Brad Staples' Hosted Trip Report - Itapará Lodge, Brazil
After years of hearing many good fishing stories and reports from our clients about Itapará Lodge in Brazil, I finally hosted a group of anglers here this past January of 2018. The peacock bass fishing is consistently good at this destination. Most anglers will hook many peacock bass per day with a chance to land one over 20 pounds. This unique destination is very remote with little fishing pressure in the area.
Travel Day to Itapará Lodge
On the evening of Friday, January 12th, our group flew from Miami, Florida on American Airlines and arrived in Manaus, Brazil late that night.
The updated Manaus Airport is very nice, and the arrival process went smoothly. After clearing customs and getting our bags, we were met by Mario, our driver.
He is fluent in four languages—English, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. Mario dropped us off at our respective hotels—the Blue Tree Premium and the Caesar Business Hotel—both are good choices.
The next morning at 7:00, we were picked up at our hotel and driven to a regional airport, about 15 minutes away. We then boarded a 12-passenger plane for the 80-minute flight to Itapará Lodge, which is 250 miles north of Manaus. During the flight, all you can see for miles and miles is the Amazon rainforest—trees and in the low-lying areas, rivers and water. At 9:00 a.m., we landed at the Lodge's 1100-foot paved runway. Upon landing, we were met by Marcello, the Lodge owner, and his friendly staff. They transferred our luggage from the airstrip to our room.
Itapará River Lodge is one of three fixed lodges in the Rio Negro River system. The Lodge opens in October, after the rainy season when the water levels drop, and remains open until the first part of March.
Because the Lodge is five hours from the closest village, the likelihood of seeing other anglers is slim.
Upon arrival, I was really impressed with Itapará’s main lodge. The rooms are very clean, good-size with private bathrooms, and air-conditioning was available if needed. After we settled into our rooms, we had a nice breakfast and then rigged up for our first day of fishing.
Itapará Lodge welcomes both fly and lure anglers. My clients fished with lures, while I fished with both flies and lures.
At this location, you’ll need to bring your own fishing equipment, flies, and tackle. Lure anglers, pack at least a dozen and a half peacock bass lures, with some variety. Rods and reels are available to rent at the Lodge if desired.
While peacock bass are the targeted species, there is also barracuda, piranha, red-tailed catfish -- over 5,000 species in the Amazon River system.
Fishing Boats at Itapará Lodge
Most of the fishing guides have been working at Itapará Lodge for many years. They speak Portuguese. They do not speak very much English, but they are able to assist you with where to cast,
what lures or flies work, where the peacocks live, and boy, are they are quick about tying fishing knots.
The Lodge has roomy, 17-foot aluminum boats with comfortable seats, and 25 h.p. Mercury engines. Boats are stable, so you can stand up while fishing. The guides also use electric trolling motors to position the boat, so you can cast lures or flies next to the structure where peacocks are looking for their next meal. Two anglers per boat.
Back in 2015, this area of the Amazon River system experienced difficult, low water conditions and many of the larger peacocks did not survive. Over the last few years, the area has returned to normal water levels, and there are very good numbers of Peacocks that are 1-to-5 pounds. Expectations are, that in the next year or two, there will be many fish in the high-teens and the low 20s.
Peacock Bass fishing days
My fishing partner for this trip was Carl Quertermus, a retired college professor who lives on a lake in Georgia and is a collector of antique fishing equipment. Carl brought three, large boxes of lures with him—over 45 different lures, in all.
Some of the lures that he used were over fifty years old! During my trips to Brazil, I have never been very good about counting peacock bass. At the end of the day, I usually ask myself:
Did I have a good day of fishing or did we have a tough time finding fish? Carl was just the opposite. Carl’s a largemouth bass tournament angler, and unlike me, Carl kept track of the peacocks that he landed. The first day he had about 10 to 15 to the boat. Then there were a few days that he had over 50 peacocks
that he had landed and released. This is a catch and release fishery. Most of the peacocks were small—1 to 3-pounds. We had multiple fish that were over five pounds and a good number of fish that were around 10 pounds and above.
The largest peacock landed during our trip was around 16-pounds.
The peacocks that we caught were on a variety of lures. I mostly used a Zara Spook, a topwater lure with a red head and white body. Peacocks explosively attacked it. In certain water depths, lead head Jigs also worked well, especially when we found an area with a large school of fish. We fished late into the afternoon, arriving back to the Lodge before dark.
After a hot shower, we enjoyed appetizers and drinks in the main lodge. There is an open bar in the evenings and no charge for local drinks. (Imported drinks are not included.)
The buffet dinners consist of chicken, beef, pork, fish, potatoes, rice, vegetables… And, the desserts were very good.
Itapará's main lodge accommodates 18 anglers and has free Wi-Fi. Itapará has a second lodge that is located 40 miles downriver. You’ll usually fish at the main lodge for a few days and then spend a day fishing your way downstream to their lower lodge. When you are done fishing at the lower lodge, it is a two-hour drive back to the main lodge. The lower lodge accommodates eight anglers and there is no Wi-Fi at this location. The guides do their best to spread everyone out so that you are fishing untapped water and the peacocks have not seen lures or flies for a few days.
The Weather and wildlife
During our stay in January, the weather was very pleasant, and not hot. We did get a few rain showers in the late afternoon, typical for the tropics. There are many species of birds and plenty of caiman swimming around. (There are no issues with the caimans.) At dusk, when you’re sitting on the deck before dinner, if there isn’t much of a breeze, you need to watch out for small no-see-ums. Otherwise, there didn’t appear to be any insects that bothered us.
Itapará Lodge offers two packages, a 5-nights and 4 ½-days guided fishing or a 10-nights and 9 ½-days guided fishing. Sadly, I was only there for the 4½ day-package. After I headed back to the States for a fly fishing show that I needed to attend. In my absence, my clients fished for five more days and caught a lot of nice peacocks and other species and continued to tell stories in the evenings at the Lodge.
Already planning the next trip
I plan on hosting a trip at Itapará Lodge in 2019 or 2020 January through March, this is when the Itapará River is normally at its lowest level of the year, which is prime time for fishing for peacock bass.
If you are interested in joining us, please contact me with any questions you may have about this peacock bass fishing adventure.
Itapará Lodge - Flies or Lures
Carl Quertermus and guide with peacock bass
Carl with a peacock bass in the spotted-color-phase called Paca in Portuguese. Note the butterfly-like spot on the tail.
Each day, you have a choice of returning to the Lodge for lunch or having the guides fix a shore lunch for you - Itapará -style.
Fly Fishing and Lures - Host Brad Staples with peacock bass
Prior to this trip, I had only fly fished for Peacock Bass. At Itapará River Lodge, you can also fish with lures. After I experimented with jigs and diving plugs, the last three days of my trip, I ended up only fishing with topwater plugs. The Peacock, pictured above, hit a 5-inch saltwater version of a Zara Spook, white with a red head. With a lure like the Super Zara Spook, you need to turn the handle on the reel and twitch the rod at the correct time so that the lure moves from side to side. Employing this action to the lure entices the large peacocks. Using topwater plugs is a very exciting way to fish for peacock bass!
Carl's Lure Boxes and Brad's closing thoughts
During my stay, I fished at both lodges and outside of Itapará 's guests, I did not see any other angler.
I wish I could have stayed longer. I would have taken in more of Carl stories and the interesting history behind the lures and their manufacturers.
Even though I’m not a great fish-counter like Carl, looking back on the trip, we didn’t have a hard time finding peacocks and landed plenty of them. - Brad.
Please contact me if you have any questions regarding Itapará - 1-800-205-3474.