Thursday, December 29, 2011

Scott's Bonefishing Advice: Part 3... Big Bones

1. Use the right fly. In most cases that means using the heaviest fly that conditions will allow. Weight is my single biggest consideration when choosing a fly. Most bonefish, but especially big bonefish, will refuse a fly that isn't on the bottom. The fly must also stay on the bottom. Wind and tidal current can pull on too light a fly and move it up and inches off the bottom. Bonefish do not like this, because prey do not behave like this... bonefish prey hug the bottom!  If a bonefish follows your fly and does not tip down or comes up in the water column to look, your fly is too light. Be more concerned with the weight of your fly than with the pattern you use. I'm convinced many, if not most, patterns will work for bonefish, but all too often the fly is too light. If I tie a dozen flies in a pattern, I vary the weight by using a variety of eyes from lead barbell to different sized bead chain or I'll even use a lead wrap or strip on the hook shank. I may not change a fly pattern during the day, but I change the weight of the fly often based on current conditions and water depth.

2. Throw as close to the fish as conditions will allow. Bonefish never move in a straight line when they feed. They may zig, then zag. They may meander hither and yon and to and fro before ever getting to your fly. Based on water depth, current, and wind, you need to get your fly as close to a bonefish on the prowl as possible. Hit 'em on the head if you can. If you do, DON'T MOVE THE FLY!! Don't strip! Bonefish will watch a fly settle to the bottom before eating. Bonefish will often eat your fly without you ever having to move it. If they turn away from your fly, then and only then, bump it... slowly. 

3. Let me repeat myself... Keep stripping to a minimum, and watch the fish's reaction. When fishing for large bonefish, most people strip way too much and too fast. If guides are telling you to "strip, strip", ignore them. They know not what they do!  As with permit, big bonefish often eat with the fly sitting still on the bottom. The first strip, if needed, (that would be if the fish you just hit on the head, that watched as your fly settled to the bottom turns away), should be a 3-inch bump. This raises the fly off the bottom, and then it quickly plunges back like an escaping crab. When you do this, you need to be watching the fish's reaction. Many times, one bump is all it takes. Let the fly plunge. Let the bonefish eat it!  Watch the fish. If it does not eat, then make a long slow strip, then let the fly settle. Watch the fish! DO NOT IMMEDIATELY STRIP AGAIN! Many bonezillas have been caught after a series of long slow strips followed by excruciating periods of just letting the fly sit still. 
Always remember, a bonefish fly is not a streamer and it does not have to be moving for a bonfish to eat it!
This takes patience... speaking of patience:

4. Be patient, make reasonable casts. The tendency when sight fishing is to cast too early and too long. Accuracy decreases dramatically with longer casts. Let the fish get closer (see Hints #2) and make your first cast count.

5. Keep your rod tip down while stripping, and make a slow strip strike. Put the rod tip in or near the water. This minimizes the slapping noise the line makes. This little bit of noise can spook a bone. When the fish eats, make a long, slow strip strike to the side. Many times the fish may miss the fly, but if you do a slow side strike, you can let the fly drop if the fly misses its mark and get a second chance.

Bonefishing is a skill sport! 
The more knowledgeable and better prepared fisherman almost always catches not only the most fish, but the biggest fish. 

Next time: Casting and Stealth

Friday, December 16, 2011

Merry Christmas to all!

Merry Christmas and thanks to John Marlow for this great photo. If you are a dog lover, you can imagine how hard it was to get!

... and remember the days will soon start greeting longer and trout season will arrive before you know it!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Lamar River, Yellowstone Park

From Cody west to the East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park and from there north to the Northeast Entrance at Cooke City, flow some of the most prolific, least fished and most beautiful trout waters in the Lower 48. The forks of the Shoshone River, the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone, and all the creeks draining into the Clark’s Fork from Sunlight Basin including Crandall Creek, Hoodoo Creek, Sunlight Creek, Dead Indian Creek and many many more offer simply phenomenal fishing. Float trips, wade trips, high mountain lakes... whatever you want, you’ll find here. You’ll need a good guide for this is no country to get lost in and the best spots are not easily found. You’ll also need a good pair of walking shoes and a willingness to use them, but the rewards are worth the effort. Probably nowhere else can you catch so many 16-21 inch trout so easily. And when (and if) you tire of all this outstanding water, you can turn to Yellowstone Park. Yellowstone is the ying to the previous area’s yang for THE park is not rarely visited by anglers. The Yellowstone is loved and Hayden Valley‘s legendary waters including Slough Creek, the Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek see tons of pressure, but hit it right and you’ll know what all the hubbub is all about:

