The trailer for “Kendjam” — the first ever film about fly fishing the perviously forbidden Kayapo waters. The film features Jeff Currier and Ben Furimsky as they take on the jungle waters of Kendjam. Check out the film at the International Fly Fishing Film Festival.
Untamed Angling’s very own Rodrigo and Marcelo sat down with Tim Harden for an episode of The Venturing Angler Podcast. In the episode, the three discuss the incredible jungle fly fishing found at our destinations.
Click here to listen to the podcast.
In September, Florian Kaiser caught a remarkable peacock bass at Rio Marié with Untamed Angling. His pursuit of a giant peacock bass (or GPB) was certainly fruitful, as he landed the largest peacock bass ever caught on the fly. This is his story.
The ULTIMATE JUNGLE BLAST – Fly Fishing in Brazil – September 2016
Catching a truly remarkable Giant Peacock Bass by Florian Kaiser
I was kind of distracted and took it very easy, several times switching between the fishing rod and the camera to take shots of the freshwater dolphins. As usual we changed the location several times to fish the various structures from lakes to lagoons to creek mouths. Eventually we fished a big lagoon with sunken trees providing the perfect holding water for the really big GPB. To that point it was a rather slow day, not many fish to the boat. I had changed my fly some time ago to a rather small white Deceiver with some grey/ blue sprinkled in that I must have tied several years ago for a saltwater trip. With this kind of fishing it is crucial that you are always focused on your fishing as you don’t want to spoil your low number of chances on a good fish. Thus either fish concentrated or make a break. I tried to keep my concentration as high as I could…
Fishing the mentioned self-tied fly on a 300 something grain sink-tip line, letting it sink for several seconds to get it close to the ground, I started a slow retrieve with some shorter quicker pulls mixed in to trigger a possible following fish…
Not at the bank but kind of close I got a solid hook up and an obviously decent fish was hooked. That was not one of those Butterfly Bass that explodes but a solid powerful mass of fish. With those bigger GPBs the immediate judgment of its weight is hard as their behavior can be highly different. Some burst and dart away over 15 meters, as a good fish on Breno’s fly did (+16,5lbs) or show limited strength and can be dominate quickly as my 23lbs GPB from the day before. The fish on my line was possibly stronger as it showed a lot of energy, in very close space between sunken trees the close shore and the boat moving boat in the upcoming wind gusts. To add thrill I got a knot in my line (it might have been a freshwater line, but the tendency of lines to tangle was not much less with specific warm water lines, this specific line was a Vision as it was the only available at a German mail-order shop a year ago), Agustin was able to solve that while I was holding and fighting the fish with the remaining line. The fish knew its territory and managed to wrap the line at least half around one of those trunks of a sunken tree which are the home of these fish. This obstacle was solved by me and the fish showed its full beauty for the first time on the surface. WOW! That was huge! The local guide tried to net it but as usual the fish got angry in face of the net and darted away. It was kind of nerve wrecking – this was not one of those 7lbs NZ SI trout that you would prefer to land but if not you might catch another one – this was a decent or even a very large GPB! Something thousands of fly fisher (and bait fisher) strive to catch for years. So all of us – especially Breno, to make me quit moaning about casting the whole day – really wanted to land it! The next attempt to net it did not succeed, I was afraid that the fly would loosen and just pop out. If that would happen the whole jungle would hear some very angry Bavarian swearing (normally I do not swear because of a lost fish, mostly I laugh heartedly about myself, but in that case I would make an exception). Again the netting attempt did not work but the fourth attempt succeeded! Fish on board and just there we saw its size and weight. The IGFA scale and measure showed the measurements: just shy of 13kg, thus around 28,5lbs and +90cm (on some pictures of the measurement it looks more like +93cm)!
Holy #&@%! – just about now we realized that this fish was not an “ordinary +20lbs GPB” but the most likely biggest Giant Peacock Bass ever caught on fly up to date!
No more words needed. The crew was excited, Breno was excited and lucky that I could not further complain about this “boring casting casting…” and I felled a total new feeling I never had with fishing: kind of sports like satisfaction. Thankful, speechless, …
One annotation to documenting and performing that fish: Everybody aware of the IGFA rules knows by my report that this was not an IGFA-conform World Record but most likely just the largest ever caught GPB on fly. With IGFA I would have needed to use a 20lbs class tippet (which is kind of crazy with these fish, as it might lengthen the fight unnecessarily and or might end in a breakoff) and nobody would have been allowed to touch any of my tackle during fight and the fish would have been measured out of the net on the measures. We did not do any extreme posing pictures, so the fish size is not over exaggerated, the pictures rather understate its size especially compared to my kind of tall size.
