Article By Thomas R. Dempsey, M.D. CCI

I’ve just returned from my 18th consecutive year of fishing the Agua Boa River in Brazil.  It may seem strange to go back to the same place over and over again, but the unique feature about the Agua Boa River is it is one of the few crystal-clear rivers in Brazil where side casting is the main show in town.  The camp was established on an old rubber plantation some 25 years ago by physician Jon, who was a tropical medicine specialist.  The camp is some 200 miles from Manaus, the capital of Lower Amazonia and the capital of rubber export.  Now that rubber is not exported as much, synthetics taking their place, it has become a more metropolitan area where the local people have moved in from the jungle to find jobs and other advancement in the area.

After our flight from Fort Lauderdale to Manaus and overnight in Manaus, one catches a Caravan Cessna to the camp.  After an hour and a half ride you land right beside the camp and walk to your cabana.  The cabanas are stucco, with 2 king-size beds, air conditioning, refrigerator and a separate bath and shower.  The main lodge houses the eating area and an exercise area.  There is a swimming pool out front where you can enjoy a local cocktail after you fish.

The days begin with a breakfast at 7 in the morning, on the water by 8 and fishing until about noon.  At which time your guide pulls up under a tree and you have lunch.  Then you fish until 5:30 in the afternoon.  After a hearty meal at 7pm, most of the fishermen turn in and get ready for another day.

Our trip this year was marked by beautiful weather and no rain (approx. 85 degrees every day) and no bugs.  The river is very acidic because of the many trees that fall in it so there are no mosquitos and no malaria.  Just some no-see-ums that are easily taken care of with some bug spray.

The fishing is done from the front of a metal Jon boat, where the poling platform is on the back and a guy that has super hawk eyes that can see the fish a mile away.  The fishing is done on the river “Agua Boa”, which is a stretch of 135 miles which is dedicated just to the camp and just to the clients of the lodge.  You see nobody else fishing except your group and until recently only took 6-8 people.  It’s all fly fishing, catch and release and single barbs.  The river itself has over 600 lagoons and all the lagoons are fishable.

Of the 350 different species of fish on the Amazon River, you are likely to catch any fly fishing.  This trip we caught at least 15 different species of fish.  Most people target peacock bass, but there are lots of other fish species on the river.  It’s a must to use heavy tackle…these fish can bite through fishing line and fishing leaders very easily.  When fishing for piranha it is necessary to use wire.

Peacock bass are probably the strongest fish I have ever fished for in that they can break any rod you have.  The go-to equivalent is generally an 8-weight rod with a leader of at least 40 pounds nylon.  It doesn’t have to be long because you are casting a heavy fly.  A peacock bass has a mouth so big that you cannot throw a fly so large that he can’t eat it.

Fish can be extremely aggressive and often times they will bite the tip of the rod if it is in the water.

Peacock bass are basically an overgrown goldfish.  They belong to the species Cichlid.  If you go to PetSmart and look through their aquarium, you can actually see fish on a smaller scale of what we catch in Brazil.  Oscars, and little peacocks, and a number of other aquarium fish are all dipped from the rivers in the Amazon and sold for pets.

The guides are extremely knowledgeable and if you don’t think they can cast a fly rod just put one in their hand.

If you are making this trip, make sure to spend a day or so in the city of Manaus and go to the local market which has some of the most intriguing hand crafts and fruits and vegetables that you have ever heard of.  Make sure that you take Cipro, it will reduce your risk of getting Montezuma’s revenge.  Plenty of sunscreen and plenty of bug spray will ensure that you have a comfortable fishing experience.  Good luck and set the hook.