Posted by: 1000fish | October 16, 2018

Pati Training

Dateline: April 19, 2018 – San Fernando, Argentina

I never did figure out what I ate wrong that night in Sao Paulo, but something definitely didn’t agree with me. I felt off the next morning, and by the time I got to the airport to catch a flight to Buenos Aires, I was sweaty and light-headed. I didn’t know it yet, but thousands of ill-willed microbes were doing the macarena through my intestinal tract, and major symptoms were not far off. It would turn out to be an especially stubborn case of whatever it was, but for the moment, there was just anxiety, and the hope that it would either react to a dose of loperamide or at least spare me until I was on the ground.

Luckily, I had done my Brazil fishing before I ate the bad thing. I’ve fished the heck out of freshwater in the Sao Paulo area, so while I could find some nice angling opportunities, new species were a difficult proposition. I checked with my go-to guy in the area (and almost any area) – Dr. Alfredo Carvalho of the University of Sao Paulo. He came up with one great idea – a banded astyanax – which, as we all know, is a small characin that lives in small creeks and ponds in the area. I had to dig deep into my connections to find a spot. Whether we want to look at it as going back 19 years or 1700 species, it has been a long time since I was hitting Sepitiba Bay with Ian-Arthur Sulocki (the Brazilian John Travolta.)

Ian at center and Steve at right, Altamira, Brazil, 2001. I got food poisoning on this trip too.

We have kept in touch – and he has kept his hair – all these years. He instantly had a contact for me – Mauricio Mihara, who owns a pond northeast of town. With the tireless efforts of Fabio, the driver from the Hyatt, we found the place despite the often epic Sao Paulo traffic. With Mauricio personally guiding me into a tiny creek behind his property, I caught the aforementioned banded astyanax. This qualifies as a huge success in my species hunting world.

Steve, Mauricio, and Fabio with the beast.

The Banded Astyanax gets its media closeup.

I spent the next few hours catching big tilapia.

Mauricio and Steve in the clubhouse.

Another connection – our old friend Cristiano Bernarde – also had a lead for me. He has a friend who owns a farm in the rural area past the airport, and he garnered me an invite to fish there. The owner’s adult son, Rocco, is the guy who actually took a day out of his life, picked me up in Sao Paulo, and took me fishing for the afternoon. For this, he has my eternal gratitude. Because it was a Saturday, the traffic wasn’t as horrible as I expected, and we soon reached some beautiful countryside. The farm had been in the family for many years, and was their getaway for vacations and holidays – Rocco had been coming here since he was a child. The place itself was at the end of a long dirt road, which contained one of the more random businesses I have ever seen – a bar, in the middle of nowhere, called “The Bar at the End of the World.”

Of course, we had a beer.

The farm had access to both a pond and a river, but the river access was overgrown and was likely full of spiders and cobras*, so I stuck with the pond. I expected to try for some more micros, but I had forgotten that big fish sometimes take very small baits.

Rocco and the family dogs. Since I was using sausage for bait, they were very interested in me. The boxer wouldn’t leave, so Rocco carried him away, but when this happened, the German shepherds, who still believe they are eight pound puppies, also wanted to be picked up.

I put a fleck of hot dog on a #16 hook and floated it around the margins, looking for a tilapia or characin of some kind. Instead of the tiny nibbles I expected, the float just disappeared, and line started peeling off my Stradic 1000. Whatever it was only had about 200 feet of pond to work with, and as long as I could avoid the aeration pump, I knew I could land the creature. This battle of the wills went on for more than an hour, but the fish finally got tired and surfaced. It was a tiger surubi, and a big one. I had caught a smaller example in the Amazon in 2001, but this was a beast. I finally got it on the Boga after an 83 minute fight. (Cousin Chuck – They use the metric system in Brazil, so that’s more than an hour.) It weighed out at 19 pounds.

Great fun on four pound test.