I am not a fisherman that needs or seeks attention as long as I am satisfied myself and had a good time out on the water. Thus I asked the team to not tell anything about it to the other guests. Celebrating the joy silently was the way. Only the locals spread the word and I got several thumbs up (real ones, not the virtual ones), nevertheless I later need to post something on social media to satisfy the business side of the game. No Champagne this evening and at the last evening either not.
Next day around lunch the word had spread and the Russians were kind of surprised to realize my record fish.
In case you consider booking your slot at Rio Marie, do not expect to catch record fish. If you are a decent and seasoned fisherman (that means casting 15-20 meters more or less a whole day and knowing what to do), you might have a high chance to catch a +20lbs GPB – but no guaranty!”. Fishing is special and might be kind of boring at times, but if you are in GPB-fly fishing and want to catch a big one of if you want to fish in one of the last virgin spots, Rio Marie is the very best place to go!
*GPB –Giant Peacock Bass
- Reel: Loop Speedrunner
- Line: Vision 300-350 Grain Sinking Tip
- Rod: Greys XF2 Saltwater #9 9′
- Fly: 3/0 small Deceiver in white/grey by Florian Kaiser
- Tippet: 40lbs level
– Florian Kaiser
CV/ Bio: Florian, fly fishing since twenty five years in the northern and southern hemisphere in fresh- and saltwater for many species. Enjoying outdoor sports, mountain biking, photography and good wine. Fly fishing is only one of his hobbies, but the one he kind of loves most. Florian is European Ambassador of Thomas & Thomas, Pro Staff of World Fly Angler (leading distributor of fly tackle and top line brands in Europe) and of Alfa Reels from Finland.
Meredith McCord and photographer, Matt Jones, of Tailwaters recently returned from jungle angling in Kendjam in the Amazon Basin of Brazil with Untamed Angling. We will be featuring Meredith’s daily record of her angling ventures in a nine-part travel journal. This is part eight.
Day 8 – Family of Peacocks
The morning began with a beautiful sunrise and Augustine’s excellent egg scramble and coffee in my forever hot YETI Rambler. I couldn’t help but be drawn to fish busting just on the rock point right off our campsite, so grabbed my rod and headed out, hoping to put yesterday’s tough day behind me. Sure enough, fourth cast out, and I managed to land a nice little peacock bass.
I’ve found that first thing in the morning, when the water is cooler, the fishing is better. This morning was no different, and Matt immediately caught his first wolf fish of the trip, along with three medium-sized peacocks on Ross’ new prototype reel. Super sweet drag and ultralight. Following this trend of biting fish, I managed to land a pacu borracha, a matrincha, and a peacock all in one rapid area.
Family of Peacock Bass
My highlight of the day was catching lots of six to seven pound peacock bass on Dan Blanton’s blue and yellow Flashtail Whistler 4/0. At one point, Augustine and I doubled up twice. I’ve found once you find the school, you can usually almost catch them all. Bass are creatures of habit that go right back to where you just pulled them out, so cast again, and you’ve got the entire school chasing your fly again.
Lunch was simple and perfect. It was a typical Kayapo lunch of tucanare peacocks, grilled whole over an open fire, sprinkled with a little salt, and served on a paddle. As a western add-on we had cold sodas and a kiwi.
The chef’s assistant made a special treat for me on this camping trip: chocolate-covered sweet coconut, dusted with oats on top. Almond Joy has nothing on these!
Due to the relentless sun and water as warm as bath water, the afternoon was slow. We couldn’t even see fish in the shallows, so we hit some deeper holes with an intermediate and a sinking line and managed to catch a few more tucanares and a bicuda.
Late in the afternoon, we tried our hand at the infamous payara armed with my Hardy Proaxis 8wt Ross reel with 350 grain sinking line. With a red and white Tarpon Snake by Umpqua, I would throw a long cast out and let it sink attempting to get it down 10 meters. My first retrieval of long, consistent medium speed strips resulted in three consecutive “pop, pop, pop” hits, but nothing going tight. This happened twice more, making it likely that payara hit my fly, but their toothy hard mouths prevented any solid hook ups. I managed to get a piranha chupita, and the most unique fish of the trip – a corvena, that had us all thinking it was a payara at the end other end, as this was the first corvena caught in the existence of Kendjam.
– Meredith McCord
Meredith McCord and photographer, Matt Jones, of Tailwaters recently returned from jungle angling in Kendjam in the Amazon Basin of Brazil with Untamed Angling. We will be featuring Meredith’s daily record of her angling ventures in a nine-part travel journal. This is part seven.
