Brazil Checkout Trips — Success at Last!
[Editor: this article first appeared on www.ronsfishingblog and may only be used by permission of Ron Speed]
In my most recent blog posts, I told you of our first two exploratory trips into Brazil’s wilderness rivers and about not catching any peacocks and bad service from the boat operators. This week we will talk about checkout trips number 3 & 4 and finally hitting the MOTHER LOAD.
A year passed after our two bad checkout trips when we made contact with a company named Solucao based in Manaus Brazil. The owner was the advisor to Jacques Cousteau when he made his famous TV shows in the Amazon basin on the Amazon and Rio Negro rivers. Silvio Barros was a very educated guy and a serious businessman who had some political influence in Brazil. I was impressed with him from the start but the best thing he did was to introduce us to Carlos Probst. Carlos was and is the owner of the Amazon Clipper houseboat. Silvio set up a checkout trip with Carlos and the Clipper to a river about 300 miles out of Manaus.
Ron Jr. and a group of 10 fishermen went in first to check out this river and hopefully find that special place to take our clients. We were so sure that this area would be great that I had a group of 10 friends and clients to follow the first group meeting in Manaus at the end of their trip.
Most of my group was the same guys that had gone with me the year before to check the Trombetus River, which turned out to be a BUST! I was really nervous, as I wanted my guys to catch a lot of big peacocks since they had such a bad trip the year before.
When we met in the Manaus airport Ron Jr.’s group was very happy as they had caught a lot of fish and lots of big fish. Man, oh man, that really excited us a lot as we were really overdue to have a good trip. Ronnie said that the fishing was great but no one knew about that type of fishing and the boats were terrible. At that point of time, we didn’t care about anything but catching lots of fish.
We did catch lots of fish and some really big fish all on topwaters. If fact, I caught my biggest peacock ever even to this day and hooked a monster fish. Carl Daniel, a banker from Logan West Virginia, was fishing with me and we were having a BLAST catching all those big fish. I had boated a 23.5 lb fish that morning and Carl had lost one exactly the same size in the same place. Carl’s fish broke his line and got away. I was lucky to boat my fish after about a 5-minute fight. We went in for lunch and rested up a little but we couldn’t rest as we were so excited to get back out fishing.
That afternoon we went to some new water and started fishing some secondary points that had some brush tops sticking out of the water off the long points. I made a cast beside a single bush way out on the end of the point and when the topwater got even with the bust a fairly small fish blew up on the bait and missed it completely. I told Carl to throw in the same place but he didn’t get bit so I threw back and when the bait hit the water a tremendous, vicious hit took place with water splashing 3 feet in the air. The battle was on and when the monster leaped out of the water Carl hollered out that it was a 40 lb fish and looked like a big bag of flour. The monster fish raced out from the point into the middle of the river taking almost all of my line off my reel. I then thought I might have a chance at boating this WORLD RECORD peacock.
I finally turned this monster fish and that was a mistake as he headed straight at the bushes close to the boat. The fish jumped one more time as he got even with the boat and my gosh he was so big he scared the both of us so bad we couldn’t believe it was so big. Twice as big as the 23 lb fish I had caught that morning. The fish continued toward the bushes with me holding on and my drag screaming until it simply burned up and the fish was into the brush and gone. Carl and I didn’t say a word for at least a minute when Carl said 50 lb bag of flour, world record, monster fish. I just sat there unable to speak for at least another minute. I thought about the battle and what I could have done better to land this fish. Oh what a thrill but also what a disappointment. I knew then I would be hooked on peacock fishing.
We ended our trip with 12 fish over 20 lbs, 25 fish over 15 lbs and 70 fish over 10 lbs. We had finally found that HONEY HOLE we had spent so much time looking for. On the way back to the landing strip in the jungle we added up all our fish and discovered our group had lost over 70 big fish due to broken lines. Even though we had been fishing Lake Guri in Venezuela for peacocks using 40 lb big game Trilene, these fish were 10 times stronger than those lake fish. We concluded that the river fish were much stronger due to the river current and the habitat where they had to fight for every meal.
The one thing we had to find was another line much stronger, reels with better drags, and lures with stronger hooks. We also had to have better boats from the USA with trollers. Better air conditioning, and ice maker as we ran out of ice after only 2 days out of a 7-day trip. The food was good but not enough french fries as everyone ate the potatoes like crazy.
Upon my return to Manaus, I met with Silvio Barros and Carlos and made an agreement that would put us in business. Carlos made all the changes I requested and upon my return to the USA, we went to Arkansas and bought some Alumaweld boats just suited for this type fishing.
We have continued to learn and get our operation better and better each year. Ron Jr. now runs trips to the Saint Isabel area for 20-plus-pound peacocks. Not a huge amount of fish but more 20-plus-pound fish than anywhere. RSA is now using the biggest and nicest houseboat in all the Amazon basin. It has huge rooms with side-by-side beds and an AC system that will freeze you into a popsicle.
We have come a long way from the first trips to Venezuela some 20 years ago. We have learned a lot about the Peacock and how to avoid total washout trips when the water is too high or too low. There have been 3 years that our new competition has had to cancel all their winter trips due to high water. We continue to find ways and areas to fish during these bad times and still catch lots of fish.
It’s been a long journey and we have enjoyed every minute of these once-in-a-lifetime trips.
GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR FISHING AND REMEMBER TO WEAR THAT LIFEJACKET!!!