Ama­zon peacocks

Sportfishing Adventures - - Content - Text and pho­to­gra­phy by Jo­na­than Boul­ton

For ma­ny of us the Ama­zon jungle is just ano­ther in­tri­guing piece on the Dis­co­ve­ry Chan­nel, images of an im­pe­ne­trable ca­no­py, aghast with craw­lers, cree­pers and sli­the­rers. Sip­ping your cup of tea you find your­self won­de­ring if the film crew ever even made it out of there alive, psy­cho­lo­gi­cal­ly scar­red or spor­ting some reoc­cur­ring itch that will baffle tro­pi­cal sur­geons for years to come. While the saf­tey of your arm­chair ar­med on­ly with the re­mote control might seem like the most sen­sible means of ex­plo­ring the jungle, the Ama­zon is a spec­tacle that real­ly needs to be ex­pe­rien­ced. And to see it ar­med with a fishing rod - well let's just say you will ne­ver look at a long fi­sh­less day on your fa­vou­rite sal­mon ri­ver, with lea­king wa­ders and bi­ting midges quite the same again!

For se­ve­ral years I have been lea­ding groups of in­tre­pid an­glers to the depths of the Ama­zon jungle. Fishing pri­ma­ri­ly for pea­cock bass most­ly on fly, it’s a trip of­ten re­gar­ded as a once off, a trip to tick off your bu­cket list and be able to say you have been there, done that and got the t-shirt. Ho­we­ver, of all the fishing adventures around the world I host, my trip to the heart of the Ama­zon has by far the greatest im­pact on an­glers, and is a trip ge­ne­rates the most re­peat boo­kings. The Ama­zon jungle is a vast un-spoilt wil­der­ness, a fact on­ly gras­ped when boar­ding the light air­craft at Ma­naus, the ci­ty on the edge of the jungle. Ma­naus is the ca­pi­tol of the Brazilian state of Ama­zo­nas the lar­gest state in the coun­try, twice the size of Texas and can have Spain squee­zed in­to it more than twice! Af­ter clim­bing to a cruise al­ti­tude of any­thing around th­ree to five

Ven­tu­ring through the tri­bu­ta­ries is an ama­zing ex­pe­rience. You ne­ver get bo­red of the sight-seeing break bet­ween one fishing spot to ano­ther.

thou­sand feet all that can be seen from ho­ri­zon to ho­ri­zon is the soft green car­pet that is the top of the jungle ca­no­py. Ine­vi­ta­bly one slips away in­to a light sleep lul­led by the drone of the en­gines and the ti­red­ness of hours of in­ter­na­tio­nal tr avel.

Af­ter an hour and half the pitch of the en­gine changes, awa­ke­ning you to the fact that so­me­thing is hap­pe­ning, still ho­ri­zon to ho­ri­zon fo­rest, punc­tua­ted with a win­ding tea co­lou­red ri­ver with beau­ti­ful­ly contras­ting white sand banks. It's at this point that you rea­lise that the word ‘re­mote’ does not do jus­tice to just how re­mo­ved you are from eve­ry­thing and just how far any form of ci­vi­li­sa­tion is, apart from the camp lo­ca­ted on the Agua Boa Ri­ver that will be your home for the week ahead.

The Ama­zon ba­sin is a mas­sive sys­tem and of course it is ne­ver the Ama­zon Ri­ver it­self that one fishes, this is ki­lo­metres wide, deep fea­tu­re­less and hea­vi­ly se­di­ment la­den. The best sport fishing is found on the dis­tant tri­bu­ta­ries of the main ri­ver. The sou­thern tri­bu­ta­ries are fi­shed though the months of June, Ju­ly, Au­gust and Sep­tem­ber, these rivers have lo­wer tan­nin loads from rot­ting leaf lit­ter and pro-

If ever there was a fish that hit a fly like the fly owed it mo­ney, the Pea­cock is that fish

vide ex­ci­ting sight fishing. The price to pay is a high num­ber of bi­ting in­sects in­clu­ding mos­qui­toes and the mer­ci­less " no­see ums ". The Nor­thern tri­bu­ta­ries, flo­wing in­to the Bran­co and Ne­gro, are of­ten re­fer­red to as " black water" sys­tems, with hi­gher le­vels of leaf lit­ter the condi­tions are not at all condu­cive to wa­ter­borne in­sects and an­glers en­joy the day un-ha­ras­sed.

While there is quite a lot of sight fishing for crui­sing or bus­ting fish, the main mo­dus ope­ran­di is cas­ting to snags. The fishing is ve­ry sti­mu­la­ting in that Pea­cock Bass are hu­ge­ly struc­ture orien­ta­ted; so casts have to be consis­tent­ly ac­cu­rate, skip­ping the fly in un­der ove­rhan­ging branches, tight up against the root pa­cked bank. Make the right pre­sen­ta­tion and be­fore you can say to your boat part­ner " did you see that cast " the fish will re­ward you with an arm ren­ching take. If ever there was a fish that hit a fly like the fly owed it mo­ney, the Pea­cock is that fish. Eight and nine weight fly rods are a per­fect for the bread and but­ter fish of bet­ween two and five pounds, while ha­ving the back­bone for that much co­ve­ted prize - the double fi­gure, ten pounds and up, re­fer­red to as " El Grande". Large pro­file bait­fish pat­terns are le­thal, a fa­vou­rite though is the "Ba­by Pea­cock" the dis­tinct olive, orange and yel­low co­lou­ra­tion with black bar­ring, una­sha­med­ly mi­mi­cking the co­lour of their ve­ry own young that they will mer­ci­less­ly in­hale.

