Sunday, February 12, 2017

Agua Boa River Trip Report 2017

All the links to all our annual trips since 2006 are at the bottom of this page.

After meeting in Manaus, Brazil we spent the following day catching up on some much needed sleep, visiting the fish market and enjoying a wonderful meal at our favorite restaurant Choupana. (for more info see the bottom of the page). 

Surabim catfish
Geez, really?

Early the next morning, we were wheels up at 7:00 AM and on our way to the Agua Boa River. One hour and 45 minutes later, we touched down on the asphalt strip carved out of the jungle. As we taxied up, we could see our old friends Carlos and Charlie, as well as many of the guides we have come to know so well over the years. After a quick breakfast, we were in the boats ready to begin our seven days of exploring this amazing area in the vast Amazon Basin.

From the get-go, it was obvious our water conditions were going to be very different than last year’s trip during the drought. We could see we were going to have plenty of water this year. We were told it had rained hard the week before we arrived and the water of the Agua Boa River was high and cool. Given expectations generated by 10 years worth of trips, our first two days were disappointing for some of us. Then, as the weather improved and the water’s warmed, things began looking up.

Important to have your fishing license.

Because you'll never know when the authorities might show up!


Paca tail


Most of the following days were terrific for smaller borboleta (butterfly) and paca (spotted) peacocks, but the bigger temensis (aka tucanare) peacocks, the 10+ lb big boys, were elusive. We speculated that last year’s drought may have been hard on these bigger fish forcing them to retreat to deeper pools or leave the river system entirely.

We caught many 5-8 lb. fish leading us to speculate that in a couple years, there will be many big fish back in the system. Of course, we could be entirely wrong as with all the water, the bigger fish could have been way up in lagoon systems or hunting deep in the flooded forrest where we could not reach them. To lend credence to this argument, on our last two days, I began seeing bigger fish prowling up smaller streams in areas where we simply could not get a boat due to the overgrowth. The good news was that many of the lagoons we could not access last year due to the low water were easily accessible if you had a good guide, a chain saw and a machete!

Double Boga

On one day I wrote:

Zezinho (ZZ), Doug Jeffries and I left shortly after dawn. Our skiff was packed with water, gas, sandwiches, four cookies, five fly rods, too damn much camera gear, a chain saw and a homemade machete. After an hour or so run downriver towards the Rio Branco, we veered off the Agua Boa and slid to a halt at the mouth of a hidden lagoon system. 

ZZ hacking our way in

A 6 lb temensis
Zezinho hacked at the logs and tree limbs blocking our way until we finally reached a clearwater ox-bow. Those on hand to cheer us on were were pink dolphins, a few large caiman, a bunch of chattering giant Amazonian otters, two slinky manatees, and a slew of very busy capuchin monkeys. Blue and yellow macaws, hoatin, parrots, nightjars and osprey also made some specific comments concerning our performance.

Blue and gold macaws
Cocoi Heron
A 2 foot long lizard that was gone before we could identify it. Look at those claws!
In the afternoon, we were slammed by a strong thunderstorm that came complete with hail (a rarity in the Amazon). The no-see-ums were at times obnoxious and my wasp sting from the day before itched like hell. 
So all things considered, it was a perfect day! 
And we did manage to catch a few feisty peacocks along the way...

Peacock on a red/white whistler

Doug Ellis
Mike Schwartz
We predominantly fished with intermediate tips (Rio WF8F/I) probing any structure and the faster seams. In deeper runs we used sink tips (Rio 250 gr. Leviathan WF8S). We did get a few chances to sightfish  suspended peacocks in shallow lagoons. We mostly threw lightly weighted streamers (bead chain eyes) in red/white, orange/red, tan/pink and green/white with a considerable amount of flash like whistlers. 

Coboclo with a healthy peacock
Whistler strikes again

Doug Jeffries releasing a spotted pecock

We had many encounters with a wide variety of wildlife, but not as many as in year’s past. I’m sure the rainy weather forced many animals deep to seek cover in the jungle. On the sunny days later in the week, we definitely saw more birds and animals. Having said that we spotted many capuchin monkeys, agouti, tapir, lots of giant otter, deer, jaguarundi, dolphin and the black and spectacled caiman were regularly seen. Many beautiful birds were spotted up and downriver which always makes a boat ride more enjoyable. We saw channel billed toucans,  jabiru storks, black collared hawks, cocoi heron, sun bitterns, macaws, kingfishers, eagles, as well as many others. In addition to these various species of peacock bass mentioned above, we also caught jacunda, bicuda, piranha and pacu.

