Last December I fished Brazil’s Rio Negro for peacock bass with Billy Chapman of Angler’s Inn. (You can see a video of it here). This is adventure tourism and I found it to be a great and very green benefit to the indigenous people who live in villages up that glorious river. (I wrote about that for Forbes.)
On one particular day we decided to go deep down side channels to find the really big peacock bass.
Sandbars threatened to ground us and we couldn’t get out to push—not because of the crocodiles or piranhas, but because of the freshwater rays that look like the sandy bottom and will impale you with a poisonous barb that’ll swell your foot into cartoon-sized proportions if you step on them.
We reached the water we wanted to fish and tossed choppers, foot-long plugs with treble hooks, and yanked them back so they made a choom-choom-choom sound on the surface. These lures almost seem over-the-top until a peacock bass engulfs them.
Then a big peacock smashed my lure. It looked like a small depth charge went off. Suddenly I was attached to a very determined bass colored like some wild tropical bird. The line tightened and I set the hook not once, but twice for insurance. Then the big fish took line and I saw water flying off the line and the fish jumping clear out of the stained water. People were shouting but I don’t hear them. The fish jumped and ran some more and I was well aware it had a sporting chance of getting off without having its picture taken.
Billy was filming when I fought and finally brought the 15-pound peacock in. My shoulders were numb and my hands hurt. Many of the guys literally lost feeling in their right hands after days of working choppers on the surface for peacock bass.
We did that again and again. We let each fish go and knew our visit there was employing local people and helping them to save a wild part of a beautiful river.