Pure Fly Fishing Fun—Peacock Bass on Xeruini River, Brazil


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Posted by Mark A Kuipers on 2019-02-01 13:53:52

Pure Fly Fishing Fun—Peacock Bass on Xeruini River, Brazil

I’ve been fortunate enough to take a lot of fly fishing trips and I can say hands down that this is the most fun fly fishing trip I’ve ever taken. The combination of excellent fishing, an exciting location, willing fish that pull as hard as a fish can, a clean and efficient camp, warm and friendly guides and camp staff and an over all well run operation hosted by Rob Anderson. Everything exceeded expectations.

This is one trip to take!

Safety
I’m a pretty fearless or maybe a bit naïve, but I was apprehensive of the trip. Snakes, bugs, disease, man eating fish, malaria, and who knows what else we might face. To my surprise, the most dangerous part of the trip was taking an Uber in Miami to go out to dinner! Don't let fear of the unknown prevent you from taking this trip!

The Xeruini River is a couple of hundred miles north of Manaus, Brazil, which is where the main stem of the Amazon meets its major tributary, River Negro. The Amazon is 15 degrees colder than the Negro and muddy while the Negro is a tannic but clear. The big difference is that the two rivers have very different ecosystems because they have opposite ph levels. The ph in the Amazon makes everything grow, trees, bugs, fish, snakes and everything. The ph in the River Negro does just the opposite. The tree canopy is only about 30 feet high, there are vast sand beaches, the water is clear and no weeds are growing in it. But it is loaded with fish! And there are very few bugs, at least during the dry season which is the fishing season.

In the week we were there we never even put on bug juice! I never heard or saw a mosquito and we saw very few other bugs. We took naps in hammocks at noon and were never bothered. At camp at night we’d sit on the beach without a bug worry. We saw no snake or spiders.

We did see lots of piranha! In fact, we swam and wade fished with them all around. I never thought I’d even put my foot in the water there, but the swimming and bathing in the river was safe as these piranha were not threatening at all. We did not tempt fate by skinning dipping!

We took shots for Hep A, typhoid and those of us under 60 had a yellow fever shot. Some took malaria pills, but most did not. While prudent to take precautions, the risk was very low.

The camp was incredibly clean and the food well prepared, so beyond the usual traveler’s issues of a different diet, we didn’t experience much gastro distress beyond a day or two and that was mild. No one lost any fishing time due to it.

The Fishing
I tend to be a bit of a snob and like to fish for hard to catch fish and I’m not really into catching great numbers of easy to catch fish. But I changed my tune on this trip. We had a ball catching fish after fish after fish. The guides carry clickers to tally fish and one day two of our anglers caught 252 peacock bass in one day. And one of the anglers was just on his second fly fishing trip! My son and I caught 97 before lunch one day and we just had to stop before hitting 100 to eat and rest. We ended the day with 207 fish. Most fish were in the 2 to 3 pound range, with plenty in the 4 to 6 pound range and we did catch them up to 14 pounds. My biggest was a 12 pounder and I cast to some that were larger.

The best fly was a blue bucktail streamer that Rob Anderson ties. But other flies worked. There are just so many fish. I did have some success on poppers catching two 7 pounders on 3 casts when we found peacocks busting bait, but it was hard to entice them to the surface when they were not actively feeding.

Most of use used intermediate tip lines, either RIO and Scientific Anglers, and we all used straight 40-pound fluorocarbon leaders, 4 to 6’. I used 8 weights as that is what I have and they worked great for me, although a 9 weight would probably be better. This is a casting intense fishing so be in shape for it.

I had a bit of casters elbow going into the trip and had spent 2 months doing PT and exercises. I wasn’t 100% and was worried, but the warm humid weather helped my tendons and I had no problems at all. Returning to Montana and cold weather resulted in some soreness, so I think the doctor orders are for another warm water fishing trip soon.

We caught fish all day long with few slow times.

Most of the fishing was blind casting into likely spots. When we found a honey hole we could catch 25 or more fish. Sometimes we saw fishing traveling up and down the river and a whole new batch of fish would end up in the honey hole and we’d catch them to. It was just a pure hoot. If you could cast 30 feet your could catch fish.

In the river and the many lagoons we did sight fish to some big fish. These were no pushovers. Sometimes 80 to 90’ accurate casts were required and it felt just like tarpon fishing, only with fish that were in the 10 to 18 pound range. They were a challenge. We’d find them cruising the shoreline, laid up and sometimes busting bait. I saw some big peacocks force dozens of 12” inch baitfish up on to the shore to escape their jaws.

The Xeruini River is relatively small this time of year. While it does not have a measured flow, my estimate is that is was flowing about 600 cfs. Plenty good for the boats to go up and down the river. The boats were jon-boats with 30 horse motors, trolling motors and came with a poling platform.

One day our guide took us into an oxbow lagoon that had been cut off from the main river. He cut down some trees with a machete and we used the logs to roll the boat about 100 yards into a lagoon. That was so cool and exciting and we fished to fish that were rarely fished to.

Perhaps the highlight of the fishing and certainly an indication of how special this group of guides is and Rob Anderson’s management of the operation was getting into River Novo. Rob sent up a drone to survey this small creek to see where it went. 2100 feet later large lagoons opened up and looked very promising. The guides went to work with chain saws and machetes and cut a path for the boats to muscle up the creek. We were certainly the first sport fishermen to ever fish this area and I’m pretty sure the indigenous people of the areas had rarely been there if at all. Needless to say, the fishing was incredible and the bird life was more abundant. What an experience.

We saw lots of tropical birds and camen. Some saw an anteater, tapir, holler monkeys, etc.

