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SUMMARY:  Peacock Bass (or “Tucunare”) is a very unique species of tropical, freshwater fish found in the Amazon River basin of South America.  Our goal was to catch & release some of these beautiful creatures on the fly rod and using flies that Ed had created.  Thanks to our outfitter, FishQuest, and our camp operator, River Plate Anglers, we enjoyed great success!  We landed 172 Peacocks in 6.5 days, the largest of which were an 18 lb. and an 11 lb. (Azul) and a 7.5 lb. Butterfly Peacock.

Our trip began on 20 January when we flew to Miami and spent the night there.  Then, on 21 January we flew to Manaus, Brazil.  Unfortunately, what should have been a quick trip (about 6 hours total) turned into 23 hours of flying.  We had reservations from Miami to Manaus via Panama City on COPA Airlines.  However, upon arrival in Panama City we were told we had no ongoing reservation despite having a written confirmation in hand.  So, our only choice (the only one offered by COPA) was to fly to Sao Paulo and then transfer to a TAM flight to fly 3.5 hours north back to Manaus.  So, we finally arrived in Manaus at 2:00AM on 22 January.  Exhausted but glad to finally be to our jumping-off point to reach the Amazon River basin!  We were transferred to the Tropical Hotel and after a few hours of sleep, we went to a great breakfast buffet at the hotel.  Afterwards, we spent the balance of the day recovering from travel in anticipation of beginning our fishing adventure with River Plate Anglers the following day.

Saturday, 23 January:  After an early breakfast, we met Brahma, our contact in Manaus with River Plate Anglers, in the lobby along with the other six anglers who would share our floating river camp.  We then proceeded to drive to the airport to catch a two hour flight west, northwest, to the town of Santa Isabel located on the Rio Negro and right on the equator.  Once we arrived, a flatbed truck took us and our luggage to the town dock.  There we met our respective guides and proceeded to take a 2.5 hour boat ride to reach the camp set up on a sand bar on the Rio Urubaxi.  The sand bars are the whitest sand we’ve ever seen and they’re quite numerous.

Upon arrival, we were met by our camp host, Jerry.  He showed us to our respective floating cabins which were really neat.  Each contains a private bathroom with shower, two twin beds, a set of shelves for personal belongings and an air conditioner.  Talk about first class while being in the bush!  Afterwards we met in the dining cabin for a quick lunch before proceeding to fish from 2:30P-5:00P.  None of us had thought we would fish the first day so it was an extra treat!  Our guide, Hilio, looked over Ed’s boxes of flies and selected those he thought would be most effective.  We then rigged up and went fishing.  Hilio’s primary language is Portuguese but we were able to communicate quite effectively using a combination of Spanish, English and sign language.  We had a great afternoon boating 17 Peacocks with the largest being 5+ pounds and we had three doubles (that is, we each had a fish hooked at the same time).  We know for certain the number of fish caught because the guides keep track with a “clicker” so that they can report the catch once we’re back in camp.  It was an excellent way to begin our trip!

When we returned to camp, we were met at the boat with a cold cocktail.  We then joined our fellow anglers sitting in chairs in the sand (around a table) where appetizers were served and stories of the day were shared.  Dinner was served in the dining cabin at 6:45PM.  It was an outstanding buffet with lots of variety and it was complimented with excellent wines.  Afterwards, we gazed at the stars for a few minutes before heading to bed.

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Our journey begins!

A view of a point in the Rio Negro
The town of Santa Isabel
Lindy & fellow angler, Stephen,
at the Santa Isabel Airport Terminal
Driving through Santa Isabel
to access the Rio Negro
for our ride to camp
A view of the Rio Urubaxi
Our floating cabins
A highlight from our
afternoon fishing - Ed holding a
5 lb. Peacock Bass

 [ T O P ]

Sunday, 24 January:  Life begins early in camp.  Each morning Jerry came knocking at about 6:00AM to ensure we would make it to breakfast by 6:30AM.  That allowed us to be on the water by 7:00AM.   

We quickly learned that you have to drink tons of water throughout your fishing day.  The temperature during the day is always about 100 degrees and the humidity is close to 100%.  Then, the sun is blazing since we’re right on the equator.  Staying hydrated is vital.  Thankfully, at night it cools and becomes comfortable.

