Amazon Adventures

There's more to it than just the fishing

by Paul Reiss

Fishing in Amazonia is much more than just fighting incredibly aggressive, tackle busting fish. My good friend Joe Fanelli, an American scientist, had come to Brazil this fall to fulfill his dream of catching big peacock bass and he had been doing just that for almost a week. Like most other visitors to this fantastic place, he quickly became fascinated by the flora, the fauna and most of all, the native river people, the "caboclos". All week long, we had been observing a family of about a dozen individuals, silently paddling their dugout canoes from lagoon to lagoon, spread out over 50 miles of river.  They were indigenous turtle hunters, checking their turtle lines and traps in the quiet floodplain lagoons just off the Rio Caures, and Joe was greatly intrigued about possibly meeting them. Spotting a pair of youngsters nearby in the mouth of a lagoon, just downriver from our camp, it seemed that this was the moment he would finally get his chance. Just as he was about to raise his hand and wave, he stopped in amazement. Joe gaped in disbelief as the tiny dugout canoe with the two young boys in it suddenly lurched forward in the water and raced past his fishing boat at ridiculously high speed. As they passed Joe's boat and headed into the main channel of the river, he saw a rope line stretched taut from the little dugout to an unknown source of propulsion under the water. He looked questioningly at his Brazilian guide, Normando, and Normando looked back with a puzzled shrug and a surprised expression.

red tail catfish
The young caboclo admires a big catfish held aloft by his "benefactor", Normando

The Freshwater Dolphin

"Eu acho que é um boto" Normando whispered incredulously in Portuguese. "I think it's a dolphin". Joe only understood one word. "Boto" (pronounced bow-too) refers to the Amazon basin's unique freshwater dolphins. Two species populate the Amazon river system. The larger and more secretive variety is the true "boto" (Inia geofrensis). This large (up to 8 foot long) mammal has a most unusual face, an elongate snout and a pale pinkish color. It is the stuff of legends through Amazonia, believed to seduce young women and have mystical powers. They often follow fishermen, waiting for a tired peacock bass to be released, making an easy meal for the dolphin. They are very curious and very smart. Unlike just about any other creature that lives in the Amazon jungle, no person ever eats, hunts or hurts a dolphin. The mystery surrounding them and the people's respect for their obvious intelligence has protected them better than any governmental regulations ever could. The specimen towing the young "caboclos" in their canoe, was a different, smaller species (Sotalia fluvatilis), known as the "tucuxi" (pronounced too-coo-she). Normando, with all his years of living and working on the river had never seen anything like this. What was going on here?

Without another word, Normando fired up the motor, Joe hunkered down into his seat and they roared off in hot pursuit of the canoe. As they pulled abreast of the alternately shouting and crying youngsters, Normando quickly got the facts in a rapid-fire exchange with the boys. Pointing and gesturing, he got Joe to crouch in the bow and hold out a rope to the older of the two boys. Quickly, the two boats were linked and Normando eased back on the throttle. As the weird procession began to slow down, the guide slipped the motor out of gear and began to bring everything to a halt. The increasing pressure on the rope forced the dolphin to the surface and into plain view. Joe could clearly see the juvenile gray dolphin with a fish harpoon tip protruding from the ridge of flesh just before its tail.

The boys weren't crying out of fear, they were crying because, somehow, they had broken the taboo and had harpooned a dolphin!

Normando used the fishing boat to guide the dolphin toward a shallow sandy bank. Within seconds, the boys, followed by Normando and finally by Joe, were in the water and struggling to restrain the panicked creature. It thrashed violently in an undulating motion until the first set of hands reached it and it calmed, perhaps somehow sensing that this was not to be its end or perhaps resigning itself to just that fate.

Amazon Dolphin - tucuxi
The "boto" is carefully freed

With the dolphin safely immobilized on the bank, the older boy used his machete to carefully remove the barbed tip of the harpoon while the younger boy untangled a netlike apparatus from its nose. Quickly, the dolphin was freed, and regaining its composure it gracefully swam off into deeper water, none the worse for wear. As the tension evaporated, the four rescuers, simultaneously, sat back against the bank in the shallow, tepid water and breathed a sigh of relief. What an unlikely foursome they made. Two young native "caboclos", a crusty Brazilian fishing guide and a biochemist from California, sharing an intense "real life" experience. Joe certainly got a lot closer than he had ever expected.

