The Rio Demeni
To those who know me well, saying that I’m a Peacock Bass fanatic is probably the understatement of the century! I live for the Amazon and for me the Amazon equals mega Peacock Bass fishing. It’s what I cut my teeth on 20 years ago and this fish is guilty of making me give up my day job and becoming a full-time Amazon outfitter. I am also the 2005 and 2006 Amazon Peacock Bass World Champion (and still the only and reigning one) so I think I know my stuff! It’s in the blood, it’s what I do …. The stories told of Peacock Bass and their top-water strikes are legendary. These amazing top predators hit surface lures with such ferocity, that it’s hard to take in how much noise just one fish can make. Arm-wrenching strikes on flies, minnow lures, soft plastics and buck tail jigs are also the norm here and no other freshwater sport fish will attack lures and flies as
If your lure is in its ‘zone’ then the Peacock Bass will want to kill it or eat it!
hard or with such pent-up anger and aggression as these species. If your lure is in its ‘zone’ then it will want to kill it or eat it!
My last Peacock Bass trip was in January and having arrived at the Eduardo Gomes International Airport in the bustling city of Manaus, Brazil, my travel-weary guests and I stayed the night at the Quality Hotel.
Early the next morning, everyone was transferred by an air-conditioned bus to the Eduardinho Airport, (the small supporting airport next to the international airport), boarded one of Rico’s Cessna 208 Caravan floatplanes and took off from the runway towards our fishing destination.
While flying over huge swathes of rainforest and tree canopies, as far as the eye can see, it’s impossible not to feel humbled by the vastness of these untouched Amazon regions. There are more species of flora and fauna per square mile in the Amazon rainforest than anywhere else in the world. We passed over so many tantalising rivers
(there are over 1,000 tributaries of the Amazon River itself) towards our home for the week, our mobile ‘Cabaçeiras Floating Pontoon Camp’ on the Rio Demeni in the State of Amazonas. Touching down gently on the black water river, we saw that the water levels were absolutely perfect: low and dropping, with many san- dy beaches out of the water - the perfect scenario for top-quality Peacock Bass fishing. After an early lunch, everyone was anxious to get fishing and once introduced to their guides, we were off to a flying start!
Our ‘Cabaçeiras’ or ‘Headwaters’ Floating Pontoon Camp caters for a maximum 12 guests and is air-condi-
After an early lunch, everyone was anxious to get fishing and once introduced to their guides, we were off to a flying start !
tioned throughout. It has six twin rooms with en-suite bathrooms, a big dining room/ chilling area and a separate upstairs lounge with TV, sofa and chairs. Food and drinks storage, a complete kitchen and a laundry area are set up on another smaller barge linked behind the main pontoon and the whole camp is moved up or down river by our supply boat on our chosen black water tributary of the Rio Negro.
Everyone caught fish after fish during the week. My colleague Bill Day (from billschannel and Amazon River Monsters) and I filmed yet another promo video for Amazon-Angler.com and we were rewarded by some incredible explosive fishing! Most of my bigger Peacocks exploded on prop baits and Spooks, and for sub-surface takes, buck tail jigs (with extended tails) and a couple of minnow baits did the trick. But the most fun I’ve had in a long time was catching Peacocks from 2-16lbs casting Texas-rigged (weedless) 7-inch soft plastic flukes into the trees and over branches. This deadly method gave me the advantage of being able
to cast into areas where no other lure could reach without getting hung up.
I carry only a few types of lures in my tackle box to save on weight, which include 4-5 large prop baits like Rip Roller from High Roller or Peacock Rippers from Klures, 4-5 Saltwater Super Spooks, 4-5 inch minnow baits. I also bring 50+ soft plastics like the Zoom Super Flukes and 50 of my own Stevie Stinger jigs in soft zip-lock plastic bags. It’s all too easy to bring every lure you have on our tours, but baggage weight on floatplanes is a major safety issue. Rico Airlines have restricted everyone to weight limits of 33lbs in a soft duffel bag within the floatplane’s pontoons and 11lbs in hand luggage for a total of 44lbs (20kgs) max. For lure fishing, my own set-ups are always simple. I use two Medium/ Heavy 6ft bait casting rods with 65lb braid and 5-6ft of
All reels must have smooth drags or it’s over before it’s even started! Peacock will wreck fishing gear…
60lb fluorocarbon leader for large surface lures and bigger minnow baits. For jigs, smaller lures and soft plastics I use a Medium 6ft bait casting or spinning rod with 50lb braid and 5-6ft of 40lb fluorocarbon. All reels must have smooth drags or it’s over before it’s even started! Peacock will wreck fishing gear…
The way to use these big prop baits is to cast past the target point and use a fast rip, stop, rip, stop cadence all the way back to the boat. This is the ultimate in aggravating the fish to produce such explosive strikes. I use Spooks in a walk-the-dog style, pausing sometimes for more effect, again casting beyond the target point and this looks very much like a snake or wounded bait fish zig-zagging over the surface. BOOOOM! A fast, jerking retrieve produces hard strikes with minnow baits and jigs too and will catch many more fish than on top water fair, but the ‘hit’ is still hard and solid and the fight always as tough! For all lures, bring a mixed bunch of colours to play with as Peacocks can be choosy from one day to the next. With soft plastics I slow-jerk them almost like a glide bait and it is a very visual way to catch Peacock Bass. Best colours
for soft plastics for me were white/pearl and dare I admit it... shocking pink!
