Nadson Silva - Pelado

Camp Manager/Exploratory Team/Signature Tier – Amazon Operations

The best guide in the Amazon 20 years ago has evolved into a fantastic camp manager with incredible attention to detail

Circa December 2002. Rob Anderson is on his first ever trip to the Amazon to catch a Peacock Bass on a fly rod. He and his fishing partner and co-worker Andy Burk were on their second day of fishing on the Cuuini River. The first day and a half of fishing was off the charts. The team had been fishing a wooded Lagoon. Rob and Andy were already worn out from the constant casting and catching. Rob took an opportunity to sit down, wipe the sweat off his brow and get some water. The rest felt good and apparently was too long of a break for their guide.  The silence breaks with the guide calling out “hey Hobe” – You no like Lagoon?” So Rob looks over and says “no I need a break.” The guide calls out – “Hobe, dis vedi guud spot – Casting, Casting, Casting” Little did we know that this moment would play a big role 16 years later of our favorite saying – Always Be Casting. 

Many people that work with us on our Amazon operations have fishing in their blood. Born and raised on the banks of the greatest river system in the world. It is common to read about skipping school, sneaking out in a canoe and going fishing. They would come home and get a lesson in childhood from a vine or a handy flip flop and spend a couple of days collecting manioc and making farinha only to repeat the cycle a few days later. Kids of this generation, with the passion for fishing also seem to understand conservation better than their ancestors and the need to protect their resources and the environment. Meet Nadson Silva – a former logger that is now probably the best camp manager in the Amazon, who loves our ideas of exploration and conservation.

Many fisherman who have experienced jungle fishing in the Amazon have heard of Nadson before. Mainly though by his nickname, Pelado. His fly tying background and a fly he created a long time ago simply referred to as the “Pelado Fly” has anglers from all over the United States calling his name. His flies are on our online store and are some of the best we have. The story of Pelado was a very tough story to write both for the narrator, Pelado and the writers Karim and Rob.

Pelado was born on January 1st 1977 in the town of Beruri on the Purus River in an area of the Amazon that is known to be very poor. Far from any resources and a lack of good soil for farming keeps the people there always fighting for food. This was the case for Pelados family and most of those around them. When Pelado was 8 years old the family was in dire straits. There was not enough food to go around the family table, the village lacked any type of school and a decision was made to try to give little Pelado a better life. So they put 8 year old Pelado on a small boat owned by a river logger named Luis Carlos who little Pelado had never met before. The plan was to go to the village where Luis lived named Careiro Castanho near Manaus where he would be put to work in the Manioc fields and taken care of. This village was so far from where Pelados family lived that this decision included the reality that they would probably never see their son again. 

Luis Carlos kept little Pelado for nearly six months where, still at age 8, he started to work to help bring in food and money for the family. One day, Pelado is learning how to ride a bike, has a terrible accident and a piece of the bike cuts through his leg near his crotch. Back then it was hardly possible to go to the city to get help from a real hospital so the situation was handled by local village doctors and as a result Pelado would take almost 4 months to recover to where he could walk again. At this point Pelado was deemed worthless to his new family and they started to try to find him a new home. This would not be easy because Pelado still needed care. Mario Guedes, the Vice mayor of the area and the father of our partner Natan Guedes received the call and stepped in to see if he could help. Seeing the situation and hearing the story of little Pelado, it was an easy decision for the Guedes family to take in little Pelado and eventually adopt him into the family. 

At the Age of 10 Pelado would attend school in the village for two years until the family business came calling and he would be asked to go back to the fields full time. So at the age of 12 Pelado dropped out of school and was working daily planting and harvesting. A year later at the age of 13, one of Pelados’ new foster brothers would take him from the fields and give him a job in the logging business where he would transport heavy Brazilian lumber from the jungle to the city to sell. Pelado kept this job for four years when he would hurt his back and be forced to take time off. 

He had just quit working for the logging operation when his other foster brother Natan called him to be part of a friend’s fishing operation on the Marmelos river. The supply barge Pelado took to get there gave him 6 days to switch his mindset from chainsaws to rods and reels – Believe it or not, that’s when 17 year old Pelado,  raised in a riverine village named Samauma, on a fish abundant lake Januaca, caught his first fish.

Pelado spent years honing his skills and becoming a better fishing guide. Turns out he was as gifted as any of those before him. He came into the world of Amazonian sport fishing when it was still very new. Pelado was able to grow with the job and to really become one of the best guides in the Amazon. It did not take him long to earn the title of Head Guide in the operation, and eventually take on the responsibilities as camp manager as well. Going back to 2002, Rob had no idea who he had in his boat, and for sure could not know how it would all come back together some 17 years later.

