2024 Rio Mataveni Hosted Trip Report – March 12 – 25, 2024
by Erik Argotti

There were 10 of us on this trip. All the guys were seasoned travelers and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to hang out with for the week. They were an older crew. I was by far the youngest but after me they ranged from 64-82. Don and Steve were in their 80’s and I was impressed by the way they were not timid to go on such a remote trip in the jungle of Colombia.

March 12
I was up at 4 am to a steady, heavy rain. My friend picked me up at my house and we made it to the airport at 4:30. No check-in line, no security line. I was at the gate at 4:40 and bought a coffee. The flight was on-time at 5:45 and landed in SFO just after 6:30. Redding Airport is so nice to fly out of…so easy. I departed SFO just after 10 am, 45 minutes late. Landed in Houston just a little late, right around 3:20. All pretty smooth for the 5 hour flight to Bogota. I boarded on time, around 5 pm and we landed a little early, 10:15 pm. Traveling straight through with United was easy. With the App, they notified me of everything before the trip, including the migration form, which allowed me to check in before I even left Redding. They notified me of the arrival gate when I landed and what gate I needed to be at and how long it would take to walk there. I could also track my bags to see where they were at. Super convenient. Way different than some other airlines. General travel to Colombia is relatively easy in the whole scheme of fly fishing travel. Made it through migration around 11 pm. I went downstairs to baggage claim. I exchanged some money at the airport at a rate of 3700/1 and made it through customs, short line there. There was some confusion about Oscar (my driver) picking me up. I got a hold of Adriana at the Black Tower Hotel and she said Freddy was picking me up now. I took the escalator up to level 2, gate 5. I got picked up around 11:30 and to the Black Tower 15 minutes later. Guys need to download a translation app as the drivers don’t speak English, especially if they message you in Spanish. The Black Tower had some interesting recycled jungle art, plus the art/murals/graffiti around the city was impressive.

The Black Tower had some interesting recycled jungle art with graffiti around town

March 13
I was up around 8 am. I met Nick and Steve in the restaurant for breakfast. They had both struggled not knowing about the migration form and where they were getting picked up and contact with the driver. Hopefully smoother for the rest of the group as I sent updates. Those two had a food tour planned in the city. Hotel breakfast was a buffet with lots of choices to eat, including eggs, meat, a local dish as well as plenty of fruit and coffee. John arrived around 4 am and we met in the restaurant around 9 to catch up. I wanted to look for some Colombian souvenirs/gifts. I struggled with communicating what I wanted to the front desk and taxi driver (most women say I can’t even communicate in English) and the driver took me to a giant shopping mall. Lots of stuff you’d get in the US but even more expensive. I managed to find one place with some cool little Colombian gifts. I ate lunch and came back to the hotel and walked around the streets to have a look around. So many little corner restaurants with lots of food choices. I saw empanadas for 50 cents – I think I could move there just for that. I went back to the hotel for a cold shower and rested for dinner. I met the guys for a beer in the lobby and John and I went across the street to The Red Angus for dinner. We were back by 8:30. There was a mix up for Rodney and his room and they called me down. Only one bed in the room. There were a lot of phone calls and it took some time, but they got it straightened out by the time Tom arrived around 11pm and added a bed to the room. They ended up getting comped for that night as it was an extra night.

March 14
I slept in until 8 and headed down for breakfast. I had previously arranged a city tour with Impulse Travel for the day for 8 of us to go see Cerro de Monserrate (amazing view of the city at 10,000’), The Gold Museum, The City Center, and Botero Museum which had lots of art of Colombia’s Fernando Botero as well as other artists from around the world. We tried some great fruit in the street, yellow and pink dragonfruit, Magnosteen and this crazy looking Rambutan. Mauricio was our guide and he did a great job. The murals around Bogota were impressive. They were all over the place and really gave the city a warmer feel. We had a huge late lunch at a tiny upstairs restaurant. Great local dishes with some local Colombian beer. We made it back to the hotel by 4:30ish. Everyone was tired and full. We rested up and decided to meet for a light dinner at 7. Nobody wanted to take a 40 minute taxi to Andre’s DC – there was a restaurant up the street the front desk recommended but it was closed to the public that night. We decided to eat in the hotel restaurant for drinks and a light dinner. It was alright but not really what we ordered. Ceviche was more like fried calamari. I am pretty sure Don’s tuna was beef. Ed Goodwin was the last one to arrive and he got there while we were eating dinner. We were all up to our rooms early as we were leaving at 6:30 the following morning.

