When I went up to northern Peru I expected the heat and humidity of the rainforest, the possibility of seeing a wide range of animals and indulging in my love of tropical fruit. But fishing for piranha? That wasn't on my must-do list.
Taking a boat through the riverways near Iquitos, the rainforest allowsÂ glimpses of all kinds of wildlife such as monkeys, numerous kinds of birdsÂ like parakeet, stork, hawk, and herons, and creatures that come out at night like caiman or capybara. But seeking out piranha?
The guide for our tour boat explained to my group the Hollywood profile of the piranha has been blown out of proportion and was far from the reality they knew. These freshwater fish don't swarm or attack, and although are omnivores, piranha wouldn't attack like a bloodthirsty swarm, the way they've been shown to do on the big screen.
So as we wandered up a waterway, deep in the lush Peruvian rainforest, we found a spot to anchor in the late afternoon and try our hand at fishing. I was eager to try, as was my fellow travellers, despite the fact that our goal was to find piranhas. And if we initially acted mellow and relaxed about catching this infamous fish,Â the competitive spirit quickly infused all of us.
Our guides had the fishing poles ready,Â with small pieces of meat attached to the hooks and showed us how to fish for the wily piranha. Instead of casting out or letting the hook sink, we were told to let it dangle just under the water's surface, bobbing it up and down to attract fish attention.
The piranha outsmarted usÂ at the beginningÂ - getting the bait and not getting hooked. Our competitive spirit grew - it became a battle of human versus fish, and we weren't going to give up. So we stood quietly on our boat, focused on competing for a small red fish lurking in the murky river. Our guides caught a few fish, which encouraged us to keep trying.
I bobbed my hook in the water, twice losing my bait to the piranha. But I persisted, believing I had to keep trying to hook that fish. And then I felt a bit of weight on my line, a tug, and I pulled my pole up. And there dangled the red piranha, its gills billowing, adjusting to air instead of water.
I cheered and my fellow travellers acknowledged my luck, taking photos and refocusing their efforts to hook their own fish and have a tale to tell. TheÂ guide came over, smiling at my luck and undid the fish from the hook, showing me the piranha's distinctive teeth. And then with a quick flip, the fish was returned to the river, to tell his tale of survival to his fish friends below.
One of my fellow fishing enthusiasts caught the big fish of the dayÂ - a white piranha, which is a rare find in this area of Peru. That fish was kept and cooked up by our boat's chef for dinner. We all tried the white piranha to celebrate the good luck of our fellow fisherman, which had a decidedly meaty aftertaste. And like seasoned anglers, the tall tales of our fishing afternoon kept going well after the meal was done.
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I'm a Toronto-based freelance journalist, writing about travel, design, cuisine and people who are passionate about what they create. I’ve written for newspaper, magazine, websites and blogs since 2000, love taking photos and happy to share what I've found wandering our planet.
Located: Toronto Canada
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