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Continuing subscribers will remember subscriber Barney Adams’s controversy report in the February 2012 issue about a peacock bass trip to the Amazon that did not live up to his expectations. The main problem was the lack of big fish and the difficulty his party had catching fish on topwater lures. The latter is important because one of the main reasons many anglers go to the Amazon is to experience the huge crashes peacock bass make when they hit on top.
The rebuttal statement attached to Adams’s report blamed the lack of action on high water, and indeed that appeared to be a factor, as it surely was in the following report from subscriber Steve Cart, who fished the Amazon this past January 14–22 with another outfitter, Capt. Peacock Expeditions (www
.captpeacock.com). Interestingly, the complaint about the lack of topwater action surfaces in Cart’s report, as does word of widespread trolling, not just of lures, but—of all things!—flies, which is what Cart and another angler used. What is going on with peacocks on top in the Amazon? Have too many anglers dragged too many topwater lures over a limited amount of water? Should fly anglers who have stayed away from the Amazon because of its image as a bait-casting destination give the area another look? You be the judge.
Before turning to Cart’s report about all of this, it is important to note that he has very good things to say about the Capt. Peacock boat he stayed on, as well as the food, staff, and overall trip logistics. Also, Cart says they caught the following big fish: five 10 pounders, three 11 pounders, two 12 pounders, three 13 pounders, one 14 pounder, three 15 pounders, two 16 pounders, one 18 pounder, and one 20 pounder. Clearly, this trip was not a complete bust, despite the problems he notes here.
“The general consensus of everyone on this trip to the Rio Negro last January was that the water level was too high. Indeed, the outfitter admitted as much, saying high water had reduced the area that was available to fish. That was evident by the number of outfitters fishing the same water as our group. As many as four other live-aboard outfits were operating in the same tributary we fished. It was not uncommon to see boats from other operations fishing the very same water we were. It was disappointing to travel that far and have to deal with that much fishing pressure. This was my first trip to the Amazon in pursuit of peacock bass, but I have previously fished Argentina, Russia, New Zealand, Belize, Mexico, Alaska, and all corners of the Lower 48. Nowhere except in Alaska have I seen so many anglers fishing the same water in such a remote area as I saw on this trip.
“One other angler and I were the only fly fishermen. The rest of the guys on the trip fished with conventional tackle. A troubling aspect of our trip was that the vast majority of fish—and most of the bigger fish—was caught trolling. Interestingly, most of the very largest fish were caught trolling flies (not lures) with conventional tackle. The guides would position a worm weight on the line about a foot ahead of a baitfish pattern and troll it. The one 20-pound fish that was taken fell to this method. In my recollection, only three or four 10-plus-pound fish were caught casting and only one 12 pounder was caught that way, a fish I managed to take on the fly. I also broke off four big fish with the fly that I couldn’t turn.
“I really believe that the peacock bass where we were fishing have become conditioned to avoid topwater lures. The other fly fisherman and I caught as many, if not more, fish than the conventional fishermen. It seems like the fish wanted a smaller, less noisy presentation. Maybe when the water is at a more normal level, allowing the outfitters to spread out, a different pattern will emerge. But the one in place while I was there almost required trolling on the part of anglers using conventional tackle.”