Capuchin monkeys

Despite the at times, challenging conditions, we had a great time. the fishing was good if not great, the guides, staff, accommodations and fun level, better than great. Many thanks to our terrific group: Mike Schwartz, Doug Jeffries, Anna Riggs, Doug Ellis and Scott Sawtelle. See most of you soon in the Bahamas!...and to the staff at the Agua Boa Lodge especially Carlos and Charlie many thanks for all your help. 

And finally, a special thanks to all the guides: Juarez, Samuel, Bacaba, Imao, Joseph (Zezinho), Preto and Caboclo and Riccardo…. you guys were great as always!!

Coboclo at the casting competition
Joseph aka Zezinho aka ZZ
Anna with the crew

Preto striking a clasic pose

As promised:
Here is a complete listing of all previous trip reports which include hundreds of photos!

(And then there was this:
While I was getting organized in Manaus for our flight into the Agua Boa River, I watched an American Idol knockoff on TV. The show was called Bimbo Mix. Lots of bad singing, crying contestants and skimpy outfits. Who said we don't export anything anymore?)

*For those interested in Choupana restaurant  I would order the piraroucu fish soup and our favorite fish Tambaqui grilled. You will enjoy some of the best fish in the world.

Friday, January 20, 2017


Required as of Jan 9, 2017

The Bahamas government introduced new regulations January 9th that require all flats fishermen to have a personal angling license. The license fees seem to be reasonable and we are assured, part of the fee is to go towards bonefish conservation.

Bahamas License Requirements

As many of you have heard, the Bahamian Government has recently passed regulations surrounding sport fishing in the Bahamas requiring all anglers (12 years and older) to purchase a Bahamian fishing license when fishing on the flats.

This is the first time the Bahamas has required a fishing license, and therefore there is no infrastructure currently in place to purchase a fishing license online.

However, there is an application for a flats fishing license which can be downloaded and printed at the link below. Many Bahamian lodges are asking anglers to please print out this application, fill it out prior to your trip, and bring it along with you.

For instance, at Mars Bay Bonefish Lodge, owner Bill Howard will, upon your arrival, collect your application and take it to the local Administrator’s office on South Andros, where they will be stamped as a valid fishing license. By filling this form out beforehand you will help expedite this process. If you are unable to print the form, most lodges will have extras at camp. The link to the application is below.
Also, please make sure to have enough cash on hand to pay for the license on arrival, as to our knowledge, most government offices will only accept cash for licenses. This fee will be taken to the Administrator’s office, along with your application when you arrive to the lodge. The prices for licenses, depending on your intended duration of stay are as follows.
  • Daily License: $15.00
  • Weekly License: $20.00
  • Monthly License: $30.00
  • Yearly License: $60.00

The regulations also introduce a total ban on commercial fishing in the flats and require flats fishers to “engage only in catch-and-release fishing in respect of bonefish, permit, snook, cobia or tarpon and, unless it is being used for food, hold in his possession at any time not more than one fish”.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Report #2 on Christmas Island: Different Lodge/Same Atoll

"Christmas Island Still Delivers!"
So says Christmas Island veteran Guy Gardiner. Last year Guy and his group filed this report. Guy just returned from this year's trip and filed another very informative report: Thanks Guy!

In mid-October, our group from New Zealand set off again for our week of bonefish therapy on Christmas Island. By going in the between season i.e. after the Aussies and Kiwis and before the Americans we found our party of 6 had Ikari House and Christmas Island’s fishing to ourselves. Our composition was different to previous parties in that 3 of us Dan, Richard and myself were multiple returnees and the other 3, Iain, Austin and Graeme were enormously experienced fly fisherman and superb casters in NZ and well-practiced at spotting trout. The ideal foundation for enjoying Christmas Island or any bonefishing destination for that matter. The 3 new lads brought a fresh approach in that they fished the usual #8 weights for bones and triggers. but big spin casters for GTs and offshore. This resulted in some spectacular GT catches but by no means were the fly casters left out.

We arrived on the 3rd day after the full moon and the schools of big spawning fish off Paris flat had dissipated except for one small shifty school that we caught 3 5lb bonefish from. The smaller tides gave us quite different fishing this trip. The downside was that Paris flat was quieter, the oceanic milk fish chances were less and the “back country,” Submarine and Western Y site flats systems were inaccessible by boat. The upside was the most spectacular fishing for 1-2 lb bonefish I have ever experienced at Christmas Island including my first trip there in August 1995 when I befriended the late Ken Schwam the Philadelphia tackle dealer who put me onto Scott and Jack Charlton. The thing to note is that these fish are not pushovers unless the bite is on. It is a numbers game and there are lots of them. The bigger ones from 2 ½ to 5 lbs are generally picky and shy so the size ratio one catches of them seems to follow a normal distribution curve.

