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That ring of fire in his eyes! The look of the perfect jungle predator. photo by Sam Parkinson

Afloat – Colombia Fly Fishing

One of the great things about fly fishing is that there are a lot of different methods, species and places available out there in order for us to achieve happiness on the water.  What makes us happy or what drives us to go fishing is different for everyone.  I’m a streamer guy, so any fish that aggressively attacks a streamer is probably a fish I want to chase. Peacock bass destroy streamers which automatically put them on my bucket list. 

Peacock bass are native to South America and can be found in several countries, including Colombia. When the opportunity arose for my buddy, Cort Boice of Blue Halo, and I to go to Colombia with Afloat via Black Fin Outdoors, it was a no-brainer. We were excited to test some Blue Halo glass on feisty Peacock bass. 

Let’s start with the journey.  What did Ralph Waldo Emerson say? “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey”. If you agree with that, then going to the Colombian Jungle is something you must do.  We started in Salt Lake City, flew to Atlanta, to Bogota and then to Medellin. The guys from Afloat met us at the airport and put us up in a nice hotel for the night.  That first night I only saw Medellin in the dark, so the next morning I was amazed at what a beautiful city it was.  Medellin is surrounded by mountains in every direction, and at almost 5,000 feet above sea level it has a very temperate climate.  It’s definitely a place I’d like to have more time exploring.  Back to the journey. 

From Medellin we boarded a charter flight to the small village of La Primavera where we enjoyed a delicious traditional Colombian lunch before hitting the road (a long dirt road) for a several-hour drive to the river.  The Columbian landscape was much drier than I anticipated and actually seemed like the African Savannah (at least from what I had seen in the Lion King).  As soon as we got to the river, the dry climate disappeared and the jungle took front and center.  The rivers’ edges were lush with trees, other vegetation and lots of wildlife. The howler monkeys made their presence known with their infamous (yes infamous like El Guapo) roar. We loaded our gear into the awaiting boats that took us about an hour upriver to the Afloat camp. We’d made it to the destination. 

In the middle of the Colombian jungle, you will find a unique and exclusive paradise. It’s a place to connect with nature. Photo by Will Graham

We stayed in little house boats anchored to the beach, so we literally slept on the river each night. Each boat has two beds and a bathroom with a toilet and shower.  Afloat has made sure the camp is comfortable and the meals are delicious, quite impressive for its remote location. 
 

The Orinoco caiman is always stalking his next victim. Photo by Jon Covich
It’s not Africa, it’s the Colombian wilderness….one of the most remarkable places on earth, according to the New York times. Photo by Will Graham
Colombia has many rivers and natural parks. However, when it comes to fishing, the Tomo River and the Gavilan River top the list. These lands remain flooded 3/4 of the year, so the fishing pressure is not as severe as in other regions of South America. Photo by Will Graham
The perfect path to an untouched lagoon. Here you’ll find yourself surrounded by nature. Photo by Will Graham
During the week, you’ll be fishing in diverse scenarios looking for Peacock bass; river shores, sand banks, spouts, lagoons, rock formations and ‘arizales’ (vegetation that grows along the river shores.) Photo by Jon Covich

This area of Colombia has three different species of Peacock bass: the Mariposa (Butterfly) Peacock, Intermedia Peacock and the Temensis Peacock.  We had the opportunity to catch all three during our trip.  The beautiful Butterfly Peacock was the most common catch, and although it is the smaller of the three species, it fights like a big fish. 


Afloat has the entire week mapped out, alternating locations to allow each specific place some time to rest from the pressures of fishing.  At our first stop, we anchored the boat and followed the small tributary to the mouth of the lagoon, where another small boat was waiting for us to navigate the lagoon.  In less than a handful of casts, I came tight on a beautiful Butterfly Peacock. It was waiting to ambush my streamer as I stripped it underneath the overhanging vegetation.  After a few hours and hooking into numerous Butterfly Peacocks and a few small Temensis, we made our way back to the river and then down to camp for lunch.  Some of the group met back at camp for lunch and some met at a dining location on the river. 

It’s all about the memories you take home, like sharing special time with your dad doing what you like the most…unbeatable! Chris and Cash from Caddis Fly Shop. Photo by Jon Covich

This area of Colombia has three different species of Peacock bass: the Mariposa (Butterfly) Peacock, Intermedia Peacock and the Temensis Peacock.

Jungle shots with Sam Parkinson from Six Waters Co.

We spent the second half of the day fishing a section of the river that produced both Butterfly and Temensis species.  On the way back to camp we stopped and fished a long shallow sand bar with sunlight making it difficult to spot fish. I could see the depth changes in the sand bar and spotted a nice little drop off.  I made a cast above the drop and let the streamer drift into the deeper water. I let the streamer drop for a few seconds and then gave it a nice, long strip.  I felt the hit right at the end of my strip and immediately gave the line a jerk to set the hook.  I could tell it was a bigger fish right away. 

Peacock bass don’t really run you into your backing very often, but they take short violent runs, settle down while the angler works to regain line, and then run again just as they start to get close.  They’ll repeat these runs over and over, each one beginning with a loud thrashing of their powerful tail as they dive. This particular fish gave us several runs before we were able to land him on the beach.  The sun was setting and I was shaking hands with a big and beautiful Temensis Peacock bass. We snapped a few pics and let it disappear back into the river.  We shared a great dinner and exchanged stories from the day with the group at a bonfire. What a way to end the day. 

When it all comes together, nothing beats sight fishing. It’s heart pounding, adrenaline racing, blood rushing, breath stopping. You aim for your target and let the action begin! Photo by Will Graham
Here I spotted a fish next to a rock formation, and I quickly took my line out of the reel and prepared to cast it. After two false casts, the fly hit the water…and the reaction was immediate. I didn’t even manage to make the first strip and a huge speckled Peacock bass took the fly. The fight began. The fish emptied the line quickly, and the backing began. I tried to stop him before he headed to the rocks, and finally I managed to turn his head around with the rod. Just after this, he jumped and showed us his size and magnificent colors. – Simon Roldan from Afloat Fishing Colombia. Photo by Will Graham

 
I recommend this trip to any angler. Like me, you will thank Colombia and surely want to return for more. 

Sam Parkinson

The speckled Peacock bass, Temensis, is a sub specie commonly known as “pinta lapa” in Colombia. They have unique markings adapted from the river’s various colors, and they are known for their incredible power and strength. Photo by Jon Covich
The perfect way to end your fishing day is at the best accommodation in one of the most remote areas in Colombia. Photo by Jon Covich
Afloat’s Akuani floating camp is a project that develops the concept of sport fishing and eco tourism so customers can learn more about the rivers, jungles, savannas, estuaries and ecosystems of the region as well as how to take care of them.

Contributed By

Jon Covich

Jon Covich has spent the last 25 years immersed in the fly fishing industry as a tackle rep in the Pacific Northwest. In addition, Fly Water Travel employs Jon as their expert on travel to Cuba, as well as their National Fly Shop Liason. 

Jon has also traveled to many of the world’s finest fly fishing destinations, as both an angler and a professional photographer. Photos of his adventures have appeared in Outside Magazine, Grey’s Sporting Journal, Fly Fisherman, Fly Rod & Reel and Catch Magazine. Jon lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife and two sons. 

R.L Winston Fly Rods Catch Magazine

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