Amazon Wild Rivers - Part 1

Arapaima, Piraiba, Redtail, Jau, Peacock, Payara, …

February 2015 . South America

Martin Sack

We had stalked the complete day with our boat over wide lakes and through narrow channels. A labyrinth like from a forgotten world seems to hide one of its oldest treasures very well. Around us the tropic vegetation was appearing in a deep green, and we were using the shadow of a tree for a short break. The muddy water below us mas not deeper than two meters, the small creek was mixed up with many overthrown trees. Suddenly a mouth was appearing next to our boat, was breathing at the surface and was showing its wide neck. That was one! We were wide awake again and tried to grab as silent as possible to our rods. With two short casts our baitfishes on a flat rig were flying close to the gush. And actually my float was starting to move after one minute. I set the hook with success and the fight with my first big Arapaima was beginning! Crazy, and this on the second fishing day. I couldn´t remember when I was last time so excited when fishing. The fish was pulling in long, strong escapes line from my reel again and again. I was playing the fish not too hard, because otherwise it maybe would jump and injure itself heavily. As the Arapaima was appearing first time closely to the boat, I was getting more nervous – the single hook had grasped very light at the top of the mouth. We beached the boat at the shore, our guide was jumping elegant in the water and I was stumbling afterwards with my rod. As soon as I had the fish close to the bank and we thought it was the right time for an embrace, it was dashing between our legs away many times. But then we could finally grab it together in the shallow water – in the last second, because at the same time the hook was getting out of the mouth! What a fish! What an adventure! What a day! We hurried up with our pictures and let the Arapaima as fast as possible back into its element.

Two and a half years earlier. I was starting with my research for a big expedition into the jungle of South America. Here I wanted to fish for nearly all species, with focus on the big catfish species La Lau, Redtail and Jau as same at the mystical Arapaima. I could inspire Claudia and Nils easily to join me for a one month trip in the tropic wilderness. Our journey should take part in three different river systems in two countries. The first half we wanted to spend our time in water, which was fascinating us because of its variety of species. But how difficult will it be to catch them on our own? To find it out on this stage also Marcel, Denny and Andi were joining us.

Sadly the small rain season had failed, which normally would lead now to higher water levels. At wide stretches the river was melted to convoluted runnels, sometimes one of its many river arms was getting lost between all the big, washed out rocks and made it impossible to drive through with our small boat. Our guide had told us that we now had the worst conditions to catch a Lau Lau. Claudia was thinking about that in her magic moment surely in different ways. Her rod was bending completely and was pulling the boat. Unlike the other catfish species her combatant was doing many strong and fast escapes, which were nearly ripping the rod out of the hands or almost pitching on the ship´s side. This was a clear sign – she had hooked a good Lau Lau! The sun was burning down on us and the fish was staying tough in the deep water of the pool. Happily it was not trying to reach on of the following rapids with all the obstacles. Soon Claudia could lift up the fish from the bottom, and after twenty minutes also I got frightened when it was time to land the cat. What a monster next to the boat! The scale was showing maniac 2,17m, this fish we estimated more than hundred kilograms easily!

Denny could outwit at night fishing another big Lau Lau of 2,07m, Nils and I lost two fishes in the category 2m+ after playing them some minutes. The variety of cat species seemed to be endless. Also the Redtails and Jaus were good fighters, which were growing up here extraordinary big, both of them could reach weights more than 60kg. We always were fascinated how big the heads of these fishes were, compared to their bodies. Our biggest Redtails were surely in the range of 35-45kg and showed much power compared with their weight. With their nice colors the Redtails were clearly the beauties among the cats, which make furthermore noises like squeak and grunt – you could hear these also during the fight from under water! But also the Surubi cats were welcome photo models. The numerous occurring, smaller leopard cats had not so much luck. They tasted like chicken and often prepared us a tasty dinner.

Next to the fishing with heavy cat rods and baits the middle heavy lure fishing was another wide field of activity. Our stick baits, poppers and spoons were regularly attacked by Peackocks, Piranhas, Payaras and Bicudas. An extraordinary prehistoric looking fish was also the Arowana, which was specialized to attack insects, frogs and reptiles close to the riverine vegetation with jumps up to two meters. This was reason enough, that Nils and Andi were fishing one complete day for these tricky predators with top water lures, and also Denny was captivated much by this animal. Claudia was fascinated from the shiny blue Kurbis, which made in 20m deep pools noises in the evening for exactly one hour and were not biting during their concerts. Apart from that they were biting on a verical fished rubber shad, but the everything eating piranhas and long tooth payaras were destroying our stocks of rubber lures in short time.

We were always amazed, through which shallows and stretches with light white water our guides were driving the boats with high speed. Not with the help of modern boat technology, only with an awesome knowledge about their river and boat. We were in short time a good working team and enjoyed to end the long fishing days with the boat by some night fishing from our beautiful beach at our base camp.

We were catching daily „photo fishes“, discovered fishing technique for species we had never heard about before and at the end all of us caught his big dream fish. In total we could land next to the two big Lau Laus five Arapaimas, another big one was sadly lost during the fight. Not to mention all the big Redtails, the sweethearts of Claudia and Denny. We faced an overflow of our senses with all the different fish species and the awesome river landscape with all the river arms, creeks, lakes, rocks and rapids. Many thanks to the camp from the wild river for the time together in the jungle! Not often we have seen such a professional team, and in combination with our nearly luxuriously jungle camp including best culinary art, generator, bush toilet and shower me missed absolutely nothing.

For Marcel, Denny and Andi now it was time to say goodbye to the jungle, while Claudia, Nils and I were leaving to another adventure – to the Lau Laus of Suriname!


Angler: Martin, Claudia, Nils, Marcel, Denny, Andi

After ten days of fishing with six crazy anglers I sadly lost the total overview of all catch rates, and not every team was all time counting and measuring diligently. Thereby we fished approximately half time with the spinning rod and the other half with baits. Because I want to write down only length and weights, which are really measured and not estimated, everyone should have a look on the pictures and can evaluate on his own. The biggest Lau Laus had a length of 2,17 and 2,07m. The two measured Arapaimas of our five landed specimen reached 1,73 and 1,68m. The Redtails were taking our baits numerously, the biggest measured 1,29, 1,28, 1,27, 1,24 and 1,24m. Most of the Jaus were in the one meter range, but some of them were longer than 1,40m, the heaviest of them with very good 1,46m. The most magnificent Peacocks were measuring 67, 63, 59 cm, and some more in the 50cm+ category joined them.

Finally we could catch the following species with baits or lures: Surubicatfish, leopardcatfish, palmitocatfish, babardocatfish, payara, arowana, bicuda, curbi, sunfish, stingray und piranha. They were added by some species more, caught by looking for baits: Pacco, sip-fish and jurney.

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