December 9, 2011
I miss my Granny. I wish she was on her way down to the Amazon and that we were together here for another month. But instead, today was the last fishing day and the journey home begins tomorrow. With that in mind, everyone got up early and headed fishing sooner than any day this week.
Becky and I went with Moe. Dale and Ken went with Matu. This worked out good because in my experience with Moe, he’s the best for big peacocks. And Becky would really like to catch a peacock of over 10lbs as she’s one of the few who hasn’t. She’s worked her little butt off all week but somehow the big guys have eluded her.
We rolled out as usual. And as usual, about ten minutes into the drive I was lost as hell. Moe zigzags through lagoons, rainforest, unheard of rivers etc so fast I don’t know how we ever get back to camp. It’s really cool. This morning we didn’t go as far as normal because at 2 PM we were returning to camp so Becky could join Linda and tour a village and I could meet up with Mark and go catfishing for the final two hours of the trip. Even though we made a short run with Moe, we were still in the boonies!
Our lagoon was long and narrow. For awhile I could hit both sides of the fishy looking water body with a long cast on the right. Becky and I started out hot by catching several gray bar peacocks like there was nothing to it. Their sizes were nice for this species but we fought them fast in order to get the fly right back out there in search of a beast.
There was a lot of activity splashing around mid lagoon. There’s lots of baitfish species that don’t take flies. The guides have various names for them. I often launch a cast at their splashes in hopes something weird takes my fly. Today I landed a picúa, often known as the freshwater barracuda or dogfish. They put up a good little fight but if you don’t have on wire or heavy mono shock tippet you’re likely to lose them because of their teeth. When I caught this one Moe kind of gave me a look of disgust as he really wants some big peacocks in his boat rather than what he considers garbage fish.
Fishing remained hot. Becky racked up more fish than she’d taken in a single day all trip. I too had numerous peacocks. We caught all species of them including this gorgeous little butterfly. On low water years we catch more butterflies than you can imagine but this was the only one Becky and I saw all week. I also got a cast at a pirarucú also known as arapaima. These fish are rare in the Amazon these days because they are delicious, air breathing and easy to harpoon. They reach sizes of over 10 feet long and more than 600lbs! One pirarucú can feed an entire village. The pirarucú I cast to was small, I’m guessing by his disturbance more like five feet long. I cast at him right after he rolled then several cast towards his bubble trail but then he was gone. You can only imagine how bad I want to catch one of these rare fish!
Moe told us we had to leave at 1:30 in order to be back to camp by 2. When he grunted and held is hand up with four fingers we knew we had four minutes left. We’d had a terrific morning of fishing but Becky was still shy her 10lber. There was a great looking sunken tree approaching. I reeled in and said its all yours and watched. Lo and behold, she made one strip and the three of us watched a massive peacock devour her fly. I mean 15lbs or better! It was flipping humongous! And you know what happened? It wouldn’t have mattered who was holding the rod. The rod could have been a 12-weight, a tuna stick or a marlin rig – Becky was toasted!
I heard my 10-weight she was using crackle under the pressure and when her fly line slipped through her bandaged up fingers I swear I smelled something burning. Honestly, this big fish manhandled the situation. Moe usually laughs at people that get worked over by a peacock, but he was shook up. We couldn’t tell if Becky was broke off or just tangled. I guess in a perfect world the fish could have been on. Her line basically went down out of sight under the tree trunk. It came up and back into sight some 20 feet away from us and then over another log and back into the jungle. It was mess. Moe made his usual effort. He had Becky loosen her drag and he went overboard and followed the line into the jungle. If that fish was still attached I’d of eaten my hat. He wasn’t and Becky reeled in and sat down. She was trembling with fright and excitement and said hand me a beer.
Whew! What a way to end the peacock fishing. Becky and I powered down a couple of beers in the half hour run back to camp. It was a great week. Becky didn’t get her fish but man is she ready to come back. I seriously doubt I’ll ever be in Brazil again without her.
While Moe took Becky and Linda off to some Indian village, I hopped in with Mark and his guide to go dunk piranha heads for catfish. We only had two hours to do so but what the heck; it only takes one cast to make things happen. It turns out Mark and Linda catfished all morning and never had a single bite.
