World Wide Fishing!

Peacock Bass

Peacock Bass in Brazil (Brasil)

By Octavio Araujo (B.G.)

Manaus Opera House
Our trip started in the city of Manaus, Brazil, the "capital" of the Amazon where progress and new technology directly confront and mix with the jungle. You can see a tent near the docks selling cellular phones together with the most varied fruits and herbs. People carrying huge wooden boxes loaded with fish, fruits, salt, farinha, stereo sets, up and down the almost vertical stairs to the docks. Nearby a salesman offers the most famous watches, like Rolex, but for half the regular price, all of this happening under a hot sun and the high humidity coming from the jungle. It's a tropical chaos.

The docks

Regional map We load our baggage into the boat that will be our home for the next 10 days and depart the docks, leaving the chaos in our trail and entering the oppressive serenity of the jungle. We'll go up the Rio Negro, then up the Rio Unini, to finally arrive at our destination, a small tributary of the Rio Unini, a trip that will take 3 days. We sleep in hammocks as the landscape goes by, at times I can't see the other margin of the river. The distance between the margins of the Rio Negro at some places is of 25 miles. It's almost an inland sea of freshwater.

Our floating home
We're going to a point where no one has fished in the last 8 years. Although the Amazon is huge, almost as large as continental USA, the big Peacock Bass are not everywhere. They are extremelly sensitive to any fishing pressure, so we must go very far away from the cities and famous fishing areas to find good numbers of large fish. Plus the truly big Peacock Bass can only be found in black water rivers, and these rivers are mainly in Central Amazon of Brazil and some parts of Venezuela.

After 3 days we finally arrive in the afternoon at the mouth of this small tributary. Our anticipation to fish is high so we immediately put the jon boats on the water and go after our prize. We have only 2 hours to fish before the sun sets. On my second cast I have a feisty 4 pound Peacock Bass at the end of my line, and then another one on the next cast, a few casts later we have the first action of big fish, but he missed the attack. That's when I realized the place had an incredible number of Peacock Bass. We came back to our "house boat" and started to make plans for the next day. It was decided that my boat would go up the tributary for about an hour, to fish a remote lake.

I know I will hook my monster the next day, so I check my tackle all over again. I'm using 8 and 10 wt. fast action rods with disc drag reels loaded with floating lines. It's wise to use short-headed lines, with harder cores and coatings, so that they can stand the tropical heat and cast large flies easier. I also carry a few fast sinking lines, just in case if the bigger fish are found deeper. As for leaders, nothing too much complicated. A heavy butt looped to about 17 inches of 20 pound mono, knotted to 12 inches of 60 or 70 pound mono or fluorocarbon as a shock tippet. The overall length of the leader is of 6 or 7 feet. Some people simply use a single piece of heavy mono, but since I prefer to follow IGFA rules I use the 20 pound tippet. You might loose some fish, but you´ll gain in sportsmanship and who knows . . . you might even catch the next world record!

We lay in our hammocks and start to chat a little about the fishing. Peacock Bass, called Tucunaré in Brazil, are cichlids. There are many species of them, but the one that draws most attention is the big Temensis, our goal in this trip. They eat almost exclusively smaller fishes and they usually prefer to ambush their prey, hiding among structures. But at times they actively corral and chase passing schools of baitfish. They have a spot at the base of their tail, this is to simulate an eye and its main function is probably to confuse predators and/or to confuse baitfish. A baitfish might see the false eye at the tail and run to the other direction, right toward the mouth of the Peacock Bass.

Today most waters reached by the larger commercial and sport fishing boats are over fished. Peacock Bass are extremely sensitive to any fishing pressure and this explains why we have to travel so far. Only the smaller regional boats can reach the remote headwaters of the rivers, and the long "expedition" style trip is worth it, because we know that at the end we'll find what every tropical fishermen dreams of: lakes that were never fished before and obviously full of large Tucunaré!

Sunset on the Rio Unini

We finally manage to sleep, listening to the mysterious sounds of the jungle at night. It's strange to think that you're right in the middle of a remote area of the Amazon, 2 days from the nearest telephone. This is not a place to make mistakes.

