The word “exploration” often captures the imagination of anglers. However, as quickly as the world has “progressed,” there are fewer and fewer opportunities for angling exploration that can be regarded as epic, adventurous, or extraordinary. But for Rodrigo Salles and Marcelo Pérez of Untamed Angling, such descriptions perfectly characterize their angling pursuits.
Marié, Pirarucú, Kendjam, and Tsimane are among the destinations that Rodrigo and Marcelo have explored and made their home. These off-the-grid destinations are unquestionably remote and thrilling, and for anglers, there are exceptional opportunities to chase some of the most exotic jungle species.
Rodrigo and Marcelo recently took time to talk about their work and their prized destinations with The Venturing Angler:
What brought you to focus your work on such far-out off-the-grid locations that are relatively untouched?
Well, honestly all this adventure began because of my favorite fish (the Dorado) was almost disappearing those days (year 2000) in Argentina. I was an architect and fishing journalist then, and catching a big Dorado became more and more difficult each time. The idea of catch and release was not so popular then as it’s now. Then just by causality I fished inside La Zona for a while (45 minutes) and I founded that the place hid the biggest Dorados I ever seen, all together in a small tailwater. That changed my life. Then I founded Untamed Angling (2001) and created the first prototype of the model we use today. The place was extra forbidden (bi national security area, biological reserve, etc.) and controlled by Argentina and Uruguay authorities. No one understood very well the project but everyone agreed to consider me crazy. Anyway, “La Zona” was born, and Untamed Angling appeared in the international world of fishing.
“La Zona” is a name I gave to the fishery just because when child I was a fan of “The Twilight Zone”, and my first impression of that place was like entering in another dimension, a river plenty of monster Dorado feeding everywhere. It was unbelievable.
After La Zona I developed Far End Rivers in Tierra del Fuego and Desroches Fly Fishing Adventures in Seychelles. Driven by the idea of finding the best fisheries in impossible places. But I was already pointing my eyes to the Indian Territories. That was more related to my real angler soul: the jungle. So I began to travel to Misiones forests, in North Argentina, and worked for a couple of years with the Mbya Guarani Nation, developing the social path of the original model, which I would apply afterwards in 2006 at Tsimane. That was the real deal. It took me 3 years to socialize the project with the Tsimane natives and the National Park authorities, but finally all the parties got convinced, the model was defined and the our jungle story began.
At the end of the line, what drove me all this years was just the challenge; to find the key which open the gates of these marvelous fisheries, no matter how remote or forbidden they are, or how hard the road could be. It happens that the best fisheries are always remote and forbidden, so what? Hehehe…
Seriously we were in real difficulties many times but we persisted, sometimes beyond the advisable limits. However, the world of sport fishing has now the chance to experience these new unique destinations. This is the very last frontier, in my humble opinion: the real jungle (not the TV one).
We were always driven by the unknown pursuing the real best fishing places in the the most virgin and wild Jungle no matter how far, or difficult to reach they are. In South America, especially in Amazon, the real best fisheries are either in National Parks/Ecological Reserves or Indian Territories.
So we started to move deep inside nature and developing the know-how to reach these places, understand the natives that lives there, getting good friendship with then, understanding and respecting they culture, traditions and bringing their ancient knowledge into fly fishing in all places we explore.
The locations where you work are extraordinary. To take on these destinations, you are not only an angler, but also an explorer. As exploring always brings challenges, what exploratory challenges did you encounter along the way?
Well, jungle always represents a challenge. But if you go once it’s not a big deal. You go, take a plane, take another plane, take a boat, walk, wade, and somehow you reach the place and fish there. The real challenge comes afterwards.
I always remember a saying of a friend: “there are some places that can be fisheries and some that are just for us to go fishing”. Well, I’m against that idea. I thought exactly the opposite indeed: the best place for me should be the best for many others too.
So that’s the real challenge for an explorer: to find the best place to fish and transform it in a fishing destination. I mean, to design the fishery: the logistics, the fishing week, the way you will move the anglers from one beat to the other, the rotation, etc. It seems easy when you have many roads crossing the river, but it looks quite impossible when you have just jungle around and almost non-navigable waters.
The success of our projects and destinations are to be the best jungle fisheries no matter how far or difficult they are in terms or logistics, licenses, and find the best way to design a world class fly fishing operation.
Most of these places are not only super wild and remote, but mostly forbidden areas for any kind of fishing. Untamed Angling model, based in the concept of working together with the Indian natives, it’s associations, in total coordination with Gov. Authorities, performing long term partnerships, high big social and environmental support. That takes time, lot of work, and the ability to take and understand the high risks involved. But finally is the key to open the gates of most amazing and new fly fishing possibilities for anglers.
What is your favorite fish specie?
