The Marié River Reserve is remote, restricted and loaded with 20-pound peacocks.
They call the Marie in northwestern Brazil, “Rio de Gigantes” or “River of Giants” and the 500-mile long tributary of the Amazon River seems to produce the trophy size peacock bass to prove that moniker each year. According to detailed records kept by the exclusive outfitter, Untamed Angling, over the past three seasons 176 giant peacock bass weighing 20 pounds or more have been caught by a total of 268 anglers visiting the Marie River watershed. While those stats alone are promising to fisherman, another 408 fish between 15 and 20 pounds were also caught over the same period.
In the recent 2017 season alone, there were 21 speckled peacock bass (Cichla temensis) over 22 pounds with lengths between 80 to 91 cm caught and released in the watershed. The largest fish landed is a new pending IGFA World Record caught by Marcel Griot. The massive 30-pound, 13-ounce (14 kg) fish was caught on November 22, 2017 while fishing Marie River lagoons with the outfitter Untamed Angling. Griot caught the fish on a 7-inch High Roller topwater lure, and released it alive after weighing and documenting the trophy. If approved, the catch will replace the current All-Tackle record of 29 pounds, 1 ounce.
Griot also caught last season's second biggest fish, a 27.5-pounder, on the same topwater plug that same day. The third largest peacock of 2017 caught in the Marie River weighed 26.4 pounds and was caught about a month earlier by a fly fisherman on a popper fly. The most significant monster peacock bass taken in the entire Amazon on a fly however was caught and released in the Upper Marie River in the previous season. On September 26, 2016, a German angler, Florian Kaiser, caught what is reported to be the largest peacock ever taken on fly rod, a 92 cm long fish weighing 28.5 pounds. He was using his own personally-tied 3/0 Deceiver fly in white/grey on a 9-foot, 9-weight rod and 40-pound tippet. These stats are very impressive!
The Marie is a true trophy fishery and not one that yields huge numbers of fish. Anglers who want to focus on the smaller butterfly peacock bass can catch quite a few 2- to 6-pounders in the near-shore cover. While the fishing can be tough for constant activity, the remote waters do yield a higher percentage of 20-pound peacock bass than most every other river in the Amazon. And they have a strict catch-and-release policy.
On my most recent trip to the Amazon, I visited the Marie for the first time. After 60 trips to the Brazilian jungle, I have fished around 40 different rivers with fairly good success. Outfitters Rodrigo Salles and Marcelo Perez joined me on the venture to help me check out their trophy-focused operation. Since my interests lie in giant peacock bass, I was excited to have a crack at the Marie. It didn't take long to find out the waters did hold some big fish.
Fishing with a Brazilian angler, Ricardo Borges, we caught 18 butterfly peacocks on day one and I managed a 13-pound speckled peacock. We found out at dinner that night that one of Ricardo's friends on the trip caught two giants that weighed 22 pounds each, and there were a few others in the mid- to upper teens taken that day. Ricardo and I tied on some different baits and headed out the next morning after something similar.
About 10 a.m., I tossed a jig into a lagoon cut and tussled with an 18-pounder, a good start to the day. Ricardo hooked a giant at least that big on a 6-inch long tail-spinner topwater plug, and fought it for maybe two minutes before it pulled off. One of the requirements imposed on conventional tackle anglers in the Marie Indian Reserve where we were fishing is that use of treble hooks is not allowed. This rule probably impacts the effectiveness of topwater baits much more than submerged lures. I had two big blow-ups on my topwater Timber Turbine that didn't connect with the huge peacocks.
After lunch, my luck changed. We noticed some movement in a small pocket inside a long, narrow lagoon. I picked up a soft swimbait and tossed it toward the back of the pocket and my partner threw a jig to the same area. On our seventh cast to the little pocket, a monster exploded on my 5-inch Sebile Magic Swimmer and tore off, pulling drag from my Shimano Curado. It bulled its way into the middle of a string of bushes about 15 feet off the bank and stopped after further burying himself in 25 feet or so from the edge.
Fortunately, steady pressure on the fish caused it to turn and swim right back out the same way! The monster then continued pulling drag and heading down the lagoon as my bilingual guide Rod Zhouri headed toward the fish with the trolling motor. About 5 minutes later, I pulled the fish into Rod's waiting net. It was so thick that I thought it might be my largest peacock ever. Rod and Ricardo weighed the fish and took measurement of length and girth. It weighed 25 pounds, had a length of 33 inches and a humongous 25-inch girth!
