By Pat Ford
We flew 530 miles north of Manaus into the heart of the Amazon Jungle to the Kayapo village of Kendjam. The native Indians that greeted us still painted their bodies with a fruit based ink that was not only decorative but also protected them from mosquitoes. Absent air travel, Kendjam is a 15 day trip to the nearest town and the Kayapo today are one of the most remote tribes that can be safely visited by anglers. Located on the Iriri River it is the gateway to some fantastic fishing.
Untamed Angling founders Marcello Perez and Rodrigo Sallas have established several remote fishing lodges by negotiating with native Indian tribes to bring in anglers from around the world who would pay the tribe a fee for the honor of entering their territory and embarking on a one week, fly fishing, catch and release expedition. This unique concept turned out to be beneficial to all parties.
Kendjam lodge was built 25 miles down stream from the village and was constructed out of all local woods and materials. It is basically a wood frame housing very comfortable tents for the anglers. Fishing is done out of aluminum boats powered by long shaft mud motors designed to operate in very shallow water. The boats are continually being dragged thru shallow spots, over rocks and up waterfalls to get to the most remote fishing areas imaginable. Just the ride up the river is an experience few will ever forget.
The fishing is done with 6 or 7 weight fly rods and is mostly casting 4” baitfish pattern streamers to shorelines, rocks and eddies. The most common catches are peacock bass which run up to 12 lbs and are great sport of the light fly rods. Mixed in with the peacocks are Bicuda, a small pike-like creature that grows to around 30 inches. It will stike most anything and jumps frequently. Perhaps the best catch of the shoreline targets id the Matrinxa. It looks like a shiner on steroids and puts up a strong fight for it’s size. It’s runs are powerful and it jumps repeatedly, but it’s hard to hook. It’s trademark is striking the fly as soon as it hits the water.
There are several species of pacu on the Iriri. The smaller ones can be seen along bushy shorelines literally jumping out of the water to eat leaves. They also slurp bugs off the surface on a regular basis. Big leggy foram bodied dry flies work bestif you like surface action, but the bigger pacy hang out in the fast moving water and seem to have the same feeding patterns as trout. They too respond to dry flies but the best way to catch them is on an olive green woolybugger fished nymphing style thru fast water. Even the big pacu aren’t very big, but they make strong runs and jump. It’s amusing to see a fish shaped like a dinner plate completely clear the water. The pacu are great fun on a 6 weight fly rod.
The top predator on the Iriri is the wolfish…a nasty looking thing that hasn’t changed since the dinosaurs were around. They live next to rocks, under ledges and around sunken debris. On several occasions we had wolfish attack peacock bass we were fighting. The Indians could spot them around creek mouths and they were easily fooled by a big black streamer with lead eves. The trick was to bounce the fly slowly along the bottom close to the spot where the wolfish was suspected to be hiding. Nine times out of ten it would swim right out and nail the fly. The general rule seemed to be that if you could see the wolfish, you could catch it. They also responded to big loud poppers. They were the biggest catch at Kendjam…some reaching 20 lbs.
There are a lot of big piranha in the Iriri and they are well worth targeting. They hang out in the deeper pools and anytime a hooked peacock bass ventured out too far from the shallows, the piranha were on it. We had several nice peacocks converted to ‘lunch’ by piranha attacks. A large white fly with lead eyes fished deep in the pools usually resulted in a piranha. A wire leader helped and many flies were lost unintentionally to their teeth.
Kendjam is a pure fly fishing experience. The fish do not get very big and most everything can be caught on a six weight rod and floating line. Some anglers find casting 4-5 inch streamers easier on a 7 weight but that’s a personal preference. If you want to throw big poppers for the wolfish and bigger peacocks, you might need an eight weight. There’s a lot of wading involved and felt sole boots are a necessity along with a wading staff if you are anything close to my age. The food is excellent and the scenery is mesmerizing …you are fishing in an area that is unchanged from the dawn of time. it is truly a ‘bucket list’ adventure. For more info check out untamedangling.com