FUNDAMENTAL SKILLS AND TIPS
As you can imagine, we've had the pleasure of hosting some very experienced anglers. Interestingly enough, sometimes those are the Guests who have the hardest time adjusting to our fishery. Why? Well, we all have bad habits when it comes to the fundamentals of casting. Often years of experience just means years of reinforcing bad habits. You will be making SO MANY CASTS on our trip, and bad fundamentals will quickly exhaust and frustrate even the best of us.
Michael likes to tell the story of a Guest who had just spent breakfast showing everyone his BFP's (Big Fish Pictures) from all over the world. He's done it all, seen it all. "It was impressive, and he was a great fishing partner. We fished hard, making sure we covered every fishy-looking spot we could cast into."
Suddenly the Guest lets out a sigh and starts to bring in his line. "My God I'm beat! Is it lunch time yet?" Michael remembers looking at his watch. It was 9 AM. He had fished for 2 hours and he was done!
There are 20 reasons why he was so exhausted, but we can wrap them all up into one simple statement: He was working WAY too hard to make those casts. We are throwing large flies and heavy rods. If you don't allow your SYSTEM to do it's job, then you'll be exhausted by 9 in the morning!
The GOOD NEWS is that we already know these fundamentals. The BAD NEWS is that even though we think we're doing them, we probably aren't. It's all good, we can help, and with just a few practice drills you will be ready to enjoy our experience!
But before we review the fundamentals, lets make sure you're fishing with the right system (hover your mouse over the photo below):
Salt water grade reel
8 or 9 weight rod
Jungle, Outbound, or Titan taper fly line
5"-6" long fly
There's nothing like having the right tool for the job
Its just amazing how much easier it is to fish the jungle when you have a perfectly balanced system. You can read more details on the gear section of this website (here), but what we will discuss on this page is WHY this system works.
A typical cast in the jungle is somewhere between 40'-50'. That may sound like a long way to cast a large fly, but with the right system it is nothing. In fact, asking an 8 or 9 weight rod to cast 40'-50' is like asking a Ferrari to drive 50 miles an hour. It's the minimum of what that rod is designed to do.
Here's the SECRET to this cast: It's all about that fly line!
Above: a typical trout fly line has a long head, a long belly, and a long rear taper that is very gradual. This allows the angler to comfortably make short, medium, and long false casts.
THIS LINE IS DESIGNED TO FALSE CAST, AND FALSE CAST, AND FALSE CAST.
Above: an exaggerated taper like this Jungle line has a very short head, a very short belly, and a sharp rear taper. This line is specifically designed to launch large flies long distances. Look where/how the rear taper ends. It is perfectly balanced to fully load the rod with exactly 35' out of the rod tip on the back cast. No more, no less.
THIS LINE IS DESIGNED TO LAUNCH.
ONE POWERFUL BACKCAST, ONE EASY FORWARD CAST. DONE.
Think of it this way: A jungle taper fly line IS NOT DESIGNED TO CAST. IT IS DESIGNED TO LAUNCH. Just get enough fly line outside of the rod tip to fully load the rod, and let it go on the forward cast. How much line? EXACTLY 35 feet. That's it. Once you achieve a 35' backcast, you're done. Let it go on the next forward cast. Considering you're casting an 8 or a 9 weight, getting 30+ feet of fly line out should never take more than a couple of false casts. When you fish with him, Michael can show you how he launches a 70 foot forward cast with NO FALSE CAST.
If you carry more than 35 feet of line outside of the rod tip, then you are over-weighting the rod. For example, a 50 foot backcast with this line would be the equivalent of casting an 11+ weight fly line on your 9 weight rod! Keep your false cast to 35 feet max and this will be a piece of cake for you.
How far will a 35' back cast go on the forward cast? As far as you want. 40'-50' is nothing. 60'-70' is easy. I know you don't believe us, but you can see in the following videos that this casting system works. The video below is an out-take from our Discovery Channel show. It features Michael making his water-haul cast, launching a 7" long EP White Perch fly 70' on the forward cast. The water-haul cast is designed to easily get that magical 35' of line out with very little effort. Notice how the fly is always under control. Look closely, and you'll see that Michael is casting this heavy system RIGHT OVER THE HEAD OF THE CAMERAMAN! That's how much control this cast allows.
