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Don Causey Note: Until fairly recently there was only one lodge in the Amazon (Agua Boa) and zero mobile operations that catered to fly fishermen. Now, the list of places to go fly fishing there is getting longer. And longer. We are indebted to subscriber Allan Craig for word of still another place. It’s a floating lodge opera-tion south of Manaus called Ecolodge da Barra that previously catered only to conventional tackle anglers. The draw here is not big and/or numerous peacock bass, but rather the variety of species that can be taken. Here is what frequent contributor Allan Craig has to say about it.
This new Amazon fly fishing spot is located on the Tapajós River at the confluence of the Teles Pires and Juruena Rivers, where the states of Pará, Mato Grosso, and Amazonas meet. There are a number of factors that make this destination stand out from other locations in Brazil. For starters, it is relatively easy to get to, plus it has a very long fly fishing season (May through November). It also offers something quite unique, flexibility in dates and length of trip, plus an enormous variety of species, including three types of payara! These are the so called Vampire fish that have long lower teeth that extend through the upper jaw when the fish closes its mouth. Payara are a worthy fly rod quarry that is difficult to hook but prone to leaping during its strong fight. The presence of payara alone is enough to warrant your attention to Ecolodge da Barra.
The trip I was on to this lodge last July saw anglers being accommodated at the Mercure Hotel in Manaus. The rooms were adequate and very clean but lacking in the atmosphere of the Tropical Hotel, which many other operations use. What it did have in its favor was its location near the airports and restaurants. It was only minutes from the hotel to the terminal, where we boarded a two-hour flight to a village on the banks of the river where we would fish. From there, it was only a five-minute boat ride to the lodge.
The lodge’s closeness to the airport not only meant we arrived there quickly and easily, but it meant we could get away at the end of our stay just as fast, and at a time of our choosing. This is one of the many appeals of this operation. Most Amazon lodges operate Saturday to Saturday, making it almost impossible to book a two-week trip at two different lodges. Logistically, you just can’t fly out from most lodges and then on to another in one seamless transfer. At this lodge we could, however. All we had to do was shorten our stay at Ecolodge and fly out on a Fri¬day. That allowed us to fly the next day to another lodge, Kendjam, which you have written about recently in these pages.
As for the accommodations at Ecolodge, they are comfortable and the food is excellent. The lodge owners take pride in the “Eco” part of their name and the lodge’s benefits to the local native community. The lodge was built for and now operates with minimum impact on the environment. Its on-board waste treatment system is highly efficient. The lodge employs about 35 of the villagers,
and they provide excellent food, clean air-conditioned rooms and daily laundry service. They also maintain the boats, and act as guides on the river. Anyone who loves to take nature photographs will enjoy the bird life here, as well as the dolphins, the caiman, and the mil¬lions of butterflies.
The angling opportunities are extensive here. There are three different rivers you can fish, plus miles and miles of their tributaries, and more than 200 lakes, fewer than half of which have ever been fished. There are 20 lakes that have boats already in place. The boats in use on the rivers are 18-foot aluminum craft powered by 40 hp motors. Anglers who want to fish on foot can walk sand flats or wet-wade and sight-fish. Fishing can begin minutes from the lodge, or there can be a long one- to two-hour ride to some spots, depending on the kind of fishing one wants to do. The lodge is considering adding another smaller lodge 150 miles up river
As for the species available, 20 in all, they include arowana, bicuda, matrinxã, wolf fish, jacunda, numerous catfish species, two species of peacock bass, and as mentioned previously, three species of payara. The two peacock species are C. monoculus (which tend to be small, around two pounds) and C. pinima (which run much larger and are impressive fighters. Anglers who are only interested in the largest peacock species, C. temensis, won’t find them here, though occasional 20-pound specimens of C. pinima are caught here.
A dominant characteristic of this area is the large number of fish of all sorts that are usually available here. I say “usually” because to the dismay of our host, the fishing during our week was well below his expectations. That assessment was confirmed by other guests who had fished here before and in the same time period. Possible reasons? The river was very low, and that part of the Amazon region had not had the normal flood period the previous January. In addition, a lot of the fish we sighted were in spawning mode and not interested in a fly.
If you come here expecting to add payara to your catch list, be sure you bring an 8 or 9 wt. rod with a fast-sinking line. Straight 40-pound leader worked for me, with 40-pound wire for bite tippet. Chartreuse/white or chartreuse/orange or similar streamers five to seven inches long are good choices. One trick is to add a trailer hook at the tail of your fly, as payara often nip at the tail. I used an 8 wt. for all my other fishing, with both a floating and sink-tip line. The Rio Outbound short and new S.A. Titan Jungle Taper are good choices. Smaller flies, such as three-inch white streamers, were top performers on many species.
My trip was organized for me by Michael Caranci at The Fly Shop in Redding, California (www.theflyshop. com. 800-669-3474). The cost for our five days of fishing was $5,000. There was no extra charge for the flight out a day early for our group of four anglers. Logistics might be more of a problem for just one or two anglers. Enjoy!—Al¬lan Craig.
Postscript: To get a better feel for the
fly fishing conditions at Ecolodge da Barra, we got in touch with head guide Gerson Kavamoto, who previously served as head guide for Un¬tamed Angling’s operation on the Marié River. Here is the gist of his response to some questions we sent him: “One of the nice things about the fly fishing here is the variety and generally small size of the flies that work here. You can use everything from poppers for peacock bass to divers for arowana to dry flies for pacu. There are lots of flats here with hard, white-sand bottoms and water clear enough to allow you to cast to sighted fish. The rivers we fish change character often from slow and deep . . . to rapids . . . to stretches where the channels are deep but the edges quite shallow. You can wade-fish many, many areas. This area was originally developed for traditional anglers, who continue to fish here, but it is very well suited to fly anglers. I was hired to develop fly fishing at the lodge, and that is what I am doing little by little. One of my goals is to come up with instructions on where and how to catch each fish we have here. To date, I have not had enough time to do that, but I can tell you we catch payara here in the rapids mostly, but also in calm water to some extent around sandbars. The really exciting and as yet not fully developed fishing here is in the lakes dotted around the region. We still have a lot to learn about that fishing. Our overall best and most challenging fishing here is for payara, followed by our fishing for C. pinima peacock bass. The aver¬age size of the C. pinima we catch is six pounds, but we do take them up to 12 pounds, and they are known to range upward of 26 pounds. As for our hosting traditional and fly anglers at the same floating lodge, that has not led to problems of any sort. The two groups (fly anglers are still in the minority here) meet at meal times, and I have not detected any tension at all between them. Maybe if our area were small we would have problems, but it is not small by any means. This is a good area for adventurous fly anglers to try their skills. I will be glad to an¬swer anyone’s questions at: gersonka¬[email protected]”