Peacock Bass in Colombia

Four grown men and we were feeling like kids

After months of waiting and planning we were finally off and the excitement was high, four grown men and we were feeling like kids. Our destination, one of the most diverse countries in the world, not only ethnically but also when it comes to biodiversity, Colombia, South America. Catching monster peacock bass was the main aim of the trip, but it wasn’t going to be that easy……

Getting there

We left for the Colombian capital on Turkish Airlines via Istanbul, where we spent a freezing day visiting most of the major tourist sites on a guided tour sponsored by the airline. By the end of the day, we were close to hypothermia, but we still really enjoyed exploring the city. About 50 hours after leaving Cape Town, we finally hooked up with Duane and booked into our Airbnb house in the northern parts of Bogota. We had 5 full days to explore the city and surrounding towns. I’m not a big fan of cities, but I must say we had an awesome time discovering Bogota. Some of the highlights were definitely the capybara braai, the underground Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira and the salsa party for New Years. The Colombians are really good dancers, but sokkie isn’t their forte.

The day before we left for the jungle, we got a message from our guide that the river came down in full force. Even the bad news about the very high water levels couldn’t put a damper on our excitement as we finally flew to the small town of Inirida, close to the Venezuelan border. From Inirida it is another 4 hours by boat to our camping spot. Or so we thought. When our boat finally came to a halt after sunset, we were in a small village and not on a sand bank in the middle of the jungle. More bad news. We would be camping in the village for the next 7 nights as our camping spot was about 4 meters under water.

We came halfway around the world and nothing was going to stop us from catching monster peacock bass. 

The Fishing

The day had finally arrived. As soon as the sun reared its head over the jungle canopy, the six of us headed in all directions, everyone with a different game plan. It was the perfect morning. Cool, no wind and overcast. The first hour didn’t deliver a bite for our boat, but Duane and I kept changing lures and kept hitting the structure.

Moving into the second flooded area, I changed to a Kamatsu Rooster popper and almost immediately the hits came and the continued unseasonal rains. A few casts after landing my first speckled peacock, I got smoked by a much larger specimen. In fact, it was so big and strong that it snapped my 70lb leader and took off with my new favourite popper. The speckled peacock bass definitely lived up to its reputation as one of the hardest fighting freshwater fish in the world.

After a slow day, we made it back to the village with the whole community waiting on our arrival. Eager to find out how the other guys went, we made it up to the tents, where we found a smiling Matthew. His birthday wish came true. He landed a trophy peacock on his birthday and what he didn’t know at the time was that the locals would surprise him with a traditional birthday party later that evening. What a way to celebrate your thirtieth!    

The next 3 days were a blur of casting and rain, with a few decent fish in between (including a massive vampire fish by Pete and a large matrinxa by Gavin at the waterfall) and some enormous anacondas. The second of them really gave us a good scare as it came up right next to the boat, probably inspecting the commotion caused by the wolf fish on the line. The wildlife in this area is unbelievable with plenty of freshwater dolphins following you around each day, giant otters and some of the most prolific birdlife anywhere. Unfortunately, the high water levels did not only push the fish into the flooded jungle but it also pushed the bigger mammals out of site onto drier pastures.  

Except for Matthew, time was running out fast to land that specimen speckled peacock. We did manage a few decent sized Orini peacock bass, but they are much smaller than the speckled peacocks we came for. Which made things a little bit more frustrating was the fact that you could hear and see the big speckled peacocks hit prey on the surface continuously, but because of the water levels they were in the jungle and impossible to reach.

Then Gavin got lucky, very lucky. He managed to land the biggest peacock of the trip. The fight was epic, ended in the jungle and involved swimming, tree climbing and plenty of panicking. Video footage was deleted, so what exactly happened during the battle of Bocon we would never know. Nonetheless, he landed a dream fish that made all of us a little jealous.

The last day we fished all the way from the village back to Inirida, where we would spend a night before flying to Le Macarena for the second leg of our trip, targeting the toothy vampire fish. And as usual the best fishing was to be had on the last day. The weather had finally cleared and the water levels dropped quite a bit overnight, which meant that the fish was sitting closer to the jungle’s edge. A number of decent catches were made and Matthew ended the trip as he started it, with another trophy peacock.   

Closure

Unfortunately, the huge amount of unseasonal rain made that we didn’t get the number of specimen peacocks we wanted, but Colombia is truly an exceptional place with exceptional people and of course exceptional fishing! A fantastic trip with truly great anglers and friends. Colombia will definitely see us again in the near future and hopefully the weather gods will make us experience the true potential of these amazing waters.

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