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Want to go on an unusual fly fishing trip that has the added appeal of being connected with an innovative sustainable use conservation project? Consider the small South American country of Guyana, where Costa del Mar, the sunglasses maker, has teamed up with USAID to offer a catch-and-release fishing program focused on one of the largest freshwater fish in the world, namely, the pirarucu, or arapaima (Arapaima gigas). These air-breathing goliaths reach weights of up to 400 pounds (around 200 pounds is the largest taken in Guyana by a fly fisherman so far), and, yes, they do hit large streamers tied to resemble peacock bass, one of their principal prey species. A 12-wt. rod is a must to land one of these fish.

The fishing takes place in oxbow lakes near an Indian village in central Guyana reachable by half-day plane and boat rides from the capital city, Georgetown. Facilities are understandably basic, but a reasonably tolerant person should not have any problems. There are flush toilets, bottled water, and completely adequate food, but no air conditioning. The service personnel are all local Indians who treat clients like personal guests. The wildlife in the area is extraordinary, especially the bird life.

Renowned international angler, Marty Arostegui, who personally landed a pirarucu here, describes the fishing as appropriate for advanced tarpon anglers. “It takes a lot of patience,” he says, noting the basic technique involves waiting for a pirarucu to come to the surface to gulp air. You throw the fly in front of the fish as it goes back down. Sounds simple, but it’s not, he says. For starters, reaching the oxbow lakes where pirarucu are found requires a morning boat ride followed by a significant jungle walk. The fishing is from narrow aluminum boats or dugout canoes, two anglers and one guide per boat. The biggest challenge is staying ready for a fish to surface within casting distance of your boat. The long waits can lead to inattention, Arostegui says.

The remarkable thing about this opportunity is the underlying concept. No one other than the local Indians earns a penny from it, and that includes Costa del Mar. So if you want to help a local Indian community and conserve an interesting species of fish at the same time, book a trip. All funds go into the local community, providing a powerful incentive for the Indians to look after the pirarucu rather than overexploit them. This kind of sustainable-use conservation works. Hunters have been funding community projects like this for more than 20 years. It is refreshing to see anglers doing the same thing. Hats off to Costa del Mar for its role in this.

The contact person for this trip is Oliver White, a Costa pro. Oliver is best known to subscribers to this publication as the developer of Abaco Lodge for the Argentinean company Nervous Waters. Like everyone else, he is not getting paid for his work on the Guyana project. He can be reached by e-mail at white.oliver@gmail .com. The seven-day trips cost $4,500. Only 16 anglers a year are allowed. Upcoming trip dates are April 28–May 4, 2013; May 19–25, 2013; November 2–9, 2013; and November 24–30, 2013. You can read much more about the overall program on the Costa Web site at Enjoy!— Don Causey.

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