Payara/Pirandira (Hydrolicus armatus) are a ferocious migratory gamefish from the family Cynodontidae. They look a bit like an Amazon version of the salmon from hell! The mouth of the payara is what sets them apart from all other gamefish, as they sport an intimidating set of razor sharp fangs which protrude from the lower jaw like two glistening ivory framing nails.
Payara can be found in both extremely fast water and quiet deep pools. They take both lures and flies with such savage force that one can easily rip the rod from your grasp if you are not paying attention. Once hooked, a large payara in fast current can effortlessly peel off 50-yards of line or backing despite a thirty-pound leader, strong drag and stiff rod. Payara also make repeated salmon-style jumps, adding to the fish's sporting allure. Although payara receive much less press than peacock bass, there are devotees that rate them above peacocks in terms of both stamina and overall fighting ability (and that's saying something!)
Conventional gear for payara is virtually the same as that mentioned in the trophy peacock bass sections (wire leader is essential). Payara are usually not surface oriented fish, so big Rapalas, 7-inch jerk baits, Rat-L-Trap type lures, spoons and jigs are most productive.
For fly anglers, payara are generally fished with a slightly heavier 9-10-weight fly rod and either a 300 or 400-grain, 24-foot sink tip line depending upon water conditions. They are not typically fished effectively with a full floating line, as they are usually hooked in deep water or fast current. A heavy mono leader tipped with stout steel tippet is essential. Payara take a variety of large streamers, but prefer heavily-dressed Cloussers and Muddlers tied on a 5/0 heavy saltwater tarpon hook.
Many smaller species of payara/peixe-cachorro (Hydrolicus and Rhaphiodon Sp.) are found throughout South America. Although all are fast, vicious predators, most rarely exceed 7-pounds. The giant trophy payara are Hydrolicus armatus and the best places to catch them are in high gradient fisheries such as our Multi-Species lodge on the Rio Travessao in Brazil..
Subfamily Cynodontidae: The latin translation for this name means "dog tooth". It's particularly appropriate for these fast and aggressive piscivorous predators.
The huge pair of canines in the lower jaw is accommodated by two holes to receive them in the upper. The huge pectoral fins aid in propelling these fish rapidly upward when attacking their prey. Prey are trapped behind the canines and then swallowed whole. These fanged monsters prefer elongated prey from 20 - 50% of their body length.
Another World Class Fighter
Payara take the art of the fight to another level. They combine some of the best characteristics known among fighting fish to provide an extraordinary angling experience.
Payara are extremely aggressive and strike with intense power. They peel off line in long fast runs. And when all else fails, they hurl their huge, slablike bodies high into the air. If these fish were commonly found in the same "small-water" conditions as peacock bass, they would rarely be landed.
For more information about payara, see our payara home page.
Rhaphiodon vulpinus, a smaller and more elongate relative of the payara is common in the slower lowland waters of the Amazon Basin. Like its larger, fast-water cousin, it's a fast, fierce predator. Readily taken on flies, they are a pugnacious light-tackle target.