To put the rhetoric into numbers. Dan, Richard and I the hardcore fly fishers caught 135-150 bonefish each for the week. Of the 145 I caught one was 8-9lbs 2*5lbs 4-5 3 ½ to 4lbs and all the rest 10” to 2lbs. The 2 to 3 ½ pounders were usually in very skinny water and had a smaller one eat the fly or were too spooky. In one hot session in Y site Dan and I caught 80-90 fish with numerous double hook-ups, crossed swords and one fish I hooked Dan hooked it as well and it had a fly in each corner of its mouth. As you can imagine it was so much fun and the constant exposure to fish was great for learning the ways of bonefish and honing one’s skills. 

This trip Richard, Dan and I started our offshore day fishing for oceanic milk fish and had some interesting fishing but the neap tides and our fly options were against us but we now have a year to plot and plan our revenge on those holdouts. The rest of the day off shore was average with 8 hits, 4 hook-ups and 3 wahoo boated. All were wahoo as we had competition from some local folk who were chasing the schools of tuna at Northwest Point. The other lads did better catching 5 good GTs trolling stick baits and casting poppers and stick baits onto the reef as well as 3 wahoo. They also got to glimpse the wildness of the island when a yellowfin tuna was sliced up beside their boat by a wahoo. 

The big GTs were not confined offshore either. I had several shots at massive brutes with my 13 weight and one after refusing my fly at the edge of Y site’s lagoon flat went off into the lagoon and took Iain’s stick bait and after a bruising battle he caught and released it. The other spectacular catch was a large GT that Dan caught on the last morning on his bonefish fly. The hook was deformed and twisted from the forceneeded to subdue the fish.

Trigger fish are an interesting story. Until 1997 when I fished Providence atoll in the Seychelles they had been regarded as a curiosity, an incidental fish to gamefish such as trevally, bonefish, milkfish and permit. Like goatfish, snappers and emperors they were another number on the species list. Interesting but not really a gamefish although they are tricky, often small, fight dirty and don’t make screaming runs. However, on Providence there was next to no bonefishing due to the bigger tides when we were there so the guides promoted triggers as a substitute. When I returned to Christmas Island in 2010 I was pleasantly surprised at the numbers of trigger fish and the action one could have with them but I had to wait until I was fishing without a guide. They are a fish with attitude and once hooked pull like a tugboat, fight like the devil and seem thoroughly pissed until they get released. I got busted by a good one and on our last day Graeme caught a very good peach faced trigger which was fortunately out of its coral garden but was still determined to duck down any hole it could find. Everybody had some trigger stories to tell over the Heineken, Bud and Appleton’s at days’ end. 

We were blessed with great weather and whilst it blew some days it was never a significant problem. This trip we fished from Ikari House for the first time and I must say I was impressed. The guides were good but more of the fish spotting and indicating kind rather than the western coach and mentor style of guide but I do like the laid-back lack of pressure and hey you are not paying $600 USD a day for them. You are getting the most cost effective saltwater fly-fishing on the planet and at the end of the day the results speak for themselves.

Ikari is situated in London and is something of a compound surrounded by old corroded buildings but has its own beach and private outlooks so that It is very satisfying drinking a sun downer looking out at Bird Island and Paris flat. An advantage of its location is that it is a short distance from the boat ramp so we got more fishing and less time sitting in a truck. The downsides are that it doesn’t have the island resort ambience and you don’t feel as immersed in the community as we were at CIO with the I Kiribati being a wonderful people. Ikari is the best-appointed facility on the island with 24-hour power, plenty of refrigeration and slow but adequate internet access. The air-conditioned rooms meant that we all slept well and the food was by Christmas Island standards five star and safe! For example, breakfast was Danish or cereal with fruit, yogurt or milk. Toast and jam or peanut butter and bacon, eggs and sausages or similar. None of us had any problems in fact our “gut health” if you will excuse the infomercial euphemism was better than at home.

My previous trips to Christmas Island at the Captain Cook and CIO were special for the ambience of the island, its people and sharing the experience with others. This one was also special because of the group spirit and friendships we made. It is clich├ęd but true to say that by our return we were a band of brothers and the new lads came back so enthused they have started looking at a trip to St Brandon’s in Mauritius next year.

Ikari Lodge was fine although their guide rotation means that you are less likely to get one of the A list guides and it hasn’t got a resort/beach side bar feel [like Christmas Island Outfitters] it is the best in all other respects.