By Tyson Sommerville
While in Colombia, South America, my girlfriend Erin and I went to Guatapé, a small, very pretty lakeside town in Eastern Antioquia, about one and half hours from Medellín. Our main reason for the visit being La Piedra, which was essentially a very big rock that had a staircase up the side! The town is also near a very large man-made lake that flooded nearby land when the dam was built. When looking for a hostel I noticed one listed fishing as a nearby activity, which made our choice easy.
The day we arrived we decided to do the hike up the 700 or so stairs to the top of the rock, which was conveniently across the road from our hostel. We slogged our way up to the top and I’m told the views were amazing. I was not interested in going near the edge, or peeking over the railing. I hate heights, and don’t worry, Erin got a few pictures of me crawling around on the top right next to a three foot concrete railing.
The next day we walked the three kilometres into town, which involved crossing over a very shaky suspension bridge over the highway. While the town wasn’t particularly exciting, there were lots of people offering boat tours plus a few stores selling fishing tackle, mostly small and expensive hard plastic fishing lures. That afternoon, after we got back to the hostel, I started asking about the local fishing. The lady running the hostel told me that the neighbor had a boat and would take people out fishing for a small fee and the she had an old fishing rod Erin could borrow. I asked her what kind of fish the lake had in it and she said “trout I think, is there one called a rainbow?” That evening, after the neighbor had returned home, she and I went over to hire the boatman. I was informed that the fishing seemed best between four pm and dark, about six pm. He said it would cost 40,000 pesos and he would pick Erin and I up at four the following day. That night I did a lot of research into how to catch rainbow trout in lakes.
In the morning, the hostel owner showed me the fishing rod she had for Erin. It was an old collapsible spin caster rod with the last quarter broken off of the end. The reel on it was dusty, dirty, grinding, and had about twenty feet of old sun damaged line on it. I stripped it down as far as I could and used some vegetable oil to lubricate the reel, which made a huge difference. Still this rig had a lot of problems. We walked into town again to see how much some fresh line would cost. Upon seeing the price, I decided that line would probably be too heavy for that rod and not cast well anyway.
I packed my fly gear, some snacks, and the borrowed rod into my backpack and at 3:30 we got a call that the boat was here to pick us up. We were told that he had a few other anglers out on the banks, one of whom was from Puerto Rico and spoke excellent English. As the boat headed out, I started assembling my nearly, top of the line Redington five piece fly rod. I looked at Erin’s shambled excuse of a rod and felt like a bit of a show off. I was also terrified by the realization that she will still likely out fish me as she always does. I expected that the boat driver would drop us off at on the shore and come back at dark, but I was mistaken.
We pulled up to the shore and a man with a Texas accent, and a bunch of fish on a rope, jumped on the boat and introduced himself. Turns out he was the Puerto Rican, or more accurately, a Texan who had lived in Puerto Rico. He was followed by a few Colombians. We started chatting and it turns out his girlfriend is from Colombia and the men with him were his in-laws. We started talking about the fishing and he informed us that the fish in the lake were actually large mouth bass, but everyone in town referred to them as trout. He said they resembled the bass from Florida and he guessed they were transplanted there after the dam was built and to his knowledge they were the only bass in Colombia. I don’t know where he got his information from but he seemed to know a lot about bass and told us he had done some tournament fishing back home. I believed him and he was kind enough to give me some tips. Also, in an amazing act of kindness, compassion, or maybe pity he saw Erin’s rod and promptly handed her his, stating “I have been fishing for five days straight, I need a break” she took the rod and he promptly opened a well deserved beer. He explained to us where bass tend to hide, in the weeds, and where to cast, just beside the weeds. At first no one was seeming to catch much but finally Erin connected and the whole boat was a buzz. The little bass thrashed and skidded across the surface until Erin brought it in. The Texan grabbed it, took the hook out, we got a quick picture and then it was tossed on the string with the rest of the days catch. At a glance, I would say it was one of the bigger fish caught that day.
Everyone kept on fishing and chatting, while I kept practicing my casting. A few other guys on the boat caught a fish, and kept them all. Finally, in the crystal clear water, I watched a small bass swim up and take my small fly. I lifted the rod and set the hook, with a quick strip of the line. I realized how tiny the fish was, judging by the joking and cheering from everyone else in the boat. I hollered at the Texan “Get the net! Gonne need a bigger boat!”. I reeled the little guy in, grabbed the bottom lip, got a picture and tossed it back into the water to grow some more. It may have been small, but on a fly rod anything is exciting and you don’t have to even be catching fish to have fun fishing, so I’m still happy with it. We fished some more with very little success until finally it was just too dark.
We started heading back in the pitch black night. I was marveling at how well the boatman could navigate in the dark, when suddenly the boat stopped, then turned sharply. He said something in Spanish, the Texan laughed and replied, then told us the boatman took a wrong turn and was a little lost. That was comforting. We made it home with no further incident. While we were fishing I noticed there wasn’t an abundance of plant life in the water and there didn’t appear to be much for the bass to eat. It was nice to be the only people we saw fishing on the lake and an amazing novelty to say I have bass fished in Colombia. I would be curious to see if it develops into a better fishery in the future. Maybe once aquatic plants can spread more and other aquatic species work their way in from rivers and become a food source for the sport fish. If not, it’s still a great place to spend and afternoon or two casting a rod.