The Rio Demeni

Sportfishing Adventures - - CONTENT - Text and pho­tos by Steve Town­son

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-An­ 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.

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