As I dug my nails into cutbank, it began to rain lightly. Six feet from the top of the bank, almost at river level, a tine was now completely exposed. The horn seemed more rock than bone. I wondered how old an elk antler would be that was buried under seven feet of Hayden Valley mud. The skull was partially attached to the horn so this was not a shed horn. Was it killed by an indian or a bear or maybe a pack of pre-reintroduced wolves. After a few minutes, I had excavated enough of the antler to get a good grip on it. With a grunt, I pulled the horn from the bank. It was heavy with five tines, and very thick. This elk had been a healthy animal and probably had died before its time. 
I had turned my attention to artifact in the cutbank because I was relaxed after a successful start to the day. I had just caught two sipping 18” cutts off the bank with a #18 baetis. Not much of a fly really. A bit of olive dubbing for a body and a palmered dun hackle tip for a thorax. The fly, although small, had been fairly easy to see since it was silhouetted against the steely blue light in the wind slicks. This pale light had reflected the rain squalls that were passing through the valley. The hatch that I had imitated to catch the cutts was now over, its end signaled by a shaft of sunlight that lit up a copse of cottonwoods trees upriver. It was beautiful. Sunlight always makes fall in Yellowstone seem almost painfully beautiful. 

      We had just experienced seven perfect days of weather, especially for late September / early October. During this spell, we had fished in consistent 75-80 degrees temps. This warm air swirled under a deep blue sky rarely fettered by anything close to a cloud. Weather great for hoppers and people, but not great for hatching bugs. Each day this good weather continued, I could feel the hatches building. A few bugs would emerge on these clear warm days, but nothing to get us or the fish excited. I knew that with the first significant cloud cover, every overdue bug on every river would be sprinting for the surface. Now with these rain squalls passing through, our morning’s sporadic hatch had seemed only a prelude to the big main event. 
     While taking in the heft of the horn, I heard a pop behind me... it was the sound a teenager makes with his mouth when removing a lollipop on a stick. I dropped the elk antler in the mud at the edge of the river and jerked my head to the right. Without looking down, I washed the mud off my hands as I searched for the source of the sound. Not ten feet below me I heard another pop, then saw the incriminating circles. This was not the sip of a trout on a measly little olive dun. This was a big revealing rise... especially for a wary Yellowstone Cutt. I hunkered down on the bank’s mud knowing the trout had never seen me as it moved to take this feeding spot, I wanted to keep my advantage and worked to keep my profile low. Soon, an armada of big drakes was tacking to leeward. Trout were gulping up these elegant duns as more and more little sails popped up. Suddenly no longer so mellow, I raced to change my fly. The trout that I had “popped” so close to me could now clearly be seen moving four or five feet to take a drake. I tied on a size 12 parachute drake and carelessly nipped off my tippet’s tag end. I flipped the fly ten feet across the river and tried not to move a muscle in the process. The fish quickly found my waking fly leaving a big bubble, a boil and a bent rod behind. Sometimes it is so easy....

     This was the beginning of three hours of heaven. As squall after squall swirled through the valley, the hatch went on and on. Sometimes the wind came from the south sometimes from the north, but through it all came the drakes. I on either shore created by the storms changing paths. Depending on the direction of the wind, I would look left or right to see big trout racing about in the narrow band of unriffled water next to shore not touched by the breezes. The trout would pick off drakes and I would see them hunting like one sees bonefish on a Bahamian flats. I could cast 15 feet ahead of these trout and they would accelerate to my fly. Sure there were refusals, these were after all, Yellowstone cutts, but there were plenty of takes too. I don’t know what was more fun... to see a 20” cutt race to a fly, put on the brakes and suspend under my fly to examine its authenticity or to have a fish eat in a lunging swirl. 
     OK, eating my fly was more fun, but the event was so engaging, I lost track of time. I could see the whole drama play out in these slicks. I watched cutts refuse naturals, compete with other fish to catch a skittering drake and change sides of the river when the wind changed direction. Sometimes fish chased drakes into absurdly shallow water. With the wind changing direction and pushing the big mayflies suddenly towards shore, brightly colored trout would turn on their sides to try and catch the big bugs before they were out if reach beached by the wind. There were no feeding stations now. The fish were on the prowl looking for dinner. Finally, it was all over and I was in a satisfied haze. Sated, I clipped a disheveled drake off my leader and yanked my Sage 4 wt. apart. It was 4:00 PM. The day had disappeared like a clipped breath on a cold winter day. 

