There is a growing interest among fly fishermen in
traveling to the Amazon, but many are discouraged by
a series of doubts, like where and when to go, what
fish species will be encountered, what tackle to use,
what precautions to take, etc. We hope this two-part
article will clear up this and other doubts about fly
fishing in this fantastic region of the planet.
The Amazon Rainforest:
The Amazon is the biggest portion of Rainforest in the
world, with over 6 millon square km, spreading through
Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana,
French Guyana, Suriname and Peru. In this immense jungle
you will find the biggest diversity of ethnical groups
and Indian languages in the American Continent, the
argest rivers in the world, the biggest and most varied
biodiversity, etc. Just to give you an idea, in the
Amazon Basin alone there are more fish species than
in all the Atlantic Ocean, and there are still hundreds,
maybe thousands of species yet to be discovered. The
same holds true for insects, birds and amphibians.
The potential of both chemical compounds and gene
compositions of plant and animal species yet to be
discovered or studied can provide precious new sources
of food, cures for diseases and many other benefits
which are still unforeseen by Man. Many of these benefits
are already known by indians. For instance there is an
indian tribe who uses a certain species of ant to treat
poisonous snake bites. They purposely put the ants over
the wound and let them sting it, and that apparently
cures the negative effects of the snake poison.
Underneath the Amazon there is also a countless wealth
in the form of oil fields that together occupies an area
the size of Europe. The oil is just now starting to be
explored by the Brazilian Government and everyone hopes
that this exploration will be done in an enviromentaly
The Amazon River is so huge in volume of water that 60
miles offshore from its mouth at the Atlantic Ocean you
still navigate over fresh, muddy water. That is how the
Amazon River was first identified by the spanish explorer
Vicente Yanez Pinzon, who called it Mar Dulce (fresh
water sea) in the 15th. century.
Contrary to what was believed back in the 70's, the Amazon
Rainforest is not the lung of the world, as it produces
as much oxygen by photosynthesis as it absorbs. On the
other hand the forest provides an invaluable service to
the planet by regulating the amount of carbon dioxide
and carbon monoxide in the atmosphere as well as
regulating the distribution of rain in half of Latin
America. The build-up of carbon dioxide and monoxide
on the atmosphere is the main cause of the increase
in Earth's temperature, so you can say that the Amazon
is the "air conditioner" of the planet.
Traveling to the Amazon:
Traveling to the Brazilian Amazon from North America or
Europe is pretty easy as there is a direct flight connection
to Manaus from Miami. The Brazilian Government requires a
tourist visa from Canadian and US citizens, as well as most
European countries. The visa can be personally issued in
any Brazilian Embassy, present in most big cities of North
America. You may want to choose to fill-out the visa
application form available to print from the internet
and send it through regular mail. You can also contact
your local travel agency and they should take care of
Most anglers coming to the Amazon for the first time
are usually very worried about the dangers from the
jungle. In reality the dark water rivers are a very
safe region of the Amazon, tropical diseases are nearly
non-existent and there is really no need to take
precaution about that. The region is free of biting
insects too, making for comfortable living conditions.
The only thing you should worry about a little are
stingrays, so when wading or taking a dip at the river
be sure to shuffle your feet instead of stepping, just
like the guys on the saltwater flats do. The sun can
also offer some danger for very sun-sensitive persons,
so it's important to use strong sun screen and wear
good quality tropical clothing.
The language spoken in Brazil is portuguese, but on
a good trip option, your english speaking host will
meet you at the airport and stay with you throughout
the trip. Another good reason to look for trips with
hosts that stays with the group during the whole trip,
and not just while in the city.
Brazil is a country in relatively good economic and
political stability. Its local people are very friendly
toward tourists and always willing to share a bit of
their rich culture.
Where to go:
The biggest peacock bass are not in every river of the
Amazon, instead they can only be found in certain rivers
mainly in central Amazon. These rivers are characterized
by its dark, acid water and many marginal sloughts and
lakes, the ideal habitat of Cichla temensis, the largest
peacock bass species.
There are basically two main watersheds within the Amazon
Basin where you can find this peacock bass, these are
the Rio Negro to the north and the Rio Madeira to the
south. The tributaries of these rivers is where the
biggest peacock bass in the world comes from, specially
from the Rio Negro watershed.
Rio Negro means "Dark River," which is very aptly named.
Its water is very dark in color and usually free of biting
insects as they can not reproduce in the acid water. Manaus,
the biggest city in the Brazilian Amazon and the gateway
to peacock bass fishing in Brazil, is situated on its banks.
The two main kinds of water from the Amazon can be observed
when the Negro and Solimões Rivers meet to form the mighty
Amazon River, only a few miles from Manaus. The Negro with
its dark water and the Solimões with its muddy water. The
two different waters don't mix for 8 miles, running alongside
like two different rivers within one huge river.