It was a tremendous fish and did tie my personal best: two other 25-pound-plus speckled peacock caught in different rivers in the Amazon. What was even most impressive to me about this latest catch was the huge girth. Giant peacock are always males, so they never gain the big belly similar to largemouth. I've measured most of my 33 peacock bass weighing over 20 pounds and a few hundred upper “teeners” that I have caught in 25 years of chasing them, and this thick, big-headed fish had the biggest girth. On this trip, I measured seven other giants between 17 and 25 pounds and all girths were between 18 and 21 inches.
Certainly, my fishing partner was yearning for a giant fish, and the following day, he hooked and landed a second 25 pounder, his biggest ever, on a shallow diving Brazilian plug. Our top-notch guide Rob thus had guided us to the two largest peacock bass of the week, and in fact they were the fourth and fifth largest peacocks taken from the watershed in the entire 2017 season.
The following day, Untamed Angling co-owner Marcelo grabbed his 8-weight fly rod and went out with Ricardo and I as our “guide.” About mid-morning, I wanted a “drink break” and told Marcelo to show us his prowess with the fly rod. He moved to the front deck and started casting his 6-inch streamer. Within 10 minutes, Marcelo had hooked a big fish on the fly. The battle was epic and lasted 4 or 5 minutes until we netted the 20-pound peacock!
I was impressed by our small group's six-day tally of nine peacocks 20 pounds or better and another 22 “teeners” (those fish between 13 and 19 pounds). Our total fish tally for the week was nothing to brag about, although a couple of guys did catch over 50 butterfly peacock bass one day. The remote Marie River is indeed worthy of being called “River of Giants.
Anglers fly directly to the mothership, called Untamed Amazon, on a chartered Cessna Caravan float plane from Manaus which takes about 3 ½ hours. The river whose headwaters are near the Colombian border is one of the most remote peacock bass fisheries in South America. It lies on the protected Rio Marie Indian Reserve which includes the main river, its two major tributaries, and dozens of lagoons and oxbow bays.
Fishing here requires a permit and approval of the Native Indian Communities (composed of the Bare, Baniwa and Tukano ethnic groups) and the Brazilian government, and Untamed Angling outfitters Rodrigo and Marcelo entered into the exclusive sport fishing agreement four years ago.
“We were under strict guidelines imposed by IBAMA (Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) the first two seasons, and they endorsed an expanded fishing zone over the past two seasons which includes the entire river drainage including all of the Marie tributaries,” says Rodrigo. “We are able to manage the fishery by rotating our minimal fishing pressure between 6 river sectors: Upper Turi, Lower Turi, Rubo River, Upper Marie, headwaters of Marie, and the Lower Marie. That's more than 600 miles of exclusive-access water, the biggest exclusive peacock bass fishing reserve in the Amazon.”
“The high mobility of our shallow-draft mothership combined with the ability to fly in directly via float planes to any part of our fishing reserve lets us manage the fishery better,” he continues. “We navigate on average about 80 to 130 miles each week to fish new waters daily. The Marie watershed is a headwaters system of the Rio Negro and as a result, water level fluctuations are not as severe as they tend to be on other tributaries. That means less impact on fishing success.”
Untamed Angling also limits the fishing pressure. They only accommodate 8 to 10 anglers per week in their 8 double-occupancy staterooms onboard the 92-foot long Untamed Amazon. The spacious, three-floor live-aboard yacht with air conditioning throughout is very comfortable mobile floating lodge offering side-by-side twin beds in each room along with private bathrooms and hot showers. Large floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows along the exterior wall of each stateroom opens up the jungle view to those inside. To take advantage of its equatorial location, the unique mothership's roof deck is lined with solar panels to generate 100 percent solar power for the vessel.
The 7-foot wide aluminum bass boats had large flat decks forward and aft that were comfortable to fish from. The 90-hp outboards easily powered the boats throughout the watershed. The weather, as usual, was hot and most anglers took a dip or two during the day in the cooler river waters off one of the abundant sandbars scattered along it.
The fishing “season” established on the exclusive Rio Marie Indian Reserve runs from September to mid-January. Fishing is limited to only fly fishermen during the first 12 weeks of the season and is then open to “mixed” or conventional tackle (spinning and baitcast) anglers for 4 weeks. Due to being later in the season, the fishing area for the mixed weeks is limited to the lower Marie River zone only, a different area from where they fish the flies according to Rodrigo.
To preserve the Indian culture at the 14 communities along the Marie River system, a Native Community Fee of $670 is required from each angler. The fees are used for social projects, infrastructure development, transportation, medical and educational projects. For complete information on package inclusions and exclusions, tackle restrictions, trip availability and costs, contact VP & Sales Director Rodrigo Salles of Untamed Angling at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website www.marieriver.com.