As the plane banked sharply to begin its final approach, we were afforded an iconic view. Below us, a dense and boundless forest was veined by shining waters. This river, the Agua Boa, slid over immense sand bars and seemed all the more dazzling when compared to the deep green of the rain forrest. We were all excited as we exited the plane... some to be back, others to see what treasures the Amazon held. Waiting on the strip, was the group that had come with our long time friends and partners at International Angler in Pittsburgh, PA. Hosted by Bob Phillips, this group was anxious to give us the run-down before they departed. It was great to greet long-time friends Stan Stein and Dave McLeod and put a face with the voices of Jan Esway and Jack Voytko. They had had a great trip and had us so juiced by the time they departed that we could hardly wait to get going.
Flash forward one week and all I can say is “Wow!... yet another spectacular year on the Agua Boa River”. This year, our group of 11 stayed at the lodge, but that was not the original plan for all of us. Six of us were scheduled to be on the houseboat, but because the rainy season had failed to live up to its billing, the Agua Boa River was at its lowest level in recent history. As a result, it was impossible to get the houseboat upriver and we were therefore headquartered out of the lodge.
This was to prove to be not only no impediment to good fishing, but also provide an opportunity to join some old friends who had booked the lodge (and not the houseboat) all along. We were now a group of 11 and we had a ball!
In this trip report, I will not regale you with a description of either the lodge or the houseboat experience. For that, I will refer you to previous trip reports.
Click here to see the lodge article
Click here to see the houseboat article
Suffice it to say, our lodging was very comfortable and air-conditioned, our food delicious and plentiful, our guides knowledgeable and good from top to bottom, our staff attentive and gracious and our fishing terrific, if not a bit different from previous years. And yes, our laundry was done every day, Mari met us each evening on the dock with cold caiparinhas and Rex, the wonder caimen, is still going strong and begging for piranha.
But let's talk fishing! If you wanted big peacocks and sight fishing opportunities, this was the year to do it. I'm sure our group landed dozens of fish over over 17 lbs. and dozens over 10 lbs. each day. One member of the group from the previous week, Jim Esway, who we met us on the airstrip said he had landed 33 fish over 10 lbs. Holy Cow!... and our week went the same way. Everyone landed a peacock over 15 lbs., most landed a fish over 17 lbs. and the fish of the week weighed in at almost 20 lbs. - 19 and 3/4 to be exact. Congratulations to Neil Dorsey, but Karson Carpenter and Peter Acosta were not far behind!
Never can I remember a week with so many big fish. Certainly our total fish counts were lower as the small borboleta (butterfly) peacocks were less evident. On previous years, you could seemingly catch a borboleta at will and they almost became a nuisance. But what we lacked in quantity, we made up for in quality, both in terms of size and the way these monsters were caught.
Everyone had opportunities to sightfish big peacocks in sometimes absurdly shallow water. The fishing was definitely more technical with longer casts and a better presentation required. At times, it was like bonefishing in the Amazon. With the guide perched on the boat’s poling platforms and an angler on the bow, we poled over pale yellow sand bars looking for the dark green silhouette of a big peacock. At other times, we were able to walk and wade bright white beaches in search of similar opportunities. When we weren’t able to sightfish, we probed the depths traditionally, meaning sink tip lines and flashy feathered 3/0 and 4/0 whistler-type flies.
I always find it difficult to truly capture the essence of a great trip in words. Usually, descriptions of specific moments help to epitomize the trip get the point across best. On this trip there were so many great moments, but a few highlights might better convey the essence of this grand adventure:
This year, the Agua Boa's waters were shallow and where last year the river was running dark and mysterious, it was now more like a trout stream... if a trout stream held sting rays, electric eels and 800 pound crocodilians! It was now possible to wade across the Agua Boa in many places. White sand bars and pale blond dunes, many pockmarked with the tracks of tapir, otters and jaguar, were walled in by the jungle. Those bars over which water still flowed were delicately fluted and then ribbed at consistent intervals with deeper shelves like the belly scales of a giant snake. The Agua Boa silently slithered and coiled back on itself between steep banks and forrest walls. Each turn, each pool and each log jam held the promise of a big fish.