There are many different fishing situations to catch Peacocks. As they are mostly structure related, this means enticing them out of their haunts in the trees in the lagoon systems to follow a bait and strike at it. But plenty of Peacocks can be caught out in the open too and I always try a cast or two into the middle of the lagoon. Points, laydowns and tree stands in the lagoons, and beaches in the main river system, all make for a beautiful backdrop to any fishing trip. Imagine the shape of a Largemouth Bass but without the pot belly, then imagine it full of muscles on steroids, a jet engine strapped to the back of its multi-coloured body, then that is the Peacock Bass. When not in their spawning mode, Peacocks take on the ‘Paca’ form with horizontal white dots and dashes along purple/blue or brown flanks. At this stage they are built for speed, fighting and feeding and are called Pacas because they look like the Amazonian Jungle Paca or Agouti rodent, which has a similar fawn colouration. Pacas will
morph into their spawning uniform, with the dots and dashed disappearing and the three bars coming through to become full-blown, breeding and parenting Three-Barred Peacocks.
When I ask people what they imagine the Amazon would be like, most say they reckon that it’s a mosquito-ridden, snake-infested swampland! That statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Most of the rivers we fish are black, tannin-stained waters due to the process of leaves bio-degrading. The leaves are full of tannic acid and the rain water and rising water levels percolate through the leaves, sand and porous clay just like black tea. With its high acidity, there are zero mosquitos where we fish and most certainly no snakes aboard our fishing boats or camps. There are hundreds of lagoons all holding trophy-sized Peacock Bass throughout the region.
Our trips are not only for
anglers but also for photographers and wildlife enthusiasts. Nearly all of our destinations give you close up and personal access to an incredible array of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects.
Waking up to an Amazon dawn chorus, you’ll sure know about it! Parrots of every hue and colour yap away in the treetops; Macaws screech their way across the canopy at each other; and a multitude of birds and insects erupt in a cacophony of song and dance. It’s rare to see most of the Amazon’s land-based mammals during the day as they’re mainly nocturnal, but it makes for a pleasant surprise to see wild Pigs, Tapirs or perhaps a Jaguar crossing the river. At night, Agoutis, Capybaras and other large fruit and nut-foraging rodents can be seen with a flashlight up on the banks along with the usual Caiman Alligators.
Giant River Otters are frequent in the Amazon and they bark and growl at you as you invade their territory. These are their fishing grounds, so
Giant River Otters are frequent in the Amazon and they bark and growl at you as you invade their territory.
what are you doing there? There are two species of freshwater dolphins that inhabit the rivers we fish - the Tucuxi or grey Dolphin and its big cousin, the Boto or Pink Dolphin. Both species hunt fish in packs. A famous Indian legend alleges that a Pink Dolphin can morph into a beautiful young man and seduce the young girls in the villages. Many Indians still believe in it and forgive their daughters for getting pregnant at such a young age! Literally hundreds of goodsized Peacock Bass were hooked, caught or lost and the best fish for the week weighed in at 18lbs by British angler Mark Edwards. Some more high teeners were caught too, mostly on jigs, soft plastics and top water lures. All in all, a great week for us all. My multi-national group consisted of British, Americans, Canadians and an Austrian fishermen. Flying back to Manaus with heavy hearts, my guests all stated they would be back. As I always say, “once you’ve been bitten by the Peacock bug, there’s no going back”, and it’s also true for these new Amazon addicts !
The author with his favorite fish.
A floatplane is the ONLY way to get to these far away destinations in a short period of time.
Making your way in the jungle can be a real adventure !
The beautiful red tail catfish (Phractocephalus hemioliopterus) also inhabits these waters. They are prized sportifsh because of their strength and size, reaching up to 100lb.
Aimaras will attack the same lures you catch peacocks with. Their strikes are just as explosive.
The floating pontoon camp on the move.
Another great sportfishing species : the beautiful surubi catfish.
A beautiful peacock in its non-spawning «paca» color phase.
Peacocks will wreck your lures !
One of the many wonders of the Brazilian waters : the bicuda fish. They can grow up to 15lb and have an amazing aerial defence.
As they get ready for spawning, the peacock’s stripes slowly darkens.