The second video shows Michael making a 75' cast on the grass with one back cast.
MICHAEL'S WATER-HAUL CAST IN 5 EASY STEPS
1. Pull out all the line that you will need for your final cast, and lay it on the deck. Starting from the reel, run the line through your fingers making a new pile of line at your feet. This reverses the line, keeping it from bunching up as you shoot the line.
2. Lay 15 feet of line on the water BEHIND YOU
3. Water-haul a forward cast, letting 10 feet of line feed out so that you now have 25 feet of line on the water in front of you. That's right, the line should be on the water in front of you.
4. Starting SLOW, water-haul a powerful 30-35 foot backcast.
5. Keeping the line in the air on the backcast, make an easy forward cast, allowing the head to pull the rest of the running line out, completing the cast.
REMEMBER THESE CASTING FUNDAMENTALS
In order to make an easy, efficient, accurate, and safe cast:
The length of the casting stroke (the distance of the casting hand between the forward and backcast) is dictated by the amount of line being cast, not by the size or the weight of the fly
The amount of power is determined by the length of the line being cast
The path of the rod tip during the power stroke must be in a straight line
Above: Our Fishing Manager practices his casting at home, and so can you!
-The first cast shows what a perfectly balanced system can do: 6" long fly, 7 ' leader of straight mono, jungle taper fly line, jungle fly rod. The result is a long forward cast made from a single back cast. No false cast necessary! See the path of the rod tip? Straight line. See the path of the reel? Straight line. This creates a tight and powerful loop on the forward cast. This cast delivers the fly FAST, but that's not all. It's also effortless, efficient, accurate, and SAFE. Focus on your fundamentals and let your outfit do the work!
-The second cast shows the creation of a very tight and powerful loop on the back cast. The tip path was straight during the power stroke, creating this loop. Notice how Michael raises his tip after the power stroke? That's a bad habit he's been working to fix for 20 years haha! The key point here is that the LINE is loading the rod, not his arm.
-The third cast shows a long forward cast made with two false casts that goes straight into the 5 gallon bucket. Notice how close Michael's casting arm is to his body, even with a 65 foot cast. He doesn't need to waive his arms all around, fully extended. Keeping the rod tight and close to the body forces the power into the rod (the path of the reel is more of a hammer here), resulting in much less effort and work for the caster and also makes for an extremely accurate cast. Again, make the rod do the heavy lifting, that's what its designed to do!
PRACTICE CREATES MUSCLE MEMORY. The moment your muscle memory takes over and you no longer have to focus on the mechanics of your cast, you will then be able to focus more on what's happening around you. You will SEE so much more, and you will catch SIGNIFICANTLY MORE FISH.
Note: YOU DO NOT NEED TO CAST THIS FAR to be successful in our fishery. The point we are trying to make is that casting should be effortless for you. Get your casting fundamentals up to speed, use a perfectly balance outfit, and have a blast in our waters!
Above: Practice makes perfect. Remember, there is another angler in your boat.
Be confident with your cast or ask for help. We love to teach!
Below: One of the most skilled anglers we've had the pleasure of hosting, Capt. Matt Miles
with a shockingly beautiful Acu peacock bass.
OUR FLY FISHING STRATEGIES
Large prop baits like the famous Rip Rollers or Woodchoppers are used routinely in the Amazon for hunting trophy peacock bass. They certainly work, and often land the biggest fish of the trip. You can bring these trophies up on a fly as well, but it will be more difficult. If this is your focus, then you need to understand the theories behind trophy fishing in the Amazon.
This is important: Trophy hunting in the Amazon requires a great deal of skill, patience, and endurance. We certainly have 20+ pound fish in our waters, but don't expect them to just hurl themselves onto your fly. These fish are top predators in an extremely hostile environment. They have grown to trophy size because they are masters at surviving here. Success comes as a result of making the right cast at the right time, setting the hook properly, fighting him properly, and keeping him out of the submerged trees. Most of our guests are good at a few of these skills but need a few days to get up to speed with all of them.
