Head-to-head with El Nino.
Source - article from The Complete Flyfisherman Magazine. Author Jonathan Boulton.
Most of the venues I host groups to are owner run, I am lucky enough to have become good friends and chiselled my way into securing the prime weeks of whatever their season is. With many venues this is often early season, after long winters, inches of rain and no anglers in sight for months on end, myself and my group are often the first on the scene at the start of the season and the fishing off the charts. No where more so than when I fish the Amazon Jungle. The tannin stained but clean tributaries of the Rio Blanco North of the Amazon have lured me away every year for more than ten years now. Anyone who is a naturalist cant help but be enthralled, if you love Mother Nature you can visit these remote parts of the jungle and leave your rod in the bottom of the boat all day and still be blown away. The explosion of colour and noise as you come around the corner and startle a large flock of blue and yellow Macaws out of the canopy. The contrast of a sun tanning black Caimen on a dazzling white sandy beach, a freshwater dolphin blows air as it rolls feet from your boat but thousands of kilometres from the ocean. If you do venture to pick up your rod and cast a fly the myriad of species that might inhale it are astounding. Our target species is obviously the hard hitting and even harder fighting Peacock bass, we have the first week of the season, the water is still high and a little coloured and similar to the Zambezi in prime time water drains out of the jungle, bringing baitfish back into the main channel where they are likely to meet their maker, in the form of ravenous, fearless Peacocks. In these conditions the Peacocks feed voraciously and while there is some sight fishing to cruisers higher in the water column and smashing fish, the vast majority of the fishing is casting sinking shooting head lines towards the drop offs, root wads and where the drainage streams re-enter the main channel.
However on my last visit the water was unusually low. Boat drives up and down river to our various beats was hair raising, the skill of the local guides impressive as they kept the boat on step and wove their way through the ankle deep water. The fishing was mind blowing, confident hungry fish moved up and down river using the predictable outside bends and deep channels and cuts. They would hide on the down stream slope of the sand bar which is slightly deeper and deposition of debris creates a shadow for them to hide against. Luckily I always recommend to my clients to bring more than one outfit, incase of a breakages being one and also to have a floating line set up for some occasional popper fishing which produces epic surface takes. Well the sinking lines remained in the rod holders and the floating lines became the go to outfit, leaders had to come down from the normal straight 50 pound mono, to tapered and longer 30 pound home made leaders. Fly selection in the early season with high and slightly coloured water is never really and exact science and any convincing looking baitfish pattern would get snaffled. This season we found ourselves trimming flies, minimising their profile and going for more drab and less gaudy patterns. Eating lunch in the shade my favourite pastime is to drop pieces of crust into the water an watch the water come alive, one day I noticed the single black tail barring on a particular dominant baitfish and on whipping out the permanent maker and doctoring some plain grey baitfish imitations, this became the winning recipe. We spent far less time on the boats and more time walking the long exposed sandy beaches, seeing gangs of butterfly peacocks coming on to the sand flats to molest the local wildlife was hilarious and such fun to literally watch one go buy and say “Nah I will wait, yep he's bigger” make the cast and watch chaos unfold!
The highlight of my trip and witnessing a moment of guiding excellence came on the second last evening, bombing back downstream after a magnificent day, rods stowed, shirt off for some relief from the humidity and a cold beer in one hand, the guide came off plain and edged the boat to the shore where a large blind lagoon met the main river channel. “ At this time ( pointing at the setting sun’s very low position just above the canopy), big peacocks come to sleep in this lagoon - you get ready!” “Right…..!” I thought, exactly this time “pull the other one mate” as I slipped my shirt back on, hopped out of the boat and flicked my fly off the first stripping guide.
The wake of the boat had barely dissipated when I heard “ Look, look they come now…!” From the main channel a set of bow waves like hunting orcas ploughed over the sand bank and in toward the lagoon, I jogged up the beach stripping line off the reel and getting into position to intercept them before they would turn a sharp right and head into the deep lagoon for the night. The fly settled ahead of them and on the first strip it was amazing to see the fish react and accelerate, the bow wave rose to expose the shoal of huge peacocks, as always with that competitive pack mentality it was the smallest and most naive fish that rushed in a nailed the fly, the bigger older fish exploding and spooking off as the hook set and the thrashing began. In typical Peacock style the fly was lodged right in the back of the mouth, there was no indecision as far as that fish was concerned it ate the fly like it was owed money!
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