Amazon 2011 Part 1 : Fishing the Headwaters
The Fishing: Last year, after flying into Barcelos from Manaus, it was a bit of a drawn out scenario waiting for our luggage to be collected, being transported to the fishing license office, then walking over to the marina where we boarded the Tayacu. All was forgotten though, when we finally had lunch on the houseboat and then were able to get our lines wet on an introductory half day of fishing.
Fishing Guide :
Basheen - a.k.a. Jungle Boy. He hunts caiman barefoot in knee deep water, staring them down into submission.
This year, because we were fishing a different river, there were no licensing requirements. Further, because we flew directly to our fishing destination, all that lead time of gathering and transporting our luggage from the Barcelos airport to the houseboat, waiting in line at the licensing office, walking to the houseboat, and waiting for the houseboat to get underway was gone.
Fishing Guide :
Josei - a.k.a. The Hunter. He doesn't fish for peacock bass, he hunts them.
Instead, this time, we got off the float plane, caught the shuttle boats to the Headwaters Barge a few hundred feet away, sat down and had breakfast while our luggage was sorted into our rooms, and were fishing by 10:00am! Instead of a half day introductory to the Amazon, this year, we got almost a full first day!
Host : Hai Hai - a.k.a. Flanagan. Our resident bartender. This guy makes a
mean caipirinha and when you're done, he'll shake you up a caipiroska
Despite the relatively early start, after all the travel arrangements to get actually get into camp, unpack your gear, set up, etc., there is still an adjustment period. I had the mindset of last year's first day where we simply got to sample what peacock bass fishing was all about. The real fishing would begin tomorrow, right? I was so wrong.
Camp Host and
Interpreter : Ramish - a.k.a. Iron Hand. Prior to our trip, one of the crew was not pulling their weight. He fired that crew member on the spot and flew in a replacement.
I took that first day to kind of sort through my gear, test some baits, and figure out the exact rod and reel combinations. According to Steve, due to high water conditions and even though we were on a different river, the bite was even slower than last year. It was, again, all about the jigs.
Engineer : I never did catch his name, but he had the habit of wearing fatigues each and every day... kind of made us wonder.
My boat mate for that first day, Ray Kawabata, is a seasoned tuna fisherman. This was his first peacock bass fishing experience. Our guide was insistent we throw jigs because that's what the bite dictated. I let Ray fish a jig, but this time around, on that first day, I was not having it. There was plenty of time during the trip to toss a jig. I was taking that first day as my opportunity to get my chopper rhythm down.
Prepping for a day on the water.
I pulled out my Megabass F6-69XRC Racing Condition stick, paired with my Daiwa Zillion Type R, spooled with 55lb Samurai Braid and tied on a KLures Peacock Ripper painted in Halloween colors - black top with an orange belly. I didn't fish this rod enough last year favoring the X4 Destruction over this stick, so I brought it back for a second chance. Turns out it makes a wonderful chopper stick.
Similar to last year, the jig bite dominated. Ray Kawabata with his very first peacock bass, a mean spirited paca.
Naturally, fishing the jig, Ray managed the first few fish of the day. I was undeterred. I was prepping for the rest of the trip and making sure my rods were properly aligned with the baits I had brought, that my choppers were making the right sounds, and that I had the proper snap, reel-reel, snap rhythm going.
I had more
fantastical experiences in mind... this is the commotion a chopper makes in the water as it is retrieved.
About two hours into our introduction, while fishing along a wooded bank with cuts and points formed by overgrown foliage on the port side of the boat, I cast my lure out almost parallel to the bank. Really, it was a throw away cast as my bait knuckle balled out and to the right of where I had aimed it and away from the shoreline - there was a slight breeze. Nonetheless, I took the opportunity to work the lure, Vrooop! Vrooop! Vrooop!.
This is the boil of a SMALL peacock.
Out of nowhere, the water just behind my bait turned into a massive boil of green and orange as if a huge turbine had just been turned on. A monstrous peacock had swiped at my chopper but missed it! Last year, when this happened, I stopped the lure. This year, two hours into the first day, I was already locked in and continued to work the lure back to the boat all the while screaming at Ray to toss his jig back into the remnants of the boil.
If you consider a
small to be six pounds.
It was his first day. He wasn't ready for pace. Who could blame him? Anyway, it was too late, just as he was reeling his jig in, and right as my bait was about ten feet from the boat, the fish came back! Another massive vacuum of green and orange and this time, my lure was gone! My F6-69XRC loaded up and I only half swung on the fish because I didn't want to whack Ray in the face!
Steve Yatomi with a young azul peacock.
The fight was on as line peeled out of my Zillion Type R! I wasn't sure if I hooked the fish well enough, but all I wanted was a peak. In about 4 or 5 successive pulls, the fish came close to the surface, but then dove right back down before we could get a good look. I let it run a little, but was putting really good pressure on the fish to get it to come up. That was the wrong move.
Once he figured things out, John beat us all in numbers fishing a fly. His
best day saw over 40 fish in the boat to 11 pounds when the rest of us were
lucky to get 20 fish between two people for a day of fishing
The fish seemed compliant, but on the sixth pull, just as the fish was coming into view - POOF - I pulled too hard and the hooks came out. Our guide, Chaquin, threw both hands on top of his head and grimaced, then looked at me and said, next time, set hook! He was devastated - genuinely devastated. In our best portug-lish, guide to client/client to guide, hybrid-broken language, we confirmed what both of us thought - that the fish I had just lost easily went over 20lbs.
But of course, there's more to the story ...
See, when the aggressive paca species of peacock hit a chopper, they blast that thing out of the water with a huge explosion. Pacas get as big as the azuls, but for some reason, the smaller pacas are much more common and usually, when you catch an azul, they're big - like double digit big. The really big azuls don't explode on your lure, they usually roll on them, and from the size of that rolling boil and the shades of green and orange that surrounded my chopper, this fish was a huge azul. The remainder of the day was decidedly less eventful and Chaquin was genuinely despondent for my having lost that fish. I kept telling him it was ok, we have several more days to try again!
Stay tuned for Part 2 as the hunt