Agua Boa Amazon Lodge 2012
(To see more photos from this year's trip to the Amazon, please go to Scott Heywood's blog FLY PAPER and see Amazon 2012: Agua Boa Photo Gallery please make sure you look at Part 1 and Part 2.
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Ray Santos, our liaison for the Agua Boa Lodge in Manaus, told me that it had rained a lot the days leading up to our arrival. He said that in the last two days what had been perfect conditions: low flows, exposed white sandbars and isolated lagoons with clear tea-colored water had now given way to faster flows and turbid waters. As our twin Cessna banked over the landing strip the lodge had carved from the rain forrest, I could see the water was up. I could see very few exposed sandbars which made me a bit nervous about water levels. I pushed the thought away like a soggy bowl of breakfast cereal.
After disembarking from our charter, I quickly downed a traditional glass of champagne before wolfing down a quick breakfast. Then I rigged a rod, slapped on some sunscreen and walked down the ramp to the dock, my previous anxiety concerning water levels appropriately sequestered in some Polyannaish recess of my mind. But the truth was unavoidable. I quickly saw that the water had climbed 2 feet up the 20 foot rock wall onto which the lodge was perched. The river was higher than I had ever seen it before. Carlos, the lodge manager, said it had risen five feet in the last few days.
“Uh-oh”, I muttered to myself, but before I could drill down on the anxiety, the optimism of the group and the excitement of the guides pushed these concerns again to the back of my brain. I had replaced this angst with an angler’s best tool... hope. Never in short supply in any angler worth a damn, hope now bubbled up in me and came out as “let’s go fishing” ...then it bubbled over with always popular “how bad could it be”.
I was soon to learn the answer... and that was...“not bad...”
“...not bad at all.”
Sure the fishing was off. Our sight fishing opportunities were fewer with the more turbid water, the paths to some lagoons were underwater eliminating some of my favorite walks in the jungle and the sheer amount of water further reduced our angling options by allowing the fish to weave in and out of the forrest where it was more difficult to reach them with a cast. But in relative terms, the river was up only five feet from its lowest point of the year. It still had 25-30 feet to go and it would probably drop again before the floods came in April. This was after all, a rain forrest! If I had to put our fishing on some sort of quantitative scale, I would say that our fishing was 70% of normal. But 70% of the Agua Boa it still pretty damn good!
Hundreds of fish were caught. Probably at least a hundred each day by our group. Hell, Peter Greenleaf and Jim Wright caught 100 fish in one afternoon! Frank and his son Stro hooked an arowana and a payara one afternoon, as well as a pirarucu later in the trip. In addition, we caught matrincha, parapatinga, pirana, jacunda, dogfish, bicuda, and of course peacocks. The peacocks came in three convenient sizes:
Small... the borbeleta or butterfly peacocks (up to 5 lbs. and prolific, borboletas will wear you out).
Medium... the spotted or paca (they are tougher pound for pound than any of the peacocks and incredibly beautiful).
Super Jumbo... the temensis or tucanare peacock (vibrantly painted and dogged fighters, this species is the largest of the peacocks and are a truly an iconic gamefish).
The borboletas were readily available as were smaller spotted peacocks. Total numbers were diminished a bit, but where I felt the effects of the increased flows most was with the larger, that would be 10+ lb., peacocks. It took experience with this river and the ability to compare this year with previous years to notice the change.
For the eight anglers new to the Agua Boa River and its wonders, they noticed nothing having no frame of reference. I had to keep reminding myself of this. If the fishing was off a bit, they didn’t know it. For example, Rit Thompson and Dave Saylor had some spectacular days... David Wright caught a 12 lb. peacock our first afternoon and many more for the week. Stro Ashburn caught a 14 pounder the next day and his father Frank had some terrific days. Over the course of the week, this affable group hooked many 8+ lb. peacocks, as well as quite a few 13, 14, 15 even 16 pound fish.
So in the final analysis, the biggest problem with the week was that Rex, the 16 foot caimen who in past years waited patiently at the dock for returning anglers to toss a fish into her massive maw, had now no exposed beach to crawl up on. Instead she lurked just offshore not bothered one bit by the high water.
It was great to meet everyone especially after so many months of preparing for this trip. I had been talking with David Whitney for many months and knew this was his first big adventures outside the U. S. to fish. Dave was accompanied by his wife Barb Fitzgerald. Barb was delightful and a real trooper especially in the midst of this “menclave” of fishermen. Barb and Dave weathered the anxiety of a bag that showed up missing in Manaus with great class (especially Barb, as Dave’s motive for his concern with her lost bag was somewhat suspect due to a box of flies he had put in her bag!).
Even though I felt I knew Rit Thompson and Dave Saylor, as we have been conversing with each other for years, it was wonderful to put a face with the voice. Their interest in the birds, as well as fish, of the Amazon, put an interesting focus on the trip for me. Rit and Dave invited their friend Frank Ashburn and his son Stro. Frank and Stro were also very interested in the birds and wildlife of the Agua Boa. They were both great additions to the group. I’m still jealous of Frank’s payara and Stroh’s tussel with a pirarucu. I have been fishing this river for years and have yet to land a pirarucu or a payara. And what a great pleasure to meet Peter Greenleaf and Jim Wright. These guys were a ball to be around and I really enjoyed the day we hacked our way into a remote lagoon. It was here that they caught a tremendous spotted peacockof 12 lbs.. I’ll always remember seeing Peter and Jim after the big rain storm on our last day as they stripped to the waist to dry their shirts which were flapping wildly when held overhead above the speeding skiff. To complete the hilarious scene, Neto, their guide, had removed his jeans and was sitting in his kelly green underwear holding his soggy jeans overhead while at full throttle. No shortage of enthusiasm or humor with those guys. I look forward to fishing with you two again some day down the road. And finally to my friend Scott Sawtelle, who outfished me everyday, thanks so much. Scott finished the week with a magnificent 12 lb. spotted peacock and a beautiful 14 lb. temensis plus good numbers of 8-12 lb fish. Whew... well done!!
...and thanks to guides Imo, Joseph, Preto, Neto and Boro, Caboca and the whole staff and Agua Boa Lodge.
It was a great trip!
Written by Scott Heywood