     There was now a chill to the air and although it was hardly cold, you could finally feel fall.  I knew that long before winter storms piled up snow outside my home’s windows and even before the algae on my fish net has dried to a brittle junk, I will remember this day and long for yet another. I’m afraid I’ll have to wait awhile.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Scott's Bonefishing Advice: # 2 in the Series

Bonefish are creatures of the shallows. They live as if they belong to the tides. They charge and retreat over shimmering sheets of bright sand and lush blankets of turtle grass. They are sleek and slender, shy and suspicious. They reflect perfectly the pastel waters and the sparkling bottoms which is their home. With their silver sides reflecting all, they have the ability to seemingly change color.

Fishing for these elusive creatures combines the best of hunting and fishing. You must have the visual concentration and patience to find the fish and a hunter's stalking ability to get within casting range. Your cast must then deliver the fly quietly and precisely. You must entice the fish, with a proper retrieve, to accept and eat your fly. You must develop a feel for the hookset. You must fight the fish properly to bring it to hand. In bonefishing, rarely is blind luck rewarded. Usually, the fisherman with the most skills catches the most fish.
Instead of offering hints in the order in which they must be successfully executed (i.e stalking, casting, presentation, hookset etc), I think I'll offer suggestions to help with what I feel are the most often made mistake even by experienced bonefishermen.

And by far, the most common mistake made by anglers is to cast too early and/or too far. I believe anglers cast too early partially because they believe that if they initially aren’t succesful with a long cast, they will get another chance with a shorter cast. In reality, this rarely happens. If you try to make a cast longer than your skills or the conditions (primarily wind) allow and your fly does not get to the right spot, it will take too long to cast again. By the time you are ready to cast again, the bonefish will have moved on or will have become aware of your presence. 
It is essential then to remember that:
While this is  true in any type of fishing whether it be trout, tarpon, permit... it is essential to get a handle on this concept for bonefish. It is so important that I'll even take it a step further. 
no second shots, no other chances. If you only had one cast, when then would you cast?

Chance are it would be a much shorter cast than most anglers make. If you only had one cast you might wait for that perfect moment. You might wait for that moment when you know you can make the cast, when you know the fish will see your fly and when you know you'll be able to see where the fly lands and/or know where it is.  

I've also noticed one other phenomena associated with the cast and that is the creeping step. Often angles will take a step or two forward as (or immediately after) the fly hits the water. I think anglers do this because they want to be closer to the action. Perhaps to see better see what is happening. Many anglers are totally unaware that they take this step. 
But this habit does two things: First, it often creates unnecessary noise from coral crunching, sand grinding or water splashing and secondly, it reduces an anglers contact with the fly and makes it more difficult to make a proper retrieve... more on the retreive next time. 

So in summary, your first shot is your best shot. Make it count! When casting, imagine you only have one cast you can make to any given fish. And never move, especially forward, after the fly is delivered.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

This Is Fly / Sea Hunter 2011

As the tide dropped, I made my way to the edge of the flat toward a channel of deep water.  I knew that big fish will eventually congregate in the deeper water and I could intercept plenty of bonefish fleeing the flat when the water quickly receded.  I cautiously waded towards the edge, my anticipation rising with each step, my high hopes set on hooking a memorable big fish.  With the edge now in casting distance, I stop and position myself, to see if I can spot any fish.  It did not take long to pick up a pair of bonefish moving along the edge of the flat, approaching from my right.  I calmly cast my Doug’s Crimp fly in front of them.  Without much inspection nor any hesitation, one of the fish pounces on the fly and I am hooked up.  After a solid run and fight, I land and release an average 4-lb bonefish.  We are not in Mexico, kids, and I know this area is home to much bigger fish.  Our group of renegade anglers has experienced great fishing, catching fish up to 9-lbs.  I just needed my skills to shine and the stars to align so I could successfully land the trophy-size bonefish I sought.