We enjoyed another day with huge numbers of Peacock Bass.  We boated 35 of these beautiful fish, varying from 1 lb. to 7 lbs., and we hooked even more.  It was not exactly non-stop action.  When we located a group of Peacocks, it was fast and furious with lots of action but in between finding these somewhat elusive fish it was slow.  After being out on the water for 10 hours (with only a quick lunch break), we were exhausted by the end of the day but thrilled with our fishing results.

Once back in camp, we enjoyed cocktails with our fellow anglers.  Unlike us, they were using heavy-duty bait casting tackle – big rods, big reels and big lures with multiple treble hooks.  While they didn’t enjoy the number of Peacock Bass that we did, they were able to land some really big fish.  On the first day of fishing, Larryl landed a 21 lb. Peacock and on the 2nd day of fishing, Wade had landed one too.  The Urubaxi is known for its big fish and it came through.  It’s not known for having many fish but we showed that fly fishing can produce incredible numbers of Peacocks.

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The race to the best fishing spots....
there goes J.R. and Larryl heading out
Al and Kenneth pass us on the river
Dave and Wade are now in front of
the boat carrying Al and Kenneth

Finally to the fishing.... 
A young female Azul Peacock (note the
markings - light spots & vertical bars)

Ed holding a big Butterfly
Peacock weighing 7 lbs.!
Hilio, our guide,
taking a cast or two

 [ T O P ]

Monday, 25 January:  We left camp at the usual 7:00AM and had a fairly slow morning with only about seven fish caught between us.  Most of our time was spent blind-casting along the shoreline and/or sand bars, habitat likely to hold Peacock Bass.  We took a break mid-day and met Larryl and J.R. for lunch.  The guides hung hammocks in the trees for us so we got to enjoy some shade and a bit cooler temperatures.  After lunch, we hit a spot where the fishing was basically non-stop.  A highlight was Ed landing a beautiful 7.5 lb. Butterfly Peacock.  According to literature we researched, the Butterfuly will average 3 lbs. and the largest Butterflys rarely exceed 8 lbs.  Needless to say, we were proud of this 7.5 pounder!  Ed also landed two Jacunda, another brightly colored fish related to the Peacock but in some respects a better fighter.  In total we boated 21 Peacocks.  Another wonderful day! 

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Lindy holding a Jacunda

Another nice Butterfly Peacock
Lindy gets a nice one too
Ed's beautiful 7.5 lb. Butterfly Peacock
(NOTE:  This species rarely exceeds
8 lbs. so this is a GREAT catch!)
Happy Hour with our fishing
companions and camp host
(From left to right:  Al, Kenneth, Jerry (our
host), Dave, Wade and J.R.)

 [ T O P ]

Tuesday, 26 January:  Today we actually left camp at 6:45AM and didn’t return until 5:15PM.  We boated 22 Peacocks plus two Jacunda.  The highlight was the thrill of “hunting” a Peacock after it was spotted by Hilio.  He put Ed into position and then Ed had to make an incredibly long cast into the area near the fish.  Bamm!  It hit the fly hard and took off.  After several attempts to get it into the net, success!  It turned out to be an 11 lb. beauty (caught on a 4” red/white streamer).  Wow!!  These larger fish (over 8 lbs.) are all Azul (Blue) Peacocks while the Butterflys make up the bulk of the smaller fish.

Upon our return to camp, we learned that fellow angler, Al, had landed a 23 lb. Peacock.  However, J.R. landed a 24.5 lb. Peacock so he took the “big fish” lead among the other anglers (both were Azul Peacocks). 

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Another beautiful Peacock Bass

A native showing us his turtle catch
(Also, just below his right foot
is a Piranha in the boat floor)

Ed's 11 lb. Azul Peacock;
a real beauty!
Another view of this fatty
Hilio releasing the Azul

 [ T O P ]

Wednesday, 27 January:  Well, this was an exceptional day!  We got both numbers of fish and fish of size!  At 10AM, Hilio spotted some bubbles on the surface of a lagoon in which we were fishing.  He explained that typically meant there were baby fish there who were accompanied by a large parent.  This time, Hilio put Lindy into position.  It took several casts with a 7” yellow/brown fly but finally – Bamm!  Again, the fish hit hard and it put up quite a battle.  When it was eventually boated, it weighed 18 lbs (again an Azul)!  We continued to fish for the balance of the day.  Another highlight was having a double – this time consisting of two 5 lb.+ fish.  Lastly, we had the pleasure of another big fish when Ed hooked and landed an 8 lb. beauty (Azul) on the last cast of the day!  After that, it was time to return to camp and toast the Rio Urubaxi.  The fish described above were some of the 20 Peacocks we caught in total.