Pelado has been in the sport fishing business for almost half of his life now. Responsibility, organization, strictness and a personal approach in making every fisherman feel like home in the camp or on the boat, made Pelado stand out as the best candidate for the position of camp manager. Being a camp manager in the Amazon means handling a lot of work. While the guide team is the star of the show, the backstage of the operations is simply crazy. Even though our modern floating cabins were designed to cruise shallow rivers like Rio Novo, the peak of the dry season brings its surprises. Pelado nailed the camp moving operation down to perfection: no matter the conditions, the camp is disassembled and turned into a floating train and a maze of tasks and duties are performed. The camp is relocated, sometimes up to 30 miles away and re assembled on a new beach and before the anglers can return from fishing, the footprints are wiped away the barbecue pit is restored and everything keeps its feel of un-touched. Anglers come back from fishing to see the camp in a new place almost as if it had never moved at all. The process is seamless. 

Now, imagine when you’re in the middle of the fishing week and your bosses decide to switch to a whole different river because fishing conditions look better there. We did an unthinkable journey in January 2020. Our partner, Natan Guedes, felt very optimistic with the water level dropping quickly at the lower Xeruini, so he called Pelado to take the camp there overnight from where we were. And we were at Labirinto Da Tartaruga – “the Back up Plan” of the season. In practice that meant: assemble the camp as soon as the fishermen left or fishing in the morning, move the camp 20 miles downstream to a sandbar and wait there with the train still intact until the anglers arrived at the end of the day. Then, start driving the barge on the unnavigable Rio Branco for over 80 miles; bring all the anglers for dinner SAFELY with the whole caravan on the move; find the shortcut to the Xeruini in the middle of the night; get to the beach in the fishable area before breakfast (6:30 AM), and be ready for the next fishing day. Not only was it delivered perfectly but the all aboard service and the sailing experience were amazing.

Fly fishing made a lot of people in the villages curious. After seeing the first fly fishermen in their areas in the 90s, kids and teenagers started imitating the lures by cutting off pieces of red cloth from their own pants or tying together fibers and leaves of palms and even bird feathers. In 1998 Pelado started making his own flies and jigs. It was during this time that Pelado created a fly with an extended red tail to imitate the Arari minnow. Sometimes in fly tying it is a blessing to learn to tie in an isolated situation and to come up with ideas on your own. The “Pelado Fly” is a great example of this. Even now it is only a few weeks a year that Pelado and Rob can get together on a sandbar in the middle of the jungle to give each other fly tying lessons and to express new ideas. 

As camp manager, Pelado has had to shift his daily focus to the other facets of the operation. Providing a Bucket List Adventure is more than catching a big fish. So, yeah, Pelado is our man. Not only he understands Rob Anderson’s standards and demands, he loves working on that level. He joins our adventures of search for land-locked lagoons, clearing the path to unfished waters and taking care of the experience our guests get to have at the camp. Now he likes to talk about things like shore lunch: that’s when all the fishing boats come together to grill fish on fire and do what all the men love to do – compare sizes. When this shore lunch happens it’s easy to notice that the guide and the angler are more than friends when they’re out on the river. Jokes in different languages that only get partly understood with gestures, laughing, campfire stories – Pelado understands the importance of these sacred times during the week and makes even this experience Top Shelf.  

Today Pelado lives in the village where he was raised – Samauma. That’s where he met his wife, Noeme, undoubtedly the best chef in remote fishing operations in the Amazon.(see Noeme’s story) Noeme and Pelado have been married since 2001. That’s where he raises his two kids. The younger one, Madison born in 2004, already is a great fisherman. Fly Fishing is his new passion acquired after spending 3 weeks in our operation in 2020.

Being one of the village leaders where he lives, Pelado couldn’t ignore that proximity to Manaus had started to corrode hundreds of communities. So, he decided to do something for kids, so that they’d not get involved with that life. Pelado is a huge soccer fan and he especially loves European soccer. 5 years ago, he created a junior team and named it Chelsea. Then, he organized a tournament, naming it Champions League. So, for years, the tournament was a success and only paused for the lack of financial resources – something we’re also trying to fix with our Care&Share program.

Pelado is a great man, leader and professional. He is another one of those hard to find pieces to the puzzle that has made what we do even better and more fun. He instills a military like attitude in the work ethic of our staff and is a lot like Rob in the fact that he can separate work from fun with our guests, staff and partners. It starts to sound like a broken record but we are lucky to have Nadson Silva on our team and a part of our family. Pelado takes our favorite ABC rule (Always Be Casting) to a whole new level. And, boy, you don’t have a future in fishing if you don’t pass “The Pelado Test”.

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