Fly Fishing in Bolivia

Hard-fighting (and delicious) PacuHard-fighting (and delicious) Pacu
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Caño Negro Green Forest Lodge offers the best multi-species fly-fishing imaginable in remote, previously unfished areas of northeastern Bolivia. Choose between lagoon or river fishing, casting the banks and structures or swinging a fly in the current into the drop-offs and holes of the San Simon River. All the while you will enjoy the picturesque surrounding and abundant wildlife. You will see macaws, parrots, storks, geese, ducks and unique animal species such as jaguar, tropical deer, river otters, capybara and caiman. All thrive in this lush, sub-tropical environment. Besides the fishing, this trip is truly a photographer’s dream.

Here the mighty saber-tooth payara, river tiger of South America, offers the thrilling, tackle-busting fishing experience of a lifetime. Hailed as "tarpon on steroids," these payara range from 5 to 40 pounds and they fight like demons. Multiple hookups a day are the norm, and some days can be incredible—we have had guests land more than 20 payara in a single day!

Peacocks here range from two to twelve pounds — by the thousandsPeacocks here range from two to twelve pounds — by the thousands
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In addition to payara, these river and lagoon systems have the highest concentration of peacock bass found anywhere in the world. The peacocks here range from around three to twelve pounds+. The daily catch numbers are amazing – it’s common for one angler to land thirty or more explosive, hard-hitting peacocks (Cichla monoculus) in a half day! We expect a new world fly fishing record for this sub-species to be caught here. Other excellent gamefish include brawny pacu, brilliant golden yatoranas, muturos, silvery corvina and surubi – a catfish that strikes flies readily and that can easily take all your line and backing – like a 20 pound bonefish.

Anglers fish from large jon boats with casting areas and screened floorboards to minimize fly line hang-ups. In addition, anglers sometimes wade the San Simon River islands and braids or cast from sand beaches. As a general rule, anglers fish all morning, then return to the lodge for lunch and a siesta then go back out and fish until dark. You also have the option to pack a lunch and stay out all day. Travel time from the lodge to the fishing ranges from 5 minutes to an hour with 20 to 30 minutes being the norm.

What technique do I use to catch peacock bass?

Like largemouth bass, peacock bass often prefer "structure" of some sort. Rocks, fallen logs, points and sand bars are hiding places for baitfish, so this is where the peacocks will usually be lurking. Of course, you should always heed the guide's recommendations on where to cast. Peacock bass usually roam about in small schools searching for baitfish, often bursting into a feeding frenzy. When this situation is encountered, get your fly in front of the feeding fish as soon as possible. The sooner you can cast to them after they've been spotted, the better your chance of a hookup. Peacock bass are greedy and highly competitive schooling fish. Always cast a different popper or fly right next to any hooked fish. Another peacock will almost always be close by (attracted by the commotion). If no strikes result, fish the surrounding area thoroughly. Novice peacock bass anglers tend to set the hook too fast when fishing poppers or flies. Often peacocks will just slap at the fly to stun it, then come back around and firmly grab it on the second pass. It's hard to remember at first, but don't set the hook on the strike. If you can't see the popper or fly after about one second, drop your rod tip and set the hook as hard as you can with your strip hand. Big peacock bass have very tough skin around their mouths and tend to grip the fly firmly.

If the fish doesn't take the fly on the first strike, keep it moving. If you are patient, the fish will usually come up and hit the fly a second or third time. If he loses interest, quickly change flies. This often elicits another strike. Never try and "horse" a big peacock bass, and don't underestimate his power. If a big fish is headed for structure, apply side pressure to the rod trying to 'steer' the fish in another direction. If you crank your drag down too tight, they'll almost always snap the leader, or pull off. If a fish does make it into cover, don't give up. Give a little slack and wait for the boat to spook the fish out of its hiding place-they'll often untangle themselves. When a fish comes to the boat, never assume it's ready to give up. Always keep a high rod tip and a loose drag to absorb last minute runs. Fly color doesn't seem as important as fly shade. If it is bright out, use a light-colored fly. Dark-colored flies are more productive in low light conditions.

What technique do I use to catch payara?

Payara are found throughout the San Simon River in the deeper water with current. Dropoff at the downstream end of islands, switchbacks in the river and high cut banks and deep runs. They usually show themselves, slightly breaking the surface of the water when they are actually feeding. You can wade and bank fish at times, other times you fish from the boat. A medium to fast sink tip is best, depending on water levels and depth, with six feet of 30-40 pound leader tippet and braided wire leader. Use Tiger brand wire leader in 15-30 pound test. Cast your spuddler-type fly into the pool (quartering downstream casts are best) and let the fly sink. It is important to have a straight line to the fish so put your rod tip right down on the water and strip back the fly with long medium to fast strips. When the fish strikes, set the hook with a strong jerk of your strip hand. Set the hook a couple of times, as payara have very boney mouths. When you hook a fish, it is usually airborne instantly. Barb the hook for better penetration and hookset. It is important to have very sharp hooks—laser sharpened are best. Payara fight until they are completely exhausted, so take care in reviving the fish before release.