Sites from the tour in Bogata by the angling group

March 15
I was up at 5:30 am. Everyone got checked out of the Black Tower Hotel and we had breakfast at 6 am. I got in touch with trip outfitter, Christian, the night before to know what the plan was and he confirmed the pick up time for the next day. Communication was a little tough with the front desk. The van was ready at 6:30am and we were at the airport in 15 minutes. It is a small domestic airport. The line for check in with Satena Airlines was short. Everyone got checked in. No real security line. We were all inside by 7:15. A few guys needed to take rod tubes to oversized bags and a couple guys had to pay for being overweight (15 Kilos). Only a couple guys had issues. Nick tried to carry on his rod, they sent him back to recheck it. No long lines, so no problem. Ed tried to carry on a lighter and check a power bank in his bag. They took the lighter and made him get the battery and carry it on. We took off at around 9:30 and landed at 10:45.  David Giraldo (Head guide/Manager) was at the airport waiting for us. He is awesome. I don’t think Christian could run this without him, at least not as well. His English is great, he knows everybody and he has lots of energy and is ready to get things done. Puerto Inirida is a small airport. Baggage claim was tight. David took command and rounded up our bags and he took us to Hotel Las Vegas. Spacious, nice open air lobby. Everyone gets their own A/C room. Cold showers but it is hot there. It does the job. Nick really wanted to see Mavecure rocks. 3 giant volcanic rocks jutting 2000’ out of the jungle floor way up the Inirida river. So I talked with David the day before to find them a boat. They had a boat for 4 at first, but since a few other guys said they would go, we got a bigger boat. It could hold the whole group if needed.

Tom and Rodney were on the fence and bailed as well as Don and John. Since we already had the big boat reserved and I was the 5th and it would make it cheaper, I decided to join them. Nick, Jeff, Steve, Ken and myself left that afternoon from the “dock”. It was a beautiful 1.5 hour boat ride up the Inirida River. We made it to the rocks and had lunch in the shade of some local shelter. We met our guide, a 67 year guy that was a badass. Steve hiked up so far (pretty good for being 82), Ken and Nick to the next level and Jeff and myself along with David made it to the top of Cerro de Mavecure with an unbelievable view of Cerro Pajarito and Cerro Mono, the two bigger hills on the other side of the river. The guide was up there waiting. It was pretty tough going in the heat, at least for me. We made it back down and Jeff and I jumped in the river to cool off and got out of there for a late ride back. We ran the last 20 minutes in the dark. We had to pull out a headlamp just to flash it for peace of mind as nobody had lights on the boats and there were people on the water. We ended up running out of gas with Puerto Inirida in sight. Our driver called another boat to bring him fuel. Only a 10 minute delay. Right before we parked/beached our boat,  it was getting congested with boat traffic and not sure how he didn’t see it, but our driver t-boned a long, shallow dugout canoe full of people with kids. They were pissed. It could have been bad. I’m not sure how we didn’t tip them over. The van driver was there waiting for us and we were back to the hotel and to the store to buy booze for the week. It was tight quarters and a little confusing but I think everyone got what they wanted. David was instrumental in all of this.  We had a nice dinner at an open air restaurant. Some tasty meat and side dishes. They also served us Copo Azu (local fruit) frozen dessert. The group was in good spirits. Back to the Hotel and in bed.

