December 8, 2011
I got up early as usual, poured a coffee and strolled around camp. As I was doing so I noticed some shrubs shaking out a ways from shore. I watched thinking I’d see a caiman or a snake or something crazy, but it turns out it was a fish. And probably a big peacock bass. I dropped my coffee and ran for my rod. I chose my 8-weight Ross already rigged with a popper.
When I got back the fish had moved to the next clump of bushes. He was definitely hunting and by now well out of casting range. I tried to wade out, but not a chance. It got deep fast and my wade turned into treading water towards the disturbance. There’s a real art to treading water and casting at the same time, especially when your back casts have to be incredibly accurate as not to tangle in the trees. There was also some current to deal with so as my legs kicked like eggbeaters I was bouncing into trees like the peacock bass. At last I laid a good cast and on the first pop the big peacock devoured my fly. While my casting up to my neck skills are pretty good, my hook set sucked and I missed him. It was peacocks one “Currier” zero before breakfast.
After breakfast I headed out fishing with my long time friend Steve Berry. The only place Steve and I have fished together is in Arizona. We’ve chased grass carp (White Amur) in every pond and lake around the Phoenix area and largemouth bass and smallmouth bass in the outer lakes. Steve and his girlfriend Cinda even guided me into my first Apache trout. But despite how fun all those little jaunts have been, fishing today in the Amazon topped all.
While Becky headed off with Steve’s partner Bill and his guide, Steve and I headed out with my guide Matu. We were anxious and therefore the first boat out. As we took off Matu could sense that Steve and I are long time friends and you could tell he was on a mission to find us some interesting fishing.
After the first speeding jungle run we eased into more of a river than a lagoon. With the water still dropping fast there was a surprisingly lot of current. So far this trip we’ve tried very few of these type places. The area was narrow and I hit the right side while Steve hit the left from the front of the boat. Unfortunately, it became quickly apparent that piranhas love current because both of us had our peacock flies trimmed in the first minutes.
As always, I have my 6-weight handy with a chunk of wire and a red and white Clouser attached to molest a few piranhas. I picked it up quick and nailed a nice one before we were out of the school. Then I saw what appeared to be a peacock place. I switched back to my peacock rod and Steve and I each launched a cast to the peacock fortress. In an instant my fly got smashed. It was a big fish and he immediately tried to pin me back in the logs. As always I began a new blister into my fingers struggling to keep the fish from his safety when snap! I broke him off. My 40lb saltwater tippet snapped on a 10lb fish! I raised my head in despair only to see a cool little monkey spying on me from above.
Steve got a good laugh at that. He was stunned how hard I held on to the fish. And it probably looked like a stupid thing to do. But usually my 40lb holds ok. Certainly if I let him into the logs I wouldn’t have had a chance anyway. No matter how you look at it that wicked peacock won the battle and by now Steve was hooked up. And by the time I re-rigged my leader and a new fly Steve landed two peacocks including one quite respectable.
We must have landed about ten peacocks in that one spot. From there Matu steered us down current with his paddle into an area where it was impossible to cast because we were buried in jungle. Steve and I began flipping our flies into tiny open areas around logs and bushes. Once the fly hit you wouldn’t even strip. We’d twitch our imitations and then swirl a figure 8 with our rod tips. This did the trick and we picked up a few more little peacocks and I also caught about a 14” payara. This payara was different than the little guys I posted two days ago. He was the specie I’m more used to – gray, a little fatter and has a very unique adipose fin as well as black and white ridge a the end of his tail – the kind I’ve caught in the Orinoco of Venezuela.
Steve and I were off to a roaring start. Fishing was looking to be the best it’s been. It was still morning and we each landed about ten. The big boys however were hiding. By 11 AM it was sweltering hot. Since the rain stopped on the second day, each day has gotten hotter. I’m talking the mid 90°s with unbelievably high humidity. It gets so hot that the metal boat deck can burn you. Personally I like fishing barefoot because I don’t have to worry about standing on the line or it tangling around a shoe which leads to disaster when you hook a beast. But the bottoms of my feet started to smolder so on went my flip flops.
We lucked out in the afternoon. The scorching sun was replaced by a thin cloud layer. This allowed me back to my barefoot fishing and the temp dropped to a comfortable low 90ºs. The fish became even more active than they were in the morning and some very unique species came out. There’s a fish down here they call a sardinata. It’s very similar to our American shad. Most the sardinata I’ve taken over the years have had a silver/blue color, but this afternoon I caught a couple that were literally gold. They were absolutely gorgeous!
At 5 PM Matu had us very close to camp. Normally we need to be in by 5 but some of the other boats passed us on their way in so they knew where we were and staying out a little later wasn’t an issue. Everything was eerily still. There were few squawking birds including huge toucan that watched our every move. And when you cast into the jungle you could only see blackness beyond the splat of your fly. We were continuing to catch lots of peacocks and I pulled in yet another cool species called a bicuda. Then Steve yanked on a beauty. It was a monster and in two seconds the brute went around a tree and snapped him off. You know how we know it was big? Because Steve got re-rigged and quickly hooked this fish and landed him. This fish was NOTHING compared to the one that got away!
What a great day. Steve and I combined for more than 40 peacocks and I multi-specied like one can only do in the Amazon. I’m sure the next time we chase the grass carp we’ll spend most the time reminiscing about today. In fact everyone did well today and as always we celebrated around camp. The only bad thing is that tomorrow is the last day. . .