The boat I'm awakened by the loud sounds of a group of macaws nearby, it's 5:45 AM as we quickly eat something before going out for our first full day of fishing. As we enter the lake I can almost feel the presence of big fish. Soon we see action, as a pair of large Peacock Bass corral and attack a school of baitfish. The baitfish gets so panicked that some even jump out onto dry land! It's a world of eat or be eaten.

We approach the area carefully and I cast my 10 inch 4/0 diver near a fallen tree, stripping it fast. Peacock Bass are used to chase their prey, so be sure to strip yours flies fast. I strip it a second time and then this big fish comes from under the tree and smashes my fly as it dives. I strike hard to the side, already trying to pull the fish away from the tree. The 20 pound tippet is forced to the max as the fish pulls it the opposite way. We know it's a big fish but we only get the idea of it's size when it completely jumps outside the water. It looks huge! When the fish is away from the bank I start to fight him from the reel, I can bring him close to the boat but he always runs again toward the bank, taking off several feet of line, despite the heavy drag pressure. After about 10 minutes the fish is excused near the boat, but he manages to violently dive under it in a last desperate try to escape. We finally land it, the fish is incredibly beautiful. I remove the fly, which is all the way down it's throat and release it back to his lake. The 3 day trip is worth every minute, I think.

Lunch You can and should keep a few Peacock Bass if you're not coming back to the main boat for lunch, but never keep a large fish. The largest fish are always the best spawners and must be kept alive. At midday we usually cook some fish in one of the several white sand beaches of the area, and swim at the river to refresh from the intense heat. There is no danger of Piranhas, since they are only dangerous in locked lagoons, but you should always shuffle your feet instead of stepping, to avoid Stingrays. But probably the most dangerous thing in Amazon to fishermen is the sun and heat. Always use sun protection, drink plenty of water and avoid fishing during midday. There are very few biting mosquitoes in these black water rivers due to the high acidity of its water, which prevents successful reproduction of these insects.

Note Boga Grip

There are some items that you must bring on a fishing trip in the Amazon, like a Boga Grip. This is for sure the easiest and safest way to land and handle Peacock Bass and other Amazon fish. Also very important is a long nosed pliers to remove the hook from the fish. Even small Peacock Bass can swallow a large fly, plus there are plenty of toothy fish around, and you don't want your fingers too close to their mouths. Another very important item is a finger guard to protect against line burns and cuts. You can make one by cutting the finger off a glove or simply wrapping waterproof tape on your finger.

Large Diver for Peacock Bass

Author Octavio (B.G.) The right fly selection is extremely important if you want to catch a nice fish. Large Peacock Bass eat some pretty large baitfish, so you must use very large flies. Avoid using anything smaller than 6 or 7 inches, otherwise you'll probably just hook small fish. Personally I like streamers and divers over 8 inches in length tied on strong 3/0 to 5/0 hooks. They don't care much about colors, just be sure to bring plenty of white and dark shaded flies. Noisy divers are great and provoke amazing attacks, but sometimes streamers that push a lot of water catch more fish.

Big Fish

The water in these rivers is dark colored due to the decomposing of leaves that fall from the jungle, especially during the rainy season, when waters can rise to over 20 feet above its normal level. Fishing during this time is totally unproductive, because the baitfish flee into the flooded jungle, and Peacock Bass follow them. That's why it's extremely important to carefully schedule your trip and always have a second plan in case the water level in the area you intend to fish in is too high or so low that you can't reach it.

A fishing trip to the Amazon is an unforgettable experience: meeting the friendly local people, seeing the wild life, fish in never-before fished waters, but especially... feeling the brutal power of a large Peacock Bass at the end of your line. That's why Peacock Bass fishing is such an addiction among baitcasters . . . and now is the time for fly fishers to move onto the scene. ~ Octavio Araujo (B.G.)

More South American Fly Fishing:

Peacock Bass in Brazil (Brasil)
Dorados in Argentina
Argentine Patagonia - Introduction
Argentine Patagonia - Part 2
Argentine Patagonia - Part 3
Argentine Patagonia - Part 4
Argentine Patagonia - Part 5
Argentine Patagonia - Part 6
A True Chilean Adventure
Futaleufu, Chile, Part 1
Futaleufu, Chile, Part 2

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