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It looks like it is finally beginning to happen: the peacock bass is catching on as a fly rod species in the Amazon! Yes, there has long been a single lodge in the Amazon (Agua Boa, www.aguaboaamazonlodge.com) that caters exclusively—and very successfully— to fly fishermen. But one flyoriented operation in an area as large as the Amazon is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the species as a longrod candidate. What’s new is, the largest operator in the Amazon has swung behind the creation of a fly fishing program. That operator is River Plate Angling, the company that pioneered the use of “river trains” that can reach remote headwaters of rivers and move from place to place as water levels and water clarity dictate. River Plate has the capability to operate four separate “trains” at a time, catering to as many as 36 anglers at once, spread out over hundreds of river miles on separate rivers. River Plate’s entry into fly fishing for peacocks assuredly means the species has arrived as a long-rod species. A backup development that reinforces that conclusion is the new website that his principal agent, J. W. Smith of Rod and Gun Resources, has created. It’s called South American Fly Fishing, and it is devoted largely to peacock bass fishing in the Amazon.
So, are the new recruits into Amazon fly fishing actually catching fish? Take a look at the following report from subscriber Gerry Patterson, who fished the Xeriuni River this past February with J. W. Smith and his wife, Dawn:
“There were seven people on the trip, including J. W. Smith and his wife, Dawn, from South American Fly Fishing/Rod and Gun Resources; Joe Draper; Jeff Martin; Jon Mefferd and his 12-year-old son, Drew; and me. Except for the Mefferds, everyone fished exclusively with fly tackle. The trip went off without any significant problems. We were met upon arrival in Manaus by representatives from River Plate and taken to the Tropical Hotel for a brief rest, rising early to eat a good breakfast before setting off to the domestic airport. A Cessna Caravan flew us up the Rio Negro for about one and a half hours to a well-maintained grass landing strip where we de-planed and, after a 30-minute wait, boarded a Cessna Caravan on floats for a short (40-minute or so) hop up to the Xeriuni River Camp.
“The river level was very low, so the fishing was a little slow for the first few days, though we all did catch a number of peacocks. We had suspected from previous reports that a medium sinktip line would work best with the fly fishing, and that proved true all week. Four-inch, bead-head Whistlers in red, white, and silver flash worked best. I tried some large poppers with little success. The bait-casting Mefferds did well all week with top-water lures, and young Drew landed a nice 12-pound peacock.
“I should mention that the boats we used on this trip were 21-foot, flatbottom, jon-boat-type craft, with a flyfishing- friendly casting deck and swivel seats. They were very well suited for two fly-anglers. All the boats had Boga grips, as well as trolling motors and coolers amply supplied with drinks. We rarely motored more than 30 minutes to start fishing. Every day, thanks to River Plate’s use of shallow-draft floating cabins (with air-conditioning!), the manager of the camps was able to move the entire camp upriver during the day while we were out. This put us on new spots every day that had experienced little pressure.
“Joe Draper caught the largest peacock, at 16 pounds, and I believe he had a double-digit fish almost every day. Importantly, he fished very slowly and carefully, and stayed seated the whole time, keeping a low profile. With the peacocks just off the spawn and very spooky, and with the water very low, we think his staying low in the boat helped him be more successful than the rest of us on big fish. The rest of us caught a lot of fish, mind you, if not a lot of large fish. Jeff Martin and I landed over 70 peacocks in the three- to six-pound range on the fly on our best day, along with assorted other Amazon fish such as silver piranha and some very large (up to five-pound) freshwater barracuda. The average catch was at least 50-plus fish a day per boat.
“This latest trip was my third trip with River Plate, and at least my eighth with South American Fly Fishing/Rod and Gun, and I will be going again, hopefully, in August or September of this year to try a different river.”
Postscript: The address for J. W. Smith’s new website devoted to fly fishing for South American species is: www.southamerican-flyfishing.com. If you go on a fly fishing trip for peacock bass, please file a report. Send it to: [email protected].