Fly Fishing for Peacock Bass

A basic primer in three parts

Part 1 – A Tactical Overview of Peacock Bass on the Fly

An Awesome Fly Rod Adversary– Unlike some of their pursuers, Peacock Bass are not purists. They will happily brutalize you with any tackle you offer them. They are punishing on spinning tackle and they are relentless on baitcasting gear … but fly fishing for

Fly-fishing for peacock bass.

Fly-fishing for peacock bass.

peacock bass offers anglers a whole new level of self-inflicted fishing abuse! Fly fishing for peacock bass is where subtlety and finesse meets sheer physical power – a true test of tackle and techniques. Hook up and you’ll discover that you’re in a serious hand-to-hand battle, without machinery and without mechanical advantage. This is what your fly fishing tackle was made for; it just doesn’t know it yet. Truly, there is no more exiting freshwater quarry for the fly fisherman than the wild and brutish Amazon peacock bass.

They are not Trout – Although they are a great fly rod adversary, their behavior is decidedly not trout-like. Unlike the freshwater fly fisherman’s usual stream-dwelling adversaries, peacock bass occupy structure-laden, still-water environments. Unlike the usually subtle take of a trout, peacocks will attack a fly with unexpected force – nothing subtle about these aquatic vandals. Their behavior is different enough that trout fishermen will find it necessary to use a different tactical approach and mindset to best come to grips with their unique style. Since anglers often target trout waiting for an aquatic current to opportunistically deliver a meal, stream fishing is more focused on drift and presentation, not so much the cast itself. Peacocks, conversely are typically encountered when they are holding tight to structure, actively feeding or defending their flock of young. Fly fishing for peacock bass is more about the cast itself, its placement and what you do next with the fly. (We’ll cover this in Part 3)


Peacock Bass on the fly are not a subtle opponent.

Peacock Bass on the fly are not a subtle opponent.

They are not Bass –Their behavior is not really largemouth bass-like either, even though they are called bass (they aren’t – see our earlier posts). Unlike North American bass (Micropterus), who are primarily opportunistic feeders with a generally defined strike zone, peacock bass (Cichla) are far more pursuit oriented. They’ll chase a baitfish (or a fly) halfway across a lagoon to hunt it down. Unlike a black bass, who will happily feed on anything from fish to bugs to mice to worms, peacocks are primarily piscivorous (fish-eaters). Once again, fly fishermen will find it necessary to use a different tactical approach and mindset than they would for temperate zone fishing. Fishing for black bass with a fly is very successfully done with relatively slow presentations, keeping the fly in the strike zone as long as possible and imitating an easy meal. Conversely, for peacock bass, freshwater anglers will find that they’ve never stripped a fly so fast in their fishing careers, while they attempt to trigger the peacock’s pursuit response.

A trophy peacock bass on the fly.

A trophy peacock bass on the fly.

More Behavioral Differences Peacock’s behavior during their spawning cycle is very different from black bass, as is their relationship to structure and their fry guarding behavior. Peacock feeding behavior is different as well. Unlike most freshwater fly fishermen’s targets, peacocks often hunt in packs and they often actively prowl for forage. These and many other behavioral aspects are important to successfully angling these beasts, but they are equally so for any tackle style. I’ll present that information in future posts addressing general peacock bass fishing techniques and behavioral patterns. So follow our Peacock Bass blog as we go forward and we’ll cover additional tactics and offer more subtle techniques for all anglers, or visit our website and look over our general-purpose Peacock Bass Primer. For fly fishermen, the next important topic is to provide an overview of the techniques that are used and how to select tackle to enable the techniques that work best.

Surface vs. sub-surface fly fishing – Bring gear to cast both types of fly line, but be prepared to concentrate on sinking lines. In spite of the peacock’s great reputation for surface action, subsurface (streamer type) flies tend to be significantly more productive than surface flies (poppers, sliders). Yes, peacock bass can be caught with just about anything you can throw with a fly rod, but some tactics are just far more productive than others under most Amazon fishing conditions. If you’re taking the fishing trip of a lifetime and want to maximize your chances for success, it’s important to consider the approach on which to concentrate. For a fly fisherman to be most effective and to have the best shot at a big trophy, the odds are you’ll need to rapidly strip a big streamer, keeping it a meter or so below the surface.

Okay, you’re scratching your head and wondering why I’veforgotten how much peacocks like to hit on the surface. Well, that’s really a reputation gained primarily because of their responses to conventional tackle. Conventional tackle is very effective on the surface because it gets attention and triggers aggression, particularly in fry-guarding fish. But those plug-casters are throwing two-ounce wooden baseball bats with roostertail generating propellers on the back. Fly fishing tackle just can’t duplicate that kind of surface commotion. Even the biggest poppers and sliders tend to attract mostly piranha, small peacocks and other secondary species; pretty much everything but the big trophies we seek. So, under most normal circumstances, fly fishermen will be most successful with sinking lines vs. floating lines, with big streamers vs. poppers. The use of a quality sinking line will overcome the tendency of the fly to be dragged toward the surface due to the rapid stripping action so important for triggering peacock strikes. I’ll cover this technique in detail in Part 3 of this primer. Or just come fishing with Acute Angling, we’ll teach it to you on the water. 

Based on what we’ve covered today in Part 1,  we’ll focus in on the fly fishing tackle that’s best suited for the purpose in Part 2 – Fly Fishing Tackle for Peacock Bass.  I hope to have it posted here in a week or so.  In the meantime, you can see some more general tackle recommendations on our website.  Part 3 will focus on specific techniques for fly fishing for peacock bass.

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