While they relaxed, Normando coaxed the story out of the boys. The younger boy, only ten years old had been entrusted by his father to help his twelve year old brother tend to the turtle lines. In some way, still not explained, the dolphin, perhaps out of curiosity, perhaps accidentally, became entangled in the boys' father's turtle trap. The thought of losing the precious device, on which their livelihood depended and which had been entrusted to them by their father, caused the older boy to instinctively let fly with his harpoon. By the time the reality of how they had compounded their troubles sunk in, the boys were flying hell-bent downriver behind a panic stricken, four-foot living torpedo.

Within a few minutes, the older boy's tears turned to laughter as he began to do what it seems all older brothers everywhere do to their younger siblings. He began to tease him mercilessly, bringing fresh tears to the youngsters eyes. Soon they were wrestling in the warm water and then both were laughing, probably with relief. They settled down and talked a while, swapping river information and admiring a big catfish held aloft by Normando. Then they thanked Normando and Joe and as quickly as that, the incredible experience was over. The ropes were untied and the boys paddled away.

Amazon riberinhos
The river people travel with house and hearth loaded onto their boats

'Caboclos' - The River People

Although dolphin are ubiquitous throughout the remote areas we fish for peacock bass, caboclos are not. Typically, these native Brazilian river people live in small riverfront villages within a few days boat travel of a larger town or dependable source of supplies. They settle in areas away from the floodplains so that they are not driven out by the rising waters of the rainy season. For anglers to be assured of successful peacock bass fishing, however, requires that our operations be located far upriver, generally well out of practical reach of the slow, creaky boats of the caboclos. This group was different however.

The turtle hunters set out from their village, just a few miles from the big river town of Barcelos (about 6,000 pop.) every year at the end of the rainy season, while the waters are still high enough to allow their houseboats to pass. They head far upriver to their traditional turtle hunting grounds. The journey upriver can take weeks for the ponderous diesel powered boats. When the family reaches their destination, they anchor their boats and build their dry season camp.

They are committed to remain here until the rains begin again to refloat their boats and allow them to begin the long journey to the high and dry, rainy season security of their village. They depend on a generous harvest of the local river turtles in order to earn enough to weather the flood season and resupply themselves for the next year.

caboclos
The turtle hunter's dry season settlement

They are a friendly people and quick to smile. Given the opportunity, they will chat and laugh and tell you everything you ever wanted to know about singing and dancing and harvesting turtles. They are happy to share fruits or turtle eggs or some of the other bounty they collect on the river for a can of Coke, some old fishing line or just some smiles and friendly nods. They are a fascinating and enchanting adjunct to the Amazon experience.

*Note - For centuries, caboclos have collected turtles without depleting their numbers and without negatively impacting the delicate balance of river ecosystems. Today, however, increasing demand for these gentle but tasty creatures has driven prices high and sent hordes of new, professionally equipped, turtle hunters into the rivers. The increased pressure has seriously impacted their numbers and the Brazilian government has now taken steps to correct it, controlling the harvest of these reptiles.

The Curious Caiman

Each river has its own unique characteristics and leaves its own set of memories. I travel to catch fish, and without exception, a well planned trip allows me to go home having caught and released scores of hard-fighting fish and several beautiful trophies. But, somehow, there are always one or two experiences which implant themselves in my memory as firmly as the onslaught of an 18 pound peacock. The Rio Tapera is no exception. It is an interesting and different fishery from most northern Amazon, black water rivers. First of all, it's a relatively clear-water system, descending southward through the rich jungles of Roraima province to its juncture with the gigantic Rio Branco. It twists and winds, hurrying for a stretch through narrow, tree covered jungle channels then abruptly opening into wide, lazy sections, lined with silent, placid lagoons. Just as quickly, it plunges back into convoluted jungle passages.