Day 6 – Fishing Day Four – Matrinxã
A camping we will go. Augustine, Roberto, Djocro, and I all loaded up in one boat, while Matt was in the longer “luggage” boat with all the camping essentials for the next three days. The day was bright with not a cloud in the sky. With an 8 am departure, we were sweating through our clothes by 9 am as we headed upstream in search of more fish and a campsite for the night. After several hours of navigating rapids, rocks and narrows, we made it to our first potential fishing spot. We were all excited and optimistic based on our first day, as we saw water stocked full of pacu and matrinxã on our way downstream to the lodge. Unfortunately, with no rain and only bright sun over the last four days, the water had done nothing but drop and heat up. Not good for this fishery.
Finally, just before lunch, we caught a few tucanares on Umpqua’s new black, red, and white Jungle Love. This new 2017 fly is killer because Umpqua put rattles in them. I’ve found that peacocks, as well as all bass, love the vibration and shake of the rattle.
To ensure their bellies would be filled, our Kayapo friends hand-lined a few peacocks and piranhas with their cool “fishing rig” armed with a fly and a weird grub that they find in a nut-like shell. The hopper-looking grub is encased in such a hard shell that the only way to get into it is by cracking them open with a rock.
The highlight of the day was witnessing Roberto catch his first pacu (borracha) of the week. This was especially sweet as it was his last day (he left early the next day for meetings back in Rio). And Matt put down his camera and caught a matrinxã within 30 seconds. Not only can Matt cast beautifully, but he just catches fish! Every time he picked up a rod during this trip, he caught a fish within five minutes.
Overall, it was a tough day. We saw lots of pacu and matrinxãs but very few seemed to have the energy to eat. We stayed at it until the sun was low on the horizon and we knew it was time to call it quits and find a campsite for the night. Finally, after another hour up river, we found the perfect site to pitch our tents and set up camp for the next few nights. Right before the sunset, Rodrigo appeared in his straw hat with two others to join us for the night, as it was too late for him to make the four hour trip back to the lodge.
– Meredith McCord
Meredith McCord and photographer, Matt Jones, of Tailwaters recently returned from jungle angling in Kendjam in the Amazon Basin of Brazil with Untamed Angling. We will be featuring Meredith’s daily record of her angling ventures in a nine-part travel journal. This is part six.
Day 6 – Fishing Day Four – Bouldering
I woke up this morning to howler monkeys barking from deep in the jungle. Breakfast, as usual, was eggs made to order bacon, toast and fruit. Always interesting to see what food Untamed Angling comes up with. Last night we had clam, squid, and shrimp seafood spaghetti, and this morning we had strawberries, apples and kiwis.
Roberto, Rafael, and I headed upstream to try our hand at some big peacocks. The trip took a little over two hours, but the place is beautiful and very picturesque. It reminded me of a dry river bed that left behind crystal clear pools.
Roberto, Rafael, and I headed upstream to try our hand at some big peacocks. The trip took a little over two hours, but the place is beautiful and very picturesque. It reminded me of a dry river bed that left behind crystal clear pools.
We started with two float line rigs: one with a large popper, and the other black and purple streamer for my 8wt Sage ONE with RIO Redfish and an 8′ leader (30-20-4lb wire). This is the fishing I love. Pure sight casting. We slowly crept to the edge of the first deep pool, trying to peer from a distance into its depth. Sure enough, a large tucanare peacock was swimming lazily behind a large crescent moon shaped rock. So we got on our hands and knees and crawled close enough for the cast.
From this angle the fish can’t see us, and we can’t see the fish. I tried a few casts with my streamer and nothing. So we crawled a little closer … in the shadow of this moon rock, and we spotted several nice wolf fish laying on the bottom.
With the popper rod, Roberto and I threw longs casts. It’s exactly what was needed, but these lazy fish only nosed our poppers and weren’t aggressive enough to eat. So we switched to our streamers and literally dropped the fly on the trahira’s (wolf fish) head, and they lethargically opened their mouths and just casually sucked in our flies.
Honestly, I don’t think fly selection had anything to do with our success. I think I could take an old piece of a sock and drop it in front of them, and they’d eat. They’re just mean ugly predators looking to chew up anything in their path.
The fight was very disappointing, as this one didn’t even have the courtesy of jumping for us. It almost acted bored with the whole thing. After fooling with the trahira for a while, we redirected our efforts to pursue a few bigger tucanare. Within seconds an opportunity presented itself: a large male and a smaller female (often the case) appeared in the middle of our pool. I tried the steamer, and over and over again they only nosed it. So lazy. All happening 20-30′ from my rod tip. Eventually I went back to my black and purple streamer and finally I elicited an irritated bite. Unfortunately, it’s the small one, but at least my efforts paid off.