The Camp, People and Food
The camp was spotless. We slept in floating cabins, two beds to a room with shower, toilet, washbasin and two desks and cubes for our gear and clothes. They came with air conditioning and were very comfortable. The dining room was on another boat and there was a cook boat, generator boat and boats for the crew. We were amazed and impressed at the logistics to get everything here. After all, we joked that we weren’t in the middle of nowhere, but 100 miles from the middle of nowhere.

We were directly on the equator and our GPS showed .0000 latitude. Very cool. We were approximately 1500 to 2000 miles from the mouth of the Amazon and our elevation was just 170 feet above sea level. There is not a hill or even a bump in the land in this whole vast area.

If you can imagine this, we had laundry service every day! We simply put our fishing cloths in a basket and when we returned to camp they were on our beds and neatly folded…with fresh sheets every day, too. All included in the fee as was the beer and booze!

The entire staff was warm and friendly. Our guides would sometimes hug us in the morning or after a day of fishing. They smiled all day long…and so did we. If we got a fly hung up in a tree they would cheerfully get it out for us. If hook deep on a submerged tree, they would swim down to get it loose. They worked hard and wanted us to catch fish. One of the guides spoke some English, one a bit and the other two just a word or two. We never had any communication problems, but it would have been nice to be able to learn more about them. They were wonderful warm people.

When we returned from fishing we were greeted by a staff member, who served us freshly made rum drinks. They really hit the spot. Then we’d sit on chairs in the river and BS about the days fishing. Smiles all around.

And how about this! Rob had hired a guy to help him negotiate with someone about the river. His name was Kareem and, if you can believe this, he was born in Moscow to a Russian mother and Egyptian father and spoke 5 languages and knew everything about the flora and fauna and history of the Amazon. Every night he was take the photos we took and put together a highlight reel and then give us a talk with his photos about various subjects of the Amazon. Simply amazing.

The food was excellent, home style Brazilian food served family style. For breakfast, we had eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, French toast, bread with meat and cheese, tropical fruit, etc. All excellent. Lunches were sandwiches, sweets, meats, etc. We each drank at least 10 and probably 15 bottles of water a day and most of that was sweated out.

Dinners were fantastic. Always rice and beans and then 3 meat or fish entrees. I’m allergic to fish (yes, it is the ultimate irony and a cruel trick of fate) but I was told that the peacock bass was excellent in all ways it was prepared. The fried whole piranha and piranha soup was a huge hit. We also have pasta, potatoes, veggies, salads, etc. and wonderful cakes and desserts. They even made homemade ice cream two nights! And one day we had a shore lunch with BBQ’ed peacock bass. They cooked me a nice steak.

On the last night, the camp crew made a huge pile of logs, at least 12’ high on the beach. In the sand they made lines spelling January 2019, Xeruini River. When it got dark they ran around with fuel and set the lines on fire and then the bonfire. It set up flames over 20 feet in the air. How crazy fun was that! We were speechless!

Getting to and From Manaus and to the Camp
Getting to Manaus is a bit of an ordeal if coming from Montana as it required a 24 hour stay at the Miami Airport as there is no way to make the 5:30 pm flight to Manaus in the same day. Guys coming from Denver, Texas or California were able to meet the connecting flight to Manaus in the same day.

When we arrived in Manaus at around midnight we were greeted by a guide and van who took us to our hotel, a modern, clean and safe hotel that was inexpensive and perfect.

We built in an extra day in Manaus for sight seeing and that was a lot of fun. Rob had arranged for a tour guide with a van. He spoke excellent English and we learned a lot about the city and the Amazon from him. We took a boat to the meeting of the waters, which was very cool. The muddy Amazon, 15 degree colder than the River Negro, come together and it is spectacular. Then we went to an arapaima farm where we “fished” for them with sticks, ropes and bait tied on without a hook. Talk about turning a bunch of old guys into little boys. We hooted and giggled while these huge fish would fight for the bait and then pull and pull. It sounds silly…and it was pure silly fun.

We also toured the fish and produce market. Very interesting and unique. We saw very few North Americans. The Brazilian people were very polite and we felt very safe. Manaus is not a pretty city and is very industrial and modern. Unlike some other countries and the USA, the drivers were courteous and careful. My son and I walked to a mall and except for the most of the brand names, we could have been in any city in the USA.

After a day or touring we took a small plane to a small landing strip by a village and then transferred to a float plane and then a 10 minute boat trip to the camp. After a nice lunch we were fishing by 1:00.

The way home is easier as you can get back in one long day. We left the camp at 9:00 am by boat and then float plane and then back to Manaus about noon. We got day rooms at the hotel and then caught a midnight flight back to Miami after enjoying an excellent Amazon-specialty dinner in a great local restaurant. Then we all caught connecting flights to our home cities. I got back to Missoula at 5:00 PM. A very long 38 hours of travel and a 4-hour time change made for a very tired, but satisfied, angler.

Bottom Line
Rob Anderson has put together a very unique trip and an excellent operation. This is no small feat as the area is remote, there are no villages or people in the area and virtually no one speaks English. Only his groups fish this part of the river and we never saw anyone else.

We did not have one hitch or one problem. I recommend this trip to everyone who wants to have a complete fishing experience that is just pure fishing fun plus an incredible destination. While it is important to be healthy, this trip does not require any special physical conditioning or strenuous hiking, wading or anything. It is so much safer than I had ever imagined. Everything ran like clock work. And for an exotic trip, the price is reasonable.

For more information go to Rob’s site https://www.peacockbassflyfishing.net/about-us/.

I’ll try to attach some photos later. One of our guys took the most amazing photos. National Geo quality and I’ll try to get some of them posted.


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