The Mataveni River
The Mataveni River is a world reference in large peacock bass fishing, people has obtained world records there since the early 80s when just getting there was a complete adventure. The Mataveni is the axis of the Mataven Jungle, a large nature reserve that marks the boundary between the Orinoco plains and the Amazon jungle, which has remained with its intact ecosystem because of the indigenous reserve of the Piaroa community in Colombia, who have administrative rights on the region and who have not allowed settlers in the jungle and river that clear forests and extract resources in order for them to settle down.
The Mataveni has remained for long periods without sport fishing in their waters, and now the indigenous community has established regulations for use of the river and sport fishing in which, among other things, only support a group of up to 10 fishermen per week; they alternate fishing areas to prevent undue pressure, there it is required the use of a single barbless hook on any lure or fly, and they engage visitors with the conservation of the river and forests. Fly Fishing Colombia has joined the conservation work and sustainable projects with the Mataveni community through advice on responsible fishing and implementation of good practices for Catch and Release.
Where it is and how to get there
The Mataveni joins the Orinoco River in its upper part, is the center of the nature reserve of the same name that runs from west to east at the lower limit of the Colombian plains with the Amazon jungle.
Its mouth on the Orinoco is about two and a half hours by boat from the city of Puerto Inirida (Guainía department). The boats providing transportation services are called "yates" in the region, some large boats about 30 feet long paired with an outboard of more than 100 hp that allows to take quick and comfortable a group of 10 fishermen with their luggage.
The river and its environment
The Mataveni marks the center of the Matavén Jungle which is found in the transition area between the plains of the Orinoco and the Amazon jungle and therefore its climate is hot and humid, even in the dry season.
The daytime temperatures can reach up to 40°C (104°F) but with a higher thermal sensation by moisture. In some cases at night the temperature can drop to 15 ° C (59 ° F), although nights are usually fresh, allowing visitors to remain uncovered while sleeping.
In the dry season rains occasionally but the rains are short and soon the sun comes out again. We encourage our visitors to bring a waterproof jacket to prevent a dramatic drop in body temperature while traveling on the boats.
Matavén jungle is not a very high jungle but it is very difficult to move because of lianas and bushes that are around trees. We do not recommend that our visitors walk throug the jungle without a local guide since there is very difficult to locate and know the route back to the starting point.
The Mataveni River is a jungle river even when flows into the Orinoco. Its waters are reddish due to the accumulation of tannins that produce leaves of trees fallen into the river. Despite the color of the water, it is quite clear as the river rises in the plain where the soil is sandy and does not contain clays or silts like rivers coming from the Andes that are quite murky, especially in the rainy season. For the region is a river between small and medium, and so the “llaneros”, the inhabitants of the plains of the Orinoco region where rivers are very large, give him the title of "caño" which is how they know the creeks and minor tributaries, although compared to rivers in other parts of the world, is not small. The river is very calm and is framed with the forest on its shores. It has some white sand beaches and most of its shores are covered by accumulations of long grass.
The Mataveni is characterized by the presence of many oxbow lakes that have arisen over the centuries by changes in the current, and that is its greatest attraction because in those lagoons are the peacocks that make it so famous. The river has a calm but strong current. We encourage our visitors to have great caution when they get into the waters.
The Mataveni Jungle is an indigenous reserve that has historically belonged to the Piaroa. Along the Mataveni River are four Piaroa communities that serve different functions in the care, safety and conservation of this natural reserve. They are the local operators of the camps and they are our fishing guides.
Camp in the Mataveni
The Piaroa community has selected three beaches for mobile camps with the aim of reducing fishing pressure in different areas of the river. These three beaches are wide enough to comfortably accommodate a whole group of fishermen and logistics staff.
In our camps visitors will have a unique experience of contact with nature that will take them away from everyday stress in the city. We use large 4 people ventilated tents, equipped with very comfortable inflating mattresses with bed sheet and pillow. Each fisherman will have a exclusive tent so he can have the space to organize his gear and securely leave his belongings while fishing.
We have a whole team of responsible people for serving our visitors in the camp. We have exclusive people working in the kitchen, and for the set up and maintenance of the camp. The camp is equipped with an efficient kitchen, a covered dining area, electric plant at night for lighting and refrigerator to find cold drinks at any time.
Breakfast usually consists of eggs, bread or arepas, and fruit or juice. Lunch is usually prepared in the morning and taken in each boat for fishermen to come to a beach and do not waste time traveling at noon to the camp for it. The dinner is made on the camp and it includes meat, chicken or fish, and side dishes with local products like cassava or plantain.
During the journey visitors will have laundry service so they can take fewer clothes and save space in their luggage for a more complete fishing equipment.
There are a closed toilet and shower in each camp to provide privacy to our visitors. The bath in the river, in the prevailing conditions recommended by the guides, remains a special attraction of these camps.
The fishing season in the Mataveni runs from January (because the rivers have not yet fallen enough in December) to the end of March, because being a transition zone to the Amazon, the rainy season tends to get sooner.
The river waters drop dramatically from the time when the rainy season ends, and reach down as far as 12 meters from its highest point.
The low water levels change the fishing conditions each month, but there will always be places to make a good fishing, and these variations are perfectly known by our local guides so they will take visitors to the best spots.
Once the group reach the mouth of the Mataveni in the Orinoco River, the boaters assigned by the Piaroa community will take the visitors to the base camp.
The fishing is done from ‘bongos’ (metallic 30’ boats) that belong to the community. These are equipped with 40 HP outboards. On these ‘Bongos’ two fly fishermen can fish and cast at the same time without tangling lines with the fellow angler.
