Scientific name: Piaractus brachypomus (Cuvier, 1818)
Other common names: Pirapatinga, paco, pacú blanco, pacú rojo, cachama, morocoto (South America), freshwater pompano, black pacu (UK), riesenpacu (Germany)
Ecology: This fish belongs to Piaractus genus which has only 2 species: one common in Orinoco basin and the Amazon (Piaractus brachypomus) and another in the Paraná River basin (Piaractus mesopotamicus). Its name comes from the Greek word piar, which means “fat” and aktos which means “carry”. It is a migratory and slow growth fish. Samples that are up to 28 years old have been recorded. It is strictly tropical and it is found in Bolivia, Perú, Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil and Colombia (23º N – 11º). This strong fish is recognized due to its abdomen, which is darker than its back and for an irregular band at its side. While the samples found in transparent waters are almost black, the ones found in sedimentary waters are lighter and paler.
Tsimane offers great size pirapitingas whose average ranges from 5 to 8 kg. Several samples from 10 to 12 kg are caught every year. Visual contacts and huge loosen fish proves the existence of Pirapitingas weighing more than 15 kg. The worldwide historic record is a 25 kg fish.
This fish is strongly linked to the riverside jungle and it likes dark, deep and slow water pools, where it is found in schools. However, it can also be found in runs, in the backside of pools or going on a cruise along sandy beaches collecting food in a way similar to big bonefish.
It is an omnivore that has an extremely varied diet that ranges from fruits, flowers, leaves, seeds, fish, detritus and big terrestrial and aquatic insects to small vertebrates such as frogs, rodents or chicks. Due to that behavior many native people know it as “the river pig”. The best places to catch pirapitingas in Tsimane Lodge are High Secure, Agua Negra and High Pluma. The Itirizama River gives anglers the unique chance of fishing such species in fast waters.
Ways of fishing: Pirapintingas, completely unknown in the fly-fishing world, is one of the most marvelous fish in tropical freshwaters. Such big and muscular species is a tremendous bottom fighter that never surrenders itself. It does not jump but its runs are long and it uses its round body to remain in water as a permit.
The Pirapitinga is an extremely technical and complete fish due to its varied diet and cyclotimic attitude. It can be either an observer that inspects in an extremely careful way or can act as an aggressive predatory that attacks at high speed and shatters a 30 pound tippet. In that regard, it is completely surprising and enigmatic.
Its mouth is small but powerful and it has molar form teeth like human beings’. The way it controls its mouth is surprising, using it in the same skillful way to eat leaves delicately as to hunt a fast one pound baitfish. Its physical power and its punch bite make Dorado not dare to attack it.
It is caught by prospecting productive waters such as casting on wakes, rises or by sight casting in low waters. When fruit imitations are used, the “sound cast” technique with parachute style casts (recreating the way fruits fall from trees) is used and in strict dead drift. Bite is noticed by watching the tip of the line. If the aim is to tempt such fish with streamers, they have better response to long and slow strips alternated with short and fast strips or speed changes. However, when the fish is excited or aggressive, it is advisable to strip faster and in a more aggressive way.
Regarding surface flies in dead drift, bites are extraordinary with inspections and complex rises that can be compared with the ones described by Vince Marinaro in “In the Ring of the Rise” for a selective trout. If you are an angler that likes powerful but delicate and multifaceted fish, the Pirapitinga will deeply move you.
Rod: No. 8 or 9 feet, medium/fast action. Your favorite rod for big bonefish or permit without wind will work well.
Reel, backing and line: Solid reel with disk brakes and a capacity of 100 yards of 30 pound backing. The recommended line is a WF-F tropical core, bonefish taper that allows anglers to carry out delicate presentations as well as distance casting. It is much better if the line is 1 size bigger than the rod to load better in short casts or turn over large flies.
Leader: 6 to 8 feet with a 30 pound tippet.
Shock wire: 15 cm and 30 o 40 pounds. A loop knot is suggested to get more mobility and depth of the fly.
Flies: Pirapitinga’s varied diet obliges us to use completely different models. Firstly, imitations of fruits made of plastic, acrylic or silicone and that are between 12 and 18 mm in diameter are recommended. It is suggested carrying an assortment of different sizes in black, red, yellow and apple green (the most productive ones). Rabbit streamers, craft fur, marabou or saddle feather between 8 and 10 cm in length, number 1/0 and 3/0 are added. The most effective colors are a combination of black, olive colored or brown and orange or yellow. In quiet waters, adding rubber feet that increase mobility is welcome. According to the depth where fish are, it is recommended adding weight with chain eyes (5mm) or brass, medium and XL size.
It is very important to tie these flies at Strip Leech style to be able to do strikes (something very common at low temperature or timid inspections). The same happens with imitations of small breams (5 to 7 cm shinners), which such fish likes at the beginning of spring season when it is in urgent need of animal proteins.
The following flies are used as surface ones: Poppers, Chernobyl’s Ant, Ututus, Big Hoppers, beetles, etc. tied to hooks number 1 and 3/0 (5 to 8 cm), always assembled on reinforced short shank hooks to assure the strike in the fish small mouth. This fish likes black bodies with yellow or orange rubber feet (preferably barred) so much. EVA bodies that are 4 to 5 mm thick are better to resist bites than deer hair and improve floating using steel wire. Flower imitations, depending on the season and the flowering period of the riverside plants, lead us to patterns that have not been ever thought to fish these powerful animals.