Fly Fishing for Peacock Bass

Fly Fishing for Peacock Bass
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Fly Fishing for Peacock Bass

The Fish

A popular game fish described as an American Large Mouth Bass on steroids with a jet engine strapped to its back, the Peacock Bass is familiar to many and also on many anglers’ list of species to catch. These freshwater bullies which are native to South America strike so aggressively that they are one of the favourite species to target, especially so on a fly rod for anglers all over the world – earning its reputation as a prized game fish.

peacock bass confusion
The two extreme and distinct colour phases of the temensis variant

Click here and here for more information on the Peacock Bass variants.

The Flies

Lots of flash. They work well for me. Clouser Minnows or Deceiver patterns work the best overall. Strangely enough, the Crazy Charlie works extremely well too. Generally, I tie most of my flies with at least 2 contrasting colours, with the lighter colour as the belly. Below are some colours that have worked well for me.

1. olive/chartreuse/yellow/tan

2. chartreuse/tan/white/orange

3.  red/pink/white

4. red/pink/yellow/white

5. blue/chartreuse/red/white

Also, one of the most effective flies that I’ve used imitates a small Peacock Bass because we all know, these magnificent beasts are sick cannibalistic bastards.

Poppers are extremely effective as well and can provide for some of the most visual fly fishing – there is nothing more satisfying than seeing your popper get destroyed by a large Pea.

More information on flies can be found at Rainerbee’s friendly fly joint @rainerbee

The Casting

In most cases you will want to cast the fly close to the bank or structure.  Distance control and line management are essential for maximizing the opportunities to catch one of these freshwater bullies. Make a cast as straight as possible such that when your fly hits the water you are retrieving the fly immediately.

Usually, a cast reaching anything between 70 – 90 feet would be sufficient.

Sometimes a fast sinking line or a heavier fly is necessary.  In these cases do a countdown before you start your retrieve. This will allow you to get a feel for how fast your line is sinking and how long to let it sink before you start your retrieve.

The Strip

Fast long strips work best for me. Like most predator fish, you will find that faster retrieves seem to attract attention however sometimes Peacocks will follow a fly all the way to your rod tip, so do not be in a hurry to make another cast. Other times they can be sluggish and prefer a slow(er) figure of 8 retrieve.

Usually I’ll retrieve five or six quick strips and then stop for a count of between 4 – 8 seconds (depending on the depth of the water as well as the sink rate of your fly/line) to allow the fly to sink again before retrieving. Playing around with different retrieval speeds while mixing it up with long or short strips adds to the effectiveness of your cast.

It is important to remember to keep your rod tip down, in the water if possible. This will make setting the hook easier.

The Strip Strike

Do not trout set.

When you are stripping your fly in and feel a strike, the correct way to set the hook is to strip set – pulling straight back on your line with your stripping hand on the fish. Also,  if you keep your rod tip in the water and strip set, it will allow you to keep retrieving if you miss a strike. This, compared to lifting your rod tip up is much more efficient – once your rod tip is up in the air, it is over. You’d have to make a fresh cast. Also, sometimes simply lifting the rod tip up (trout set) will not generate enough force to set the hook.

Sinking Line / Floating Line ?

Generally, sinking lines work better. Having said that, most of the Peacocks I’ve caught were on floating lines. On my go-to Peacock Bass set up, I have a DIY sink tip line. I cut off about 6ft of fast sinking line (the butt end) and I attached it to the head of my weight forward floating line so that my fly can go that little bit deeper. This has worked out pretty well for me.

5 Weight / 6 Weight or 8 Weight?

I use a 5 weight Loop Opti Stream, sometimes a 6 weight Sage XP and other times when I’m in the mood, I take my 8 weight TFO BVK.

It really doesn’t matter.

Just fish whatever you’re comfortable with. If you’re able to cast big streamers or weighted flies with a 5 weight into the wind, go for it.  If not, take the 8 weight. A lighter set up is of course always less tiring to work but no one is keeping track and who the hell cares?

If you’re wondering what the best rod to buy in order to fish for Peacock Bass and some other species is, a 6 weight fast action rod is the most versatile in my opinion.

I think a 6 weight is great to start fly fishing with. One could go for an 8 weight too if you were to get one rod for both salt and fresh water species.

My first rod, if worth its weight in gold, would make me rich – a Flextec 10 ft, 7/8 weight nicknamed “The Hammer”. Strange enough, “The Hammer” was the rod I caught my biggest Peacock Bass by far with – a 8-10 pound Cichla Temensis in full mating colours. [click here and here for more info on the Peacock Bass variants].

I shall allow the pictures to do the talking.

Be sure to check out the special appearance at the end by Aussie Fly Fisher stopping by to say G’day.

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My biggest Peacock Bass on fly yet – on a clouser minnow and featuring “the Hammer”. Sadly this is the best picture I’ve got

Fly Fishing for Peacock Bass

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4 pounds
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6 pounds. Caught using a McVay’s Gotcha
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A very nice 5 pounds of muscle. Caught on a yellow/green clouser
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White/tan clouser
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This was one nice Peacock
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Caught using some kind of self tied shrimp abomination
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Not sure what this is (a Cichla Monoculus?). A memorable catch nonetheless

So a while ago, Josh Hutchins aka the Aussie Fly Fisher and I went out in search of some Peacock Bass. That man is a genius behind the camera and with a fly rod in his hands. Top guy. Be sure to check him out at @aussieflyfisher or at Aussie Fly Fisher for hosted trips all over the globe.

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Beautiful colours on this Pea by Josh Hutchins from @aussieflyfisher
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A nice tail, I suppose? Credits @aussieflyfisher
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credits @aussieflyfisher

Such beautiful and interesting creatures. Here is one last picture of another fine specimen.

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this was a big one. probably tipping the scale at 8lbs

 

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A fat specimen, a hybridized peacock

Thank you for taking the time to read this. This post took a while to curate and has been sitting as a draft for the longest time, I’m no expert by any means so please feel free to comment or offer your thoughts.

I hope you enjoyed it. Cheers and tight lines.

Tackle featured

  • Redington Crux 8 wt
  • Flextec CRX88 7/8 wt
  • TFO BVK 8 wt
  • Sage XP 6 wt
  • Loop Opti Stream 5 wt
  • Loop Cross SW 7 wt
  • Lamson Liquid II
  • Allen Alpha 3
  • Loop Opti Dry Fly
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