EDIT: I started this report immediately after my trip to Brazil. In the middle of writing it, I saw a squirrel, got distracted, and am now finishing it nearly a month later. Enjoy!
The idea of hosting a group of close clients and friends to a far away place, with hopes of catching a bunch of fish and having a great time can be a stressful thought. After returning home from this incredible adventure, all I can say is that I cannot wait to take more people down there to experience such a beautiful, wild, and awe inspiring place. We fished with Ron Speed Jr’s Fishing Adventures, a legendary outfitter in both the Brazilian Amazon and a pioneer in the trophy Mexico bass fishing scene (think El Salto, Comodero, Picachos).
We arrived in Manaus, Brazil, after an easy 5 hour flight from Miami on Friday night. Gus, the operations host in Manaus, picked us up from the airport and shuttled us and all of our gear to the hotel where we would stay the night. The next morning, we woke up, ate a delicious breakfast, and were then picked up by Gus again, shuttled to the airport, and hopped on our chartered float plane flight into the jungle. About an hour later, we landed on the water near a village named San Sabastio, on the Uatuma River. Guide boats taxied us and our gear over to the mothership, the Otter. One concern for some folks is living on a houseboat in the jungle for a week with up to 15 other fisherman aboard. The Otter is claimed to be the largest mothership vessel of all the operations in the Amazon. 7,750 square feet, 4 stories, and can float in 2 feet of water, getting us into places where other boats would turn around. The guides and other staff members stayed on the Clipper, a smaller boat that followed us along the river loaded with all of the fuel and other necessities that didn’t necessarily need to be onboard the Otter. It NEVER felt crowded. Each room has individual twin beds (no bunk beds), and ice cold air conditioning (I had to turn it down at night), and a private bathroom. A hot meal was served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. To say the food was fantastic would be an understatement. Rosa, our cook, prepared locally sourced, fresh food for every meal. We also had the opportunity to eat peacock bass, piranha, arapaima, and other fresh fish. All of which are some of the best fish I have ever had the chance to eat.
The fishing was silly. When we arrived, we noticed the water was a little high, but I was assured by one of the veteran anglers on the trip not to worry. I’ve heard stories in the past of high water trips to the Amazon, where nobody caught many fish, and it was basically a bust. Not here. Most of the guides we fished with were locals who grew up on these rivers, and knew every nook and cranny of each and every lagoon. Over half of the guides had over 25 years experience each guiding on these rivers. We had a total group of 15 anglers, 11 fly fishermen and 4 guys fishing conventional tackle such as woodchoppers, jerk baits, spooks, and jigs. The guides kept an exact count of every fish landed, and the number at the end of 6 days ended up at 988 peacocks, plus several different species such as Arawana, Jacunda, and Black Piranha to name a few. The largest fish of the trip came to my friend and client Bruce Hattig, at 18 pounds. Mike Dunnaway landed a 17 pounder, followed by a 16.5 pounder. A very good number of fish above 12 pounds on the boga were landed throughout the group. I personally broke off 4 different fish on 40 pound test fluorocarbon. The eats and initial bursts were unbelievable. On one hand, you have to stand on them pretty hard to keep them from running back into cover, but on the other, you can’t completely stop them without them breaking you off. I challenge anyone to go try to break 40 pound fluorocarbon by hand… I could ramble on and on about the fishing, but our guides had us on them all the time, and the Otter was moving nearly every day and evening to continuously put us in the best position on the rivers. Although the water was high, it was falling, so it was pulling fish out of the trees into fishable water every single day.
One of the most notable things we experienced was the lack of bugs, especially mosquitos. The rivers in the Amazon basin, especially the Rio Negro, have a very blackish hue to them, which has a higher acid content, making them impossible for mosquitos to breed. Several times throughout the week, we would be sitting outside on the deck enjoying drinks, and someone would say, “isn’t it nice there aren’t bugs flying around?!” On the other hand, we did she a lot of awesome wildlife. Flocks of Macaws could be seen in the mornings and evenings, parakeets fly around like sparrows, monkeys are always watching from the trees, as well as the roars of the howler monkeys deeper in the jungle. Lots of cayman, a couple cool boas, and one huge alligator my dad and I spotted with our guide (who was ironically named “Alligator”). We were able to get a pretty good look at it, and it appeared to be in the 12-14 foot range. It truly was sensory overload.
At night, we would sit on the open back deck and look up at the amazing amount of stars in the sky. When you are that far away from civilization, there is absolutely zero light pollution, and the Milky Way looked as if you could reach out and grab it. Absolutely astonishing. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get any pictures of it because we were usually on the move at night to a new section of river. Oh, did I mention we fished new water every day? There is an unexplainable amount of water down there. Seven of the tributaries of the the Amazon River are bigger than the Mississippi. Some of the little lagoons we fished were bigger than many famous bass reservoirs of the south. Wrap your head around that one.
At the end of the week, the float planes arrived to pick us up, after a couple hour tour through San Sabastio, where we were able to see just how these villages on the river operated. The people seemed to love having their pictures taken, and were always very happy and friendly. Multiple times throughout the trip, when I would ask, “How’s it going?”, I was always greeted with, “Always good, no bad days”. That’s truly how it felt. Every day was a new adventure, and they were always great days. When the float planes arrive, they are bringing in the group for the next week of fishing, while picking us up to go home. We were all a little star struck to see Jimmy Houston hopping on the boat for the next week of fishing!
I am already working on putting together a group of folks to go down next year, so if you have any interest, I am taking spots on a first come, first serve basis. Please call, text or email me with any questions you have about the trip. You will not be disappointed in taking the trip of a lifetime, to catch the strongest fighting freshwater fish you will ever meet.
(Click through each of the pictures below in the slideshows. The First slideshow is from the week of fishing, and the second is of the tour of San Sabastio, which was a really awesome experience.)