By Don Burcham
Our adventure started in 2012 while fishing in Galveston bay for speckled trout. My fishing buddy Fred made the comment that he was about to go fishing for sailfish. I told him that sailfish, while a beautiful fish and acrobatic fighter, they were not on my bucket list of fishing challenges. I explained that my dream, fishing trip would be to someday go to the Amazon River basin in Brazil and fish for the beautiful and powerful peacock bass using top water artificial lures. I had seen numerous Saturday morning fishing programs about peacock bass fishing and I had marveled at the fishes explosive reaction to an artificial lure dragged across the surface of the water. I dreamed of doing it some day.
A couple of days later, Fred called me and said let’s do this! It didn’t take me long to respond with a resounding YES and the long year of planning began.
Fishing in the Amazon basin rain forest of Brazil is seasonal. The 2 fishing seasons correspond to the dry seasons when the water drops from the flooded jungle and forms more distinct river bank patterns. During the wet seasons, the forest floods and the fish move out into the jungle where they compete with the pink dolphins and other predatory fish and feed on the abundant life within the jungle. In the dry season, the fish are forced to move out into the deeper, rivers and tributaries and are thereby easier for anglers to locate.
We settled on the later of the 2 dry seasons because of a wetter than normal early season and we set the date with our outfitter for September 14th through the 21st, 2013.
We spent the year reading up on what to take with us; satellite phone, fishing tackle, bug repellent, equatorial sun protection etc. We also read up on fishing techniques and tackle. The hard part was figuring out how to pack all our stuff and stay below our allotted 33 pounds of gear total.
You never know for sure whether you will take a float plane from Manaus and go directly to the camp area or fly on a commuter plane to one of the remote towns along the larger rivers and then go by “fast boat” to the fishing camp. The float planes will only allow 33 pounds per person. It’s a hard number to achieve.
I debated on whether to take extra reel parts including extra sets of bearings for my 3 reels plus the tools, oil, etc. and thought if I oil the bearings before I leave then maybe they would be OK. It was a struggle between trying to save weight and not wanting my trip ruined by bad bearings. Fred had told me about ceramic, Orange Seal Boca Bearings and so I decided to put a set in all of my reels and (on his advice) not worry about having bearing problems.
On the morning of September 12th we flew to Miami for a short lay-over then a 5 hour flight, south to Manaus, Brazil where we met up with our other six anglers who were all from Argentina and we set out. We boarded a twin turboprop commuter aircraft for a short 100 mile jump to the small town on the banks of the Madeira River. There, we boarded a 16 man “Fast Boat” with a 250 HP Yamaha outboard motor and began the last 4.5 hour leg of our trip, first down the Madeira river and then into the black water tributaries of the Igapo-Acu river system.
The fishing was as good as they advertise. Fred and I caught 272 of the total 833 peacock bass caught by our party over 6 days of fishing. Fred had the big fish of the week at 14.5 lbs. My 10 pounder was next in line.
The water was higher than we’d hoped and we both lost huge peacock bass to the jungle. These fish fight harder and more aggressively than any fish I’ve ever tackled and even with 65 pound test braided line and our drags set to the max, those fish doubled our heavy casting rods and bulldogged their way into the rain forest underbrush where we would usually loose the larger “teeners” (13 to 19 lb. class fish) . I’m speculating at the size of the ones we lost of course but it was either fish that size or it was underwater Volkswagens we were hanging! The Boca Bearings never wavered in performance. Casting was a breeze and the strength of the reel and bearings convinced me that Bocas were going in all my reels. By the way, I was using ABU Premier reels…….great bait casting reel.
After the first day of working those big “Wood Chopper” top water, propeller bladed baits and the grueling, high speed retrieve of the jig baits, I thought my arms were going to fall off! I wasn’t sure I could raise my arms for day 2. Day 2 did indeed prove to be the day of pain and sore muscles for me but by day 3 I was gaining both technique and strength and the sore muscles were easing off some.
We fished 6 solid days and on the 7th day, Saturday, we fast-boated back to Borba leaving aton the morning of September 21st. In Borba we jumped on the same commuter plane and flew back to Manaus. We spent the day resting up and waiting for our American Airlines flight back to Miami. We changed planes in Miami and made it back to Houston by noon on Sunday the 22nd.
The Amazon Basin is the largest rain forest wilderness in the world and the Amazon River is the largest river in the world with respect to how much water it dumps into the Atlantic ocean. We saw many pink dolphins and the bird life was beautiful. Bugs were almost non-existent. I saw 1 mosquito the whole trip and very few bugs of any sort. When we broke for lunch each day, the guide would throw up a hammock for us in the shade of the rain forest canopy where we would relax for an hour or so and enjoy a sandwich and drink. There was the occasional gnat that would buzz you but he was easily swatted away. When I got home, within 30 minutes I got bit by a mosquito…..go figure…! The frog (that lived on James’ pontoon boat), sounded like a pit bull with a microphone, barking relentlessly the first half of every night but he usually barked up a girlfriend and stopped his croaking by late evening.
This trip was pure fishing fun. It was just like I’d seen on TV so many times only this time……. it was ME!
What an adventure, what a wilderness, what a marvel is God’s green earth and pristine waters.