Have Rod, Will Travel: Colombia

Have Rod, Will Travel: Colombia
The Mataveni has reopened to anglers after a 30-plus-year hiatus. And, as travel expert Eric Ersch can tell you, the giants are still there.

Fly Rod & Reel has partnered with Thomas & Thomas in sending a 9-foot 7-weight Solar rod around the globe to catch as many fish as possible. Tarpon, permit, peacock bass, salmon, steelhead, dorado . . . . If it swims, we’ll throw at it with this stick and tell you what happens. In this installment The Fly Shop’s Eric Ersch heads to Colombia for record-size peacock bass.

By Eric Ersch

ColombiaSome of the biggest peacock bass on earth are found in Colombia’s Orinoco Basin, and that’s where I headed in April with a Thomas & Thomas 9-foot 7-weight Solar rod in hand, wondering if it was enough stick to turn over big streamers and subdue mammoth fish.

I also wanted to find out if the Mataveni River, shut down by drug lords and political unrest in the 1980s, was still worth fishing. At one time the Mataveni was considered one of the top jungle destinations in the world. In fact, prior to its closure, six of the top 10 IGFA all-tackle-record peacocks were caught there. A 31-pound peacock, which would rank as the current world record, stands as the river’s unofficial record.

To get to the Mataveni, we overnighted in Bogota, and then took a flight into the jungle. That first day we boated upriver with our guides as parrots squawked from above and otters and dolphins swam by our sides. Eventually we beached the boats on a long, white sandbar and were greeted by camp hosts bearing cold tropical drinks. This comfortable wilderness tent camp would be our home for a week.

It didn’t take long to find out if the Solar was up to the task. For several days we hucked big streamers for peacocks that ranged, on average, between six and 10 pounds. We took a couple of fish that registered 20 pounds on the Boga-Grip, and my best fish was an 18-pounder. We also caught a few perro, which are a toothy, “barracudaesque” fish. The rod proved its worth on fish that usually are pursued with something more stout than a 7-weight.

So, you might ask, is the Mataveni the river it used to be, and is it worth the effort to reach? My answer is: “Yes.” The fishing exceeded expectations, and I’d gone into the trip with a high bar. Currently the river has several peacocks pending for IGFA records . . . all taken since the river reopened, in the spring of 2015. If you are looking for a record peacock bass, this would be a great place to try for it.

For details on 2017 trips, contact The Fly Shop travel department, 800-669-3474. For more on the Thomas & Thomas Solar, visit www.thomasandthomas.com.

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