Our camp on the Rio Tapera was located on a low, narrow point with a commanding view of a wide stretch of river on one side, and a big, still lagoon on the other. The camp was operated by our staff of Brazilian employees who acted as guides, cooks and baby-sitters for the eight anglers in their care. As part of the service they provided, laundry was collected and washed and dried daily. Laundry was typically handles by a propane gas powered washing machine. As luck would have it, the machine went on the blink early in the week, forcing the young girl who washed the clothes to do it the old-fashioned way, standing in the river. At first this aroused everyone's curiosity, but after the first day, the only watcher was a huge, old caiman, over sixteen feet in length.

At first, he stayed over a hundred feet away, submerged, with just his eyes blinking at the surface, keeping an eye on the curious events taking place in his domain. By the next day he began to cruise about 70 feet away. A day later he was circling the camp no more than 50 feet away. It was far too close and we really liked our laundry girl. That evening, several of the guides rigged a chicken onto a giant hook and took a boat over to the caiman's haunts. They say that reptiles love chicken and this guy was no exception. They quickly hooked him. They tied the wire line onto the back of their boat and slowly towed the grizzled old monster through the lagoon. They hauled him a mile downriver, away from camp, and pulled the hook loose. The hope was that the huge old reptile would learn some sort of lesson and head for more peaceful environs.

The next morning the apparently unfazed leviathan was back and cruising closer than ever. I'm not sure exactly what lesson we taught him, but clearly, he had his own interpretation of our meaning. That night the guides took their “chicken rig” and hooked him up again. This time they dragged him into shore. What an uproar!

Amazon caiman
The huge, ancient caiman spent the night in camp with us

At the end of the little peninsula which housed our camp was a gently sloping point. The guides slid the boat onto the sandy shore and began dragging the reluctant and less than happy caiman onto the bank. Amid much shouting and pointing and posturing and plenty of advice from the entire population of the camp, watching from atop the bluff, it was decided that ropes would be looped around the creature's hips and neck. Caiman may look slow and ponderous out of the water, but they are capable of running over land at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour, faster than a human. His hips were anchored to the boat, his neck to a tree and the “chicken rig” tied to the crest of the bluff. It took the efforts of half a dozen grown men, but our scaly friend was securely trussed up for the night. Even so, I'll bet that nobody in the camp slept without cocking an ear toward our unwilling, half ton guest, from time to time.

The next morning the caiman was towed across the river, and using the ropes attached to his hips, tethered to a tree on the bank. All the other lines were removed and the apparently chastened creature was left with about 30 feet of slack. There he stayed until the week ended and we struck camp, following the dropping water to a new downriver campsite.

For decades caiman have been hunted for their skins and meat, until their numbers dropped dramatically in Amazonia. Today, both the black and spectacled caiman are protected in Brazil. The camp staff was affected by this official stance and helped protect the caiman's life. This huge and majestic specimen had seen many, many years. I was very glad that we could find a way to keep his unwelcome curiosity from causing his demise. If he can only learn to be a little less interested in laundry girls, I'm sure he'll continue to dominate his stretch of the river for many, many years to come.

Fishergirl

One of the most enjoyable aspects of that same trip to the Rio Tapera, was the emergence of my 14 year old daughter, Jenny, as an angler of the first order. I have visited many different rivers in Brazil and have spent many, many weeks fishing, exploring and catching big peacock bass but I had never before taken one of my children to the Amazon with me. Jenny had enjoyed fishing since early childhood, but not very often and not very intensely. Her perspective on the sport appeared to me to be, "It's fun now and then but I'm not sure I really care all that much about it". There are an awful lot of things on the minds of teenage girls and I don't think that too many of them contain the word fishing.