One day, while fishing with my friend Anna Riggs, I walked a steep beach while Anna fished the far bank with our guide Neto. I almost immediately saw two big peacocks a few feet from shore, but spooked them with a poor cast. On the remainder of the beach, I had no luck and eventually turned to walk back to the boat. I knew I had blown a big opportunity. As I watched Anna cast, redemption came in the form of a single neon-green shape that shimmered over a small shallow scallop in the beach. This time, I made a good cast, stripped fast twice and the big male temensis peacock almost beached himself trying to get to my fly. He ate and I stripped. He was on and his massive tail churned water and flung sand as he worked to get out of the shallows and into deeper water. By the time Neto and Anna were able to reach me, I had almost tired out this fish. It wasn't long before Neto bogaded the peacock which pulled 15lbs. on the scale. I was thrilled, this is what we had come for.
After a few hand shakes and a slammer of cold water from the cooler, Anna, Neto and I jumped back in the boat to continue fishing the far bank. It wasn't long before we spotted a true monster deep in a log jam. We watched as this 19-20 lb. peacock came closer as he made his way out of the debris. This would be a short cast for Anna, the toughest kind with a sink tip shooting head. Anna made a perfect delivery that set down just as the peacock charged a school of small jacundas. With these baitfish flying in all directions, the peacock saw Anna's fly and veered to pick up the straggler. Anna struck when the fish ate. A split second later, the massive fish ripped line with classic peacockian style. A style that cuts through sun gloves and leaves white burns marks in exposed flesh. With the short cast, a pile of slack line and no benefit of her Abel reel's big drag, Anna had the task of controlling the uncontrollable. She did her best, but the fish was soon back in the log jam and it wasn't much later that the fish was off. I'm sure Anna felt disappointment, but there wasn't much she could have done... and it was still the best peacock “take” I've ever seen!
Each and every day we had great fishing and exciting moments. In my experience, some of the best moments on any fishing trip often don't involve the actual “catching” of fish...
Jay Hillerson was reeling in a small borboleta as I sat mid-boat switching fly lines. The day before, a piranha had bitten 10 feet off my sink tip T-200 and it was casting poorly. As I reeled in a new line, I just happened to look up as one of the biggest peacocks I’ve ever seen sucked in Jay's 2 lb. fish and then banged into the boat. This monster was kind enough to take the borboleta sparing Jay the incovenience of unhooking his catch. What a considerate animal! This massive peacock was 20 + lbs. and we sat there jabbering incoherently shocked by the size of its huge head and gaudy body. A very cool moment!
After any great fishing trip, you remember certain days and specific moments. On this trip each day was great for different reasons...
After a spectacular morning of big fish action and as things began to slow down at mid-day, Peter Acosta and I decided to play the game of trading the bow. The rules were simple: a borboleta didn't count, a temensis or spotted peacock did, but the fish had to be over 5 lbs. Once you were hooked up to a bigger fish, whether it be 5 or 20 lbs., you were to move from the bow (after you landed your fish) and relinquish the post. We quickly altered the game a bit, because a hooked fish usually attracted a crowd. So it wasn't long before the game also included getting the angler-in-waiting to cast over the hooked fish in a effort to “double-up'. More often than not we did just that and at the very least, we had the thrill of the flash with a missed take. Big fun and we laughed liked kids.
Over the course of our week, we caught on the fly not only three species of peacocks, but also arowana, jacunda, bicuda, piranha, pacu, surubim catfish and red-tailed catfish. Arowana and pacu deserve special mention as both were sightfished with small surface poppers and gurglers. We also caught many big catfish with hunks of piranha on spinning rods, great fun especially during the Amazon's famously hot, mid-day, hide-under-the-canopy, string-up-a-hammock and take-a-siesta time.
In addition to the superb fishing, we saw tapir, giant Amazonian otter, agouti, capybara, hundreds of spectacled and black caimen, including nests with dozens of foot long hatchlings and a large black caimen that cornered a 10 + lb. peacock in the shallows and then dispatched him with a quick jaw snap. We saw freshwater dolphin and birds of all size and description including a tiger heron attacking a poisonous snake that it eventually lost to a riverside ledge.
We had a wonderful time at the lodge, especially in the evenings sharing the events of the day over cocktails and dinner. Everyone came back each day with many stories: lagoons filled with big fish, great takes and near misses, weird wildlife and exciting moments.
There is no doubt that the Agua Boa Amazon Lodge offers one of the great fishing trips in the world. We'll be going back next spring and if you are interested, give us a call and we'll fill you in on all the details.
Written by Scott Heywood