Dateline: January 29, 2012 – Sao Paolo, Brazil
Loomis rods and Shimano reels may be fine equipment, but I have discovered an even more important piece of gear for fishing ponds around Sao Paulo, Brazil – a good lawyer.
The good lawyer in question is Cristiano Bernarde, this time at his home in Sao Paulo. (You may remember Cris from the Florida Keys – see https://1000fish.wordpress.com/2011/11/13/return-to-margaritaville/. You may also remember him from last week’s episode, but when I have readers like cousin Chuck, they lose track of stuff like this.) After the failed weekend on the Rio coast, we had spent a week in the office, and he had invited me to his home for dinner on Saturday. While chatting, he had let it slip that his condo complex had a decorative pond with Carp and possibly some local cichlids. Needless to say, I pestered him incessantly until he agreed to at least let me give it a try – a perfectly kind act of hospitality went horribly wrong for the host. Cris was just trying to be a nice guy, hoping I might be able to catch a couple of fish after the previous week’s saltwater disasters. He was not counting on negotiating me out of trouble.
First off, to be clear, I have it on good legal advice that there is NOTHING in the association’s bylaws banning fishing. Believe me, we looked. There are (or were) no signs posted to this effect.
The front side of the pond. I don’t see any “No Fishing” signs. Do you?
Once I arrived at Cris’ place, we chatted for a while and I got the grand tour – their home is absolutely beautiful, which, judging from the spartan appearance of Cris’ office, means that his wife Fabia handled their decorating. Cris’ son Eric, quite the keen angler, was looking forward to tagging along, and so, with rods and white bread in hand, we headed down to the water. People gave us strange looks.
Eric smiles as we prepare to test the waters. Cris already seemed to know it wasn’t going to end well.
The landscaping was certainly beautiful, and yes, it did feel a bit like fishing on a golf course, but hey, who hasn’t done that? We set up in a quiet corner, but the area was still fairly open, and before we even wet a line, curious passers-by gathered to watch. Cris would have paid a lot of money for the Harry Potter invisibility cloak. Very quickly, I hooked a nice carp. Then Security showed up.
Steve and Eric with the first of several Carp.
The security guard was a young guy and certainly did not want to irritate the well-to-do residents. His normal workload probably consisted of parking issues and the occasional soccer ball through a window, so he had no idea what to make of us.
He knew something just felt wrong, but couldn’t quite put his finger on it. There was an extended discussion, but for every minute Cris could buy, it was another minute Eric and I could fish, and another chance at some oddball cichlid. The Carp continued to bite.
Security wandered off, and I thought we were in the clear – but then Miss “Bruxa dos Arbustos” showed up. (To be clear, this is not her real name – it is my poor translation into Portuguese of the phrase “Hedge Witch.” To get that reference, you would need to be a truly dedicated 1000fish reader – and for those of you who have better things to do, please see https://1000fish.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/the-yogurt-knitters-strike-back-daily-mail-uk-article-sparks-furor/)
Even from a distance, I knew she was full-on, tree-hugging trouble. She spotted us from about 100 yards away, and as soon as she sensed that animals might be being hurt or at least inconvenienced, she brewed up an audible gasp of indignation. No one noticed, so she stomped her foot and let loose a louder and more dramatic gasp of indignation. Still no one engaged with her, so she continued a series of yet louder and more contrived gasps of indignation and hurried as fast as her hairy little feet would carry her to confront us. I was reaching into the water to land a Carp when she arrived.
Way to be low key, Steve.