View of the Mavecure rocks

March 16
I was up at 6 am. The hotel was loud, people yelling and talking, roosters crowing all night, dogs barking, most of the group slept lightly. It was the weekend. 6:30 breakfast. David and another guy were trying to fix the Starlink for camp, so we left late, around 8:45. We made it down to the water/port and loaded in the boat. It was a long boat, with padded bench seats that held all of us and our gear, with a canopy on the top. It moved pretty fast. 10 minutes in, we were stopped by a big military boat.  There was lots of talk and discussion with David and the driver, but we got the go ahead. We arrived on the fast boat to the mouth of Mataveni at 10:30. We left the mouth 20 minutes later in 4 of the smaller fishing boats. The boats were great, long, probably around 30’ with 40 hp 2 stroke outboards. They moved pretty fast for how much weight was in them. Plastic lounge chairs made the ride up very nice and comfortable. We stopped a few times to cool off and jump in the river and take a break. Beautiful little river. We arrived at camp around 5:30. Almost 9 hours in 2 boats. It was a long day. It is around 2 hours from Puerto Inirida to the mouth of the Mataveni (100 kilometers – 60 miles) and then 6.5-7 hours to get to camp. 158 kilometers (100 miles) from mouth to the camp. We all got in our rooms. They were plenty sufficient, the divider gives you some privacy, the cracks in the walls allow airflow and the netting around the bed keeps the bugs out. 3 toilets with sinks outside and 3 showers. A nice open air dining area with U shaped tables for us all to eat. We had dinner and David gave a great talk on what to expect for the week, he introduced all the guides, motorists and staff and some gave a little speech and David translated. Each 2 guests were assigned a motorist for the week. Guides rotated boats and the boats rotated, 2 boats up, 2 boats down and one that went up and down close to camp. Schedule is below. They run it pretty tight. Meals are very good for where you are. Lots of grilled seasoned meats (beef, chicken or pork), rice, small salad, pastas, fried Plantains and the occasional dessert. Breakfasts were an egg dish, fruit, meat (bacon, sausage) bread and always juice on the table. They were tasty.

  • Breakfast – 6:30
  • Leave Camp at 7:00 am
  • Back – 5:30 pm
  • Dinner – 7:30-8 pm

Port in Puerto Inirida

March 17
Lights were on at 5:30 breakfast at 6:30. We were heading out by 7 with Squirrel (motorist) and Yvonne (Guide). I was with Jeff and we were one of two boats downstream. We fished the first laguna just below camp and Jeff got a small one on a popper. Morning was productive. We each landed half dozen butterflies. Jeff and I each got a nice fish. 10+ pound range. We didn’t measure. We saw 6 or so more big fish look at flies or follow. Afternoon was dead. A few butterflies. Don landed a 74 cm, John landed one 79 cm. Nick hooked 2 big fish and landed one 82 cm. I guess the one he lost was bigger. Tom lost a monster at the boat. Everybody was in pretty good spirits and impressed with the camp and guides. We spent lots of time in the water cooling off. It was hot and especially mid day, you needed to get in the water to cool off. I was in the water a few times throughout the day.

March 18
Same schedule. I switched with Nick, so Steve and I went out together with David (guide) and Darwin (motorist).. We drove way up the river, 1 hour and 15 minutes. We saw some dolphins at the mouth of the first laguna. I caught a nice Temensis right off the bat, 70+, really colorful. We saw a couple of other big ones feeding/swimming. In the next laguna, I got another nice fish around 82 cm that took the fly right at the boat and I might have gotten excited and broke the rod. It was a rodeo landing it on half a rod but I got it in. Steve landed a good Temenis (70+ cm) as well a nice sized smaller speckled Temensis. We caught quite a few butterflies. We fished fast water on the river to try to get a payara or other species. Nothing else. Ken got a big one 80+, Don got one 77 cm for the day.

March 19
I went with Nick down from camp. It was foggy in the morning. Hot day. First laguna Nick landed a monster 82 cm. I got about 10-12 butterflies. I landed one really nice butterfly, one 5+ lbs. So far the most butterflies for me. We saw a lot of big fish moving/feeding. I’ll bet probably 15+ fish. Multiple fish in every laguna. It kept you interested. Nick tried for payara in the afternoon but we didn’t see any. Afternoon was slow. Nick got one smaller/spotted Temensis just below camp. We were back by 5:30. A few big fish caught by the group. Steve, Don, Nick all got fish over 70 cm.

