By the time the plane touched down in Manaus, Brazil, my son Josh and I already had a thirty-hour day under our belts. Excitement and anticipation of what the next week held for us made the exhaustion our bodies seem far, far away. We cleared customs about 2:30AM and stepped from the air-conditioned terminal into the heat that can only be felt when you are at 0 degrees latitude. Being from South Louisiana helped but it didn’t help a lot. Josh and I both knew how important drinking lots of water was going to be for the next week.
After a huge Brazilian breakfast, hosted by Amazon Tours, and an hour-long flight to Barcellos, a small town some three hundred miles into the Amazon rain forest, we were introduced to the Rio Negro River. The Negro, as called by the locals, joins with the Amazon at Manaus and continues her journey to the ocean. One of, if not the most awesome sights we had ever seen.
Down the sixty or so steps to the river where all of the guides were waiting for us in matching nineteen foot Nitro Bass boats. The legendary Amazon Queen II riverboat docked in the background taking on supplies for her week of fishing on the Negro. Josh and I are assigned a boat, our Indian guide loaded our luggage and off we go for a short sixty-five mile boat ride up the river for our long awaited date with the famous peacock bass of the Amazon. Long awaited because we were to have made this trip eighteen days after Rita slammed into southwest Louisiana. We then rescheduled for February 2006 but the rainy season came early and the Amazon was in flood stage and again the trip was cancelled. But now, October 2006 here we are. The hour and fourty five-minute boat ride flew by. Places in the Negro are wider than Big Lake is long; Impressive is the only word to come to mind. The river`s constant current heading east for it’s union with the Amazon. Soon we see the floating dock at the lodge. Up the steps and as we approached the main lodge awe is the only word that comes to mind. Five thousand square feet and built right into the jungle. Small concrete pathways disappear from either side of the lodge and journey into the jungle. As you walk the pathway cabins appear. Josh and I settled into cabin number 5 and started getting ready for the week. As we walked back to the main lodge we noticed the full sized pool, a welcome everyday after battling the equatorial sun, we realized there were no roads leading here. This whole complex was done by hand with everything being brought up river by boat or float plane.
Josh and I had seen the TV shows and watched the DVD`s on the peacocks and couldn’t wait to see for ourselves if they were as mean as they looked. After a much needed nights sleep we were up at 5AM and down to the main lodge for breakfast. At 6AM the Amazon sun is already where the sun at home would be at 9. We headed down to the dock and were introduced to our guide for the week, Jailson, a small Indian man of about 27 years old. As the week progressed his knowledge of catching peacocks became mind-boggling. In the boat for 6 AM and gone by 6:15, the next time we would see the lodge was 5PM. This scenario would replay itself for the next six days.
Now comes the “FULL CONTACT FISHING”. Having spent six days fishing for and catching many peacocks, I can tell you the next time I’ll take a month and get my left hand and left arm in shape. Ten hours a day jerking ten-inch woodchoppers is brutal. Not to mention, a ten-pound peacock will drown a twenty-pound redfish and eat it. Plus, when it’s not a peacock blowing up the lure it’s a piranha or a fresh water barracuda or maybe an arawana, which looks like a cross between a tarpon and a choupique and just as mean.
Our first day of fishing we caught lots of peacocks but nothing over ten pounds. We saw lots of jungle. Red and blue macaws, green parrots by the hundreds and an occasional toucan made it easy to loose yourself in the beauty. Monkeys coming down to drink or racing through the trees like cat squirrels was a good indication we were a long way from home. One memory that is burned into my brain is rounding a large curve in the river just as the sun is clearing the jungle canopy and two red macaws appeared over the river just ahead of the boat with the sun at our backs. The birds looked like they were on fire with all the color. All Josh and I could do was look at each other with amazement.
On the second day of fishing I did what I had come to the Amazon to do. Again, this is tough fishing. With each cast you throw almost all the line off the spool, then the long jerk retrieves, over and over. Not to mention being on point all the time because the next world record, or should I say the next peacock over twenty seven pounds could be waiting on the next cast. We had just moved out of a small lagoon where Josh and I had caught over thirty peacocks in about twenty minutes. No big fish just lots of action. Jailson cranked up and ran to a small dead end branch off the river. Huge peacocks were blowing up everywhere. Some were chasing small three and four pound peacocks almost up on to the bank of the river. Josh made a long cast and hung up on a small limb. Jailson headed in to get him loose and I made a short cast under a low hanging limb. Two hard jerks and about a six pound fish blows up the big jerk bait but misses it. I jerk the bait quickly toward the boat and the bomb goes off. A huge fish blows up the lure and the fight is on .As luck would have it I was in clear water with nothing the fish could hang up on. The strength of these fish is unreal. I had wondered from the start of the trip if 85 pound Spiderwire was overkill but now I can tell you the answer is no. This huge fish is jumping and stripping drag and Jailson is hollering 22 pounds. After what seemed like an eternity the fish comes to the net and the scales tip to twenty-three pounds, four pounds shy of the world record. Now the screams through the jungle belong to me, not the monkeys and parrots.
As the day progresses we catch lots of peacocks but nothing huge. When we get back to the lodge I notice as I walk by I hear “ that’s the guy with the twenty three”. News travels fast in the jungle. I became kind of a celebrity. I’m proud to say my fish held for the week. Josh and I caught 239 peacocks for the week but the total for the lodge was over 3500. Three of which were twenty-two pounders. The total over twenty pounds for the week is nine.
Now, anyone who knows my son knows how competitive he is. Holding on to big fish honors wasn’t easy. As the week progressed Josh caught a seventeen and an eighteen. The eighteen was a huge fish that we all thought was over twenty. We both caught fifteen pounders on our last afternoon about five minutes apart. On the next to last day we hooked five fish over twenty pounds and didn’t land a single one. Hooks pulled out, hooks straightened and yes 85-pound Spiderwire was broken. Mean, mean fish.
On the last day, as Jailson headed the boat down the winding river back to the lodge, Josh patted my leg and said “ Dad, we’ve been to a lot of places together, but this was the best”. I could not have agreed more. Our week on the Negro included twenty one fish over ten pounds, five fish over thirteen pounds, two fish over fifteen, a sixteen a seventeen, one eighteen and one twenty three pound monster. The lodge, the service, the food is second to none. The shore lunch of piranha and peacock bass, the pink Amazon River porpoise, the jungle people and the wildlife are things I will never forget. The red macaws at daylight are something truly burned into my memory but the shear strength and meanness of the peacock bass made our “ FULL CONTACT FISHING TRIP” our trip of a lifetime.
by: Steve German