When we returned to camp, we had the place to ourselves for the evening.  The other anglers (all of whom knew one another) decided to fish further up river and then camp out in hammocks.  We thought it was a great idea – for them and not us.  So, we enjoyed our “happy hour” followed by a great dinner with Jerry, our host.  Then, it was time for bed in our air-conditioned cabin. 

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A turtle trap set by the natives

Hilio holding Lindy's 18 lb. Azul Peacock
Is she a happy angler?
Ed with his 8 lb. Azul Peacock

 [ T O P ]

Thursday, 28 January:  We had another enjoyable day on the water with 25 Peacocks boated.  In addition, we had the pleasure of watching two pairs of freshwater dolphins, called “Bota” in Portuguese, swim and hunt in the river.  We also had the bizarre experience of having a huge Peacock Bass (over 20 lbs.) attempt to eat a 3 lb. trash fish called Triada which looks something link a carp except for the head which is large and the mouth which is full of very large, very sharp teeth.  The Peacock took the fish from the side and Hilio had hoped that it would eventually swallow it so we could land the Peacock too.  Unfortunately, the Peacock didn’t but it was quite a show.

Shortly thereafter Lindy hooked a Peacock of ~20 lbs. on a 7” red/yellow fly.  The fish ran her into her backing on the first run.  Lindy fought it for quite a while but as she got it near the boat, it made a short run, then rolled & jumped and the hook came out.  Oh well, at least we saw it!

Again, we had a private camp as the boys elected to stay out another night in the bush so we enjoyed another great evening.  While we were having happy hour, we encouraged Hilio to use one of our fly rods to begin to teach his 9-year old nephew (son of his sister who is the camp cook) how to fly fish.  His nephew (“Junior”) did a great job thanks to an excellent instructor.  

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Our first glimpse of a freshwater dolphin
 ("Bota") in Brazil

Two Bota working together
We pass our camp as it's being
moved to a new location

 [ T O P ]

Friday, 29 January:   On this our final day of fishing, we decided to have a different kind of fun.  We asked if Junior could join us on the boat and he spent the entire day with us.  We let him take turns at fly fishing and he landed his first Peacock Bass on the fly.  Junior also assisted us in taking fish off the hook as well as using the electric motor (under Hilio’s supervision) to get us into fishing spots.  Despite us sharing a great deal of fishing time with Junior, we still managed to boat 32 Peacocks.  Junior himself landed 8-10 Peacocks including a beauty of 4 lbs.  He was one happy 9 year old!  Again, another excellent day!

When we returned to camp, we caught up with our fellow anglers and heard about their experiences as well as the good time they enjoyed.  We all had a final celebratory dinner together and then had to get to packing as we planned on leaving camp very early the next day.

While we were putting our things away, we contemplated what a great week of fishing we had enjoyed.  By the end of the week (actually 6.5 days), we had boated 172 Peacock Bass as well as several other species such as Triada, Jacunda, Bicuda, Piranha and Dog Fish.  It was like being in an exotic aquarium! 

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Accessing some remote fishing waters

Junior casting with Uncle Hilio watching on
Junior's first Peacock on the fly!
Later in the day, Junior
lands this 4 lb. beauty
Moon rise over Amazonia

 [ T O P ]

Saturday, 30 January:  We loaded up the boats and left camp at 5:45A when it was barely light.  However, in doing so we traveled at the coolest time of the day and it made the three hour boat ride back to Santa Isabel very comfortable.  When we arrived at Santa Isabel, we transferred to a large fishing boat (another option with River Plate Anglers) where we enjoyed breakfast until it was time to catch our flight.  We then once again used a flatbed truck to transfer to the airport.  We had a much larger plane as we met up with other groups of eight anglers.  We returned to Manaus at about 2:00PM after making a quick stop in the town of Barcelos.  Brahma transferred us back to the Hotel Tropical for our final night in Manaus.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The balance of our trip was uneventful in that we left Manaus on 31 January and flew to Miami arriving late that evening.  The following day we flew to D/FW and then onto Albuquerque.  It was quite the contrast to return to about 4” of snow after being in the hot, humid Amazon region. We had a great adventure – truly a unique experience – of catching & releasing Peacock Bass on the fly rod.  They are a beautiful fish that puts up a great fight!  We thank everyone involved from River Plate Anglers (www.riverplateoutfitters.com) as well as our outfitter, FishQuest (www.fishquest.com) .  Let’s do it again soon!