Probably one of the most, if not the most exciting experience of my life happened in the spring break of 2017. But let me cut to the chase: Primarily, it was a botanical research expedition, but some fishing was to be had. Unfortunately, the fish were few and far between, and so were the fishing opportunities. I did get 2 species, though:
The first species was small, but an exhilarating catch nonetheless: the second photo above was my reaction to the little silvery guy in the bucket.
While fruitlessly tossing worms and lures into the muddy, swollen banks of the Nangaritza, I noticed small dimples rising near the flooded underbrush. Not knowing the cause of these dimples, I sent out a piece of worm under a small float, and was promptly received by multiple enthusiastic strikes. Knowing these fish were too small, I armed myself with a small #20 hook. Unfortunately, they were letting go of the hook before I had the chance to set it. I took away the float, but was unable to get the distance I needed to reach them. Then I tried awkwardly flailing the line around until it got where I needed it to go.
The take was instantaneous, strong for a fish of such minuscule size. I was unbelievably thrilled. Not only was the flopping, silver fish in my hand a new species, it also was my first fish from the South American continent, adding Ecuador as the third country I had caught a fish in!
Bryconamericus oroensis: Only recently described
After that one fish, all of them disappeared to whatever third dimension they came from. The Nangaritza bear me no more fruit.
A little while later into our trip, we explored a waterfall area (and discovered some plant species new to science), and I of course had to pull out the old stick and string. Upon seeing small fish in the pools below the falls, I was ecstatic, like a kid on Christmas morning.
Worms produced the first couple of fish in short order: Piabucina elongata!!!! Beautiful high-altitude pocket water fish, with an unparalleled aggression. Their powerful jaws would click in warning if my fingers got too close. They reminded me of wolffish, and i do believe they are related.
To the best of my knowledge, I do not believe that photos of Piabucina elongata have been published before — making this catch all the more exciting!
P. elongata would conclude my fishy endeavors on this expedition. It's a place that still is truly wild, with many undiscovered treasures (mostly plants :D ) in all its breathtaking majesty. The people, the biodiversity, and the pure atmosphere of the place made this trip one of my most memorable by far. Ecuador was a tough mistress, but it did give up some of its gems and I cannot wait to return.