Last winter, Jenny had her schoolwork well in hand and my planned trip just happened to coincide with the end of her semester in high school, so I asked her if she'd like to come along. I explained to her that we would be hundreds of miles from civilization, in the midst of the largest wilderness in the world. The only other people we would be likely to see would probably be Amazon Indians. We would be living in the middle of the jungle habitat of the most diverse and unusual animals in the world. I thought that I was warning her of all of the possible caveats of jungle travel and I expected her to react with concern or at the very least, uncertainty. Instead, the more I spoke, the more her eyes lit up. "You want to do this, huh", I said and she nodded so hard that her hair began waving. "Well, then start packing" was all that I had left to say.

peacock bass fishing
The powerful runs of peacock bass put Jenny's strength to the test

Packing for Brazil meant a little bit more than just tossing a few pairs of shorts in a bag. First came all the personal items; sunglasses, camera, sunblock, every medication you might ever need, books (yes, she actually did homework in the jungle), shampoo, lotion and on and on. Then came the vaccinations, a booster for all the ones she had already had and then the gamut of U.S. Public Health Service recommendations. Finally, the good stuff, the fishing tackle. The holiday season gave me an excuse to load Jenny up with pertinent fishing gifts; a medium/light Loomis pack rod, a smooth Shimano 2000 series reel, a tackle bag, and a collection of lures and gadgets and angler's gizmos. The only thing missing was a place to practice. The water in our pond was much too hard in the cold northeastern January. Neither of us could wait for the blast of tropical heat and toasting sunshine we were heading off to.

The trip, the travel, the interesting new people, the amazing jungle, all of these were exciting for Jenny, but nothing surprised me as much as her reaction to her first peacock bass. Being "The Dad", I of course took our first foray onto the waters as my opportunity to shift into fishing lecture mode. I showed her how to rig up her rod, tied on a woodchopper and launched into my "here's how you do it" seminar. Luckily for me and my ego, a pugnacious five pounder quickly battered my lure and took off running, splashing and jumping. When the racket subsided and the fish was boated, I could see by her expression, that Jenny was also hooked. Hooked on peacock bass. "Give me that thing" she ordered, as she reached to take her rod back. A moment later she was ripping her woodchopper through the water for all she was worth.

Her first peacock was a twin of the one I had just caught. With a shout of satisfaction she leaned into the fight and finally boated a tired but beautifully colored fish. Her quest for bigger and better bass was getting underway. As the day went on we caught fish and talked and tried different tackle and techniques. Jenny quickly got a feel for a variety of lures and retrieves and became more and more proficient at identifying likely structure and accurately casting to it. It seemed that the lack of practice wasn't going to hold her back very long. As our first fishing day of the trip drew to a close, I managed to catch a beautiful 17 pound peacock on a 1/2 ounce bucktail jig. This was the biggest one Jenny had seen and the effect on her was electric. "I'm going to a get a bigger one than that before the week is over", she vowed and our fishing competition began.

As the week went on we traveled through incredibly beautiful jungle waterways, caught fish in the sunshine of midday, in the pouring rain, in lagoons and right in the river channel. We ate our lunches on beautiful sandy beaches, on scenic bluffs overlooking the river and in shady hollows. We bathed in the clear waters, swam with dolphins and enjoyed an amazing week together in the wonderland that is the Amazon. But that 17 pounder was still the biggest fish of the week. Jenny had caught several fish between ten and twelve pounds and had averaged 20 to 30 fish a day, but I knew that she was still hoping for a "trophy" peacock, a fish over 15 pounds.

peacock bass fishing
Getting set to head back downriver

On our second to last day, her chance finally came. Our guide, Jose, had been probing some smaller lagoons with us and we had caught several nice fish by 9:00 AM that morning. At the end of one of the lagoons, a big pile of brush occluded a narrow little channel that looked like it went nowhere, until we got right up to it. We could see what appeared to be a sizable basin around a blind bend in the little channel. We all hopped out of the boat and began wading in the shallow water. Jose got out his machete and hacked a path through the brush pile while Jenny and I dragged the boat along behind him. When the wood had been cleared, we got back into the boat and poled through the little channel. As we rounded the bend we saw a big, wide lagoon with a myriad of tree studded arms and coves. We realized that no other angler had ever fished this body of water before, not even the members of our group. Anticipation ran high.

