Sunday, November 20, 2005

"The Man Who Makes Little Fish from Sticks"

Wearing only a green loincloth, a barefooted indian approached me. Lean and muscular, his straight black hair hung down past his ears in a “page boy” style cut typical of “Cholos” or straight-haired people. His flat, broad feet were caked with sand. A two and a half foot long machete was slung across his back by a braided vine thong. A small drawstring pouch hung by its cords under one arm. We looked at each other. Glancing down at the scattering of wood shavings around my feet, the Embera finally broke the silence.

“What are you doing?”, he asked in his native tongue.

“I’m making a fishing lure.”

Tipping his head curiously, he squinted at the near minnow-shaped blank of wood in my hands. I continued whittling. More wood shavings fell around his feet. He didn’t move. The Pacific Ocean surf roared and pounded like a lullaby no more than 100 yards away down the sand-paved street. Late afternoon had painted the sky with burnt orange and purple hues. A light breeze easily carried the salt scent to us and felt refreshing against the crushing humidity.

“It will be like one of these”, I said in Spanish, holding up another finished minnow-imitation top water plug. The Rapala-type fishing lure had been finished only yesterday.

Heavy rain and roiling seas had scuttled any fishing plans I’d had for earlier this morning. In the clear afternoon, I opted to work on a couple of lures to pass the sauna-like conditions of Colombia’s Pacific coast. The Choco region is one of the wettest regions in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records. More than 43 and a half feet of rain fall each year – enough to flood a building above its fourth floor.

He took a lure from my hands and turned, holding it up, to show another more elderly Indian man who now approached. They spoke a bit between themselves, turning the lure over and over in their hands, mindful of the tail and mid-body stainless steel treble hooks. The first man undulated the lure in a swimming motion imitating a dancing, bobbing fish. Smiling, he handed it back to me.

“I’ve never seen anything like that”, the tan skinned man continued. “Do you have more?”

I nodded a response.

“Do you sell them?”

“Not these. I’ll be using these myself tomorrow.”

“The fish will really like these, especially this one”. He pointed to a red-headed five inch minnow imitation lure with a white body: Its treble hooks glinted in the evening sunlight.

“I hope so.” He proved right couple of days later as I fought a 14-pound Dorado to the gunnels of my boat. My hands cut and bleeding, it took two of us to sling the blue and gold, spotted scrapper up and into the locally built 25 foot wooden launch. I would sport a shameless, white-toothed grin all the way home that morning.

Showing off a few more of my finished lures, we conversed a bit more. They left in wonder at my ability to “make little fish from sticks”. So from that day on, I have been known by the Embera Indians of the Jurubida region of the Choco, as “The man who makes little fish from sticks”. Kinda of catchy, ain’t it? I still can’t quite say it correctly in the Embera’s language, but let me tell you, it’s a mouthful.

Prof Larry M. Lynch is a bi-lingual copywriter, expert author and photographer specializing in business, travel, food and education-related writing in South America. His work has appeared in Transitions Abroad, South American Explorer, Escape From America, Mexico News and Brazil magazines. He lives in Cali, Colombia, fishes the South American Pacific coast, Amazon and Orinoco River basins for exotic salt water and fresh water game and food fish. For no-obligation information on how to get original, exclusive Exotic fishing stories, fishing technique articles, fishing-action photography and one-of-a-kind content for your fishing-related newsletter, blog or website contact him today at: for a free, action photo-packed, South American fishing adventure article.

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