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!