I woke up to find that a paddle crushed my 6-weight Winston while traveling down river last night. It seemed as though today wasn’t going to be a shining one but fortunately it was all uphill from there. Ben and I left with our guide Augustin early, skipping breakfast in hopes to catch a payara on the fly.
There’s only been one payara taken on the fly here in Kendjam and that came by Ben earlier in the week. That’s enough to tell us they’re here and that it can be done. We went to a section of the Iriri River where our Kayapo boatmen have seen the toothy fish on occasion. The current was slow and deep, the opposite of where I’ve caught them before.
What little knowledge we have of these fierce looking fish allowed us to piece together a game plan to catch a few. First and foremost, start early. From there I kept the plan simple: grab my 9-weight Winston Boron III Plus Jungle rod, go deep with my Sonar 300 grain sinking line, a straight 25lb Flouro leader, 12” of 30lb wire and tie on a big heavy black and red fly I used for golden dorado in Bolivia.
Ben and I launched long casts and let our flies sink. My stripping method was three long fast strips followed by a dead stop for two seconds. Then I repeated this all the way to the boat. I’m not sure how Ben was striping but within our first few casts we each picked off a hefty peacock.
No doubt big predator fish are attracted to stress signals from other fish. Ben was unhooking one of his peacocks when I saw a silver flash down deep in the morning sun. I couldn’t identify the fish but I made sure to get my fly in the area as soon as possible. It was on the pause of my retrieve that I went tight and a payara missiled into the air. Fish on!
Payara are an amazing game fish that love to jump. They twist and shake their heads violently in the air. You can hear your fly rattle against their teeth. My payara didn’t disappoint. Luckily, he stayed on and within four minutes I had him to the boat. He was an awesome specimen topping off the Boga at 12lbs.
The payara is a fish you don’t like to release too soon. It’s not that they don’t need to be put back but it’s the fact that you can’t stop staring at their remarkable appearance. Piranhas were my fish of dreams as a kid but that’s only because I didn’t know about the payara. The streamline shape of this fish, the color bands in his tail, the eye that sizes you up and teeth like that of a tiger leave you in absolute awe.
One payara would be all for Ben and I. Once the sun got high around 9 AM it seemed our chances were over. We were starving from skipping breakfast so we worked our way to camp for a short break. The overhead sun lit a sand flat so well we could see across it for a mile. Just for kicks we walked it hoping to spot a surubi catfish to cast a fly to. That didn’t happen but we picked off a few more peacocks and I dueled with a massive bicuda that jumped ten times for me!
After a snack at camp we headed for a pacu rapid. After the beating I took yesterday from the round hard to hook fish I needed redemption. I promise you however, it wasn’t that easy. I missed three more takes in a row altogether. Then I hooked another two that I lost on the jump before finally landing a good pacu borracha.
Although not the largest, this particular pacu was my hardest fighter. Its strange that he was though because he came from above the rapids and was actually sitting in a calm back eddy near a rock. That just goes to show there’s much to learn about this brilliant fishery.
It pays to know to quit while you’re ahead. I could have easily continued to pursue pacu but with my luck with them the last 24 hours I opted to play around. First thing I did was land a nice 4lb peacock bass on my 5-weight Winston and a Chernobyl ant. As if that wasn’t enough. Next I added another Chernobyl and attempted two at a time. All I had to do was hook one then let him tow the second fly through the water. My plan worked but it was about an 8lb peacock that took my dropper and he broke my 25lb Flouro like it was floss.
I went the opposite way after the double peacock fiasco. I kept on one Chernobyl Ant and dropped a nymph below it on 4X. I see colorful looking small fish all the time and wondered if I could come up with one. Dang if I didn’t catch one of the neatest looking fish of all. This is a species of piau and may take some time to learn exactly which piau it is.
We have only one more day of fishing before back to Idaho. Ben has the payara bug so we aim to be on them again early tomorrow. I know there’s plenty bigger than what I landed today. We’ll cross our fingers.
A special thanks to my friends Rodrigo and Marcelo of Untamed Angling for making this incredible journey possible. If you too would like to experience a similar trip to Kendjam feel free to contact me.