Payara fishing in Colombia

After a rough first day our game plan changed to an all-out lure attack.

After 7 tough days on the Bocon River, it was time to head to La Macarena and try our hand at some vampire fish (payara) and gilded catfish (jau) on the Guayabero River. Initial signs were not good as heavy rain in the catchment area resulted in “chocolate” coloured water and quite a bit of flow through the gorge. The 5 days would be spent fishing a narrow gorge of about 1km long through which the jau catfish migrate each year and holds large numbers of payara.

For the second part of the trip Marc joined us in his quest to catch 12 different 100lb plus freshwater fish species. He has already managed 9 from all corners of the globe and was hoping for the jau to be added to his list.

The first morning Gavin and I headed out before the others with a clear game plan in mind – target jau in the eddies and payara in the rapids while enjoying a cold one. We were so fascinated by the spectacular birdlife in the gorge that we only saw the locals fishing with their long-lines when we were right by them. What a mess!

Most of the first day we targeted catfish, but because of the uncontrolled fishing in the area it was a losing battle. Apparently, the area had been hit hard by local fishermen since the FARC rebels signed a peace deal with the Colombian government and moved out of the area. Catfish is a delicacy in the region and the stocks in this system got hammered so hard that the only catches made on bait over the 5 days were a solitary jau of about 9kg, one big ripsaw catfish and two other smaller species of catfish.

After a rough first day our game plan changed to an all-out lure attack. No need to waste time on catfish anymore. And luckily with the water clearing up fast, the payara came to the party and entertained us with their acrobatic jumps, toothy smiles and a few spooled reels. The vampire fish’s fight is very similar to that of a tiger fish, and plenty of fish got dropped. And just like tigers, they are heaps of fun to catch especially with the extremely fast-flowing water in the narrow gorge.

On the second day it was already obvious that alliances were starting to form, but by day three there was a clear “divide” – amateurs and pros. This resulted in a lot of competition, banter and laughs.

The second day also saw Pete, the amateur’s captain, landing a stunning morrocoto pacu. Marc, from the pro team, also chipped in with a good-sized freshwater drum to up the overall species tally for the trip.

And just like the second day, the last 3 days were action packed with plenty of fish landed, even more on offs (missed calls), a number lost mid-air, another large freshwater drum by pro team’s Duane, a few hooked jau on lure which ended in broken rods with plenty of sledging from the opposition. And as with the first part of trip, the best fishing was to be had on the last day. On the final day the pro team landed 19 payara including Marc’s 20.5lbs beast, which was also the biggest for the trip. The amateurs claimed that they boated 20 but since no photographic evidence could be provided for all the catches, they had to be happy with the runners up “medal”. 

A big thanks to both teams for showing good sportsmanship (most of the time) and making this such an epic trip. This is what fishing is all about, having fun while catching trophy fish. Until the next one………..

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