From there we wandered from pool to pool looking for more fish, but much to our disappointment the water was low, still, and warm … therefore vacant on life. Finally we make it to the top. The pool is much deeper, and I am sorry I only had my floating lines and not my intermediate line. So I changed my lighter streamer for a lead-eyed white and chartreuse (with some flash) Clouser and made a few casts. I see a small peacock on the edge and cast past it with short 3″ fast strips. But A piranha beats the peacock to the fly. I cast again, and a repeat of what just happened before happens again. Ugh. At least it’s the type of piranhas that the Kayapos love, so they are set for a BBQ fish lunch. Roberto hooked into two peacocks – one really nice one that came up and with a huge headshake sent the fly flying. One more small peacock for me, and we headed back down to the boats for a sandwiches, salad, and a super delicious dolce de leche and chocolate cake. Decadent.
After lunch we took the boats upstream in pursuit of pacu and maybe a peacock or two. Armed with my Thomas and Thomas 6wt solar, RIO Redfish 6wt and Abel Super 5n with a 10′ leader of (30-20lb), I started with a large black chubby Chernobyl but had no risers, and I couldn’t see any fish in the fast moving rapids. So I switched twice more with no takes.
Matt spied a few peacocks on the far bank and encouraged me to re-rig to a streamer. So I cut my leader back to about 8′ and added 12″ of 30lb wire and a large-eyed green-backed white baitfish pattern with a 4/0 hook. I casted my fly towards Matt across the fast moving water into the eddy, mended it up and immediately had a peacock swing and miss my fly. This happened three more times, always hitting on the mend like brown trout on a streamer, loving the change of direction and speed. Unfortunately all the fish were short striking my fly, so I used my nippers to roughly trim the back 1/2″ off my fly.
Sure enough, my next cast resulted in my line going tight and a landed 2lb lit up peacock. Twice more the fish tried to eat on my mend but missed, and now it was time to start the trip back to the lodge.
I was hopeful it would be quicker going down than the two hours that it had taken coming up. On our way down, Rafi decided we had about 20 minutes to try one more time for a fish at the rapids with the pacu. The only one with any luck was Matt when he slapped a small Clouser onto my Thomas and Thomas 5wt and jumped a peacock out of the bottom pool. Otherwise it was pretty slim pickings, but was one of the prettiest spots we had seen thus far: dramatic boulders and three small consecutive waterfalls with deep aqua pools. I might have to do a little cliff jumping here tomorrow on our way up camping … as long as the piranhas don’t get the wrong idea when I jump in.
The trip home was shorter, and we had some fun shooting the rapids. On our way back to camp we passed our friends and lodge mates Romi and Gilbert, who were being guided by lodge hostess and guide Manuela. All three looked to be having a successful session on the high rocks below a rapid.
Dinner was pirarucu (arapaima), with herb and lemon risotto and a parmesan crisp. The fish was very tender, white and flaky. Not at all what I was expecting for such a huge gar/tarpon-like fish. All so yummy.
– Meredith McCord
Meredith McCord and photographer, Matt Jones, of Tailwaters recently returned from jungle angling in Kendjam in the Amazon Basin of Brazil with Untamed Angling. We will be featuring Meredith’s daily record of her angling ventures in a nine-part travel journal. This is part five.
Day 5 – Fishing Day Three
Last night was alive with the sound of crickets, frogs, howler monkeys, and Roberto snoring in the tent next to mine. But I woke up to the smell of egg and ham scramble being prepped by Rafael, and the hot water was boiling on the fire for the Nestle instant coffee.
The morning was incredibly beautiful and slightly cooler than the past few, causing steam to rise off the river.
We began to pack up camp because immediately after our three-hour morning fishing session, we had a long ride back upriver.
Roberto, Matt and I piled in a boat with two Indians and Rafael. We had high anticipation for these lower waters, hoping and praying that our long trek down would pay off, as yesterday felt like a bit of a bust.
Rafi tells us to rig up our wire and biggest poppers, as we were going wolf fish hunting. I rigged my Sage ONE 8wt with RIO Redfish 8wt line and RIO 40lb wire. A short leader is all that is necessary for these aggressive creatures. Rafi positioned us right next to a little inlet and instructed us to rip the first long cast up in the creek and strip hard and rapidly back to get the attention of the fish.
The following casts were done slowly and deliberately to cause a huge disturbance with a four-to-five second pause after each pop. On my second cast and the second pop, a huge (almost 12 pound) wolf demolished my large chartreuse foam popper. This isn’t the typical eat of a wolf on a poppers, and my next cast delivered a more typical experience: a slow follow from the fish who then then nosed it before a slow sip, like a trout on a dry fly. The wolf fish performs as expected with several series of head thrashing jumps out of the two-foot river flat.
