Akuani River Lodge, Colombia
Landon Mace April 05, 2023
Akuani River Lodge, Colombia - Afloat Adventures
Before this most recent trip, I had the pleasure of fishing peacock bass at Afloat Adventures’ Akuani Floating Camp on the Tomo River. When I heard that Afloat was offering a new destination, the Akuani River Lodge, I was already primed to get down there and experience it. I was beyond excited at the opportunity to fish for peacock bass and payara all in the same week. On top of that, I had heard the lore of the Orinoco River and its geological majesty. My expectations were exceeded and, as always, I had a wonderful time with one of my close fishing companions, Diep Do. I have a love for the jungle and this trip deepened my passion for targeting the fish that call this remarkable environment home.
Where did you go and how did you get there?
I got to spend an amazing week down at the Akuani River Lodge in Colombia. I left Oregon and my itinerary required me to make a couple of layovers in the United States before arriving to Bogota, Colombia. We arrived around 10:30 PM and after clearing customs and grabbing our bags, we were met by the lodge driver and taken for a quick 10-minute drive to the Aloft Hotel to overnight. There was a convenient store across the street from the hotel, so we were able to get some food and drinks, before calling it a night. The next day, we were picked up and taken to the airport to catch the domestic flight from Bogota to Inírida. Upon arrival in Puerto Inírida, we were greeted by a lodge representative.
Next, we transferred to a lunch stop were we enjoyed some local Colombian cuisine and a couple cold beers before heading down to the river dock. There we loaded up the fast boat with all our gear and supplies and proceeded down the Inírida River for four hours to the lodge. I personally enjoyed this boat ride, as there is plenty to see as you make your way downriver. Once you hit the Orinoco River, the views were pleasant with Colombia on the left side and Venezuela on your right. We saw lots of locals either transporting in boats or the occasional angler with handlines trying their luck at dinner. I also found the geology of the Orinoco River to be absolutely stunning.
Where did you fish?
I fished two amazing rivers in the eastern part of Colombia close to the Venezuelan border. The Vichada is the river where the main lodge is located and where we spent most of our time fishing for our main quarry, the peacock bass. We spent our time fishing various spots on the main river itself, while also exploring various lagoons that were either landlocked or connected by small, shallow creeks. At times we had to hop out of the boat to push our way through. It was amazing how expansive these lagoons were and the amount of fishable water within each one. There was one extremely productive lagoon that the lodge and guides have exclusive access to, and it required a 25-minute walk through a dried-up riverbed, where I had found jaguar prints left in the sand.
The secondary camp is simply known as the Orinoco Camp as it is set just off a sandy beach on the edge of the jungle on the Orinoco River. You get a splendid view of what I can only imagine being a class IV or V rapid. This same rapid is home to some of the mighty payara and there were plenty of them lurking in and around those treacherous waters. The majority of the payara fishing, however, is accomplished down river of camp. The water braids and weaves throughout the river system in all different directions, due to the rock formations of the river. I have what I consider a good sense of direction but often found myself disoriented in the labyrinth of rocks and rapids where the payara feed.
How was fishing?
I had a wonderful week of fishing on both rivers and things were always interesting with various species caught. On the Vichada, I caught multiple species of peacock bass, a bicuda, a sardinata, and some piranha. Granted, there were some smaller lagoons that were slow and did not produce from time to time, however, you could count on numbers that varied from eight fish per day, up to 20+ fish per day for the boat. All my visits to Colombia have reinforced that the fishing is quality over quantity. With that said, some zones are full of butterfly peacocks (a smaller, more plentiful peacock bass species) and you can find yourself hooking fish on nearly every cast, but overall, most of what I found were healthy fish of substantial size.
The Orinoco River bore fruit as well, with some great fish caught. The payara is a formidable opponent on the other end of the line and will make you pay dearly for any mistakes you make as an angler if you are not on top of your game. They are hard to hook in the first place with boney mouths and sharp teeth, and additionally, they are extremely capable swimmers and use the strong current to their advantage. Given all of this, I have a newfound love for these incredible predators!
How did you fish?
The peacock bass fishing is done primarily from the boat, although there are opportunities to get out and walk beaches looking for cruising fish. Each boat is described as a bongo, which is a type of large canoe. Each bongo has two casting platforms, one forward and one aft. I found that my partner and I had plenty of room to cast and we rarely found ourselves crossing lines. In my experience, I have found that peacock bass is a game of casting and doing your best to pick apart the water and structure that you find in any given area. Accuracy, consistency, and determination will reward anglers that are willing to put in the work.