My bonefish guru, Scott Heywood of Angling Destinations, advised me to hang out once I saw fish because more would follow.  I took Scott’s advice since he had countless years of experience bonefishing throughout the world and was keen on their behavior.  Scott was right—headed straight towards me from the deep water was a massive shape that I first identified as a shark, but after a double-take I began to cast my Sage One 8wt to the big single swimming bonefish.  The Sage One did what it’s meant to do and the fly quietly fell into the monster’s path while I tried to keep my cool as that critical moment unfolds — the fish was either going to eat or ignore my offering.  I stripped the fly once and the fish slightly changed his course: I knew he was intrigued.  I stripped again and the fly line came tight.  I was hooked up to the monster!

Most of you avid This is Fly readers know I am an obsessed bonefish bum who will do just about anything to chase after these fish.  And by now you are surelywondering: “Where is Paris this time?” and “How the hell can I book the trip?”  

This trip, dear readers, was a part of my fortunate invitation to board the Sea Hunter, a fabulous yacht from Florida, currently anchored near the eminent Jackfish Channel on the southern tip of Andros Island.  Scott introduced me to the live-aboard experience and I really dig it, especially when the experience is set up as a series of exploratory adventures. 
The reasons I enjoyed the live-aboard are simple: long days of hardcore fishing and access to unpressured water.  I am not saying that no one has fished South Andros, but when you are fishing from a traditional lodge, you are limited by the time of the day.  To escape the often-pressured water in close proximity to the lodge, you have to make long runs in the skiff.  Let’s face it: you can only go so far before turning around and enduring the long ride back to the lodge.  But in a live-aboard, you experience longer fishing days because your ride home is a mere ten-minute trip back to the yacht on your skiff.  The most exciting part of these trips is the rush of anticipation when scouting virgin water that does not get regularly plundered by anglers.  For example, aboard the Sea Hunter we hop in the skiffs and push our way beyond Grassy Cays up the uninhabited west side of the island.  This area is difficult to reach from the northern lodges and if you can make the run, the guides do not have much time to dial-in the tides and fish the most productive flats.  Aboard the Sea Hunter, we have seven days of freedom to push the limits of a conventional day of flats’ fishing.

This trip is pitched to anglers as self-guided and hardcore: so be prepared to endure lots of wading and expect to spot your own fish.  Some might be apprehensive about this itinerary, but for me, these ingredients are ideal.  The chance to wade South Andros for an entire week is a dream come true.  I am fanatical when it comes to bonefishing and I easily get excited, but this opportunity set me off the charts.  South Andros does have a reputation for providing refuge to acre-size schools of smaller bonefish (which I usually shy away from) but this area also holds big bones, which I saw firsthand when I fished South Andros a couple years back and got a taste of Grassy Cay during a day of guided fishing.  I wrote a story on the trip in a previous issue of This is Fly entitled “Bonefish Heaven.”  Now I am fortunate enough to return to heaven.

At 84-feet, the Sea Hunter is a steel-hulled ship that feels formed from one monolithic slab.  The Sea Hunter has two complete reverse-osmosis water-making systems that can create 80 gallons of quality bottled drinking water every hour and gives the grimiest of anglers that rare chance to enjoy a long, hot shower at the end the day.  Cooled by dual AC units and propelled by two 450-horsepower CAT diesel engines, she carries an average load of 16,000 gallons of diesel fuel, which allows her to sit steady in the water and have a global range potential.  This massive load, combined with her considerable displacement, buffers almost any sea motion while the Sea Hunter is at anchor.
Our group of renegade pirates includes Scott Heywood of Angling Destinations, Scott Sawtelle from San Antonio, John and Anna Riggs from Little Rock, and Jay Hillerson from Virigina.  The key to a memorable week on a live-aboard is to have a cohesive group with personalities that mesh well.  Our brew of personalities created a perfect concoction and everyone felt at ease, dedicated to the task, and focused on long days of wading and exploring the bounty of South Andros.  There were days when we opted to fish uncharted areas that could potentially produce poor fishing, but this group eagerly took that chance.  I tip my hat to each of them.

