Big Peacock Bass are the junkyard dogs of the jungle. They will defend their little piece of structure or bed or wherever they call home from any invader, for any reason. Pull a fly through their kitchen while they are on guard and they are guaranteed to try and hurt it, and you, real bad. It is just their nature. All peacock bass are tough as nails, but the really BIG ones are impossible to forget and are a whole different animal when you put them at the end of a fly line.
The Rio Marie’ is the newest discovery in the peacock bass world of Amazonia, and after the first season has proved to hold the highest concentration of monster peacocks ever found anywhere on the planet. We landed 40 fish over 20 pounds in 7 weeks of fishing, previously unheard of numbers in those proportions. The bruisers that call the Rio Marie’ home will leave a literal lasting impression on everyone who has the wonderful misfortune of running across one. Stories of mayhem were the norm from early reports back from the Rio Marie’ and they never let up all Fall. I did not really believe the extremity of the stories I was hearing until I personally went on an expedition and lived through war after war with these fish the 3rd week of the inaugural season, last October. Some I barely won, others took a few Skol beers to calm me down and stop my hands from shaking before I was capable of another cast into the Rio Marie’s black water. From broken rods to exploding fly lines to shredded gloves and line-burnt hands, these peacocks left a path of destruction in their wake. It was everything you could do to hold onto a truly big one long enough to get a picture without something, either gear or body, having a catastrophic failure.
The name of the game when fishing for peacocks is to cast streamers and poppers into and along the structure and strip out, back towards the boat. This created a few different scenarios that give big fish big advantages, and put you in the position to hook into a serious handful. The fish would streak out of structure and smash the fly and instantly turn and head back for cover. The initial shocking grab of a trophy peacock bass and the chaos that ensues is unimaginable. You can NOT let them run and this is what makes the fights so dirty, and often ends with something getting damaged. If you give them any mercy at all they will take advantage of it and head right back into the structure and will break you off or force your native guide to go swimming in Piranha-infested waters to retrieve your fish. Although entertaining to watch, I prefer to land my fish without assistance, so we lock down and hold these monsters from returning to the comfort of their homes. The challenge here is you have all this slack line at your feet from stripping the fly, so your reel and fancy sealed drag are absolutely zero help – it might as well be a tin can. Your fingers and hands are the only drag system you have. Gloves, stripper fingers and tape are mandatory, more than in any other fishery. My favorite horror story from the Rio Marie’ was of one fisherman hooking a fish so gi-normous and strong that it could not be stopped, and as it ripped the line away from the poor son of a gun the other guys in the boat said they could smell his skin burning as the line welded his fingers together. They had never heard a man scream in such agony while fighting a fish before. Mercifully, the line broke, providing yet another story of the potential world record that got away. At least he has proof of the encounter permanently burned across his hand.
If you’re thinking you would like to step into the ring with the Peacock Bass of the Rio Marie, you better start training now. Work on your cast, as well your threshold for pain.