Xingu Lodge, Brazil
Landon Mace November 07, 2023
Xingu Lodge, Brazil - Untamed Angling
Xingu Lodge is an amazing destination and should be on your list if you enjoy fishing for payara or aspire to. Another bonus to this destination is that there are also plenty of other species of fish that call these waters home. Peacock bass, matrinxa, pacu, bicuda, corbina, and piranha can also be found here. The beauty of the river and the area surrounding was very alluring. Plenty of wildlife exists here, with birds and monkeys prominent with their calls in the surrounding jungle. Most of the Amazon’s rivers tend to have soft bottoms, whereas the Xingu is extremely rocky. There are areas with sand, but the jagged, rough expanse of rock make up the bulk of the terrain along the river. I can only guess that this area was massively influenced by volcanic activity in years past. It is said that James Cameron’s movie ‘The Avatar’ was based off the Kayapó people and the Xingu Basin being the area from which that inspiration was derived. The Kayapó are known for being a steadfast warrior culture, but they are also a gentle people with a pleasant, fun demeanor. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay here and the Untamed Angling crew was, as expected, top notch professionals.
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 accommodation 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 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 to 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!
After spending a full week at Kendjam Lodge, we left the Kendjam airstrip and flew a quick 15-minutes to the east to land at the airstrip for Xingu. After getting off the plane, we said our farewells to the rest of the crew that was not part of the combo and headed back to Manaus. We then made our way to the boat waiting for us on the Xingu River and made another quick 20-minute ride upriver in the boat and we were at the Xingu Lodge.
Where did you fish?
Fishing at Xingu Lodge is all done on the Xingu River. Groups of anglers generally spend their fishing up or down the river from the lodge. The overall program is generally done with starting in the upper or lower river at the beginning of the day, then you come back to the lodge for lunch and break, then in the afternoon you switch and fish the opposite section of river from your morning session. For example, if you started fishing down river in the morning, after the midday break, you will fish the upper river. The following day, you might do the opposite program, depending on how many guests are at the lodge during your week.
How was fishing?
Fishing was decent by what I would consider payara standards. In my experience, landing 1-4 fish a day is good. I think this is a good guideline to set expectations to, as payara are hard to hook and often come unbuttoned shortly after the eat. Granted, there are some instances where all conditions are favorable, and you could have potential to double or triple those numbers by landing 8-12 fish in a day. This requires an adamant angler that is willing to cast non-stop, strip set effectively, and have fish that are active and feeding. Rain induced rising water levels tend to be a sure-fire way to get payara in feeding mode. This gets baitfish moving and flushing into ambush points where payara can grab an easier meal.
The Xingu is vast and in some sections the river expands into various channels and braids with rocky islands mixed throughout. There are areas where the river deepens and creates big, slow current pools. We were at Xingu in the early season, when the water levels were on the low side. This congregated a lot of the fish into these pools and that’s where we ended up finding most of the payara. Payara were most active in the morning and evening with lower light, but we did find a few when the sun was high in sky. We fished a few spots for the other species in the river, where there were sections of small riffles, back eddies, creeks, and lagoons. This river is also known for a species of piranha that grow quite big and my fishing companion, Felton Jenkins, landed quite a specimen!
How did you fish?
The bulk of all the fishing was done from the boat. We hopped out at a few spots to fish areas that could have potential for payara in seemingly good-looking ambush points. With the lower water, most of the fish were concentrated in the deeper pools for the most part. The nice part is that the boats are long and can have two anglers fishing at the same time.
Generally, you make as long of a cast as you can and depending on the spot, you try and figure out what depth is holding fish. They do have plenty of potential to hold from top to bottom, but most of our eats came from what I would have thought was middle water column and down. There was one fish that I can remember eating withing the first 4 seconds of my countdown and I probably intercepted it as it was heading to the surface to roll.
It’s really cool to watch payara on the surface when they are rolling consistently. It keeps you engaged and everyone on their toes. I personally didn’t believe that those fish were willing to eat, but I have no doubt that when they are fired up and rolling, they probably are far more willing to chase down a well-placed streamer in their vicinity. After you get your fly in the zone, it’s then a game of figuring out what strip cadence is to the fishes liking. For the most part, a slow, steady strip is the ticket and yields the most bites. There were a few times where I found myself doing the standard strip and things got slow, so I changed things up and tried a faster, more aggressive strip and it yielded fish. So, you have to stay on your game and make sure that you are checking all the boxes when targeting this amazing fish.
Where did you stay?
Untamed does such a great job at providing great lodges in the middle of the jungle. I am often in awe at the logistics that took place to make such a fun and comfortable place to enjoy in the remote Amazon. Xingu is pretty unique, as it’s location is right next to one of the Kayapó villages. 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. The dining table is set family style with all guests enjoying their meals together.
The food was great, just like we experienced at Kendjam. The only difference being that they each have a different chef and in turn the chefs have their own style and meals. Breakfast was simple and easy with eggs and bacon being the main item. Lots of fresh fruit and bread options as well. Lunches were done at the lodge here, so we would come back and sit down at the table to partake. 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 or fresh veggies as the sides. The desserts were all very good and we had a flan style one that knocked everyone’s socks off!
What equipment did you use and how did it perform?
The Sage Payload series of rods has been my choice of rod for all things payara and peacock bass. Big flies and heavy sinking lines are the name of the game for payara. When fishing for the peacock bass and the other species at Xingu, a sinking line tends to be the best option as well, with intermediate and other sinking lines. Admittedly, after spending a week at Kendjam Lodge, the other species were tertiary for me, and I focused most of my efforts on the payara. I would have opted to have more rods available to target these species, had I been more focused on them. I utilized the Payload 789 for the other species and a Payload 1090 for the payara. For reels, I utilized the Sage Arbor XL for the 7wt and the Sage Enforcer for the 10wt. Solid reels for both applications.
For lines, I utilized the RIO Elite Warmwater Predator in Floating/Hover/Intermediate and Floating/Sink5/Sink7 for the 7wt and RIO’s Leviathan for the 10wt. These lines casted well and got the flies in the zone to the fish.
- Peacock Bass/Matrinxa/Bicuda/Pacu -
Sage Payload 789 – Arbor XL 6/7/8 – RIO Elite Warmwater Predator F/H/I & F/S5/S7 8wt
- Payara -
Sage Payload 1090 – Enforcer 9/10 – RIO Leviathan 400gr
Leader choices were easy and straightforward. For peacock bass & matrinxa, 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.