The fish mobbed us! We hooked fish on almost every cast, although landing them amid the dead trees was not always a sure thing. What a blast! Finally, at the edge of a grove of trees, Jenny spotted her big one. Her week of experience prepared her well. She landed her "Red-fin" perfectly at the base of a big tree and within seconds the big peacock struck. Jenny set the hook and quickly guided the powerful fish's run away from the trees. As he tore off line, heading across the lagoon, Jose flicked on the trolling motor and positioned us well into the open water at the center of the lagoon. Jenny played him perfectly and as he tired she worked him back to the boat. Jose knew as well as I did, how much she wanted this big fish. As Jenny guided the fish toward the boat, Jose readied the net, hoping to slip it under him on the first pass, ensuring her trophy. Instead, I looked on in horror as he missed, bumping the still strong fish with the end of the net. The fish took off again with newfound force and seconds later, Jenny's line went slack. As she reeled in her lure in silence and lifted it out of the water, we could see the mangled hardware hanging from her line. The big fish had completely straightened both of the heavy treble hooks on her extra large "Red-fin". He had gained his freedom with sheer strength and power and left Jenny sputtering with frustration. Although we worked that lagoon with a vengeance for the next hour and caught over 50 fish in there, the big fellow was not to be seen again.

peacock bass
Jenny's 17+ pound trophy peacock

That night we packed for the trip downriver to spend the last night at our lower camp, prior to departure. Tomorrow would be our last day of fishing.

The next morning, my friend Ron Carroll, my fishing role model from Longview, Texas, joined us in our boat, so that his could be used for hauling baggage. The three of us had fished together before and enjoyed each other's company. We were quite comfortable sharing the roomy flat bottomed boat and we fished and joked and chatted our way downriver. Jenny was finally able to talk about the big fish she had lost the day before and I realized that she was very satisfied with all of her successes of the week. The lost trophy was not going to be a lasting disappointment. She was, however, still fishing the hell out of each lagoon we visited and by lunchtime had quietly outfished both Ron and I. In the afternoon, suddenly and unexpectedly, Jenny latched onto a monster peacock even bigger than yesterday's escapee.

Everything was right for success. Jenny had hooked the fish on a jig, which helped assure a solid hookset and gave her confidence that a tight line would maintain the hookup. She wasn't taking any chances this time. She led the fish into open water and worked him through two powerful, long runs, finally floating a really tired, finning fish into the net. Jose let out an audible sigh of relief as he lifted the huge fish into the boat. Jenny was beaming with an ear to ear grin and I was more thrilled than if I had caught the fish myself. Who can explain these things? Jenny's success weighed a shade over 17 pounds and was the biggest fish of the trip!

The experiences we shared that week will forever be emblazoned in both our memories. Brazil has enchanted us both and has given us common ground in our relationship with each other. What's more, Jenny, now 15, is packing for her next trip. It appears that the Amazon has created a new fishing fanatic, "Fishergirl"!

The Pan'ra

Amazon Pan'ra Indians
Man, woman and child, the whole settlement turned out

The Rio Marmelos lies 300 miles south of Manaus, flowing northward to join the enormous Rio Madeira just south of Manicore. To reach the fishing grounds on the Marmelos, we traveled several hours upriver by fast fishing boat, passing the last of the caboclo villages and then passing through the Pan'ra Indians (pronounced pon-ha) dry season settlements. Our camp was situated an hour upriver from the Indians. We focus on reaching the best possible fishing waters and in this case they lay well beyond the last human habitation. After several days of exploring the upriver areas and catching the feisty (Cichla pinima) peacock bass found here, I thought we'd give the downriver areas a try. In the back of my mind was the presence of the Indians and the hope that I might be able to acquire one of their beautiful bows and arrows. The downriver fishing was all right but not nearly as good as the upriver waters. I asked my guide if he thought we could visit the Indians.

My Portuguese is reasonably adequate and I hoped that my guide might be able to communicate with the Indians and then translate into Portuguese so that I could understand. No such luck. He said he had no idea about how to speak their language. "Well, let's give it a try anyway", I responded in my slow Portuguese, "maybe we can pantomime our way through a trade for a bow and arrow".

