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Jungle fly fishing in Bolivia for Amazon pacu
12 March 2010
I had heard rumours of a fish known to some as the “freshwater permit”, and to anybody with any knowledge or experience of the real permit, you will know all about the legendary status these mighty fish have amongst saltwater fly fishermen. I went o Bolivia principally to photograph fly fishing for golden dorado in crystal clear rivers, something that is totally unique and just about the finest freshwater fly fishing I have ever laid eyes on. As awesome as the dorado fishing was, the guides kept talking about these Amazon pacu or pirapitinga as they are sometimes known – the “freshwater permit”. Rare, mostly unknown, hardly ever taken on the fly, and essentially never sight fished to. Check out the pacu coming to the fly in the top right of the photo (the dark looking fish in the water). Insanity.
The Amazon pacu is a proper adversary, and by that I mean they scrap big time. I can see why anglers who know a bit about them have given these mighty river fish the nickname “freshwater permit”, but out here in the ultra-remote Bolivian jungles, they tend to want to eat flies hard. Permit are known for being unbelievably fussy, but my limited experience nods towards the Amazon pacu being a somewhat more interested feeder. The trick seems to be finding numbers of these fish, and being able to sight fish to them is just downright awesome. Joaquin from the Argentinean company Untamed Angling has hooked a rocket of a fish here that was down to the backing in a split-second.
I would hazard a guess that you have never even seen this fish before, let alone know anything about fly fishing for them. But that is what’s so great about our world. The more research you do and the further you head away from civilisation, the greater are your chances of coming across world class fishing. And luckily for us there are other fishermen out there who are driven to find these kinds of places and then give people like us the chance to go truly into the wilds and taste utter remoteness. Sight fishing to Amazon pacu and big golden dorado in small, intimate and clear jungle rivers is in my mind as good as it gets.
The guides told me a few times how strikingly like ours the pacu’s teeth were, and this 20lb plus fish gave me the chance to see for myself. Note the careful use of pliers to get a look at them. As much as their teeth are uncannily human, the Amazon pacu can also bite through wire with ease. As Joaquin was playing this majestic fish, I called another bigger one out to Joerg. This 30lb plus jungle monster nonchalantly swam over, inhaled Joerg’s fly, and then bit through his 30lb single strand wire as if it was not even there. Strange things tend to happen in the jungles of South America, and I can’t get enough of it.
Nothing this good is ever going to be a walk in the park. Local canoes can take you a part of the way upriver when you are chasing these big dorado and pacu, but depending on where your guide decides to take you, good old fashioned leg power will often be required to put you in position. We found the most pacu a long way up this stunning little river called the Itirizama. The remote Bolivian jungle that lies at the foothills of the mighty Andes mountain range has only just been opened up to adventurous anglers. Get in there now and see how good fly fishing can be. You will never look at trout in the same way again…….