Kendjam Lodge, Brazil
Landon Mace October 24, 2023
Kendjam Lodge, Brazil - Untamed Angling
Kendjam Lodge is one of those places that I wish every angler on this planet could experience. It’s such an amazing place overall and the things you see daily are truly special, in my opinion. Fishing is the icing on the cake and I like that anglers from all walks of life can be successful and enjoy this fishery. It is my belief that it has to be one of the best places to get an opportunity to see a wild jaguar. I loved seeing macaws daily and really enjoyed opportunities to see the rare hyacinth macaw. There's a vast amount of wildlife throughout the river with various species of amazon parrots, conures, toucans, kingfishers, white tailed eagles, herons, anhingas, turtles, peccaries, false water cobras, caimens, tapirs, howler monkeys, capuchins, etc. I really got a kick out of hearing the screaming piha, a bird which has a call that I believe is one of the most recognizable jungle bird calls from Hollywood movies. If you love adventure and want to experience the Amazon, this place is for you.
Where did you go and how did you get there?
This trip was set up as a combo with Untamed Angling – Brazil, to both Kendjam Lodge and Xingu Lodge. I set out from Southern Oregon and had a few connections stateside, before connecting in Panama City, Panama, then on to Manaus, Brazil. Flying with United Airlines made things easy on the international connection, as Copa Airlines is a partner with United, so my checked bag made it all the way through, without having to get rechecked with customs in Panama City. A huge bonus in my book!
After arrival at the Eduardo Gomes International Airport in Manaus, I and a couple of other anglers were greeted by Deborah (Untamed’s Ground Coordinator) outside of the baggage claim terminal. From there, we were taken to the lovely Hotel Juma Opera, which has great accommodations with friendly & helpful staff. Most of us had a good amount of free time, so Deborah was able to get us set up with a city tour. The tour was quite fun, and we got to experience some pretty amazing things, in my opinion. The fish market was the first stop, and it was something to behold. I was blown away to see so many different species of Amazonian fish on display for buyers to purchase. Pacu, arapaima, peacock bass, catfish, you name it.
Next, we hopped on a boat and made a quick jaunt across the Rio Negro where we made a stop to swim with some of the famed Amazon River dolphins. These gentle and playful creatures are endeared by the locals and for me, it was one of those encounters that I will never forget. After the dolphin stop, we continued to a spot where they raise arapaima. It is illegal to harvest wild arapaima in Brazil, so all the arapaima that is sold for consumption, is “farmed”. It was moderately entertaining, as we were all given long sticks with strings and a dead baitfish attached to the end. We all drop in our offerings and proceeded to see the fish cruise up to the bait, open their big bucket mouths, suck it down with vacuum force, and then try to swim off. After we ran out of our bait allotment, it was time to go hit the next spot. Last but not least, we were driven to the Meeting of the Water, where the Amazon and Rio Negro confluence. The Rio Negro is dark in color, where the Amazon was more akin to coffee with a heavy pour of creamer. Very cool to see!
The next day, we got up early and transferred to the airport for our private charter to the Kendjam airstrip. It was roughly three hours of flying over a beautiful sea of green. When you are on the flight, it is ever more apparent how remote the Iriri River is, after flying over miles and miles of lush rainforest. After touching down at Kendjam Village, we were greeted by the Untamed staff and the Kayapó Indian Community. We waited a short time, as the previous week’s group got their gear loaded up on the plane and prepared for their trip back to Manaus. After the plane departed, we shuffled our way down to the Iriri to make the journey down river to the Kendjam Lodge. It’s roughly a three-hour boat ride to get to the lodge, but that three hours went by fast with all the sights and sounds of the jungle that surrounds the river.
Where did you fish?
All the fishing is done on the Iriri River and some surrounding waters. The program is set up with four primary beats. Two upriver and two more down river. During my stay, the water down river tended to be a little deeper and slower in some areas, whereas the water upriver tended to be a little shallower, with more wading opportunities. The water was gin clear and adds that sight fishing aspect that we all love. The main river offers most of the fishing with a few lagoons and sloughs in the mix. Plenty of areas to fish each day to always keep things interesting.
How was fishing?
In most areas around the world (outside of saltwater), I feel like there aren’t many places where you can say that you caught nine different species in six days of fishing. The species that I caught included: Matrinxa, three species of pacu, peacock bass, wolf fish, bicuda, piranha, and a jacunda. I’m always blown away at the biodiversity that the Iriri River offers, and it did not disappoint on this trip. Fishing was quite good for our entire group throughout our stay and everyone got into multiple fish daily. We had low water and hot, sunny weather most days, but that didn’t seem to deter the fish. We had a few rain showers throughout the week, that came through and would “cool” off the jungle a bit, which I think helped overall conditions.