If you want a break from bonefishing during the week, the Sea Hunter offers diversity.  You can participate in spear fishing for hog snappers around coral heads, snorkeling, or awesome blue water fishing.  Besides towing two shallow draft skiffs, the Sea Hunter also tows a 34-foot sport fisher, equipped for offshore fishing.  Anchored close to the famed Tongue of the Ocean, a day of blue water fishing means access to a plethora of pelagic species.
But back to the monster bonefish I hooked at the edge of the flat that just peeled 150-yards of Dacron from the Abel QC reel.  The fish heads towards the mangroves on the other side of the channel, immediately giving me enough anxiety to warrant a dose of Xanax.  Everything happens excessively fast and I find myself motionlessly watching the crash course this bonefish has decided to take.  I ask myself if this is going to end like Thelma & Louise with the Cadillac heading off a cliff, but the fish stops short of the mangroves and starts to thrash his body, creating an impressive commotion.  I know what the fish is doing and I’m not happy about it.  I watch him thrash around and rub his mouth in the sand with hopes of dislodging the fly.  Just as I start to head into the deeper water in hopes of chasing the fish, the line goes limp and my shoulders fall in disgust, realizing I just lost the largest hooked bonefish of my career.  I had a temporary breakdown reaction consisting of  screamed obscenities, kicking the water, and punching the air, but I got hold of myself and snapped out of it when I remembered where I was.  Bonefish Heaven!

Scott's Bonefishing Advice: # 1 in the Series

#1... Use you legs both as a depth gauge and as a thermometer.

There is a certain depth at which bonefish are most often found. It may vary a bit, but at this particular depth, once found, they will continue to be found at this depth. Learn to feel and seek this level. Get a gut level feel for it. If you are not seeing fish because you might be too deep, wade to more shallow water and vice versa. 

Once you find fish, more fish will be found at that level especially on that stage of the tide. Usually it is around knee deep to mid-calf (see photos). It will be towards the more shallow end on a rising tide when they will push their luck (sometimes very aggressively especially on spring tides) and at the deeper end on a falling tide. But be aware of the type of terrain you are on! 

Undulating flats can allow bones to follow the deeper arteries into very shallow water. Bones will often tail in extremely shallow water if deep water is immediately adjacent. Sand bars, undulating flats, shallow crests of deeper flats are all areas that fish rely on to be in the shallowest water possible. 

Notice the depth is mid-calf. This is where this 9-10 lb. bone was found!
Remember bonefish want to be in shallow water. They want it, they seek it... the need it!  At high tide, they are literally in deep trouble. This is why they go to the mangroves or school-up at high tide. They won't spread out again until the tide has fallen to "their" level. Then they rarely follow deep channels or creeks. They filter in on edges. And when the tide rises again they seek the shallowest rivulets or just flooded flats where they can stay shallow.

Why do bonefish seek the shallows so single-mindedly? It is because they are designed to live in skinny water and have the advantage here. This is in part due to the slime that covers their bodies. In the shallows they can accelerate and reach top speed quickly without turbulence or ground effect. If you've ever paddled a canoe and hit shallow water you know what ground effect is. It makes it impossible to paddle any faster. It is the same principle that makes a plane hover over the runway before landing. Pilots call it the ground effect. The slime reduces this turbulence and allows bonefish to go fast in very shallow water. Hence this if their niche and where we find them. It is not an accident. Sharks and 'cudas struggle in very shallow water, but quickly gain an immediate advantage in just a little bit deeper water. So use you legs to gauge the depth and concentrate your efforts at this level. 

Also, use your legs as a thermometer. Get an idea of the temperature of the water you are finding bones in. If it is too hot, oxygen levels are too low and even if the water is appropriately shallow, bones will abandon an area. If the water is too cold, especially if the area is near deeper colder water, bones may move to more inland creeks and flats to maintain their metabolic abilities.

Notice the angler is looking back towards more shallow water and along the edge.
And speaking of your depthometers and thermometers, don't splash them. Learn how to move your legs forward at a steady, measured, quiet velocity. Your legs should be a speedometer too!

