SÃO SEBASTIÃO, BRAZIL â From the float plane ride out to the Uatama River, a week on the house boat to the fishing in the lagoons and rivers that feed the great Amazon River it is hard to be really upset.
But after returning from my third trip peacock bass fishing in Brazil with Ron Speed Jr. Adventures I still have not caught a 20-pounder. I am stuck on 17 pounds. After this last trip I am not sure if it was the conditions, my skillset or lack of luck.
I was one of 15 fishermen fishing the Uatama and Jatapu rivers in early October and actually the only one not to end up with a double-digit fish. I had my chance on the last afternoon when a peacock bass came out of the water and took the giant Woodchopper-type topwater bait straight down. Like a rookie I had too much line out and never got any of the three sets of treble hooks in the fish.
Peacock bass are one of the trophy fishes in the Americas and one of prettiest fish a fisherman can land. Found in several South American countries a gold standard will weigh in the 20s, but anyone who has ever hooked one knows an 8-pounder can put up one of the strongest fights there is in fishing. That is why experienced fishermen spool their reels with 65-pound braided line at the minimum.
Adding to the challenge is the heat and humidity. Located only about 200 miles from the equator, Brazilâs rainforest daytime temperatures only climb into the lower 90s, but with its stifling humidity it can feel much hotter. It is some of the toughest fishing conditions in the world.
Fishing is not on the Amazon itself. It is too deep. Instead, fishermen travel to various tributaries. Some of the major ones can be as wide as the Mississippi River. The smaller ones are more the Brazos at flood level, but all offer fishing on the river as well as backwater lagoons.
One of the tricks with fishing success 3,500 miles from home is catching the conditions just right. In the case of the rivers in the Amazon that means catching them before they get too low in the fall in front of the upcoming rainy season or too high when it does rain.
Speedâs early season fishermen have had a banner year hitting the Uatama and Jatapu at perfect heights. The group that went in a week earlier boated 865 peacocks with 73 over 10 pounds, including five over 20.
Then the bottom fell out with our group landing about half as many total fish and only one over 22.
It was like the first day on the water was something of an omen for what was about to happen. Two words that are seldom used together, norther and jungle, were the description of day 1 with lightning keeping most fishermen on the Otter, the house boat, the first morning.
âI think these rains coming every afternoon is a sign the rainy season is coming early,â Speed said of the unusual conditions, including another afternoon in which fishing was called because of lightning.
Like with lakes in Texas it is not the rain falling overhead that changing conditions. It is the rain up the watershed. While the low water level on the Uatama was not impacted during the week, there were parts of the Jatapu that climbed a few inches.
Neither option, rising or dropping is good for the peacock bite, but then never is a really low water level. Speed said as the water drops the fish are on the move and harder to find. This year 15-foot tall bushes that were underwater a year ago were standing on dry land. One morning while moving from one lake to another we had to get out of boat and push after the water became so shallow its became stuck.
But as is always the case in fishing someone is always going to discover exceptions to the rule and in this case it was fishing the middle water more than the shoreline edges. The guides, some of which have been with Speed since he started in 1993, kept a constant eye out for water depths between about two and six feet, anything deeper or shallower might produce fish, but was not as productive when searching for big fish.
Illinois fisherman George Harris learned that lesson the last day when he fought and lost several big fish and eventually weighed a 16 in a lagoon. All the fish came in more open waters. That is also the spot I lost my big fish the last afternoon fishing the same waters with the big topwater.
My best days were the first two days when I fished alone because of the individual instruction I got from my guides, Harold and Alberto. Working the edge on the bend of a tributary Harold had me continually casting over and over to one spot before the effort paid off. Alberto showed me the importance of keeping a bait in the water by constantly casting another lure while I would be retrieving another then handing me the rod as soon as the first bait was back to the boat.
Big fish honors for the trip went to Wendy Daniel of Arkansas who boated a 22-pounder on the second day fishing a white and green Long A.
âDrew (her husband) was fishing on the bank so I threw on the side. I got a backlash and Gee (the guide) was taking it out and said there was a fish on,â said Daniel, who quickly got the rod back and the fish in. Her previous best was a 21.5 taken two years ago.
Texas fisherman Bruce Ritchy had the fishing classic story. Although he has fish extensively through the years it has never been with a baitcasting reel. In fact he bought one to practice with before this trip, his first to the Amazon, and caught an 18-pounder on his second day.
Not all of the fishing was with baitcasting gear during the week. Texans Shawn and Walt Lixey switched back and forth between casting the big Woodchoppers and fly tackle. While they caught peacocks on both, the fly tackle produced bigger numbers but smaller fish overall.
With flocks of parrots, parakeets and macaws flying overhead, caimen guarding the sandy points and the scream of a band of howler monkeys breaking the morning quiet there is always something of interest around every corner in case the fishing slows. Still, I want that one 20-pounder some day.
For more information on fishing peacock in Brazil go online to www.ronspeedadventures.com .