Then it was back to that fateful dinner at the Hyatt, which normally has great food but had a fail this go-round. It was an otherwise great night, catching up with two dear old friends from my Macromedia days – Eduardo and Beto. These were my travel buddies from the late 90’s – the guys who showed me the inner workings of Rio and Sao Paulo, which, for a recently-divorced American, was better than Disneyland. We had some caipirinhas, told some old stories, and went our ways late that night.

They get better-looking every year.

So we are caught up to the morning when I started feeling icky. I survived the flight without making any messes, but by the time I got into Buenos Aires, my intestinal tract had gone into full rebellion. There were 14 hours of what I like to call “the baseball game” – where I played the slow runner, the bathroom was first base, and my colon was a left-hander with a really good pickoff move. I travel with a pharmacy full of remedies for this sort of thing, but nothing seemed to take. After a sleepless night, we formed an uneasy truce – as long as I didn’t eat, things settled down. I let this go a full 24 hours, figuring that whatever it was had run its course, but it hadn’t. The minute I ate something, the whole horrible process started again. And I got to do this working around a set of unfriendly business meetings, where it is important that you look like you’re paying attention and not about to crap yourself. I would like to thank my co-workers Chris and Kellen for being understanding and finding me lots of Red Bull and high-grade toilet tissue.

This went on for two days, and while I survived the meetings, it can’t be good not to eat for that long, especially because I felt hungry and food looked good, but I knew what would happen. And I was actually running out of Immodium. It’s almost impossible to run out of Immodium, because one or two of them can clog an industrial dishwasher. This can’t be good for you, but on some occasions, it’s the only choice.

Still, food poisoning wasn’t going to keep me off the water, as long as we remained in that uneasy stalemate, where I promised not to eat and my stomach promised not to turn itself inside out in my pants. The only thing that would stay down is Red Bull, and that again can’t be healthy.

I had taken a little time off after my business trip to meet up with another old friend – Oscar Ferreira. Oscar had gotten out of the guide business in the last couple of years, but he was oddly glad to hear from me and quickly organized a couple of days of fishing. Buenos Aires is another place I have fished a lot, but there were a couple of targets left on the list, especially freshwater stingrays. I don’t get here all that often, and playing hurt is part of this game.

We went out with guide Mauricio Onate, who was definitely the real deal. We were targeting stingrays, but Mauricio and Oscar were also fairly sure we could get some large catfish, especially the Pati, which I thought was interesting considering how much time I was spending on the potty. (They are homonyms, which is legal in most states.) It was a beautiful day on the Parana delta, and we cruised through a bunch of small towns and backwaters before he found a big, open, deep stretch of river. Here, we rigged up live eels and drifted with them – the same way we caught Pati in 2014. The first few bites were smaller fish.

A small pati. Adorable.

About an hour later, I got the run I wanted. Pati can top 20 pounds, and while I quickly figured out this wasn’t quite that big, I was happy to be fighting something reasonable. When we got it into the boat, it weighed out at four and a half pounds, which was what I needed to break the current world record. This was unexpected – but it was record 179.

I caught my first Pati in 2000.

Steve and Mauricio celebrate my first Argentina world record. (The fish from 2014 were in Uruguay.)

We spent the rest of the day chasing rays in quiet back channels,

A typical back channel – I love exploring these places.

While we did get a few piranhas and bogas, the rays remained elusive.

A typical “palometa” piranha – common throughout Argentina.

This is why we do not put these in our pants.

A boga – one of my favorite freshwater light-tackle gamefish.

I’m always glad to visit Argentina, but catching a ray gives me an added motivation to return. We made a quick stop before port, at a location where Mauricio often puts out traps for the eels we use for bait. I put down a couple of small rigs, but didn’t notice any bites. As I brought the rods in to go home, I noticed that an eel had quietly snuck on to one of them – not exactly an epic fight, but my second species of the trip.

The creature.

Sunset on the Parana.

Oscar in a pensive moment.

That night, I did something stupid. My stomach had settled somewhat, and I knew a delightful restaurant a few doors from my hotel – a steakhouse where I had once shared a late evening meal with our old friend Nic Ware. I gave it a shot – the small center-cut filet, the potatoes, even a mixed drink.