Now it is Roberto’s turn. His smaller crease fly didn’t get their attention, so he put on the same chartreuse foam head I used, and sure enough the next cast resulted in a pale olive green trahira (wolf fish). No sooner was he on that when two others came out to see about the commotion. I sent my popper over near his and bam! I was on too – a double. But Rafi, loving our enthusiasm knows we need all three. Why leave the third empty-mouthed? So he grabbed Roberto’s streamer rod with a large peacock colored Puglisi fibered 5″ fly and handed the rod to me. Sure to form, the last one ate and we landed all three.
The morning shaped up nicely. Now the question is posed: Do we want to catch 20 more of these wolf fish in this creek, or do we want to mix it up by targeting some matrincha on dry flies? Always up for species and varieties and a bit of a challenge, we decide to pursue the latter.
After a 10-minute ride north, we found slow moving rapids on an extensive river flat. Roberto took the left bank, and I took the right, armed with my Thomas and Thomas 6wt Solar and Abel 5N with RIO Redfish line and 9′ leader (4′ of 30lb, 4′ of 20lb and a foot of 12″ 30lb fluorocarbon for the bite).
The river was almost too shallow, the fish were easily spooked, and the overcast day wasn’t making it easy to see these silver black-tailed fish very easily. The flat was littered with 15″ diameter black with white spot string rays that were everyone’s biggest fear. Upon arriving to the lodge the first day, our sweet and beautiful hostess, Manuela, had been struck by one that very day and was still cringing in pain and hopping upon one leg six hours later. Her foot was swollen where the barb from the tail had struck her in the side of her foot near the arch. It was three days before she was able to put her full weight back on her injured foot.
Within 10 minutes of wading, I hooked my first of these bullet-shaped fish on a yellow beat-up Pool Toy hopper. I hooked several before the hopper was so chewed up that it no longer floated. Out of yellow Pool Toys, I changed to a green and was rejected several times until I used my black sharpie again to color the underbelly. That worked immediately until a nice large five to six pounder chewed through the last few remaining inches of my 30lb tippet. l changed to large chubby black/purple Chernobyls as my 30lb was back at the boat. And I tied the fly directly to my 20lb class tippet, hopeful that the larger fly size would prevent the “saw toothed” fish from inhaling my fly too deep in their small mouth, therefore sawing through my tippet.
A few more and we headed back to camp for a lunch of leftover steak, onions and spaghetti pasta with soy sauce along with freshly caught peacock, thanks to Ken and Brian and some delicious pork sausage. One thing is for sure: I got plenty to eat. These guides aren’t just every day fishing guides, they’re chefs and mechanics.
At 12:45 we packed up camp for the season, and we set off upstream to the lodge. No eventful ride upstream until an hour and twenty minutes out when our two blade propeller hit a rock morphing into a one blade propeller that would get us nowhere fast. Luckily Matt was behind us in the boat with the equipment and extra motor parts and quickly came to the rescue.
Upon arriving back at the lodge, the chief of the Kayapo’s village and his family were all freshly painted up and had on their brightly colored celebrations garb. He, his three children, and one of his wives all posed for pictures with us on the beach in front of the lodge. A very special treat. The chief, who wasn’t shy in asking us for “things”, asked Matt to give him his drone. Ha. I don’t think he was used to being told “no”, but hopefully, he took it in stride and understood Matt’s refusal.
– Meredith McCord
Meredith McCord and photographer Matt Jones of Tailwaters recently returned from jungle angling in Kendjam in the Amazon Basin of Brazil with Untamed Angling. We will be featuring Meredith’s daily record of her angling ventures in a nine-part travel journal. This is part three.
Day Three – Fly Fishing Kendjam and Our First Pacu
Last night I would wake up periodically to interesting new sounds. The generators turned off around 10:30 or 11 pm, but its batteries kept the floor fan and bedside lamp running for a few more hours. Once the fan went silent, other sounds were amplified: crickets, frogs, birds calling out to one another. But the most shocking sounds were from the howler monkeys “barking” and “screaming” at each other. Eerie but at the same time super cool.
Breakfast was served at 7 am with eggs made to order, bacon or ham, toast, pancakes and delicious hot coffee. Manuala, our Argentine hostess, served us up a delicious local juice from a fruit I have never heard of, and I had three glasses. Yum!