Depending on the fish species targeted, that generally dictated where you would find fish. Matrinxa held in some faster water, but could also be found in slower moving water as well, and often in areas that had an overhanging tree or shade. Peacock bass were found throughout the system, but mainly in areas they can ambush their prey. I had fun in some slow water pools off the main river, that had small schools of marauding fish looking for a meal. The wolf fish often held in areas with little to no current, but you would occasionally find them right before the head of a rapid or in a side eddy. The pacu species seemed to be just about everywhere throughout. They would school up in lagoons, park under some branches, sit in the current just off the side of a rock face, flash on the bottom of a fast riffle, etc. You would often find the bicuda in the same areas that you would find peacock bass, but they were also found in eddy lines and around tailouts.
How did you fish?
Fishing was done from either the boat or on foot. The boats are big enough and have plenty of room between both anglers to fish at the same time. I love when this opportunity arises, and you don’t have to sit while the other angler fishes. Most of the boat fishing was back in various lagoons or on the main river for pacu, peacock bass, bicuda, and wolf fish. We also floated the main river and cast streamers to the various banks and structure throughout the river for peacock bass. Deeper lagoons lended themselves to schooling pacu and the guides would slowly chase the school, while we did our best to bomb out casts to land our dry flies in a feeding lane. The beauty of it, like a lot of fishing, was if you made a long cast and put it in the right spot, it generally got the eat. My belief was that the bigger separation from the fish was advantageous.
Wading options and fishing from the rocks also made for a great time. It was fun bouncing around from spot to spot to try and get shots in to fish. Wading also seemed to be the best way to focus on catching wolf fish. It was the superlative option that helped you hone in on a fish and present the best presentation to them. Luckily, most areas that you found yourself wading, didn’t have a ton of trees or brush to hinder your back casts. Sometimes though, the fish sat in such a spot, as to make the cast a bit more interesting. Angle changes or single speys always helped change the game.
Where did you stay?
For a lodge in the middle of the Amazon, it’s amazing what Untamed has accomplished. The accommodations are quite comfortable, and everything is very well kept. Very laid back and relaxing with lounge chairs out in front of each room, as well as the community lounge area near the dining/common room. Each room has two full beds and your own area to hang clothes and stay organized. The bathrooms are clean with a spacious shower. The dining room/common area has plenty of space inside and was often an area where we all congregated most of the time. The dining table is set family style with all guests enjoying their meals together. I always find that this style of dining makes for great conversations and story sharing throughout the trip.
The food was great for the whole trip! Breakfast was simple and easy with eggs and bacon being the main item. Lots of fresh fruit and bread options as well. Lunches were a build your own, where you got a plastic container with some division and then went through like a buffet line and grabbed what you wanted food wise for the day. I enjoyed the variety of styles of cooking, where some were akin to the South American style (i.e. Brazilian or Argentinian), while others were traditional native dishes with a modern infusion. Delicious steaks, fish, pasta, etc., made up the main courses, with salads and fresh veggies being mainly the sides. Dessert was always a hit at the end of each meal. Especially when ice cream made its way in front of each guest. I think it’s one of the last things that most people expect to see in the middle of a jungle.
What equipment did you use and how did it perform?
I brought the R8 & Payload series of rods from Sage for this trip. These rods covered all my bases from dry flies to streamers. For reels, I utilized the Sage Arbor XL for all of my fishing, and it was nice having the large arbor to quickly pickup any line on the reel. These reels are light and efficient!
For lines, I utilized the RIO Elite Warmwater Predator in all its offered densities. These densities include a full Floating, Floating/Hover/Intermediate, and Floating/Sink5/Sink7. I primarily used on two and that was the full floating and F/S5/S7. The full float turned over the big dries with ease and the F/S5/S7 got the streamers right in the zone on every cast.
- Pacu/Matrinxa –
Sage R8 690 – Arbor XL 4/5/6 – RIO Elite Warmwater Predator F 6wt
- Peacock Bass/Wolfish/Bicuda –
Sage Payload 789 – Arbor XL 6/7/8 – RIO Elite Warmwater Predator F/S5/S7 8wt
For pacu & matrinxa, I fished a floating Trout Versileader from RIO that was 7’. I attached a tippet ring and then 3-4’ of mono on to that for fishing bigger dries. It really helps turn over those bigger flies, in my opinion. The pacu and matrinxa have very hard and semi-sharp teeth, so 20-pound tippet was a minimum. As for the peacock bass & bicuda, I travelled with spools of 20 to 50-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 wolfish, the leaders were simple with a 40-pound butt section of fluorocarbon and an attached section of RIO’s 40-pound Powerflex Wire Bite Tippet.
Kendjam Lodge, Brazil
Arguably the most beautiful, clear flowing jungle river in Brazil with fishing reminiscent of great western trout fishing.