The Xeruini River Story
Our flagship operation has evolved into the most exclusive fishing trip on the planet
In the summer of 2002 while working for the original Reno Fly Shop, Rob Anderson received an email from a Peacock Bass agent in the Brazilian Amazon. They were looking for someone to help evolve a fly fishing program. As a kid Rob had seen these amazing fish on fishing T.V. shows and growing up a bass fisherman, this idea was already on Rob’s radar and his personal “Bucket List” (It was not until 2008 when the Movie “The Bucket List” came out did Rob know he even had a list). In December of 2002 Rob, Chris Evison and Andy Burk from the shop, made their first trip to Brazil and the Amazon jungle to see this Peacock Bass operation and to have the chance to catch these awesome fish. It was a trip of a lifetime for these young enthusiastic fly fishermen and as they say “the rest is history”.
Soon after through the original Reno Fly Shop, Rob became a host and agent for long time conventional tackle booking agent, River Plate Outfitters in Uruguay. For the next several years Rob took and sent anglers to the Amazon. Despite a few hiccups through the years including one major one in 2008 when River Plate double booked two weeks of their calendar and canceled the Reno Fly Shop’s trips to the Amazon that year. Rob still saw the potential in the travel business in the Amazon and spent his last few years at the fly shop desperately trying to develop a travel program. A long story short, the fly shop closed its doors at the end of 2010 without a travel program.
Still with a huge craving for Peacock Bass, Rob continued to host trips to the Amazon every year. Rob would build another website in 2012. It was the first of its kind, a website dedicated solely to fly fishing for Peacock Bass. It was originally built as part of an agreement for Rob to head up the fly fishing program as a host and booking agent for Riverplate.
In 2013 Rob would make a trip to another new river called the Xeruini.The operation was working in an area near the mouth of the river close to the river’s indigenous people in three remote villages. Rob’s guide that week was Ronaldo Vasconcelos (Doca), a resident of the largest village on the river called Terra Preta or Black Land. As the week went on and Doca and Rob got to know each other better, Doca mentioned to Rob a magical part of the river at the headwaters hundreds of miles upstream that his uncle had taken him to during the harvest season of the Brazil Nut which grows wild in the jungle in that region. A few of the villagers would make this trip during high water season to gather and pick this important nut to bring back to the villages for food and trade. The problem Doca said is the shallow water and sand bars along the way to this area during fishing season. He said it is basically un navacable. The week of fishing was outstanding and the river and this magical place upstream remained etched in Rob’s memory.
The Xeriuini was a fantastic river and the trip went very well. Rob could not wait to go back to the Xeriuini River the next season. Rob would put together his 8 person group to go back to the Xeriuini the next January. It was time now to make the first deposit for the trip so Rob reached out to the Riverplate office. Rob however was advised that the camp program had been changed and the camps now would be 12 anglers instead of 8. So Rob explained he would start booking 12 person groups for 2014. The answer was astonishing. Rob was told that his group coming up would also have to abide by the new 12 person program or that the group would be split up to fill other camps on other rivers. This was for sure not possible and ended up being the end of a long relationship with Riverplate. It was part of a growing list of setbacks to Rob’s vision in the Amazon. Rob, with clients money still in pocket luckily has a conference call with his clients for the 2014 trip to the Xeriuini and when the story is unveiled all 8 of Rob’s guests are in agreement that there is no way they want to be broken up or not have the chance to fish with Rob. Before the call Rob had reached out to another outfitter in the Amazon who had a lease on a river called the Agua Boa. A week was set aside for Rob’s group and after a short conversation with the guests the decision was made to move the trip to the Agua Boa Lodge. Rob would spend the next three years hosting trips to the Agua Boa Lodge.
The Agua Boa Lodge had been on the radar as a fly fishing only operation. Most of the anglers fishing the Amazon for peacock Bass are conventional anglers still to this day. Rob and his clients spent the next three years fishing on the Agua Boa River. Safe, best describes the Agua Boa Lodge. The fishing is good, the guides are great. Rob met two very important people at the Agua Boa. Charlie Conn, the operations manager, host, longtime fishing guide and outfitter from Montana and Neto Silva, their head guide. During conversation at the lodge, Rob and Charlie talked about Peacock Bass and the Xeruini River. Turns out Charlie was a camp manager for River Plate for years and also felt the need to part ways. Charlie had been to the “magical place” on the Xeriuini on a scouting mission. The stories told by Doca and his uncle Manu from the river were very similar. Charlie could see that the Agua Boa was not the answer for Rob and his clients and took the time to explain how someone (Rob) could get a fishing operation to this place at the headwaters of the Xeruini. The seed was planted. Rob’s guide for the week at the Agua Boa was Head Guide Neto Silva. Neto, Rob and Rob’s long time friend and fishing partner Evan Firstman hit it off immediately. Soon the conversation turned to the Xeriuini River and the magical place. To Rob and Evan’s amazement, Neto and his family grew up in the villages of the Xeruini River.(see Neto’s story) Over the next three years Rob and Neto would form a brother-like bond.