She raced up to me and began a lengthy diatribe in Portuguese. I stood up, let her finish, and said “I do not speak a word of Portuguese.” Completely indignant, she let loose another gasp (of indignation) and indignantly turned to Cris. She ascertained that he in fact spoke Portuguese, and then the finger-wagging lecture started. Cris gets yelled at for a living, so he was ready for this, but I got the feeling he would have rather that we all fled. During the course of their 20-minute discussion, Bruxa apparently raised at least 12 different lines of argument. Some of these could be dismissed out of hand – “Fishing is FORBIDDEN here.” Easy response – “No it isn’t.” Some were more difficult to dismiss. “This is setting a terrible example for our children. “This area should be a natural preserve where no one has to witness MURDER.” This is when Cris had his finest moment. Rather than launch into a philosophical debate, he took a deep breath and surprised us all.
A peaceful urban retreat becomes the scene of controversy.
As I understand it, he launched into something like this – “This man is a famous scientist – just look at his shirt. He is here to do research on these terrible carp.” She couldn’t help herself and asked – “Terrible carp?” “Yes” Cris responded. “At one time native Brazilian species lived here in peace and harmony but these terrible European carp have colonized and pushed them out. We can only hope they are not extinct.” (He was facing the other way, so I am not sure if he drummed up a tear for this line.) Cris got us about 20 minutes with this discussion, more than enough to figure out that there was nothing in the pond but Carp. So we headed back upstairs, one step ahead of security as it turned out, and went out for pizza with the whole family – Cris’ wife Fabia, his mother, young Eric, and their lovely 7 year-old daughter Julia, who was in a poor mood that evening and would not smile until I stuck my tongue out at her. I apologized up and down to Cris, but he seemed to think it would all blow over*.
Between my talk with Dr. Carvalho the night before and this brush with the law, I found inspiration.
I had planned to spend the next day sulking in the hotel and doing email before an evening flight, but I felt rejuvinated and I had to come up with somewhere to go fishing. There are not a whole lot of options right around Sao Paolo, and I was loathe to return to the coast, so I went back to an odd but strangely rewarding choice – the Matsumura ponds, which you may remember from https://1000fish.wordpress.com/2010/05/24/66/. Perhaps not the most erudite choice, but it did kick out a new species and world record for me two years ago.
The logistics are always interesting for this trip, as no taxis that will come out this far. So it was that I subjected one of the Hyatt’s ace drivers to a lengthy dirt road in his prized Mercedes. I don’t think too many C230s make it out this way, and the manager at the lake marvelled at the car. In halting English, he told me that only one other Mercedes had ever come out there, about 2 years ago. (He didn’t know that he was referring to me.)
One end of the Matsumura ponds – a peaceful country retreat just outside the urban sprawl of Sao Paulo. And it has less security than the Hyatt koi pond!
It was hot and breezy, and not much seemed to be biting. I caught a few tilapia to pass the time, but stayed focused on my main rod, which I alternated with floats and bottom rigs, with paste baits and, believe it or not, hot dogs. I conversed with the other fishermen as best I could – several of them spoke much better English than I did Portuguese – and waited for a bite. I got one good hit all afternoon – the float just walked off when I wasn’t looking. I set the hook expecting a Tilapia, but instead, the line went screaming off into the depths. On lighter gear, I had about 5 minutes of fighting before I scooped up a lovely golden fish that everyone cheered.
Persistence rewarded. This is the Piraputanga, which is a good name for a fish but would be a better name for a drink.
It was a Piraputanga, a local river critter that can attain large sizes – I was thrilled with the new species. There was hope for Brazil after all – the love affair was alive and well. As I got on the plane for the long flight home, I looked back at the week, against all odds, as something of a success. And, unthinkably from even a few days before, I was looking very forward to my next trip down here.
* Update on the Cristiano situation – as of press time, the condo association, egged on by constant letters from “Bruxa,” is still trying to saddle Cris with a writeup or small fine of some sort. This is a fascist blow to the freedom of fishermen everywhere. I am therefore establishing “The Cristiano Bernarde Legal Defense Fund.” Our very freedom could be at stake – and if the dark forces of the HOA manage to pull this one off, it won’t be long before they infringe on other God-given rights, and finally, start stealing our children. They must be stopped. Please give, and give generously.