Blackwater Surprises

December 4, 2011

It’s hard to beat waking up in a camp on the banks of the Amazon. Some of the coolest birds make their morning calls. Dolphin chase bait in front of your cabin. And the camp staff has delicious coffee made by 5:30. Life really doesn’t get any better.

I got up around 5 AM. Believe it or not I was freezing. Obviously it’s not cold here but River Plate cabins actually have air conditioners. Becky and I accidentally set ours so cold we froze to death. So bad that I turned it completely off in the middle of the night only to awake about an hour later just roasting. Then back on again and freezing by daylight. I ended up opening both doors and the windows to let the hot air back in. This morning John told us exactly what number to set our air conditioner at and we should be set for the rest of the week.

Breakfast is served at 6 AM in camp and the sooner you finish the quicker you head out fishing. Here at River Plate guides are eager to go and ready when you are. Becky awoke to a dismal looking rod hand. You may remember I said this trip is her first time casting heavy rods, well let’s just say she developed some aches and pains. She says her wrist is killing her and she has a terrible blister on her hand. Luckily, she’s about as close to a doctor as you can be and she fixed it up with some goo and tape. She’s also a maniac like her older brother and after the first half hour fishing she wore away the pain.

Fishing started rough for us again. Luckily there were no equipment failures. My artillery of Ross Rods and Reels and my Scientific Angler lines were doing their part. We simply couldn’t find the fish. I lucked into one tiny speckled peacock but that was all we got before lunch.

Lunch generally consists of a woofing of a sandwich in the shade. But due to the slowness of today, Matu set Becky and me up with some hammocks. We relaxed in the shade, ate and drank a beer. Then Matu took us on one of his jungle-maze runs and we popped out in a beautiful lagoon. Becky and I were stoked and overflowing with confidence, but I heard Matu growl and looked back only to get hand signals from him that the water here was much too high. Knowing this would likely be the case everywhere I signaled back that I was willing to give it a try.


This appeared to be a great time for Becky to rest her arm so I went to work casting from the bow while Matu eased me along with an electric trolling motor. Even though I wasn’t catching any fish I was having a good time. One thing about peacock fishing is that the deeper into the jungle you land a cast the better you do. At this particular spot casting was like a game. I wasn’t even thinking about fish. I was just taking casting risks one after another lucking into a few casts that surprised the hell out of me. But it wasn’t some great cast twenty feet back through a small gap in the forest that drew the first strike. The brutal attack on my fly occurred about ten feet out towards the boat. And it’s a good thing.

Big peacock bass hit a fly harder than any freshwater fish I’ve ever met. They make trout and our bass seem like wimps. They hit harder than Nile perch, tigerfish, pike and the list goes on. They hit and run so ferociously it scares you and it often takes a miracle to stop them. This peacock that hit me dropped me to my knees. I fish a ridiculously strong five feet of straight 40lb shock tippet and that’s my leader. I attach it to a whipped loop on the fly line that I make myself. It’s the only way to have a chance. What dropped me to my knees was that at first I attempted not to let the huge fish run because if I did he would run so far back in the submerged trees, vines, bushes and etc that I’d never see him again.

Even with 40lb test, my 9-weight Ross and a lot of experience with peacocks I could only hold on for a few seconds. Gradually the line burned through my clenched hands, thumb and fingers. But my efforts slowed him enough. The one weakness of a peacock bass is that their fierce run is short lived. They give everything for about fifteen seconds. Then they fight about half as much and you steer them into the middle of the lagoon. I led my fish to Matu’s massive net after about four minutes.

You could say that Becky was in a state of shock. She was very impressed with what turned out to be a 13lb peacock. But it was the power of the peacock that awed her most. She was flat out frightened. This fishes strike and run had me grunting and groaning, nearly yanked me off the bow and bent my rod deeper than you could do by hand before finally giving in. Becky gave me a nervous smile, shook her head and said had she not seen that fight with her own eyes she would never believe it. And she said she wouldn’t have had a chance.


Everyone has a chance. Fish do stupid things just like people. Probably not as many though. I just put the screws to the fish long enough to get him. My hands too were now messed up. I’d put line blisters across my thumb and several fingers. Worthwhile scars and I hope there are more to come.

I acquired another wound while handling the beefy peacock. Just as I took him off the Boga for a few pics before releasing him, the muscular fish started a tantrum and his dorsal spines clipped my leg. My leg was a bloody mess that even after I stopped the bleeding, ached from the poison that all fish spines leave. No big deal though. We usually get the fish but sometimes they get you. It’s all part of the deal.

The rest of our day remained decent. Becky and I went on to nail about a dozen more peacocks including one of 7lb. When we got to camp I learned of mixed reports from the rest of the group. Ken and Dale had a rough day. They nailed just a couple small peacocks and Dale took a hook to the lip. He’ll be alright. Steve and Bill each caught a fish and Steve fell in. All is good though as Steve held onto the rod and didn’t lose any body parts to piranhas. We can laugh about it now. Mark and Linda had and exceptional day. They landed many peacocks and Linda landed this beautiful 12lb giant. In these conditions – absolutely fantastic!

3 Responses to “Blackwater Surprises”

  1. Erik Moncada December 14, 2011 at 5:14 pm #

    Falling in the Amazon is what I have on my “never to do” list! This blog was just what I needed this morning! Thanks!

  2. Jeff Currier - Global Fly Fishing December 14, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

    Funny – I actually swim every night after fishing. Probably not the smartest move but we have so little swimming here in ID and I miss it. I better mention that in a blog and show some pics!

  3. Erik Moncada December 14, 2011 at 9:13 pm #

    O shit! ha ha ha… you jump in willingly!? I guess someone like (inexperienced) me would only hear all of the bad things that can happen to you at the Amazon.

    Thinking about it, my idea of falling in the Amazon is…. if you fall in you get eaten by the fish… ha ha ha A bit extreme now that I think about it.

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