The first place we stopped was a high bank in the shade. They had one really good catfish rig on board and I got the luck of using it. Mark used his own which looked like it was very capable of exploding to pieces if he got a big fish on. The guide hooked my up a piranha head and I miraculously casted the bait caster without a backlash. Two seconds after my head was on bottom I got a thump. Piranhas are a nuisance with their pecking and bait stealing, but this felt different. Sure enough I had something big and I wrenched on him.
The fight was on but it was weird. This fish moved slightly then stopped. I’d lift him off bottom a little then he’d manage to get back down. It was almost as if he was stuck – that could easily be. Our guide re-positioned the boat several times while I used everything I had to move this fish. Finally I got a break and the fish started coming up off the bottom. It still felt odd and sure enough the fish was odd. It was a freshwater stingray of about 20lbs. A very interesting, yet dangerous creature. We clicked a quick photo then released him very very carefully.
We thought the action would be good after that, but we never got another bite there or at any other places. At 4:30 we made one last attempt. It was another high bank. The sun was setting. There were some very unusual bird sounds all around us, howler monkeys growling as if in a rage and the constant breaths of the freshwater dolphins up and down the river. It was very special and Mark and I were both reminiscing about the week. It’s been a great one. Then I got that thump again. Only it thumped then nibbled. Then thumped then nibbled. I let out some line and watched it go. Something decent definitely indulged on my piranha head. I lowered the bait casting outfit and reeled till I felt pressure than set the hook like no tomorrow. Fish on!
This fish was no stingray. It absolutely took off downstream. Not only could I see line peeling off the reel, I could feel it bumping off debris along the bottom of the Amazon. The run went on and on. I told the guide it was time to follow but he didn’t understand my English. Mark then started pointing to my reel. There was very little line left. Our guide then fired up the motor and we followed after the fish. Sure enough, the fish became entangled in a snag down deep.
Mark had learned from his catfish earlier in the week that now was time to loosen up the pressure. I did so while our guide moved the boat at several different angles. Each time we moved I’d tighten up again and pull on the fish. He was really stuck, but I could still tell he was there. Nearly ready to give up, we got right over the top of him and I reeled and lifted as hard as I could. This was 80lb braid so I nearly went overboard pulling as hard as I was. Then to my delight and big time surprise I felt my fish break free of his snag.
Our guide asked me to take it easy again and he drove the boat towards mid river. Then he nodded and I started pumping the fish in with all my might. In the middle of the river there are few snags to endanger losing the fish. I had him. And after a short two minutes of reeling and pumping there was my fish. It was a fabulous monster redtail catfish! A true monster of the deep!
I let out a loud cheer. I was very excited to see such an amazing creature come up out of this black water. Now it was time to figure out how we would get it in the boat. The cat was easily 50lbs of pure muscle. It wouldn’t be easy. First we tried to net him in the massive peacock net but then decided against it. Then not using it wouldn’t work so we tried the net again. Our guide got most of the fish in and then he and I lifted the cat on board. I had my massive redtail catfish!
It’s not easy to handle such a fish in the small confines of a tin boat. If you’re gonna do it you need to dive in. Don’t be bashful. I’ve waited my entire life to catch a truly giant catfish so I was by no means bashful and I dove in! I wasn’t scared I couldn’t lift him. I wasn’t scared of being spined. I just wrapped my arms around him and went for it. It worked!
Mark clicked off pictures at about every angle possible. I did some sitting down with the fish then I stood up in the bow and strained every muscle in my body to hold him. Finally we took the fish to the shallows and I got out and played with him there. The redtail catfish is a truly amazing creature.
This has been a magnificent week down here with River Plate in the Amazon. And remember, this was high water. The Amazon fishes even better in normal conditions. This place offers some of the greatest fly fishing in the world, and it is one of the greatest fishing adventures you could ever have. Unfortunately I won’t be back for awhile. I could not fill my scheduled trip for February so I canceled my reservations for 2012. However, I will try again for February 2013. If you want to go contact me ASAP. I believe after this week’s blog there could be a waiting list!