We should always keep in mind that most of the fishing in the rivers and lagoons of the Orinoco is done from a boat. When you arrive to a promising spot, the guide would then typically paddle to those area where peacocks may lie and based on his experience would man the boat at the right distance so that the angler can then get the flies to where they need to land, but not so close as to scare the fish. This means that the casts will not always be of the same length, so depending on where fishermen are located, casting distance may vary between 20 and 80 feet, but more typically between 50 to 60 feet, i.e., a little more than half of the line’s overall length. Obviously, if the fly angler can shoot all 100 feet of line, he/she will have greater opportunities to get the fly to many more places where peacocks may be lurking around.
On the other hand, fishing for Payara and “Sardinata Real” (aka pelona sp.) is sometimes carried out from places different than a boat. An interesting appeal of this type of fishing is that you exit the tributary where most of the peacock bass fishing takes place, then venture into the main Orinoco River, land on any of the hundreds of gigantic black tumbled boulders adorning this majestic waterway, sometimes right in the middle of it, and cast into very fast moving waters.
In these magical places, it is not necessary to cast the fly very far away, rather you may need to place it in the exact spot so that the swift currents do not interfere with the line and the movement of the fly, saving yourself some very valuable fishing time. When payaras are in full hunting mode it is not uncommon for them to grab the flies hanging next to you while you take some of the line prior to casting, but usually casts along these boulders are rather long, at least 70 feet or so, in order to achieve good fly drifts before retrieving.
Peacock bass fishing and the techniques used for other species in this tropical region are quite different from trout fishing where typically, it is necessary to use a tippet as thin as possible, as well as long leaders as to avoid having the fly fishing line land awkwardly where one wants to make the fly rest on the surface, and at the same time, make sure the line lands in the most delicate way to avoid spooking the trout. In the Orinoco basin, it is usually not necessary to make good presentations to entice a bite or a violent strike from many of the local species.
With a few exceptions the fish would actually take notice of the effect caused by the line falling on the water and will approach that area to investigate. This is caused by their natural eating habits which are focused on small prey almost exclusively, so when there is some type of commotion on the surface there is usually a predatory fish like big peacock bass hunting, with some small fish in trouble in the mix or because some small terrestrial animal fell into the water and that translates into food! We should not worry then about delicate presentations, nor long leaders or that the peacocks can see the fly cruising the air above.
By not having these constraints, means we will experience a true break from all things considered around trout fishing, finally give ourselves some technical slack that we secretly wish for in other types of fishing.
Obviously if you are sight casting for a gigantic peacock in a shallow flat or sand bar and land the fly right on top of its head, he will dart at full speed all the way to the other side of the river and will not eat for many hours until it forgets about the traumatic experience!
And another difference yet with trout fishing: The casting should actually be rather aggressive, and swift, since it is often necessary to cast within seconds after observing surface movement or any other signs of activity. This does not mean you must cast nonstop like crazy because by noon your fishing and casting ability would be pretty much over, instead, you must be ready to cast faster than you may typically be used to. If there is any type of fishing where the principle of closed loops fully and unapologetically applies is in the Orinoco fly fishing scene, where cast efficient is of utmost importance.
Line retrieve must be also very fast, as fast as possible. These fish are like cheetahs, if the little fish that they are targeting does not seem alive and under stress because it is about to be eaten - which is the small prey expected response in these circumstances - the peacocks and payaras will lose interest and in the best scenario will only follow the fly from a distance but not bite. It is very frustrating when you see one or two big peacock slabs following the fly and do not strike. This sometimes happens naturally, but most of the time it is related to something that the fisherman is doing wrong with the retrieve, failing to convince the predators that the fly is an edible prey!
The line tending on the inside of the boat by your feet must be free of obstructions and as organized as possible to avoid knots and tangles, and that's not always easy with so many distractions in front of you, it all depends on being constantly aware of letting the line fall in the right place and keep an eye for tangles. The most scandalous tantrums and swearing of the day happen when you make a couple of false cast and you are about to land the fly on that area of the river where we hope to find a large peacock bass, just to see that line fall flat half way because we are stepping on it or a knot got stuck in the first guide.
A final piece of advice: Practice your cast before visiting the Orinoco, and once you land there do it in a relaxed way without unnecessary pressures. One of the goals of the fly fishing art is pleasure, and this type of tropical fishing does not have to be different. If you are comfortable with your casting practice prior to the trip and even when you must somewhat activate your aggressive casting "chip", do it calmly, enjoy the experience, spend a week of unforgettable fishing opening all your senses to this new journey.
It is not worth it to add frustration and self-demand ingredients to this trip, since it probably would not help at all. Instead, reach out to any of us to inspect and potentially correct your casting while fishing and that would probably solve the problem. Remember, there is a pleasant tropical adventure waiting for you to help you forget about the stress of daily life and the real demands of grueling work.
Thanks Jose David Bravo for your great pictures, and thanks to Andres Parra for his invaluable work on this article!