Michael's trophy strategy is to cover the water with a proven searching fly pattern that has a silhouette similar to a Peacock Bass' diet. He will cast to likely cover along the banks, as well as key trophy spots like points, ledges, and drop-offs. Often a trophy Peacock will appear from the depths (halfway between the bank and the boat) to take a closer look. These fish will only show themselves once, and only for a split second. They are extremely wary, and you must be hyper-focused on the water around your fly to spot them. This is the time to immediately switch to your 10 weight and large fly and cast until you hook him. Be patient. It may take 5 casts, it may take 50.
Guests often arrive with expectations of easy fishing with high numbers. You earn every fish here, period. That said, we certainly have some successful strategies designed to increase your odds.
Doubles: work together! If your partner has hooked a Peacock Bass, immediately throw your fly right behind that fish. There is a high chance that there will be a second (and larger) fish following. After implementing this strategy in 2017, we documented a 30% increase in the number of fish hooked by our guests. Our average size went up as well.
Speaking of working together, your guide wants to help. If he picks up a casting rod rigged with a large prop bait, encourage him to cast. He knows something. Likely, he knows about a large fish that lives in the area and he wants to call him up for you. Let him cast, then cast your fly right in the "smoke" or bubbles behind his lure. You may not see it, but prop baits will bring fish from 50 feet away, and they will be lit up and swimming circles around that lure. Your fly will be easy pickings. Hook the first fish, then have your partner hit the second (usually much larger) fish that is following along. This bait and switch tactic is a pleasant break in the day, and can be absolutely deadly in our waters.
Be efficient, accurate, and effective with your casting. It sounds obvious, but it really isn’t until you get here. If you spend the day with your fly landing 3 feet away from your intended target, then you never really fished that water. We don’t want you to have a day full of missed opportunities. Don’t stress about this though, Michael loves to teach and is always available for an impromptu casting lesson. Just ask!
THE BIGGEST PEACOCK BASS IN THE RIVER LIVE ON THE POINTS
NOTE: Every one of our Guides approaches these points differently. That's a good thing! Watch and learn their methods.
Below is Michael's preferred approach.
The primary zone is always across the submerged point. With the water being so black, it can often be difficult to know just how long the point is underwater. We prefer to start from the outside and work our way in. This tactic moves fish towards shallower water. BIG FISH LIVE HERE. Use your heaviest gear and be ready for anything.
The secondary zones are the edges along the point. These areas offer great opportunities to cast to cruising fish that are often aggressive and on the hunt. You need to be ready, and to be able to cast accurately in front of the fish, leading them to your fly.
SECONDARY - EDGES
SECONDARY - EDGES
We recommend casting towards structure at a 45 degree angle from the boat.
Why? Our fish are usually found holding in one particular depth zone. This is often dictated by the time of the day (and the heat of the sun). Once that zone has been identified, a 45 degree angle'd cast will keep your fly inside that zone for a longer period of time.
Remember to try to keep your casts parallel to each other to maximize your ability to work together.
LOOK CLOSELY AT THE LAST PHOTO IN THIS SERIES...
What do you notice? Chase has a beautiful paca peacock bass literally jumping 6 feet away from him, but he's not even looking at it. Hmm, why do you think this is?
Well, always watch the Guide first. What is Tino doing...he's pointing with his teaser rod!
What is David doing? He's already in mid-cast! Not a word has been spoken, but everyone in the boat knows exactly what is going on. The more our anglers work WITH their Guide, the more in-tune they become with what is happening around them. Our Guides are not boat drivers, they are professional Fishing Guides. Their insights are absolutely essential to your success in our waters.
Here's what's happening: Remember, always look behind a hooked fish, there is often a second (and much larger) peacock bass that has been drawn out of his primary lie by the commotion. That is exactly what has happened here, and David has been able to respond quickly and accurately. Everyone working together, that's what our experience is all about!
A note from our Fishing Manager, Michael:
"What's the difference between a good and a great angler in our waters?"
A Great angler:
Trusts their Guide. Works closely with their Guide.
Anticipates a strike on every cast. They are actively watching their fly, anticipating exactly when and where the strike will occur.
Fishes out every cast, even if they missed their shot. No cast is wasted.