He grinned and we headed for the nearest group of tiny palm frond shelters where we had seen several Indians earlier in the day. As we reached the settlement and turned in toward shore, the women in the group began to point and ululate in a loud sing-song manner. In a moment several young men and one older man emerged from the jungle and came to meet our boat. They were carrying bows and arrows. All of a sudden, the beautiful bows and arrows looked a little less like collectors’ items and an awful lot more like weapons. I began to wonder just how wise an idea this little visit really was. But everybody was smiling, so I smiled back and decided to trust in the better part of human nature. The entire group descended on our boat the second we hit shore. Laughing, smiling and pointing they began to chatter away in that curious tongue of theirs. Their speech sounded like a convention of turkey hunters practicing their turkey calls at maximum volume and maximum speed. I couldn't make out varying sounds but the pitch of their warbling seemed to move rapidly up and down the scales, in place of recognizable syllables. Well, we sure weren't going to be able to communicate in this language!

The crowd of natives parted as the older man, clad in a natty looking sport shirt, made his way to our boat. The chattering quickly quieted and the older gentleman cleared his throat and then said, in pretty fair Portuguese, "voce entende portuguese? Eu falo um poco".

I responded with a big smile, "eu falo um poco tambem", "I speak a little bit too". My guide groaned and complained that the two of us were going to irreparably fracture a perfectly good language.

peacock bass trip
Pan'ra feed their families this way

I quickly made him understand my interest in a bow and arrow and he smiled and nodded and indicated that, yes, that could be done, but he was interested in some fishing tackle. I wonder how strange he thought my interest in his bow and arrows (which are used for fishing), when I sat in a boat strewn with all of the latest in high tech fishing gear. But, I guess that's what trading is all about. I asked him what he needed and he replied, "iscas e anzols", lures and hooks. I opened my tackle box and asked him to point at what he had in mind. In a few minutes we had set aside several small Mepps spinners, a little crankbait and half a dozen small hooks. He turned to the crowd and broke into a long melodious ululation.

peacock bass trip
A good deal for both parties

He was joined by the women and for several moments a medley of inharmonious turkey calls reverberated along the shore. Apparently something was settled, because a moment later, one of the young men brought over his bow and three arrows. I handed over the collection of light tackle and the older man handed me the bow and arrows. I sat quietly admiring it for a moment while the entire group remained absolutely silent. It felt as though something else should be happening, now. I turned to my trading partner and told him I didn't know how to use it, could he show me. He broke into a huge grin, yanked me out of the boat and clapped me on the back, "sim, sim, e muito facile". And the lesson began amid a deafening cacophony of chattered comments, advice or who knows what. I couldn't understand a word, but they all seemed to be having such a good time that I just smiled and nodded and enjoyed the show. When the group was satisfied that they had uttered every imaginable phrase relating to the use of the bow and arrow, the older man clapped me on the back a few more times and led me back to the boat. I guess the lesson was over.

As I sat down, I reached into my tackle bag and handed him a spool of monofilament, which he graciously accepted. My guide backed us out into the river and with lots of waving and another incredible burst of noise, we parted. I think we each felt we had made the greatest deal since Manhattan Island. We stopped there once more, later in the week with a gift of bagged rice, sugar and salt. It made the deal feel that much better.

suribim
The hard-fighting suribim

You Can Eat the Stuff Too!

Just about every fish we catch on the Amazon is safely released to fight again, especially big peacock bass. No one ever kills a peacock of any size. Great care is taken in releasing them, helping them to recover fully and be safe from predation by dolphins or piranha. Often, however, small butterfly peacocks or fish of other types are brought to the dinner table. Most of them are simply delicious, some are better than any other seafood you'll ever taste.