Targeting payara was strictly on foot and utilizing heavy sinking lines with big flies was the game we played. You will use the boat to get to various locations, where the guides will station you in the best casting spots. The Orinoco was no doubt physically taxing and those that can hike or move among the rock formations efficiently, were most successful. My ability to move quickly through areas and cover water significantly increased my catch rate. There were a few instances where I had a perfect casting perch atop a rock, where I either had to wade or swim out to it and do my best to pull my body weight and gear up the side of said rocks. These spots allowed me to get casts closer to currents that were otherwise out of reach.
Where did you stay?
The main lodge is atop a rock outcrop located on the Vichada River. It is in a terrific location with a view to match. I always enjoyed hearing and watching the occasional pair of macaws or Amazon parrots fly over camp. There are four cabins and considering that you are in the middle of the Colombian jungle, they are quite pleasant. Two comfortable queen beds per cabin, and each had a bug net to keep any flying or crawling critters out. Each cabin had its own shower, sink, and toilet areas, that were spacious and simple. The water temperature for the shower relied solely on how much sun the water reservoir received that day. After dinner, we often found ourselves enjoying a cigar on the front cabin patio each evening before retiring for the night.
The dining area is covered, and the table is set up family style, where everyone enjoys the meal together. Meals were mainly cooked in a traditional Colombian style and the main course consisted of beef, pork, but most often fresh caught fish. There is another uncovered area on the deck as well, with patio style seating, where appetizers were served, tales of the one that got away were shared, and sunset views were enjoyed.
The Orinoco Camp was extremely comfortable, with large tents, elevated off the ground on wooden platforms. The tents are not what you might think in the traditional sense, they are far more robust with a heavy duty construction. Each tent has two twin beds and ample space for gear on our overnight. The dining area is simple with a large table and covering. We spent breakfast and lunch here and the one dinner that we had at this camp, we spent on the beach next to a bonfire. The shower and bathroom area are communal at this camp. It is a similar tent to the ones that were slept in; however, it was divided into four sections on the inside. Two showers on one side and two toilets on the other.
I really enjoyed being at both camps and thought the accommodations were great. Admittedly, I am simple and easy to please, but considering what they have accomplished in the middle of the jungle, it is quite impressive.
What equipment did you use and how did it perform?
I will start by saying that I tend to prefer faster, stiffer fly rods overall and that obviously weighed heavily on my rod choice overall. With that said, I opted for the Payload series of rods from Sage. There was only one other rod that was not a Payload in my quiver and that was a Sage Igniter. These rods are perfect, in my opinion, for throwing streamers and poppers. They did just that and did it extremely well.
For reels, I had both the Sage Arbor XL and the Enforcer. When it comes to peacock bass reels, I do believe a quality reel is important for their ability to perform in austere environments, but most of my peacock bass never make it to the reel. I tend to only get line on the reel with larger fish, to avoid any misfortune with loose line wrapping itself on anything in the boat. As for the payara, your reel is far more important, as most fish consistently took me to my backing. Both the Arbor XL and Enforcer performed great.
For lines, I utilized the new RIO Elite Warmwater Predator in all its offered densities. These densities include a full Floating, Floating/Hover/Intermediate, and Floating/Sink5/Sink7. This line was a joy to cast and turned over everything with ease.
- Peacock Bass -
Sage Payload 889 – Arbor XL 7-8 – RIO Elite Warmwater Predator F/H/I 9wt
Sage Payload 989 – Enforcer 9/10 – RIO Elite Warmwater Predator Float 10wt
Sage Igniter 990 – Enforcer 9/10 – RIO Elite Warmwater Predator F/S5/S7 9wt
- Payara -
Sage Payload 1090 – Enforcer 9/10 – RIO Leviathan 400gr
Sage Payload 1193 – Enforcer 11/12 – RIO Leviathan 500gr
Leader choices were easy and straightforward. For peacock bass, I travelled with spools of 40- & 60-pound RIO Saltwater Mono and the RIO Fluoroflex Saltwater Tippet. This covered anything I needed for fishing on both the surface and subsurface. As for the payara, the leaders were simple with a 60-pound butt section of fluorocarbon and an attached section of RIO’s 40-pound Powerflex Wire Bite Tippet.
Akuani River Lodge, Colombia
Experience the pristine and wild semi-arid jungle of eastern Colombia