A hoo­ked tro­phy Pea­cock will turn tail and head back in­to the struc­ture with such force you may well wish it was a hea­vy ten weight you were wiel­ding. Lea­der ma­te­rial, like the quar­ry is un­subt­ly bru­tal, no ta­pe­red lea­ders, a simple short, six foot length of the most abra­sion re­sis­tant, 40 -60 pound mo­no­fi­la­ment de­pen­ding upon water cla­ri­ty. Peacocks are su­ckers for a sur­face pop­per, and while fishing top water will not pro­duce the same amount of hook ups as the sin­king line, damn it – it’s fun to see them ex­plode on your fly!

When the light changes from a dull grey to a fi­rey red, and the pri­mor­dial sound of the jungle co­ming to life is in­des­cri­bable. Your guide pulls his com­for­table flat bot­to­med alu­mi­nium skiff up along the sand banks af­ter break­fast, and loads your rods and lunch, his co­oler brim­ming with mi­ne­ral water, soft drinks, beers and ice. Af­ter ap-

The pea­cock bass (Cichla Temensis) is the lar­gest mem­ber of the ci­chlid fa­mi­ly that are na­tive to the Ama­zon Ri­ver Ba­sin of South Ame­ri­ca. They have sand­pa­per-like mouths si­mi­lar to that of a lar­ge­mouth bass, and the­re­fore can be hand­led sa­fe­ly by the lo­wer jaw.

Along with pea­cock bass, you can en­coun­ter the odd loo­king aro­wa­na (top) and the vi­cious ai­ma­ra (bot­tom).

plying sun­tan cream and ta­king care of all the other im­por­tant pro­ce­dures be­fore a long day in the boat, it’s off up ri­ver. The sweet in­toxi­ca­ting ozone rich air in­vi­go­rates you as you head ups­tream, “pro­ba­bly the clea­nest air I will ever breathe” my boat part­ner said to me one mor­ning – not wrong I thought!

Each bend in the ri­ver pro­mises so­me­thing new, a burst of co­lour as start­led Ma­caws tumble out of the ca­no­py, start­led by the in­tru­sion of the boat. The splash and swirl as a Cay­man dashes off a sand­bank ta­king re­fuge in the dark depths of a back la­goon. All of sud­den the guide comes off the throt­tle, cuts the en­gine and drops down his electric trol­ling mo­tor, al­lo­wing him to si­lent­ly sneak in­to the fish filled ba­ck­wa­ters. Al­ways an ex­hi­la­ra­ting sigh­ting is pale ane­mic loo­king fre­sh­wa­ter dol­phins which play­ful­ly roll past the boat. The Giant Ama­zo­nian ot­ters hunt in packs, cra­shing through the un­der­growth they cor­ral fish in­to the shal­lows with the de­li­ca­cy of a do­zen La­bra­dors let lose in a duck pond!

I have heard Ja­guar be­fore but ne­ver been lu­cky en­ough to catch a glimpse of them. This year a re­ti­red couple that have been fishing the Ama­zon with me for a long time were ta­king a long lunch break. Mrs was snoo­zing in the ham­mock that had been put up by the guide in the shade and

When pro­tec­ting their young, peacocks be­come ex­tre­me­ly ter­ri­to­rial and ag­gres­sive, ge­ne­ra­ting ex­plo­sive sur­face strikes.

Mr had put out a dead pi­ran­ha bait to tempt the giant red­tail cat­fish, quiet­ly tied up against the shore they could not be­lieve their luck when, not too far, above them two Ja­guar slip­ped in the water to cross the ri­ver and the cur­rent bought them right past the boat! Af­ter lunch a re­fre­shing swim will wash the cob webs away, swim­ming is per­fect­ly safe, the Cay­men and plen­ti­ful Pi­ran­ha have so much fish avai­lable to them the they won’t be bo­the­ring trying to snack on us.

The af­ter­noon ses­sion of­ten pro­duces the bet­ter fish for me, I am not sure if it’s a change in condi­tions or just that one’s senses are shar­pe­ned, you know what you are loo­king for, your cas­ting has im­pro­ved and your just more in touch with what’s going on. Be­fore you know it the sun is low in the sky and your guide un­ce­re­mo­nious­ly lifts up the electric mo­tor cranks the main out­board and an­nounces “back to camp”. The ses­sion has gone buy in the blink of an eye, you brain throbs from a sen­so­ry over­load of what won­ders it’s had to pro­cess in the day. The heat and hu­mi­di­ty has drai­ned you, but it’s that great, heal­thy, sa­tis­fied ex­haus­tion that ac­com­pa­nies an aching arm from figh­ting fish and sore cheek muscles from grin­ning in­ane­ly in­to the ca­me­ra lens, po­sing with yet ano­ther brea­th­ta­king fish. You reach in­to the co­oler for a cold beer to en­joy on the run back downs­tream, kno­wing that to­mor­row you’ve got to do it all over again!

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