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 photo above and to the right is 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.