Knowing that I would never catch fish this big in my lifetime again, we shifted our focus to payara.
These saber toothed demon fish are found throughout the system in rapids and pools formed by large rock deposits. They are extremely strong swimmers and rely on their lateral line to detect vibrations given off by their prey. Payara absolutely crush poppers, however, be prepared to change up your flies often as they tend to get suspicious after a couple swipes at a particular pattern. To land a payara you need to set the hook hard, and ease up a bit once the fish is on to avoid ripping the hook out of its soft mouth. Payara are extremely strong and agile fighters that dive deep before taking to the air as they approach the boat. On our first day payara fishing I landed around a dozen fish, with the biggest pushing ten pounds.
In the early hours of our ninth day, we began making our way upriver towards Corona Falls.
Our target: wolfish and pacu. I had never landed a pacu before, and after catching a massive arapaima earlier in the trip, pacu was at the top of my species list. As we traversed up river, Terry spotted a large tapir on the river bank and the guides sprung into action. It dove into the water and bolted downstream trying to evade its attackers. Ultimately the tapir was no match for Terry, Jules, and the Remmy. The boys quickly cleaned the kill and we were on our way. Bush cow for dinner! Yahoo!!
Fast-forward 11 months and 23 days:
Unfortunately this is where our adventure hit a roadblock.
The water was so low that we were unable to get the boats up the final set rapids just a few kilometers from the falls. Although we did have a few shots at pacu throughout the day, they showed no interest in our flies and we headed back downriver empty handed.
It is now February 10th 2019,
and I’m back in the same boat, traveling up the same stretch of river to Corona Falls.
This time, I am joined by my good friend Darryl Rosalin, and cameraman, Dan Favato. My two clients had just completed a successful trip the day before, where they caught three arapaima, as well as a ton of payara, peacocks, piranha and arowana. Now it was my turn to catch up on some unfinished business with Mr. Pacu (the fish that had eluded me the last couple years).
With higher water levels this year, our journey to the falls took around six hours.
We could have made quicker, but we made several stops to fish for payara and peacocks, along with a hearty shore lunch. As we arrived at our camp and began to set up camp, fish could be spotted rising all over the place. Darryl, Jules, and I took to the boat across the river to catch a few payara for dinner. It was tons of fun casting to rising fish, but what really got to me was that I could have sworn some of those rises were in fact pacu! I drifted foam seed flies and swung green streamers, but to no avail.
The next morning we headed out bright and early.
We crossed the river and portaged the 10’ duck boat and 18’ riverboat along with our gear about a half kilometer up the waterfall. Dan and I went to fish the base of the falls while Darryl was casting around the top of the portage. I rigged a weighted seed fly for high-stick nymphing and we worked our way up the rapids and plunge pools of Corona Falls. As we were nearing the top, a Tarzan cry rang through the jungle. Darryl was ON! Dan and I quickly scaled the last rockface just as Darryl landed an absolutely beautiful red pacu!
After taking a few pictures, Dan and I worked the upper falls frantically, but without any success.
Desperate to join the exclusive “Guyananese Pacu Club”, we travelled up the river farther than I had ever been. Three sets of rapids and a portage later, we arrived at Monkey Falls, a true pacu nirvana! This large waterfall fed into a massive pool where pods of pacu rose continuously, feeding on floating seeds. We spent the rest of the morning trying to get a surface eat, but the pacu were stubborn and would not take our offerings. In the afternoon we worked our way up the falls, nymphing pocket water and ripping streamers across pools.
We saw a ton of fish, but were still unable to get a solid hookup.
At the top of the falls I tied the same green streamer that had worked for Darryl and decided to work the mouth of the falls. On the first cast, a pod of three pacu jolted out of a crevasse and chased my fly. I slowed down my retrieve as they followed just inches behind the green hackle tail, and bam! Fish on! Nothing could have prepared me for the fight that ensued. The pacu ripped upstream rubbing my line on the edge of the submerged rock ledge. He then turned and took off towards the falls! I angled my rod upstream, putting as much side pressure as my 16lb tippet could take. The fish again changed its tactics, heading under the rock ledge into the boulders. Somehow I miraculously managed to get the fish out of the current and into a small back eddie where we were able to land him. Victory!
After a couple swigs of rum and a round of hi-fives, it was Dan’s turn. Within three casts Dan hooked up and ended the session with another solid pacu.
The following morning, we made our way back to our base camp and then to the landing. I could not imagine a better way to end our trip, three friends landing three solid pacu. Life is good!