The fishing in the Mataveni is almost exclusively for peacock bass, this means that fishing activity will be mainly in the river pools that are calm and deep, additional to the many oxbow lakes that are connected to it. Boaters have experience to put the bongo in the right place and orientation for an easy casting to the right fishing spots. Upon entering the lagoons, boaters turn off the engine and continue paddling to go quietly and at a pace that allows fishermen to cast their flies the better way. Eventually fishermen can get off the bongo and fish from shore when conditions are adequate.
Given the conditions of the river and lagoons, most of the time you will "blind cast" to water structure where the peacock bass will be holding off. However, occasionally you can sight fish the moving peacock bass, allowing a much more precise and exciting fishing. Fly Fishing in Colombia will advise our visitors about the best fishing spots and how to fish them making your experience something remarkable.
The main objective for fishermen in the Mataveni are peacock bass. In these waters you will find large Speckled Peacock Bass (Cichla temensis) during the season in their two phases, Speckled and Lapa (paca). On the shallow banks you will find specially Butterfly Peacock Bass (Cichla orinocensis) that are smaller in size but great fighters too.
On the Mataveni River Is possible to fish for the Ocellaris species, the same found on the Florida channels, however they are not common in this river.
There are many species of fish that are not the targeted species of the trip. There are several genders of catfish that grow to massive sizes and are susceptible to be caught with fly and lures when in their youth. We’ll also find several Pacu types (Colossoma, Piaractus) in these waters that eventually will go after your fly. Some minor species like the colorful ‘mataguaro’ (Crenicichla), Oscar (Astronotus ocellaris) or the ‘bocones’ (Brycon sp) will attack small size flies.
There is the possibility of catching payaras (Hydrolycus armatus and Hidrolycus Scomberoides) in the river as they will arrive in the afternoon in large schools to a lagoon that is close to the river mouth. If the flight schedule back to Bogota allows us, the day of departure of Mataveni to Puerto Inirida, visitors can fish for large payaras in two or three spots on the Orinoco before reaching their flight. The payaras are migratory and have unpredictable eating habits, so that their catch is not stable throughout the day or at certain times of the season. It is very normal to see a lot of activity on the surface but they won't attack lures or flies, however when they’re in “eating mode”, they will attack your fly and you will have a memorable fishing.
Fishing gear and flies
Because of the strength of Peacock Bass in the Mataveni and the size of the flies that are used there, we recommend 8wt, 9wt or 10wt outfits. Personally we use ¡ 8wt outfits, sometimes overloaded with 9wt line, as this fishing requires the angler fly cast most of the day and a 9wt or 10wt fly rod will be quite heavy to do this every single day of your trip. Some anglers bring fly rods in these two or three weights to alternate them during the day according to the fishing conditions. When you are fishing for smaller peacock bass, a 6wt or 7wt fly rod is more than enough; an 8 to 10 pounds peacock bass is a whole trophy on a rod like that.
Another good option is to take a 4wt or 5wt fly rod for certain times of the day when fishing for peacock bass is low. There are plenty of smaller species that chase and attack small streamers and hoppers and can offer a unique fishing experience.
We highly recommend the use of tropical fly lines that are specially designed and manufactured for big game fish and high temperature environments. These kind of lines will run with ease through the guides of your fly rod in the hottest day of your trip. We also suggest fly lines designed to throw big flies for the Mataveni where a nice presentation is not required, these will be paired with leaders not longer than 3’ or 4’. The leaders must be strong and mush have a shock tippet of at least 50lb to avoid broken because of the the peacock bass small teeth.
In Fly Fishing Colombia we will advise you about your gear to take. We will also advise you about clothing and other gear that you may want to bring to make this trip a real pleasure.
- Transport Airport to hotel in Bogota
- One overnight at a Hotel in on arrival. Double Occupancy.
- Transport from the hotel to the airport
- Air fare between Bogota and Puerto Inirida (Guainia)
- All transfers between Puerto Inirida and the base camp
- Three daily meals and snacks
- All lodging and guided fishing at the Mataveni Camp
- Cold drinks
- Laundry service
- International airfare to Bogota
- Additional hotel nights in Bogota and Puerto Inirida
- Meals and other activities while in Bogota
- Alcoholic beverages
- Gratuities for guides, camp and hotel staff
- Personal items
- Prescription medications
- Fishing gear
All visitors to fishing camps, fishing tours or exploration trips of Fly Fishing Colombia must get a medical insurance that will cover you in case something unfortunate happens. However, all our staff is ready of taking you to the nearest medical center in the shorter possible time.
We suggest our visitors to get an insurance through https://globalrescue.com, there you will be able to find the most adequate insurance for you.
Day 1: Fly to Bogota, we suggest getting there at night.
Day 2: Fly with Satena from Bogota to Puerto Inirida. Boat ride to the base camp
Day 3 to 8: Six guided fishing days
Day 9: Return to Puerto Inirida. Fly to Bogota and then final international or national destination.
Reservations and payment
If you are interested in coming with us to the Mataveni, please reach us to either one or both email so we will give additional information and make the necessary arrangements to make your reservation.
The flight between Bogota and Puerto Inirida is a one hour flight in an Brasilian made Embraer airplane which is widely use around the world. The airline is Satena, which is a commercial airline of the Colombian Air Force. Satena allows that each passenger can carry maximum 15 kilos (30 pounds)l uggage and a carry-on maximum of 5 kilos (10 pounds). It's necessary to pack accordingly. In this local flight, it's restricted to carry-on the fly rods, for which is strongly suggested the use of a heavy duty fly rod tube.