Series 3 - Episode 9: Panama

Episode 9: Panama

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Robson’s Panamanian adventure begins in the 164sq ft Lake Gatun in the middle of the Panama canal. To increase his chances of landing some of the beautiful peacock bass reported to inhabit these waters, Robson has joined up with world record-holding angler and local legend Ciccio, who is brimming with confidence about this trip. “I can’t wait to get stuck in!” enthuses Robson.

After feeding fruit to some local monkeys, Robson casts his first line with assurance. However, it is not until a few hours and several unsuccessful casts later that Robson lands his first peacock. “I’m happy about the fish, but I’m even happier I best Ciccio to the prize!” he says. Not to be outdone, Ciccio quickly brings in another – much larger – fish, but Robson’s good mood remains. ”What a way to start my trip!” he says. “I’m beginning to fall in love with Panama.”

The following morning, Robson returns to Lake Gatun to meet up with Marcial, a member of the native Embera tribe. The pair’s task for the morning is to catch lunch for the whole village – some 31 people. However, while Robson may be accustomed to fishing with hi-tech boats and rods, he now pins his hopes of success on a hand-held line with a simple plastic lure, and a ramshackle rowing boat. This particular area is said to be good for bream and snook, both of which are great to eat. However, after hours of trying, Robson and his guide catch nothing, and must return to the village empty handed when the boat begins to sink.

Following a disappointing morning, Robson heads east to the Bayano River, where tarpon weighing up to 200lbs have been caught in the past. Known locally as sábalo, these fish are one of the all-time greats of game fishing, and are renowned for being fierce fighters. Once again, Robson finds himself having to wait for a bite. “I think I’m going to have to be patient,” he says. Under the tutelage of an expert local guide, Robson eventually lands his first fish – a big tarpon that fights to the last second. “Today was not about quantity, it was about quality. That is an absolute stunner!” he says.

The next day brings with it a trip to the Islas de las Perlas, a group of islands located 30 miles off the Pacific coast. Game-fishing records are broken here all the time, but Robson and local expert Rich are after their lunch. With six lines trawling from the boat, it is not long before Robson nets a big dorado. “What else can I get?” he asks. The answer comes almost immediately in the form of a huge sierra mackerel. “Panama’s coming up trumps!” he yells.

After a successful morning’s fishing, Robson and Rich climb ashore on a small island to enjoy the fruits of their labour around a camp fire. Having had mixed success on his trip so far, Robson is determined to finish with a true giant of the sea. To that end, he hooks up with Rich once more and heads out to a stretch of ocean at the south of the country, which offers huge billfish, including marlin and sailfish. So big are these monsters that Robson must first catch a decent-sized tuna to use as bait.

Robson and Rich get off to a good start and have soon landed a yellow-fin tuna, but the search for billfish takes time and dedication. Five hours in, Robson finally gets a bite. “It feels like the biggest bite I’ve ever had!” he yells. However, the intrepid fishermen’s luck seems to have run out when he and Rich find themselves in the midst of an electrical storm. “If I’m hit by lightning, it will be TV gold!” he says. Will the courageous Geordie manage to reel in the fish to complete his journey in style, or will he be beaten by the unpredictable Panamanian weather?

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