Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Amazon 2015 Trip Report: Photos to Follow...

Last Sunday, another spectacular trip to Brazil’s Agua Boa Amazon Lodge ended. We had a great group, perfect weather and what has become routine on this river, sensational fishing. All nine of us caught peacock bass over 10 lbs. ... the biggest was 18 lbs. There were dozens of double digit peacocks caught almost every day. I’m sure our group caught well over 150 of these monsters. In addition to the big tucanare peacocks you see in all the photos, we caught many paca (spotted peacocks) and borboleta (butterfly peacocks). We also caught jundia, red tail and surabim catfish, arowana, jacunda, bicuda, payara, oscars. piranha and pacu (on dry flies).

We blind fished with medium sink tips any structure that lined the shady banks. We sight fished big peacocks in shallow lagos with intermediate lines and poled the main river scanning the flats. Here, we threw floating lines armed with poppers and unweighted small streamers. These broad pale yellow shallows were reminiscent of bonefish flats in the Bahamas... that is until a 10 foot caiman showed its massive head destroying any comparison.

On our third day, I fished with lodge host and angling raconteur Charlie Conn. Our goal was pirarucu... the legendary Amazonian giant that is rarely seen, let alone successfully boated. I’ve hooked only two in all my years traveling to Brazil. On this day we studied the bubbles and mud puffs watching four big pirarucu work a small lagoon. Eventually, I had a take. Soon we realized I had hooked a 85-95lb. pirarucu (arapaimaya) on my 8 wt. The pirarucu had eaten a white/brown 4/0 Major Bunker weighted fly that I had sunk to the bottom and retrieved very slowly. After the first heart-stopping run, I saw Neto, our old friend and guide, wipe away a tear as he was barking instructions. This was the first pirarucu he had ever seen hooked on a fly...  he was more excited than I was! But alas, I had no chance!!! A fish pushing triple digits just doesn’t work on an 8 wt. I pushed my rod to the breaking point. At times it vibrated like a stretched rope. Under this pressure, we got the big fish to surface 7 or 8 times. Then, it would roll or make a lunge giving us a good opportunity to see its massively scaled body and bright red ventral markings. But eventually a piranha, a fish 1/100th the size of my pirarucu, bit me off where my 50 lb. leader met my line. Suddenly it was over. With sweat rolling down my back and and my muscles burning, I asked Neto for a beer. It was 10:30 AM, but a beer seemed warranted if not appropriate for this hour of the day. 

The same lago that offered up the pirarucu tantalized us with payara that followed our flies all the way to the boat with no takes. These “vampire” fish have two very long stabbing teeth that fit perfectly into holes in the roof of their mouths. They are spectacular to see, but very hard to hook. First the pirarucu then the payara... apparently we were into fish we couldn’t catch!

You know its a good trip when you can focus on the tougher fish knowing you can always go back to the marquee species

On one day early in our week, a 10.5 lb. spotted peacock savagely hit my fly just off a large tangle of sun-bleached branches and logs near shore. As I struggled for control, I realized he was gaining on me and soon he would be back in the branches. If he made it, it would be game over. I clamped down hard with my stripping hand only to have this fish burn through my sunglove and the leather patch on one of my fingers. This ferocious run left me with a nasty line burn on my palm. I did manage to somehow land the fish. I still have the scar on my palm as I write this report many days later.

. and so it went: day after perfect day, cast after cast, peacock after peacock.

On this trip, we laughed, enjoyed each other’s company and caught lots of fish.... what could be better? Thanks to trip members Mike Schwartz, Doug Ellis, Mike Kotrick, Doug Jeffries, John Frick, Tom Moloy, Warren White and Dick Reamer. Thanks to lodge manager Carlos and Agua Boa bon vivant Charlie Conn, all the staff and especially the terrific and hardworking guides: Neto, Joseph, Samuel, Bacaba, Coboclo and Pedro. 

On the technical side we used fluorocarbon and hard mono of 40-50 lbs. with a diameter of at least .25 of an inch.... .27 is better ( peacocks easily sever softer skinnier tippets). I ran a straight 5-8 foot leader depending on water clarity in the area fished. Successful flies were flashtail whistler and deceiver-like patterns in chartreuse and white, red and white, red and orange, red and yellow, blue over white, brown over white etc. We used around 5 inch flies, but either switched to smaller flies or trimmed existing flies in the shallow lagos or on the clear water flats.

Next: Photos from the fish market in Manaus and Day 1 on the river.

1 comment:

  1. It truly was another incredible trip. I can't add much to your report except we saw a better than average selection of fauna this time. Here's what I remember - a brief jaguar siting from a distance; iguanas; river monitors; giant river otters; pink and grey fresh water dolphins; at least one good tapir siting; brown bearded saki and white-fronted capuchin monkeys (we heard the howlers but they were too far into the bush to track down); lots of black and spectacle caiman including a couple gnarly old monarchs that pushed the 17 - 18 foot length; and in my opinion the best siting was the giant anteater one boat watched for almost 10 minutes! That's a pretty rare site.

    The usual amazing bird population. Highlights for me were a channel billed toucan; roseate spoonbills; lots of jabiru storks; red-capped cardinals; common potoo; black collared hawk; and of course my favorites all five of the local the kingfishers.

    Oh, and I think Mike Kotrick ended up with the big fish of the week at 19lbs. I know of four other 18lb'ers too so we certainly had our share of big fish. Thanks for organizing the trip.