many locations, but nothing worked. I just wanted to get away from the lodge. Don’t get me wrong, it was fantastic, but not for me, as most of my trips are camping in extreme locations, which I needed to pursue. So I made a decision, I was going to go up the river. With just the essentials and accompanied by Mark, my guide, and his family, we agreed to fish one more day around the lodge, then we’d move up the river. The following day the fishing was totally different. I got many takes and lost two big fish. Late that night I managed to land my first big fish, a beautiful big Jau catfish over the 100lb mark definitely the fish of a lifetime.
The next morning, loaded up with fuel etc we started our journey up the river for the next 8 days. We travelled hundreds of kilometers up the river system right up to King William Falls, basically as far as we could, living off the land and camping in the jungle. The wildlife deep in the jungle was also truly amazing, not spoilt at all by human impact. The river was so clear I was drinking the water straight from it with no issues at all. The fishing wasn’t easy, but we managed to catch some amazing fish, big Arapaima, big Jau, big Redtails, the Banana fish. I even landed a 10 foot black Caiman on rod and line. In total I managed to catch over 17 different species from this river system. Even the bait fish were dream fish to most anglers! On day 10 we arrived back at the lodge. I love it out in the wild, but getting back to comfort was fantastic, and I could charge all my batteries for my cameras, satellite phone etc. I’d also be able to shower properly as I’d not had a wash in the days I’d been travelling on the river.
I still had one fish I really wanted to catch, it’s called a Lau Lau the Pariba known as the mother of all freshwater fish. So the time I had left I decided to fish big baits only, up to 2 kg as I only now wanted to catch my main target a monster Lau Lau. Unfortunately, I never got my Lau Lau but I managed to catch two more big Jau, one in a pool 20 minutes up river from the lodge, and one at 2 am, from the beach directly outside the lodge on the morning of the 12th day. It was time to go, so I said my goodbyes and we headed down to Fair View, where I was going by plane back to Georgetown. Late afternoon I arrived back at the hotel, I cleaned myself up and got some rest. The next day I wasn’t due to fly out till 11pm so I had the day to myself. I suffer with back problems, so at breakfast I asked a lady if she knew of anyone who could come to the hotel and help me. She recommended a local lady called Jo-Anne Forde. She was amazing. She worked on my whole body for 2.5 hours. I’ve never had treatment like it, she was so good at her job and very professional and I really couldn’t recommend her enough Jo +592 678 9337. If I had Jo here in the UK I would go to her each week, she could really change your life with her treatment. I felt fantastic when she had finished with me, and that lasted for weeks after I had returned home. I can’t wait to see her again, this coming January, on my return trip to the Essequibo. I found all the good people of Guyana very friendly and helpful towards me.
Brendon again took me back to the airport that evening and I was on my way home and very much looking forward to seeing my wife and 2 small children, Alfie and Matilda. As much as I love my fishing trips I always miss my family terribly. I got home safely after 24 hours, and I immediately booked my return visit for January 2021, as I had unfinished business with the Lau Lau! I really cannot wait to return.
Just before I go…….When I returned home and started posting about my trip on social media, I had many foolhardy people trying to get information about what I did, so they could try and make themselves a cheap unsupported trip. In this environment it’s really crazy to even think about doing this alone. It’s extremely dangerous! When things go wrong in an environment like this, they really do go wrong. So anyone interested in a trip like this please contact Navin at www.adventureguianas.com/adventureguianas.com/+ 592 673 0039 He’s as genuine as they come, very well organised, and I really couldn’t recommend Navin and his team enough.
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