The man who served me the steak – yet another Mauricio.

It all tasted so good, and I felt like I had scratched off a necessary bucket list item for any trip to BA, but I would quickly need the bucket more than the list. Luckily, I was back at my hotel before things went wrong. The cramps came on like a visit from Cousin Chuck, only shorter, and I was up half the night. But there was fishing to be done the next day, and I wasn’t going to miss that.

On that second day, I ventured some dry crackers for breakfast and still needed to stop at a gas station before we even made port.

This was in the gas station bathroom. I was not emotionally ready for this at 6am.

I could handle water, a little Gatorade, and some Red Bull, but nothing solid. So whether it was from the illness, or from poor nutrition, I felt woozy and awful, and I was facing 18 hours of flying starting later that night. But there was fishing to be done.

We started for the Pati early, and after a few smaller fish, I got into a nice one that peeled off at least 50 yards of line. As I slowly eased it back toward the boat, Oscar slipped a net under a positively huge muncholo blanco – white catfish. It was the biggest one of these I had ever seen, and I was quite confident it would be a record, It was over six pounds, but when I got the IGFA App working, I was stunned to see a much larger entry for the species – by one Roberta Arostegui.

Drat. Those people are everywhere.

So I kept fishing, and about an hour later, I got another fast run on an eel. I set the hook, and this again was a big catfish. I battled it for about 15 minutes, and as it got boatside, it was clear I had gotten a big Pati. We netted it and ran over to the nearest island to get a legal weight. Five even – another record. Number 180. My next world record would put me into a tie for fourth place overall.

I started to smile at how close I was getting, when the last wave of the crackers hit me and I had to excuse myself to the bushes, which were filled with mosquitoes, by the way.

The five pound Pati. I am emotionally ready for a 20 pounder.

We spent the afternoon trying for rays, which did not cooperate, and casting for trihera, a.k.a. wolffish, which did. Mauricio got the nicest one, pictured below.

These things are savage predators that seem to harbor bad feelings toward surface lures.

Do NOT put this in your pants.

The Arostegui family has quite a few world records on these fish, which get positively huge.

Martini and 28 pounds of steaming trihera on 16 pound test. Terrifying.

As we got into late afternoon, I knew it was time to take my last loperamide and head for the airport.

The anglers celebrate a good day.

It had been a lovely two days, except of course for the dizziness and cramps, but I couldn’t complain about a species and two records. I got on a United Airlines 767 that night, and after refusing some very nice-looking food options, made it home the next day with no further issues. Whatever I had finally cleared up about a 14 hours later, because I daringly ate Skyline Chili for breakfast and that seems to have overpowered the microbes. Note to readers – this stunt was attempted using a professional stomach. Do not try this at home.


*Marta wants me to mention that there are no known cobras in Brazil. But I still maintain they could be there.



  1. Excellent ….!

  2. Marta is technically wrong (the worst kind of wrong): “Cobra” means “snake” in portuguese/brazilian, so you can claim to just be talking like a native 😉
    The indian and other cobras got their english family name by shortening the portuguese “cobra de capello” (“snake with hood”).

    • This will help Marta hate snakes even more.

  3. […] As we got closer to the target weekend, the weather started slipping. I learned the Spanish phrase for “Small Craft Advisory.” Then I learned the words for “Small Craft Warning.” A couple of days later, I picked up sentences like “The Navy is missing a destroyer.” It looked bad – wind creeping over 35, and the area isn’t all that deep, so the swells get impressive quickly. But I was already in Buenos Aires, enjoying all those steak dinners I missed when I had food poisoning last year. […]

  4. […] it was spring, and it was Florida. We were joined by Cris’ good friend Ricardo, the owner of the Brazilian pond where I caught a 19-pound tiger suribi on trout gear last year. But the Fish Gods rarely put everything in your favor, and when we got outside the protected […]

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