By 8 am we were rigged and ready to go. My weapons were as follows:
- Thomas and Thomas 5wt – Rio Grand Floating on Abel Super 5N (Dry Fly Rod)
- Thomas and Thomas 6wt – Rio Redfish Floating on Abel Super 5 (Dry Fly Rod)
- Thomas and Thomas 7wt – Rio Redfish Floating on Abel Super 7-8 (Popper/Streamer)
- Sage One 8wt – Rio Outbound Short Intermediate Tip on Abel Super 7-8 (Peacock/Trahire Streamer)
- Hardy 8wt Proaxis – Cortland 350gr sinking line on Ross Reel (Payara Streamer) (my Thomas and Thomas got busted on a trip earlier this year)
Payara time. Payara are one of the wildest looking fish of the Amazon with two bottom teeth that protrude like lower tusks on a wart hog. They’ve been allusive at Kendjam, and the code hasn’t been cracked on to how catch these large silver fish on the fly. While two have been caught in the shallows during Kendjam’s two-year existence, more have been hooked and caught in deep pools (ranging 6 to 10 meters deep). I like weird fish, and the record books for payara on fly for women is open, so off we go about 10 minutes from the lodge to a deep pool.
With a 5” long white baitfish fly rigged on my 8wt sinking line, I threw for an hour and a half with nothing, not even a bite. Not to mention that there wasn’t even a slight breeze, and the humidity levels were probably in the high 90s. Frustrated by watching the fish roll around me and having to wait 5-10 seconds every blind cast, I opted to find some fish I could actually see in this beautiful clear water. (One cool thing we did see while blind casting was a 3-4’ electric eel that came up to the boat to check us out and get a breath before slithering back down deep again. Apparently electric eels have incredible sense of hearing and can produce an electric shock strong enough to feel like a stun gun, causing a lot of pain and numbing to the body. Ugh.)
Gui, Roberto and I moved downstream with 7wt floating line, rigged with popper, and began to cast at the rocky shoreline. We saw a couple of rolls by some small pacu (about the size of my hand), but still nothing yet.
Trolling his fly in frustration as we moved, Roberto finally caught the first fish of the day – a small bicuda. These freshwater barracuda-looking fish are highly sensitive and must be handled quickly or it will die.
By 11 am, it’s obvious we needed to make an aggressive move, so we headed further downstream to find some fast moving waters and shallow rapids. For these waters, I used Thomas and Thomas 6wt Solar with a 9′ leader (30lbs twisted double strand butt to a single strand of 20lbs). Here the target was pacu and matrincha, which both eat dry flies. I showed Gui my box and, as usual, no matter where I go and how many flies I bring, my guide doesn’t look too thrilled. But one caught his eye: Umpqua’s Yellow Pool Toy Size 6.
Now we were in waters, and I could see lots of pacu. As I started with yellow dry hopper, I could tell that the pacu weren’t interested. So Gui suggested I go to a black dry fly; unfortunately, I didn’t have any black hoppers of the same size, so I, a lover of sharpies, used my black sharpie to “paint” it.
On my fourth cast upstream, I allowed it to dead drift back, and I got a full face “out of the water” ice cream cone eat. Pacu on. They’re dirty fighters, and this one went around me, wrapping me in a tangled mess. With no net, and standing in the fast rapids with my legs constrained by my fly line, the fight didn’t end well. The mischievous big pacu got off just as Gui leadered him. This wasn’t the best start to my day or my trip.
But always the optimist, I decided to look for new waters a bit further upstream. I casted in a rainbow formation, working the water up from me and letting my hopper float down towards me. Finally around noon, the strongest eat of the day happened: a matrincha. The bite was awesome and this fish fought like the bullet train, reminding me a bit of a bonefish. The matrincha, pronounced ma-treen-sha, usually fights by charging straight upstream, whereas the pacu dart downstream, around boulders and then upstream and down again using their plate like bodies to dig against you. My matrincha was a thick in size and beautiful – black fork tails and orangish-red underbelly near the gills – but I dropped the slime filmed covered fish right into the water before Matt could get a pic.
I continued to work the water upstream until a 5-6′ coral striped SNAKE swam into my waters 60 feet away (60 feet too close)! Wading at chest deep, I moved to higher ground, upstream and away from the “apparently” non-venomous snake. Venom or no venom, I don’t like snakes.
I do, however, like butterflies, and they are everywhere. Yellow, chartreuse, black and orange ones. It’s amazing how they’ll just flock around you as you fish.
At 12:30, the biggest highlight of the day happened when I walked up river by myself. I was working the cast behind boulders in the middle of the river when a big algae colored pacu slowly sipped my hopper, pool toy. So cool. The fight was on, and again, my fish played dirty. But I was determined to land this one and used my fresh water trout knowledge: I lowered my rod tip parallel to the water and while swinging the fish towards the shore. It worked!!! I brought in my first-ever “rubber” pacu (called this because the Indians think the meat is a bit rubbery). Pretty certain this one hadn’t been written up in the IGFA books, I documented my catch by gathering three measurements: center of fork length, end of fork length, and girth. We also used my certified boga on this sweet 5.25 lbs dish looking fish. Then back in the water it went.