After the last trip to the Agua Boa in 2016 Rob, on the way back to the United States, gets a mysterious knock on the door to his hotel room in Manaus. It is a long time friend Brahma, a Manaus resident who has been in the fishing business for a long time and to his surprise, his buddy Neto who should have been at the Agua Boa Guiding. Turns out Neto left the Agua Boa on a fishing boat in the middle of the night to come to Manaus to propose a business offer to Rob to go back to the Xeriuini River and start the process of getting to the Headwaters area and the Magical place on the river.
The plan started to take shape. The goal, a 4-6 week program to bring anglers to the area. The idea, protect the jungle and the fish, create jobs for the villagers and bring a vision to the region that provides a long term and lasting effect.
In October of 2016 Rob would come back to the river with a group of 7 friends and fisherman that included Rob’s longtime friend Evan and Rob’s family doctor, to not only fish the lower Xeriuini River but also to spend time with the indegenous people and start to strengthen the relationship and form some trust. The group spent a week fishing and living with the locals. The doctor spent three days in a school as his office providing medical attention and advice to the people. The week was a huge success. The plan was introduced, the ideas were discussed and the groundwork was laid for a program designed to work for everyone.
After the trip, with the help and support of the three villages on the river, Rob, Neto, Rob’s friend Evan and three Xeriuini River Indegenous people would make an exploratory trip during the high water season to the Headwaters of the Xeriuini. It took the group almost 5 days aboard a village fishing boat to make it to the destination “Rio Novo”. Immediately it was obvious that this was the most unbelievable place in the Amazon. Even in high water the rivers were clear, the fish were abundant and the Jungle was pristine. This was the place Rob had been told about. The magical place.
Soon after the trip, Rob, with the help of his new business partner Neto Silva devised a plan to bring to the Secretary of the Environment of the State of Roraima and the Mayor of Caracarai, a city whose government was incharge of overseeing the area and the villagers.
The key to the future of this program was to design a mobile operation that could navigate through the shallow water and sandbars of the upper river. This process was developed by the prior business partner. The design of the camp would be lengthy and costly. A three year plan was put in place to continue to bring fisherman to the lower river while looking for the right investors to help finance the program.
It’s 2018 now. The operation now has a liveaboard houseboat, 6 fishing boats and is off and running. 5 weeks of anglers will fish with Rob in January of 2018. Included in the season is good friend and fly Fishing rock star Mikey Weir. Mikey, who works for a conservation organization called Cal Trout, has been making fly fishing movies and videos for years. His expertise in conservation and media would be a huge asset. During Mikey’s week on the river tons of footage would be made for an off the grid type video and also a more educational video explaining the program. During the week, with the help of Village President Eli Silva, Mikey and three other fishing guides from California would go on an overnight journey to camp in the jungle and to portage two fishing boats into a huge landlocked lake that had never before been fished. This trip became very important later to the idea of fishing unfished water in the upper river. More on this in Mikey’s video, Casa De Grandes.
During the last week on the river in january 2018, Rob and Neto were approached by longtime Peacock Bass outfitter, Natan Guedes of NG Tourismo. Natan holds a lease on the middle section of the Xeriuini and is the outfitter used to send Rob’s group to the Xeriuini in 2013. Natan was aware of Rob’s program and future plan for the headwaters area. Intrigued by this new idea for conservation in the region Natan expressed his interest in being involved in the program.
Sometime after the January season, Rob was introduced by his friend Evan to a man in Brazil named Karim Abu Bakr. Evan had met Karim on a side trip to Santarem Brazil to see the history of the Rubber Tree and Fordlandia. Karim, an Eco-Tour guide in the area who speaks 5 languages, spent the next three days taking Evan to just about everything worth seeing. The thing holding Rob back the most in the last two years was the language barrier. Rob spoke very little Portuguese and most of the Brazilians to date were not any better at English. Translator Tools and apps and some broken english by Neto was about as good as it got. Karim would agree to fly to Manaus Brazil and meet Rob and help with translation and business dealings. The two hit it off immediately. Now all Rob had to do was explain everything on how to run a fishing business in Brazil to a guy who had never been fishing in his life. The good news is Karim’s background as an Eco-tour guide gave him knowledge of the jungle and dealing with travelers.