Peacock Bass in the Amazon: Part 2

Peacock Bass in the Amazon: Part 2
This is part 2 of the excellent article from Kent Klewein at the Gink and Gasoline blog from November 3, 2011. 
See their website at

Preparing and packing the right gear prior to your departure to the Amazon is crucial for your overall trip enjoyment and fishing success. Following these gear recommendations, fishing tips, and general amazon facts, will ensure that you’ll be ready to tackle the monster peacock bass you’ll encounter as well as the hot tropical climate.
One important factor that rookie amazon anglers often fail to realize is water levels on the rivers and tributaries of the Amazon River can make or break your trip. Sometimes conditions will be perfect a week or two before your departure, and a couple days before your scheduled to leave, you’ll receive an updated water level report informing you that conditions have deteriorated. It’s just part of the game. It comes with fishing a river that provides us with 1/5 the worlds freshwater supply.
If water levels are too high, peacock bass often will move back into the flooded jungle shorelines making them difficult to coax out or present a fly to. On the flip side of the coin, if water levels are too low, your guides might not be able to access certain watersheds, or even worse, those glory hole lagoons that often hold schools of trophy size peacock bass. It is after all, the rainforest, right? Don’t let this deter you from booking your trip though, I just mention this since there’s many anglers out there that think just because they travel to another continent they’ll have perfect fishing conditions. Unfortunately, that’s just not how it works in the real world. I learned a long time ago, keeping realistic expectations for my international fishing trips is the best approach. That way if I meet or even exceed my expecations, it’s icing on the cake.What attracts the majority of anglers to the Amazon is its four species of hard fighting and beautiful peacock bass. The speckled peacock “paca” and peacock tunacare “barred” are the bread winners due to there ability to grow well over twenty pounds, while the other two species of peacocks, the butterfly and royal, grow up to 10 pounds but make up for their smaller size with higher overall numbers. But with over 3,000 fish species documented and countless others undiscovered in the Amazon Basin, you never know what you’re going to find at the end of your line. I suggest you bring a Boga Grip to safely handle and weigh your catches during your trip, because you’ll find most fish either have razor sharp teeth or pointy spines. Species that don’t pack these defenses will make up for it in size, agility, speed, and brute strength.
Talk to any veteran peacock bass angler and they’ll quickly tell you how big a role water levels play in the fishing and how helpless you are at controlling them. Despite there being both wet and dry fishing seasons in the Amazon, sometimes the seasons end up being the opposite of what they should be for the time of the year. Your best bet for coping with this uncertainty is booking your trip with the right Amazon outfitter or lodge. The, fly fishing only, Agua Boa Lodge, located in Brazil, is best suited for coping with both high and low water levels because of its specialized equipment, exclusive location, and the diversified fishing operations.
Your sure to get plenty of sight-fishing in during your trip, particularly if you book at the Agua Boa Lodge. However, don’t be shocked if you end up blind casting large portions of the day in search of big peacocks. Most of the time the larger fish will be holding in deeper water out of sight, and it can be very exhausting making long casts followed by quick retrieves for hours on end. Make sure you pack three 9′ fast action fly rods in the 8-10 weight range. I recommend further choosing saltwater fly rods over freshwater rods because they generally have stronger butt sections, better suited for controlling and turning trophy peacock bass away from snags. I personally prefer a nine or ten weight for most my peacock bass fishing because I don’t like to be under gunned, but it’s nice to have an eight weight for the smaller butterfly peacocks and the other species you’ll encounter like aruana “arawana”, trieda and pacu.