Our trips are designed to provide a comfortable home away from home in the middle of the world’s greatest remaining wilderness. Our staff is highly trained and motivated to deliver a first-class experience for our anglers. They take great care to provide an excellent menu, both satisfying and familiar to American fishermen, including steaks and pasta and chicken, etc. They also prepare, for those interested in new culinary experiences, a variety of fresh fish caught by the guests or the staff. The most common, of course, is peacock bass. It is delicious and is prepared in a variety of ways, some familiar and some exotic. With its white, flaky flesh and mild flavor, broiled or baked or fried or poached or escabeche, it is a favorite of even the most timid of palates. Served as an appetizer with tangy sauces when the anglers return from fishing, you quickly forget just how much you're eating.

red tail catfish
65 pounds of catfish steaks on the hoof

Served fried, piranha are a taste treat. They can be caught nearly anywhere, sort of like sunfish back home, and the staff is happy to prepare them for you, whether you catch them or ask the staff to. They have very fine, firm white flesh and a rich taste. You might be surprised to realize that although piranha don't really eat people (except in extremely horrific Hollywood movies), people sure do eat piranha in great numbers.

Less common, but very interesting are a variety of other species including; matrincha, leporinus and stingray. Common in Amazonia, the "raya" (pronounced hai-ya), is a freshwater version of the common saltwater stingray. Trapped in freshwater, geologic epochs ago when the Amazon basin was formed from a saltwater sea, the ray adapted to life in the river system. Although rarely taken with rod and reel, they are easily harpooned in shallow lagoons and make a memorable culinary experience.

The catfish, ah, the catfish. If you like the farm-raised fillets we get in the states, the taste of fresh Amazonian catfish will bowl you over. A commonly caught variety, the soribim, is a terrific fighter, readily hits subsurface lures, fights like a demon and looks like it has been painted with hieroglyphic characters. And it tastes terrific. Milder than our domestic catfish, with a firm white flesh, it is truly delicious fresh from the river. The red-tail catfish, or "pirarara", is a rarer treat. Usually very large, often gigantic, even exceeding a hundred pounds, a pirarara will feed an entire campful of people in style. The meat is served in large steaks and is a sumptuous meal, richer and more flavorful than the soribim. It's a good thing fish like this isn't available at home, because I would soon be bigger than the biggest pirarara.

tambaqui
The fruit-eating delicious giant "tambaqui"

I've saved the best for last. The strange, but unbelievably delicious, "tambaqui" (tom-bock-key). The "tambaqui" (Colossoma macropomum) is the largest species of fruit-eating characin. A large ovalish fish, it resembles a thick-set, enlarged freshwater version of a saltwater jack. Inside its thick head resides the strangest set of teeth imaginable in a fish. They look like nothing so much as a set of human dentures. The huge muscles of its head and neck driving the big molars allow it to crush and chew its diet of fruit and seeds. Tambaqui wait beneath trees overhanging the water and feast on the dropped fruits. Although rarely taken on hook and line, I applied my most patient angling mojo on a recent trip and managed to hook and land a forty pound specimen on a Brazil nut! More commonly they are taken by locals with a harpoon while feeding on the surface.
The tambaqui is the best tasting fish I have ever eaten, bar none. It is typically grilled, its large ribs making generous individual servings. With its firm fleshy meat and a taste like light, mild pork, it is a wonderful treat. Even if you aren't lucky enough to come across one on a fishing trip and enjoy it fresh from the river, all of the better restaurants in Manaus will offer very, very good tambaqui dinners. This is a meal you shouldn't miss.

PLANNING A TRIP FOR AMAZON PEACOCK BASS

Our peacock bass trips are available from mid-August through March.

Peacock bass fishing success is dependent on selecting the right location at the appropriate season. An Amazon operator must have the ability to move their operations and the flexibility to provide anglers with the trip that most closely suits their expectations. Many programs bring anglers to fixed camps which cannot adjust to changing conditions and water levels, or they house them in situations where they cannot access the most productive waters. When the fishing is good, anglers relax and are able to enjoy the fantastic surroundings and immerse themselves in the experience. The flexibility of our movable operations assures that anglers will have access to waters which enable fishing success and wonderful experiences of jungle life.

For more information on booking a Peacock Bass fishing adventure, contact us, Toll-free:
Paul Reiss at (866) 832-2987
E-Mail Paul Reiss, or:
Garry Reiss at (866) 431-1668
E-Mail Garry Reiss