THE AMAZON RIVER — Sitting on the back porch, Margarita in hand and a fine Cuban cigar clinched in my teeth, I watched a caiman swim by.
I don't know how long it was but it looked to have about an 8 to 10-inch spread between its eyes and it looked exactly like an alligator to me. By now I had accepted good drinks, fine cigars, giant reptiles and great companions as a way of life down here.
Down here is a long ways back in the Amazon Jungle. There is no place on Earth where an angler can catch more fish, more varieties of fish, and do it in a place where unbelievable wildlife flourishes, untouched by the hand of man.
Howler and spider monkeys swing in the trees. Macaws and parrots and all manner of colorful birds catch your eyes and your ears. Tapirs and strange-looking turtles stalk the riverbanks.
Some animals are rarely seen, but you know they are there. Anacondas and jaguars keep to themselves, adding even more to the jungle's mystique.
But it's the fish that haunt the angler, not the roar of the jaguar or the snap of the caiman's jaw. Peacock bass get the headlines, and maybe they should, but if they get all the glory it's a disservice to many of the other fish found here.
There are some 3,000 different kinds of fish that live in the Amazon, and while most anglers don't give a rip about most of them, many of them we do.
Besides the various peacocks, there is the payara, with long bottom teeth that fit into it's upper jaw and piranha that fight well and taste great; pirarucu that grow to the size of a boxcar but are rarely caught and the cow-sized red catfish.
Add the countless others with hard-to-pronounce names but which readily take baits and jump high as a tarpon and you realize what a place, what a fishery the Amazon River is.
It's one of those places that I always wanted to visit. All my life I've read the stories and seen the pictures. I knew the myths about the piranhas and the headhunters plus I knew the legend of the peacock bass.
I was drawn to it like any angler. Fishing the Amazon is something that you must do at least once before you die.
My fishing buddy for this trip, Kenyon Hill, is a professional angler from Norman. He knows fishing and the Amazon was on his list, too, so we called Billy Chapman Jr. at Anglers Inn International.
We've both fished with Billy in Mexico numerous times so our Amazon choice was an easy one. Anglers Inn does not use a base camp or a mother ship like the rest of the outfitters in the Amazon.
Billy put together what might be best described as a floating train that moves on a whim and draws very little water. He can move it almost anywhere at the drop of a hat.