Fishing figures big in the gospels. Several of Jesus’ disciples fished for a living. When Jesus called Peter and Andrew, James and John — two sets of brothers — to follow Him, He used their old profession to tell them what their new profession would be. “Follow Me,” He invited, “and I will make you fishers of men.”
And so, these brothers left behind their nets and their boats and followed Jesus on a grand new adventure. Jesus knew that these guys had the potential to do more than catch fish out of the Sea of Galilee. These brothers had the potential to catch men out of the troubled sea of sin and begin a movement to transform the world — something that would only happen by following Jesus.
I am not a big fisher of fish but I do like to fish. After visiting the Amazon earlier this year, I figured I would bring along my fishing gear on this trip to fish on the mighty river. I knew that we would have a few discretionary hours over the course of our time in Brazil to wet a line and possibly catch a fish — perhaps some really interesting creature from the murky depths of the mysterious Amazon.
So, I consulted a couple of friends whose fishing expertise is beyond anything I will ever attain to in my lifetime. I watched YouTube videos of fishing on the Amazon. I asked lots of questions and then made sure I brought a few things along to coax something in the water onto my hook.
Friends talked to me about the famous peacock bass. If nothing else, I had to catch one of these beautiful fish. Every fishing guy I talked to told me that catching a peacock bass on the Amazon was on their bucket list. Yikes! I quickly penciled it on to my list as well.
The crew on our boat were all fishermen and were excited that we had brought along some fishing gear. I packed my Zebco 33 Max with 20-pound Cajun line and my telescoping rod. Not exactly the best gear for going after peacock bass. More like bringing a knife to a gunfight, something affirmed by a Brazilian guy who sat next to me on the flight south.
My Brazilian seat mate was very nice. He tried not to giggle too much at my gear as he showed me pics on his phone of monster peacock bass he had caught with expensive gear and nothing less than 80-pound braided line. I had visions of snagging a peacock bass — or more like a peacock bass taking my line and dragging me off the boat into the murky waters never to be seen again.
But, it is what it is. I was headed to the Amazon with the gear I had packed. After a long day in a village, the guys on the boat invited us to join them on the back deck to bait fish. And then it happened. A strike. A hard tug. My line spinning out of my reel. Adrenaline. And then finally reeling in my first Amazon fish — of all things, a piranha. Holy smoke. This thing had some teeth.
Later in the week, we headed to a hidden lake two hours before breakfast to fish for peacock bass. After a quick trip by boat followed by a hike through the jungle, the lake came into view. Magnificent. We fished from the shore and two at a time in a tiny wooden tippy canoe. I was prepared to enjoy myself regardless of whether I caught anything. This was just too beautiful to do otherwise.
I am happy to report that I caught a peacock bass — not a monster, just a modest ten incher. And then I snagged another piranha in the back and reeled it in. Poor thing. But, the best catch of the morning was snagging a two-foot fighter called an aruana (or arowana in English). The aruana is also called a monkey fish because of its ability to jump out of the water and snag monkeys sitting on low branches! Whoa!
What was even more enjoyable was watching the team have fun in the evenings and very early mornings as we tossed our lines into the water and laughed and talked. Even Julia, one of the physician assistants on our team, caught her very first fish ever in the mighty Amazon. She was thrilled beyond words. So was the fish as soon as she released it. Way to go, Julia!
Fishing on the Amazon was fun. And, our cooks prepared our fish as part of our daily meals. Nothing wasted here. Very cool. Our team led more than sixty folks to faith in Christ on this trip and even caught a few fish. All of this made for a grand adventure, indeed! But, as much fun as I had fishing for fish, I will definitely keep my day job of fishing for men.