All the excitement made us hungry so we met the Indians down river where they were cooking up a pacu they had hand-lined earlier. Lunch was perfect and delicious. With the air so still and humid, and the warmness of the water really offering no relief, we were all craving something cold and delicious. Chef Leandro had also prepared a beef salad with onions and peppers; penne pasta with sun dried tomatoes, cheese, and ham; and one of my favorite protein staples, a hard-boiled egg. Brownies were served for dessert, but from my past trips to Tsimane and Marié, I knew that the Indians really appreciate prepared sweets, so Matt, Roberto and I handed them over to our guides.
After a relaxing lunch in the shade, Matt asked to borrow my rod for a couple of casts. Not even five casts in and right in front of us … bam, he caught his first Brazilian fish, a matrincha on the pool toy.
That spurred me and Rodrigo out of our comfy camp chairs to begin our afternoon session. Roberto and Gui went right upstream, and I started in the slower water in front. After a few casts, I spotted a melanaei peacock 20 feet in front of me, in a quiet little pocket. I drifted my hopper over him twice, and got nothing. Then, thinking of bass, I “popped it.” That got his attention, and he chased it on to the deep rocks, having to turn on his side to eat it. I love the aggression! I landed my first peacock of the trip, and luckily Matt captured some incredible macro photos. The hopper popper.
Next came a tiny little pacu peba, looking radiant with his orange bottom front fin. His mouth wasn’t big enough to inhale my pool toy, but it was big enough to get the hook in.
While I worked my way downstream, I heard lots of hoots and hollering from Roberto and Gui. Roberto had caught several brightly enthused peacocks and a nice Bicuda. “They jumped and jumped,” he exclaimed.
Not much was happening in my waters, so a couple of the Indians guides and I started to make our way back to the boat. Halfway back, I spied three pacus behind a rock in a slick I’d previously thrown at with no luck. I threw my black painted “Pool Toy” hopper, which bounced off the rock and “hopped” right into the quiet eddy—and all three pacu raced for it. Luckily the big guy inhaled it first, and it was another dirty fight. I again used that down and dirty, low angle to bring him into my feet. Matt put down his camera to help, as this one was a bigger. Maybe 3lbs.
From there, we took the boats a little downstream, where I switched to my Sage One 8wt with Rio Outbound Short Intermediate Tip. Several peacocks, piranhas, and matrinchas followed, but the warm water caused by the full moon and drought had them feeling pretty lethargic. I managed to convince one little peacock and a bicuda to eat, but the day was done and so was I. Amazonian heat can sap your energy. It was time for a cold shower and a nice glass of fruit juice.
Appetizers are always good at Untamed Angling Lodges, and wonderful assortment of salty treats were waiting for us: pear and pesto pizza, salami pizza, Pringles, olives and nuts. I’m not sure why, but I always crave salt after a day on the water.
Dinner was delicious and followed by another trip highlight. Two of the Kayapos women offered to paint their tribal warrior patterns on our arms, using carbon coal from the fire and coconut oil. Matt, Brian, Ken, Roberto and I accepted. I asked for a turtle, Ken wanted a snake, and Matt was open and got a cool design. The women used flat sticks and their fingers to paint and apply the designs, which last about 5-7 days, depending on how much you shower and use soap and sunscreen.
Heading camping tomorrow for the first time in maybe 30 years? Ha. This should be an adventure. Praying no snakes!!!
– Meredith McCord
Meredith McCord and photographer, Matt Jones, of Tailwaters recently returned from jungle angling in Kendjam in the Amazon Basin of Brazil with Untamed Angling. We will be featuring Meredith’s daily record of her angling ventures in a nine-part travel journal. This is part two.
Day Two – Traveling to Kendjam Village, Brazil
Breakfast came early at 5 am, but my excitement for the day had me buzzing.
At 5:30 am, we checked out and hopped on the large mini bus for the 15-minute drive to the “airport club”, a small domestic airport that caters to passengers heading to remote areas of the Amazon. There we met our fellow anglers for the week: Ken and Brian (uncle and nephew duo from NYC and Roanoke, Va.); Gilberto and Romi (a fun couple from Argentina); and of course Matt, Jackson, and Roberto, who’d be my fishing partner. Passports were handed over at the airport club’s VIP lounge, which luckily had A/C, as it’s very humid and warm in Manaus, even at this time of the morning.