In May Rob made a trip to Caracarai to meet with the politicians there to discuss the headwaters program. It did not take long for Rob to realize that there is going to be a lot of obstacles. Old thinking and new thinking were butting heads at all levels, not to mention rob was the new guy promising all these things. Promises frequently go unfulfilled it turns out. The May trip was exhausting and the trip saw the locals torn between backing Rob’s new program, which for the moment was to secure the rest of the lower river not currently on Natan’s lease or allowing a new operator on the river. After returning from a very frustrating visit, Rob met with Natan in Manaus and the two decided not to worry about the lower river and to focus on the new area at the headwaters. In August Rob made another trip to Brazil and the villages. This time armed with karim by his side. The two would spend three days visiting all three villages. The two could still not have their wish of completing the lease on the lower river without competition. Rob was not about to take clients to a place like the Xeriuini and offer a less than a perfect trip. Having another outfitter there was not going to work. So Rob and Natan basically gave up the fight for exclusivity of the lower river for the moment. What Rob did not know is Natan knew this other outfitter from years before and was pretty certain the operation was going to be a disaster. (which turned out true).
Rob, with the idea and the U.S. client base to get the operation underway and Natan with all the knowledge and logistics already in place to shorten the time they would need to get the operation to Rio Novo. Everyone was onboard very quickly, the villagers, the mayor, the Secretary and of course Rob, Natan and Neto. The plan was in place to bring the first ever anglers to Rio Novo in January 2019. Rob would spend the next few months putting together 4 weeks of 8 person groups together to fish this amazing place.
January 2019. The camp was in place at the headwaters of the Xeriuini with team members, Neto Silva and three village guides including Doca. Nadson Silva (Pelado) the camp manager, who was Rob’s first ever guide in the jungle in 2002 and Noemi the new camp chef who is not only Pelados wife but has been cooking for Natan’s fishing operations for over 20 years. This handpicked Staff and guides were all too ready when the first float plane landed and all the hard work over the past few years was getting ready to pay off.
The Xeriuini was extremely low during January 2019. So low it was even hard for the floating camp to move around. Luckily the camp was put into place in time. The camp was now on a big white sand beach only about a 40 minute fishing boat ride from Rio Novo. It was on day two of the first week that Rob, Evan, Karim, Neto and Pelado headed upstream to see and try to explore the mouth of Rio Novo and assess the work ahead to get the anxiously waiting fisherman into the river. The lower end was pretty open and only a few downed trees needed removing to get to the first piece of open water. The group spent the better part of the morning fishing the first lagoons and pockets in the river. It was obvious that the stories told by Manu, Doca and Charlie were true. The water was Crystal Clear and loaded with Peacock Bass. The group explored upstream as far as the jungle would let them and then headed back to camp to report their findings and bring in the heavy artillery. The other 6 anglers in the group were doing just fine fishing the Xeriuini but could not wait to see what laid ahead. The next morning a scout team was sent to clear a path up the river so see how far it could be navigated and fished. Navigating by drone the crew cleared the way for the fishing boats to make their way upstream. A second and third huge opening were reached a couple miles up the river and gave the anglers plenty of room to spread out and fish. Over the next three weeks the guides would take turns taking their clients to fish the river and all the while giving it plenty of rest as well. The group caught several World Record sized Orinoco Peacock Bass reaching 10 plus pounds and there were numerous days of 100 fish and two days of over 200 fish for one boat. This place is simply amazing.
With the river so low it was becoming harder every day to move the camp. There was no way now to get any further upstream and the daily boat ride to Rio Novo was even getting tough. Pelado and Rob came up with a new plan. With the help of Rob’s drone the two started scouting the river and the jungle around it. What they found will change the landscape of the operation for years to come. There were landlocked lakes everywhere. Mostly within walking distance of the river. Without the drone these lakes would be impossible to find in the dense jungle around them. Daily Rob, Pelado and Karim would locate two or three lakes, find them on foot and prepare them for fishing by making paths and pushing fishing boats into them for the following day. Each day one or two boats of anglers would get the opportunity to fish a lake that had never before been fished. The results here were also amazing as anglers came back to camp each day with stories of incredible sight fishing and Peacock Bass that were taking flies with reckless abandon.
The season ended way too soon for everyone. As the float plane left with the last group of anglers including Rob and karim, the anticipation of doing this all over again the following season was already peaking. Miles and Miles and Miles of river are still left to explore due to the low water and who knows how many landlocked lakes are still to be found. The four weeks of anglers that get to be a part of this amazing place each year will be a very lucky group of people. Seeing this amazing piece of the planet, catching all kinds of crazy fish and doing it with the likes of Rob Anderson, karim Abu Bakr, Neto Silva, Doca Vasconcelos, Pelado Silva and the rest of the crew could be the #1 “Bucket List” fishing destination of all time. We are very proud of what we have accomplished in a very short time and we look forward to sharing it with our friends and clients and continuing to share our vision and to do our part to protect a very special place. Stay Tuned…