When I got the call from Rob Anderson of Bucket List Fly Fishing that a spot had opened last minute for a trip to the Amazon in search of the gnarliest Cichlids known to man, I told him what any fly fishing zealot would - "let me check with my wife". Rob has been going down to the Amazon after Peacock Bass for 15 years now, he ties some of the most proven patterns for these red-eyed devils and knows the ropes, so I had to call in all my favors to get a hall pass. Part of the arrangement was that I was to bring my drone (DJI Inspire 1) some 5,700 miles down to document the adventure:
This is my second fly fishing trip to S. America in about a year, but the arid wind-swept southern reaches of the Patagonian steppe couldn't be anymore contrasting to the intensely hot and humid Amazonian jungles of central Brazil. Wow, what an eye opener, I thought 95 degrees and 95% relative humidity at Christmas Island was hot - that place has wind and ain't got nothin on the rainforest. Acclimation to the new and completely foreign environment aside, this fishery is absolutely amazing, it's one we all know we have to hit sometime, and now that I've done it, I know I'll have to do it again (safe to say, my wife doesn't read this). By the end of the first day it was apparent that everything in this ecosystem is actively trying to kill and eat something else.....we were a part of that food chain....somewhere in the middle.
Reno > LA > Miami > Manaus > Xeriuni River > Base Camp
6 rooms and a galley, all w/ AC got it done!
From there we took custom-built aluminum river boats w/ poling platforms and casting decks to all ends of the river system, side creeks and back lagoons. Each boat was outfitted with a guide from the local village who's lived their whole life on the river.
An 8 or 9wt is all you need out there, unless of course you run across an Arapaima...it's only the largest scaled freshwater fish in the world, looks like a big Tarpon but has a primitive lung and can breath air in stagnant low-oxygen lagoons. You'll see (or more likely hear them) breach to "GULP" for air, when you do, an 8 won't work, keep a 12 handy. Whereas I was fortunate enough to get a couple of shots at this shy, rare and elusive fish, I couldn't coax a grab.
Big Nasties from Warpath Flies for the prospect of seeing Arapaima, big buck-tail flies for the bass, it's pretty simple.
I've never been to any destination where I had to cast as much, as long and as accurately as I did here. This fish are sitting on the brush, I'm mean right on the structure, cast too short and you'll miss them, too long and you're in the trees. Its unreal, you could conceivably make a 1,000 casts in a day, almost all will be double hauls so prepare yourself mentally and physically and never let the guide see your best cast upfront, otherwise he'll keep you 60 feet off the bank and let you ruin your arm. I think this is why on the 6th day, God made Rio Tropical Outbound Short, and rested on the 7th.
Three species of Bass:
Plus Payara, Arawana, Jacunda, Wolf Fish, Black Piranha, Bicuda and more...
Piranha are murder on your flies...
There will be times when your guide says don't swim here. You'll learn that means Black Piranha, other times he'll say don't fish here, that means too many dolphin (they get your fish), other times he'll say don't swim or fish here...Caiman. Our guide proceeded to pull up his pants, his thigh was largely missing....he'd fallen asleep in a hammock, 20 feet from the shore, apparently near a female's nest.
Don't worry about backing, it's not about that, it's an all out do-or-die tug-of-war when you hook these guys, you have about 30 seconds of furious jumps, tugs and desperate dives around brush, if you win that battle and get him out in the middle, you often win the war.
Drop me a line if you are thinking about going, I'm happy to share what I know about travel, gear and arrangement, I'm also happy to put you in contact with Rob.
Hope you enjoyed!