March 20
Overcast morning. I went with Jeff up river. We had Sergio. I liked him a lot. It is his first year guiding. He was a boat driver for 5-6 years. In the morning we saw a few big Temensis follow our flies. But not super interested and none committed. I think I landed 8-10 butterflies. Right before lunch I hooked a really big fish that absolutely stopped the fly on the edge of a submerged sand bar. I had him on for a little bit and the hook came free. We fished very briefly after lunch, then some dark clouds moved in and we saw some serious lightning bolts and thunder and decided to wait it out. It came down hard for 1/2 hour. It cleared up and we headed out. It completely changed. I hooked and lost 5 big fish after lunch. A couple I lifted the rod, others just got off. Those big fish that eat close to the boat are hard for me. It’s hard not to get excited when you see them eat that close. For a while I was trying to look away so I didn’t see them. After that Jeff hooked his first fish (butterfly) and hooked and lost a bigger one on the new Winston Air Max 2. What a beautiful rod and perfect for this trip.. I caught a small Bicuda. A few were caught throughout the week. Rodney landed one Temenis 79 cm. Nick landed one 73 cm.

Arriving back to camp with a beautiful sunset

March 21
I went up river with Nick. Andres was our guide. It was overcast and pleasant at first. The first laguna we fished, I got a decent fish, probably in the 60 cm range. We saw a few more good sized fish. Nick hooked a butterfly and we saw a really nice fish rise up behind it. I put a short cast in and hooked it. I had it on for a few minutes and lost it. We saw a few more fish but didn’t get any big ones. Afternoon was hot and slow. Not much happening. We did see 2 big peacocks beach some boca chicas on a sandbar with their backs out. They stayed up there and didn’t want to leave the sandbar as the 2 Temenis were waiting for them. We made some casts at them but they moved on up the shoreline and we saw them feeding in shallow water again but moved on as we approached. We couldn’t get them to take our flies. Nick landed a few butterflies. Not many big fish landed today.

Interior cabin room and food served for dinner

March 22
I fished with Steve and we had Sandro as a guide. He is a predator. Always looking for fish and good at spotting them. We went to the first laguna and I hooked a huge fish within 5 casts. I landed it. A big hump-headed male.We saw a couple more big fish in that laguna. In the next laguna, we saw one nice one and I had another look at my fly. On a big sandbar flat Sandro spotted 2 big fish, but Steve had trouble getting ready and getting a cast to them, they spooked into deeper water. We went for some Payara. They were rolling all over the place. I hooked something but lost it after 30 seconds. In the next laguna I hooked another really nice fish and lost it, then hooked and landed a good 70+ cm fish. We saw a couple more but no takers. A big storm rolled in with lightning and thunder really close. It got pretty serious so we ducked under some trees. It really came down for 20 minutes. When it let up we headed down river to get out of the storm. We were right on the edge of it. We fished a little and when it cleared we headed back up river. We saw two more big fish at a laguna mouth. Steve had trouble getting on them. We saw a couple more in the back of the laguna, no takers. We moved up and had lunch. Sandro spotted another big fish on the sandbar while we were eating but Steve couldn’t get a cast on it. After lunch we didn’t do much. We saw some big fish, but didn’t catch any. We each got a couple butterflies. Tried for Payara again. Nothing. One more spot down river we saw another gigante! Nothing. All and all we saw a ton of big fish. Probably the most I have seen all week. I’ll bet 20+. Back to camp by 5. Tom caught an 82 cm, finally!! Rodney got one in the 70+ cm. Jeff got a nice big fish as well. I landed a beautiful, colorful little Mataguaro. There were a few landed during the week and their colors ranged from red/orange to purple. Dinner was good and local guys built a big bonfire after dinner and David and another native guy gave a speech for the week. It was a nice touch for the end of the trip.