I’m embarrassed to admit before I made my first trip to the Amazon for peacock bass, I thought all I needed was a tropical floating line and some big poppers. It’s true you can catch big peacocks this way but you’ll often find your best chances for consistently hooking up with the trophies, is to fish big streamers 4-6″ long with sinking fly lines. Floating lines and poppers are great for busting fish, smaller peacocks, and other exotic species, but most fly anglers will admit even saltwater poppers just don’t cause enough commotion on the surface to regularly bring up the big boys. It’s really hard for any popper or slider to compete with a 3 1/2 – 5 ounce Woodchopper or Riproller lure, thats churning and spraying water five feet in the air. Conventional lures like these have been known to call in peacock bass from over a hundred yards away at times. On top of that, casting large poppers is just too strenuous to keep up eight hours a day. Don’t get me wrong it will work and it’s fun seeing the peacock bass explode on your popper, but even the best fly casters will scream uncle after and hour or two.
Until you hook into a big peacock bass your not going to be ready for their incredible power and strength. Your biggest obstacle is keeping them out of snags where they’ll quickly break you off. This calls for packing saltwater fly reels that have drag systems powerful enough to stop a freight train. I know it sounds cheesy, but that’s the first image that popped into my head when I hooked into my first 15+ pound peacock bass. I prefer high-end fly reels like Nautilus, Hatch, and Tibor that are powerful, durable and precision made. The last thing you want is burning up a reel in the middle of your trip or even worse watching helplessly as a fish of a lifetime peels off line towards the jungle timber. That being said, I will say the best fly reel won’t do you any good at stopping a fish until you clear the line and get the fish on the reel. Expect many fish to be lost within the first few seconds of the fight, which will greatly be dependent on how close your boat is from the bank, and at what point the fish eats during your retrieve.
If you do happen to find yourself on a trip in the Amazon with extreme low water, you may find the floating line with weighted streamers effective. Especially when sight-fishing to spooky fish. It’s a whole lot easier to present your fly softly with a floating line than a heavy sinking line. That’s the main reason you don’t want to make a trip down there without one because you always have to be ready to rig up according to the conditions. Odds are though, you’ll end up stowing your fly rod with the floating ling most of the time during the trip. You may even want to pack a clear intermediate fly line as well.
If you want to come back from the Amazon with bragging rights and pictures of you holding double-digit fish you better pack your 200-350 grain sinking fly lines. I stated before that most of the time the biggest peacocks will be found in the deeper water. You also find really quickly peacock bass prefer a very quick retrieve. Because of this, a sinking fly line is required to keep your flies down in the strike zone. I get asked all the time what are good fly patterns to tie for big peacock bass? Google fly patterns for pike and musky, that’s all you need to know. Just make sure you beef up your hooks to saltwater tarpon hooks or something comparable. Peacock bass can straighten even the strongest hooks. I spent many hours in a peacock bass tackle shop changing out factory treble hooks on Woodchoppers to 4x and 6x strong VMC hooks. That’s some serious hardware believe me.
Lagoons in the amazon are hotspots for big peacock bass. Once your guide brings you to these productive areas search out the deep water areas first. Position the boat in shallows and cast to the deep water. This is where you’ll regularly find the biggest fish in the area. Try to find key areas where peacock bass can drive forage food to the shallows that’s also in close proximity to deep water. Examples are the edges of jungle timber adjacent to deep water, the points of sandbars or sloughs between islands with deep water close. The mouths of the lagoons and the main river are hotspots for big peacocks waiting for fish to enter and exit the area. Search out grass and vegetation break lines working your flies into deep water.
Peacock bass for the most part aren’t leader shy, except in extreme low water conditions which may call for a longer leader. Generally a 6′ fluorocarbon leader 30-50 lb. will work fine for peacock bass in most fishing conditions with floating lines. For sinking lines I like to use a 2-3′ fluorocarbon leader of 30-50lb. Remember that shallow low and clear water conditions may call for smaller pound test. I pack spools of 20 to 50 pound fluorocarbon on my trips. Make sure you pack plenty because your going to be retying quite a bit and you’ll also have break offs in snags. Depending on where your fishing piranha can reek havoc on your flies as well. Make sure you pack a good four dozen flies to be safe.
During high water conditions find steep hard high banks on the river or in lagoons that limit the bait and peacocks from getting out of reach. Concentrating on points or isolated edges of timber or trees in high water will be the hotspots to look for. Whatever you do and no matter what river you fish in the Amazon, don’t let your guide keep you on the main river fishing straight lined banks all day long. It’s happened to me before and you won’t see near as much action as targeting lagoons, confluences, and bends.
Please contact Scott Heywood at Angling Destinations if you’re interested in booking an Amazon peacock bass trip. He’s got many trips under his belt personally and he can answer any questions you have about fly fishing the Amazon Basin, it’s smorgasbord of species, and all the trip details for the Agua Boa Lodge. If you’re lucky you might even find an open spot for his next hosted trip. I hope this post was informative and you’re drooling over the chance to tangle with one of the beautiful gamefish.
Keep it Reel,
Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline

