Peacock bass are one species I believe every fly angler should chase at some point in his or her life. They’re aggressive, they eat throughout the water column, and when they strike, you’d better hold on tight. I’ve chased these fish in South America as well as South Florida, and the action was just as amazing in both locations. Whether you have the opportunity to hop a quick flight to Miami, or take a long journey to the heart of the Amazon, here are a few tricks I’ve learned that’ll help you connect with more and bigger peacocks on the fly.
1 | Don’t Stop the Pop
When a peacock takes a shot at a popper on the surface, it’ll stop your heart. Froth goes flying, and the smack rings out across the water. Problem is, peacocks have a bad habit of missing on the first strike. When that happens, the angler quite often stops working the popper, figuring the fish will come back for round two. Bad move. Nothing makes a peacock bass more upset than thinking a delicious meal is getting away, so when a fish misses, start chugging the popper even harder and faster than you did when you drew the initial hit. Work the fly all the way back to the boat. Peacocks have no issue rushing in on a popper that’s just a few feet away from the tip of the rod.
2 | Size Matters
You may be tempted to start out throwing flies more suited to pike or muskies, with the idea that bigger flies equal bigger fish. At times, that theory can work well; however, the reality is that peacocks mostly eat small baitfish, and that goes for Florida 2-pounders as well as Brazilian 15-pounders. If you downsize to a simple Clouser minnow or Deceiver and are catching small peacocks, stick with it. When your smaller fly gets in front of a trophy peacock, it will be eaten just the same. Casting only large flies excludes any fish that’s not in the mood for a bigger-than-average meal, which can make for a very slow day in an extremely hot, muggy climate.
3 | Tag Team
Peacocks love to tuck up into snaggy cover, such as logjams and brushpiles. Whereas a fly that splashes lightly may or may not be enough to draw them out, a bigger topwater lure usually gets their attention, even if they don’t run out and smash it right away. With that in mind, it’s wise to flyfish next to an angler throwing conventional gear. It’s essentially the old bait and switch. The gear angler pulls the peacock out of the cover, and you drop your smaller fly right behind the lure if you see a fish flash or boil. Once a peacock bass has committed itself to come out for a look, it’s rare for it to pass up a fly that suddenly ends up right in its face.
Photograph by Joe Cermele