At 6:10 am sharp we took off on a comfortable nine-seater Cessna Grand Caravan. The four-hour flight was direct, which isn’t always the case — most of the time you stop midway in an old mining town for a quick pilot change and a bathroom break.
Flying at more than 10,000 feet, the view from the plane showcased the dense population of housing and buildings in Manaus and the “Meeting of the Waters” which is the confluence of Rio Negro’s darkness into the sandy colored waters of the upper Amazon River (Rio Solimoes). Past the river, there’s a sharp contrast where the city ends and the bright green jungle begins, with hints of yellow flowering trees. The flight gave me a sense of going back in time, knowing that there are hectares upon hectares that may still be untraveled by humans. The flight felt long and my heart was beating fast – I was ready to get there and see what awaited us on the Iriri River.
After three and a half hours, we descended, and the pilot flew over the Kayapo’s village, between the rock of Kendjam and the Iriri River. The village is set in a perfect circle with a large thatched-roof meeting hut situated perfectly in the middle. The runway is little more than a short dirt road between the thatched-roof village and concrete schoolhouse. What impressed me as much as the perfectly situated huts was the clarity of the Iriri River: gorgeous boulders, sandy beach and flats with emerald green clear waters flowing over and between. I found myself trying to spot fish while we were still in the air.
The landing was smooth, and it seemed like the entire village came to greet us. Standing under a large mango tree, the Kayapo people were just what I had expected, except with a little more clothing than what I’d seen in photos, and the children’s bodies were beautifully painted.
As the door to the plane opened, the arid, hot air hit us, and we knew we’d arrived in the middle of the Amazon. The tribe was shy, and quietly observed us, but no one rushed to unload the plane. I soon learned it’s because the boats coming upstream from the lodge were running late. But soon, last week’s clients arrived in the boats for their flight home. I chatted with several of them to better set my expectations for the week, and I also chatted with the returning trip’s guides, including Augustine as guide from Salta, Argentina who has been guiding for over 10 years and the head guide, Guillerme (“Gui”), whom I had the privilege of fishing with last year at the Rio Marié. Gui actually helped me with an IGFA world record or two on our last trip, so I was excited to have a few goals in mind for this trip. These conversations helped me prepare for the upcoming week.
Our bags were taken to the white sandy beach of the river, where long skinny aluminum skiffs were anchored. One was equipped with a 40HP Yamaha jet motor and the other three had long-stem propeller “lawn mower” motors (they reminded me of the gator tail motors we used in the super skinny marshland in south Louisiana). The river was beautiful and the air was hot, so as the kids started jumping into the fresh water, I decided to do the same. This caused laughter from the kids, and they started doing flips and jumping to my English shouts of “one, two, three.” Lots of fun, and the river felt awesome.
Due to the low water, tough rapids, and rocks that were dangerously close to the surface, back at the village, each guide personally selected two of the strongest and best Indian river navigators for this last week of the season. Then off we set down river. Matt and I were in a 26’ boat with Augustine, two Indian “river” guides, and the chief with his wife and three kids. Ham sandwiches were offered with sodas, juice, and water for the long five-hour trek to the lodge. Wading boots were required, as we had to navigate five or six major rapids along the way. But it was impressive to watch the Kayapo Indians do everything in just flip flops.
Matt and I made ourselves comfortable among all the bags and coolers, and along the way, the chief got highly animated when he saw a tapir swimming across the river. The Kayapo boys in our boat wanted to lasso the animal, but the chief’s youngest daughter screamed and cried to leave it be. Luckily we were able to get some great video and photos.
Just before sunset, we turned the corner back upstream into a beautiful bay, and there, on an expansive sandy beach, was Kendjam Lodge. This incredible oasis is made up of four safari tents, two on each side of a permanent dining/lounge screened hut, and a kitchen and guides’ quarters in the back. The Indians, there for the week to assist us, stayed in a camp several hundred meters up the beach.
The lodge, tents, beds, and furniture were awesome, but the fully plumbed bathroom situated right behind my tent was just plain amazing. All this comfort built in the middle of jungle blew my mind. Untamed Angling sure knows how to set up “camp”.
– Meredith McCord
There are unique fishing destinations in the world – wild locations where getting there is half the adventure and one can experience life-changing angling experiences.
At Untamed Angling we dream about these waters, and pursue the most remote and difficult-to-operate angling destinations in the world, undeterred by the distances, difficulties, obstacles, and the naysayers. We are wholly driven by legends, myths, and the spirit of adventure.
It’s the unknown that drives us each and every day in creating and developing the most exotic, remote and spectacular angling odysseys that have ever been made available to the fly fishing industry.
It’s the soul of our being: venturing deep into nature.
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