Friday, December 2, 2011

Peacock Bass in the Amazon: Part 1

I’ve been very blessed to have fly fished many destinations around the world. All have been amazing trips, but one destination in particular I hold close to my heart. Every time someone asks me what’s the coolest place I’ve fly fished, without any hesitation, I always reply fly fishing for peacock bass in the Amazon. Combine the extreme beauty and remoteness of the Amazon Basin with the opportunity to battle one of the most powerful freshwater gamefish on the planet, and it’s pretty easy to see why it ranks at the top of my list. That’s not even factoring in the other bonuses you’ll receive, like catching several other species of fish and witnessing all the diverse wildlife.
“While beginners always seem to catch fish, the persistent skilled angler wielding a precise cast is more often than not rewarded for his/her hard won mastery. Make a good sidearm cast between two logs under a tree and it might be rewarded. Hit that bit of flashing neon green or quickly reload to hit a laid-up chunk of muscle and madness 20 feet off the boat’s bow and it just might work. Peacock bass fishing is intriguing fishing. It is shoulder burning, forearm aching and finger cramping to be sure. There will be snags hooked, lines fouled and fish missed. It is at times maddening, frustrating and patience testing, but ultimately exhilarating, very satisfying and all consuming…and yes, as cliched as it might sound, addicting.” Scott Heywood
Making a trip to the Amazon used to be one of the most economical international fishing trips you could book at a very reasonable $2995, for a week of fishing and lodging. But with the falling US Dollar and economic turmoil we’ve been dealt the last several years, the cost has almost doubled. But in the defense of the Amazon outfitters, so has most other international fishing trips. If your a hardcore traveling angler, you’ve probably gotten used to all the price hikes by now. It’s nothing personal, they’re just adjusting pricing to inflation while covering their own constantly increasing overhead for operations.
If your serious about making a trip down to the Amazon, I recommend going through a sportfishing travel company, like Angling Destinations. They do all the work for you, scheduling out all logistics, prepare custom trip itineraries and packing lists for you, and they’ll answer frequently ask questions so you feel comfortable traveling international. For first timers, it can be a bit intimidating and stressful, especially when you can’t speak the language in the country your visiting. Booking through a travel consultant and not booking straight through the lodge benefits you in two ways.
First, the travel consultant probably has made several trips personally to the destination that your wanting to book. They can tell you first hand what you can expect for lodging and give you up to date fishing conditions at the lodge. They’ll also provide you valuable knowledge on what gear to pack (apparel, fly rod sizes, fly lines, leaders and tippet, and fly patterns) for your trip. Plain and simple they’ll tell you what works and what doesn’t. This will save you a considerable amount of money when it’s all said and done.
Secondly, since companies like Angling Destinations send lodges lots of business, the owners usually go out of their way to make sure clients receive great customer service during their trip. If they don’t they end up risking multiple full group bookings for the year at their lodge. There are some exceptions to this rule but most of the time it holds true for destinations in South America, Africa, Thailand, and so on.
So you made the decision to move forward booking your first peacock bass trip to Brazil or Venezuela. Both countries have very good peacock bass fisheries, but Brazil is your best bet with it’s more stable government and friendly citizens towards foreigners. On top of that, the Agua Boa Lodge is located in Brazil, and it’s the cream of the crop when it comes to fly fishing for peacock bass. The Agua Boa Lodge is the only catch and release, fly fishing only lodge in the Amazon. They have over 100 miles of protected waters exclusively at their disposal. If you’re a fly fisher and conventional fishermen as well, I’d probably recommend additional Amazon outfitters throughout Brazil and Venezuela to check into, but for fly fishermen only, the Agua Boa Lodge is the only way to go. You’ll find 20 foot aluminum skiffs with large casting decks and poling platforms for the guides. And even more importantly the guides understand fly fishing terminology and how important boat position is for making good presentations. You won’t find this fly fishing friendly boat set up or knowledgable fly fishing guide staff anywhere else in the Amazon.
This post is from the Gink and Gasoline blog. Go to ginkandgasoline,com
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