Unfortunately nearly all easily reached locations have
been fished-out by either sport and commercial fishermen
and that is why it is today very important to travel to
very remote areas in search of unexplored rivers where
big peacock bass are abundant and aggressive. These
unexplored rivers usually have some kind of natural
barrier that prevents easy navigation, like shallow
rocky areas or rapids. Some are even too sinuous and
this avoids access with float planes as they don't
have areas large enough to land.
The headwaters of the tributaries are usually the least
known and explored areas, and that is where the most
succesfull fishing trips happen today. For the fly
fisherman these areas are also much better than the
areas downriver because their lakes are shallower and
smaller so the fish are more easily attracted to flies.
Anglers can also sight-fish a lot of times in these areas.
Look for outfitters who provide trips to these remote
locations if you are serious about catching big peacock
bass on fly. Facilities may not be top-class but it's
perfectly suited for the angler with an exploring mind
and spirit of adventure.
When to go:
Choosing the right time to go can mean the difference
between success and total failure. Peacock bass fishing
depends a lot on low water levels because during the
flood season, when waters may rise over 40 feet, the
baitfish swims into the flooded forest and the peacock
bass follow them. Fishing during this time is completely
The best outfitters carefully track and study weather
patterns and changes when planning their fishing season
in an effort to fish on the right places at the right
time. It's not always easy since it may vary
significantly and there are many variations according
to certain areas of the Amazon. Basically the dry season
starts to the south of the Amazon River by June and goes
on until October, moving slowly to the north until reaching
the rivers north of the Amazon River from late August to March.
This means that the Rio Negro watershed, where the
biggest peacocks come from, is generally fishable
from September to March according to the specific
region within this huge watershed.
Peacock Bass are the most abundant gamefish in the rivers
of central Amazon. Even though there are other gamefish
species in these rivers, the peacock bass is the focus
of nearly all anglers coming to this area. They are not
nearly remotely related to the largemouth bass of North
America, instead they are cichlids, a huge family of fish
species common in Latin America and Africa.
Speckled Peacock Bass: This is the largest
of all peacock bass species, reaching sizes of nearly 30
pounds. Of course a fish of that size is very rare. On
good, remote locations they average 10 to 18 pounds,
with bigger fish always around. This is still under
scientific discussion, but it's generally accepted
that females have spots and males have three distinct
dark bars and a yellowish coloration, as well as a hump
on top of the head during mating season. They are very
aggressive and territorial and will strike topwater flies
with a vengeance. Most people who have fished for it agrees
that they show the most spectacular and ferocious topwater
strike of all fish. Everyone who enjoys casting topwater
flies among varied structure for big fish must go peacock
bass fishing in the Amazon at least once in a lifetime.
Their fight is brutal and they always seek structures
to cut or wrap the line.
Butterfly Peacock Bass: This is a smaller
peacock bass species, but very abundant. There are
actually two species of what is wrongly called
butterfly peacock bass. One of them is the true
butterfly peacock bass, with three big blotches
on the side, and another species, which shows
dark uneven bars and a more yellowish coloration.
Both are quite small on average, but may reach sizes
up to 13 pounds.
Traira: A very aggressive fish with
sharp teeth and a powerfull jaw. They strike just
about anything that moves close enough to it and
are very abundant on the shallow areas. They average
2 to 4 pounds and are fun on light rods, as well as
an important food source for large peacock bass.
These fish are very pre-hystoric looking and it
is believed they come from ancient times.
Arawana: The arawana is a famous fish
among aquarium hobbyists because of their unusual,
snake-like appearance. They are quite aggressive
and will strike a variety of patterns. Once hooked
they put up a good fight, with jumps and runs. A TV
documentary on a British channel became famous by
showing the scene of an arawana jumping out of the
water to get a bug on an overhanging three in the
flooded forest. This shows that they have great eyesight.
Jacundá: This beautifull fish is known
in the aquarium hobby as pike cichlid. Despite their
small average size they are very strong and aggressive
and very fun on light fly rods. They come in many varied
Piranha: There are mainly two species of
piranhas in the dark water rivers. The black and the
silver. The black piranha is the biggest one, reaching
10 pounds or more. They can be aggressive but nearly
never against people. There is a lot of myth around
piranha attacks and it's just not true. They can only
be dangerous when locked in a small lagoon where no more
food is available, otherwise they won't bother with you
at all and you can swim at the river without worrying.
Catching them on flies is not the easiest thing, which
is pretty good because they destroy the fly in a heartbeat
with their sharp, scissors-like teeth.
There are many other fish species in the black water
rivers, like oscar, apapa, bicuda, pacu, arapaima and
giant catfish. ~ Octavio
Next time: Best spots and what equipment to bring.
Octavio Campos Salles Araujo organizes and hosts unique
fly fishing trips to remote locations of the Brazilian
Amazon, where the rivers are still uncharted and big
fish are numerous. Check out his website at
www.amazonflyfishing.com for more.