Several anglers holding peacock bass

March 23
We had an earlier breakfast and left camp at 6:40 for the long boat ride down. I spotted a small animal on the bank and pointed it out to David. It was a Lapa, a cute 20+ pound rodent with fawn spots on it. They are rare as this is the first one David saw in his 8 years on the river. I guess they are delicious as well, which is probably why they are rare. We ran into a big storm and we all got drenched on the way down. We made it to Mataveni Village around noon, bought some baskets/gifts and ate lunch and headed down river to the Mouth. A different big boat was waiting for us, we loaded up and the boat wouldn’t start. After some tinkering, they got it going and we left the mouth at 1 pm. We arrived in Inirida at 3:30 and the driver was waiting for us to take us to the Hotel. Everyone got settled in and we had dinner at a cool little place David picked out right in the action of Inirida (La Cossina Inirida). We had some beers and they had some tasty fish dishes which everyone was eager to try. It was a great night and we celebrated Don’s 82nd Birthday. Everyone was in bed right after dinner.

March 24
We had a breakfast Burrito and fruit at Hotel Las Vegas and David got us loaded up and took us to the Airport to get us checked in. We all bought some stuff in the gift shops in Inirida Airport. We departed Inirida at 9:30ish for the flight to Villavicencio and landed just after 11. There was a bus waiting for us and we took off from Villavicencio (elevation 1532’) at 11:40 for the 74 mile (3 hour) bus ride over the mountains to Bogota. We were at 10,000 feet at our highest point. We arrived back in Bogota at the Black Tower just before 3 pm. A bunch of us had an early dinner at Andres just down the street. We had a few delicious margaritas and some tasty meals.

March 25
Travel home went pretty smoothly. I took off from Bogota at 1:50 am and landed in Houston at 6:30 am. I actually slept during the flight, which is rare for me. Houston to LAX was on time and LAX to RDD was all good. Called a taxi home and was at my house by 3 pm.

Anglers holding peacock bass

Overall it was a fantastic experience/trip. This is a great entry level jungle trip. Basic, but everything you need at a great price. The logistics involved were pretty extensive and it all went pretty smoothly. No real hiccups. Weather was great for the week and water levels seemed ideal. Everyone in the group was impressed. Fishing was up and down. Some boats would get into a bunch of Butterflies and other boats would get only a few each day. I think there were plenty of shots at big fish, over 70 cm. Everyone in the group caught at least one with more shots each day. One afternoon I hooked 6 big fish. We worked hard for the Big Temensis and it felt special when you connected with one and even better when you landed it.

Food was really good for how far in the Jungle we were. It was a little light on portions, but you were always hungry for the next meal. A few of the guys commented that they wished we had local fish for a meal or two.

The showers and toilets were adequate, but a little fixing would have made it better. One more sheet/curtain for the last shower. 1 more door for the toilet. Only 2 had doors. Rooms were plenty. The divider in the rooms was great and gave everyone privacy and the fan kept you cool and the bed net kept the bugs off of you, although there weren’t many mosquitoes, but plenty of little biting flies that got everyone pretty good during the day. Adding a few more nails to hang things on in each room would be ideal.

I figured that each boat roughly went through 10 water/gatorade bottles/day/boat. That is over 300 plastic water bottles for the week. It would be nice if they could figure out a water filtration system and provide fillable water bottles. Not sure how feasible this would be in this location. They do it in the remote camps in Tanzania.

David was the “Man” and made the trip. Of course everyone liked his “positive-get-it-done” attitude and he was by far the best guide. He let you know what was going on and you could let him know what you wanted. Communication was night and day with David compared to the other guides. The other guides varied. A couple were very good, but none spoke English. They were fishy and very good at spotting fish and always looking. The guides were all super positive and having fun and there was a good atmosphere around camp. We had some motor troubles, but nothing that affected the fishing. New 4 stroke motors would be ideal.

Cristian needs a guy like David in Bogota. Someone who speaks english and can be there to meet and greet the guests and get them to the hotel. There were 5 or 6 different drivers who were there to pick guys up upon arrival and they spoke no english. Guests were supposed to have WhatsApp to contact the driver when they arrived. Half the group struggled with this and luckily everyone was picked up. But there was a lot of confusion for the group. Even if the trip was a little more expensive, I think it would be totally worth it to have a contact/main person in Bogota.

Images of the traveling group throughout the trip