Marcelo and Rodrigo:
Dorado, followed very close by a big peacock bass. Also a sight caught huge pacu comes in the combo.
What is your favorite thing about guiding?
Marcelo and Rodrigo:
We have never been guides. But as outfitters, our pleasure it’s to bring the opportunity to new anglers experience for the first time the new world of the amazing cunning jungle species on the fly.
What is the most memorable trip you’ve guided and why?
The first time we fished the Pluma and Itirizama River in Bolivian Jungle in 2008. We were the very first fly fisherman to cast a fly in these virgin rivers on the Tsimane Indian territory, and the moments we spent there are still in my mind.
The first time I explored the upper Pluma river in Tsimane was insane. It was so many dorados and pacues and all in sight casting! My friend, Ramiro Badessich, guided me then and it was the very first time we didn’t make one single cast without seeing the fish first. We caught huge pacues on dry flies, big Dorados in shallow waters, I mean, it was really insane.
What is the funniest thing you’ve experienced while guiding?
Well, a funny story was 5 years ago while in Secure Lodge in Tsimane a group of Russian anglers decided after a long night of vodka party, to go fishing only with pair of wading boots and swimsuits (a boxer underwear). It was the most weird and funny stuff I saw at a river. They were white as snow, and despite all manager and guides advisal of the stupid thing their were doing, they went fishing that way…
Well, I don’t need to say that they all came back very happy about their fishing day, but with their skins like a red lobster…
And the worst… They next day they were again fishing with same minimalist apparel…. Weird!!
You always think that when facing a dangerous event you would be heroic or brave. More if you’re accustomed to the wilderness.
Well, that was my second time in Desroches (Seychelles) and we were wading into a lagoon pursuing some bones. Then we saw a big wake 100 feet from us and we thought it was a monster stingray. The sun appeared trough the clouds so we could see the shark. 3m long fish more or less. Then he saw us and swam toward us like a missile; my guide hid behind me, and I jumped, yell, and hit the shark in the head with the tip of my rod (all at the same 2 seconds). It was one of the most ridiculous reactions I could imagine. Anyway the shark turned over and we began to laugh and run to the shore. My wife was there, collecting snails, which we did for the rest of the day.
What makes your guide service great?
I don’t think our service is better than any other world class one. The difference is that we provide it in the middle of nowhere. I always found the guests shocked by experiencing this contrast: fishing the whole day in a totally wild environment and enjoying a great service at night.
The other “special” came casually when I developed the model for Tsimane. As we need 2 native guides to drive the dugout canoe and 1 pro guide for the guests, a new working platform was created: a conjunction between the technical knowledge of a pro guide and the ancient knowledge of the natives. This culture was really wasted for other jungle outfitters in the past, perhaps because the natives are naturally shy or just because they didn’t take part of the tourism program in a serious way, but the fact is that once they began to share with us their know how about their waters, their fish, and the jungle signals, the whole experience changed dramatically and turned more deep and complete. That was when I thought about “Jungle Angler” concept for the very first time.
Travel to the most remote and wild places of Amazon Jungle, inside National Parks or Indian Territories, it’s an unique experience itself.
Fly Fishing in the best rivers places of these remote areas, and being guided by either experienced flyfishing English speaking guides and also Indian guides its a complete new platform of guiding service and create a complete angling experience.
If you add well-planned logistics and very comfortable lodging in these remote áreas, you will have an overwhelming experience.
That’s our goal, we pursue the best fly fishing spots in the most wild Amazon jungle rivers to bring to the fly fishing world a new door into the sport.
If you had only one day off all year, where would you fish and what fish would you target?
Marcelo and Rodrigo:
The headwaters of a Tsimane River in the Bolivian jungle aiming the Dorado sight casting with surface flies.
What are your favorite three flies?
I always feel sure with a Black & Red Andino deceiver in Tsimane. It’s amazing how the confidence on a fly could change your temper. I fished also lots of Payaras with the same pattern. The second one would be the peacock bass big streamers, that Puglisi style patterns with bright clear colors.
The third would be one of the big dry flies we use at Tsimane, like the Ututu, when the pacues are feeding on surface.
– Black/Red Andino deceiver
– Pole Dancer
– Ututu Dry fly
What is the one piece of gear you couldn’t bear to leave at home?
Marcelo: My hat and polarized sunglasses (It’s two, I know.)
Rodrigo: My pair of polarized sunglasses.
Do you have any other passions?
Marcelo: Writing, filming, designing, and creating something new: this is a passion I will never abandon.
Rodrigo: Photography, Fly Fishing Skiffs, Solar Powered Energy (our future).
Disclosure: Untamed Angling is in a professional relationship with the Fly Fishing Guide Directory, LLC and the Venturing Angler. Though potentially benefiting from this relationship, we do not post what we do not believe to be true. To read more, click here.