Pirarucu Lodge, Brazil
Max Salzburg January 17, 2023
Pirarucu Lodge, Brazil
Arapaima are unquestionably one of the world’s most formidable gamefish. Growing up to 400-pounds, they are strong, fast and tenacious. Tangling with these fish is not for everyone, but for some, arapaima represent the ultimate jungle challenge. These fish test an angler’s will, strength, and mental fortitude. There are only a few places on Earth where anglers can legitimately target large concentrations of them with a fly, and once you get them to eat the challenge has just begun. You must prevent them from throwing the hooks as they jump entirely out of the water, fight them to a place where they can be landed, and then scramble from the boat sometimes running through knee-deep mud to a spot where they can be brought to shore.
Arapaima fishing also requires a special breed of guide. This is not casual guiding. The fish are so big and so powerful that the guides wear armored motocross gloves for when they put their hands in the mouth to control the fish in the last pull to get them out of the water. One guide told me that when the fish bites down on their hands it is with such force that it feels like their hands are going to break. Watching the guides literally wrestle with even a moderately sized fish is exciting and a bit frightening. Catching and landing an arapaima is a test in teamwork, patience, and pure flat-out grit and determination. Everything has to come together to make it happen.
Where did you go and how did you get there?
I visited Untamed Angling’s Pirarucu Lodge. It was the second leg of an extended Brazil trip where my first week was spent fishing peacock bass at Rio Marie. Located within the largest protected flooded forest in the world, Pirarucu Lodge is best place on the planet to fly fish for arapaima. To get there, I took a float plane from the Rio Marie mothership to Sao Gabriel da Cachoeira. In Sao Gabriel I switched aircraft to a Cessna Caravan and then flew to the town of Tefe. In Tele I was transferred to a fast boat for the 1.5-hour ride to the floating lodge. Guests that only visit Pirarucu can take an Azul Airlines commercial flight to Tefe and then transfer to the lodge.
Where did you fish?
We fished the Japura River and the lakes and lagoons of the Mamiraua Reserve.
How was fishing?
Very good! I caught a few “small” arapaima in the 1.5- to 1.75-meter class and the other guests all caught arapaima over 2-meters long. The largest arapaima of the week, a monster 2.35-meter fish, was caught by an 81-year-old guest who had never fly fished before while sitting on the cooler on the boat. There were 16 arapaima landed in the week with the largest two being two of the largest arapaima landed of the season. I was also able to sight cast to willing arowana using lighter tackle in the hot afternoons.
How did you fish?
Arapaima fishing is done with heavy rods, large streamer flies, and sinking lines. The basic idea is to cast the line as far as you can, let it sink, and then strip it back as slow as you can. For arowana fishing, we could sight cast to them using a small popper. The arowana is a wonderful gamefish that fights hard and will readily take a fly. I like to think of them as the bonefish of the jungle.
Where did you stay?
At the floating Pirarucu lodge (also known as Uakari Lodge). For most of the year the lodge is an ecotourism lodge, but for 10-weeks one side of the lodge is reserved for fly anglers. The lodge is powered by solar so there is no air conditioning, and it can be hot there. If there was a generator the noise would scare off the wildlife. The lodge is comfortable for how remote it is. There is a lot of wildlife in the area. In addition to all the arapaima rolling nearby and the arowana swimming near the walkways there are large caiman in the area with one huge one living under the main deck. There is a wide variety of bird life during the day, and a few different species of bats at night. My favorite wildlife experience, however, was the howler monkeys in the trees in the early morning and in the evening while fishing. I knew that I was someplace special when casting for arapaima with monkeys “howling” in the trees near the banks of the river.
What equipment did you use and how did it perform?
I fished a 9-weight Sage Salt with a RIO Jungle DIrectCore F/I line in the shallower sections of the river and a 12-weight Sage Salt with RIO Leviathan 500-grain sinking line in the deeper water. Both fished well, and both had the backbone needed to fight and land very strong, very powerful fish. The only downside is that it can get tiring casting such big rods all day in the Brazilian heat. For arowana I fished a 5-weight lodge loaner fly rod with a floating line. It worked well and was lots of fun to catch the fast and ariel arowanas on.
Pirarucu Lodge, Brazil
Explore the largest protected wild arapaima reserve in the Amazon which holds the densest population of arapaima on the planet.