Rio Mataven 2024 - Peacock Bass

Colombia Hosted Trip

by Justin Maxwell Stuart

Destination: Colombia

Holiday: Rio Mataven

During the first WWMF trip to the Rio Mataven in Colombia in March 2022 there was an undeniable feeling that we were heading into the unknown with the accompanying uncertainties and of course excitement that come with any remote fishing expedition, not least one to the Colombian jungle.  This being my 3rd Peacock Bass trip in just under 1 ½ years the worries were absent, the airport navigation straightforward, transfers went without hitch, local accommodation in Puerto Iniridra familiar and even the long journey to the camp relatively routine.

There are two camps on the Rio Mataven, the first lower camp approx. 4 hrs upstream where we had stayed on our last trip, the 2nd, a further 2 hrs beyond that.   The journey to the camp was long but relatively uneventful with the exception of a few outboard issues along the way necessitating some cross decking from one long-boat to another but we all made it safely up river, enjoying the innumerable twists and turns as the river got ever tighter, one minute facing the sun, the next it being on ones back.  Had the journey been as the crow flies the time to the camp would have been 1/3 of what it actually takes.  The chairs in the boat were reasonably comfy, the speed of the boat meant that it was a pleasant temperature, so long as we were moving and a good book or similar to listen to meant the journey was entirely bearable.

For the 2024 season the upper camp was completely new.   The large safari tents had been replaced with a locally constructed extended wooden hut, with 10 individual rooms.   Each was complete with sliding door, individual fan, power supply, bed with a mozzy net and all under a high thatched roof to keep everything light and airy.   The whooshing of the fan and the incessant jungle noise meant that I did not miss the one key item of camp survival kit that I had forgotten, earplugs!

Our main target species for the trip were Temensis.  These are the largest species of Peacock Bass and a fish which genuinely commands respect.  More on their antics later but suffice to say they are a trophy that you earn with a degree of blood, sweat and tears with a great many casts along the way but a feeling of supreme achievement when you can lift one form the water.  The more common species that go to fill in the gaps are the Butterfly Peacocks,  smaller but certainly more numerous, they will take flies almost as large as themselves with the determination of a piranaha…but with a suitably large mouth to accommodate the biggest of flies.

An 8lb Temensis - Enough capacity to load an entire fly-box, let alone a single popper!

But you never know what might end up attached to your line.  On the 2023 trip notable catches included a caiman and a stingray.   To better those for the various column of the game book it would take some beating, but I think possibly this one that got away story equals some of my most exciting moments.  Craig and myself had worked our way half way down one of the lagoons with relatively little activity until a welcome Butterfly took my fly.  As it came to the boat an enormous fish swirled beside it and my line went tight, although not in a line screaming from my reel tight but rather an inquisitive tug.   I quickly realised that this was no fish but one of the pink river dolphins, unique to the Amazon.

Now I realise I am at risk of fuelling the outrage of conservationists, or will potentially get a call from Jeremy Wade’s production team from River Monsters, but over the next 2-4 minutes we played tag with the hapless Butterfly.  I would dangle the Butterfly in the water, similar to a dolphin trainer in Florida, and out of the dark the beak and head of the dolphin would emerge from below and give the Butterfly a good tug before releasing it.  This happened 4 or 5 times before the dolphin tired of the game, grabbed its breakfast firmly by the tail and departed in haste, the hook immediately straightening out with my 8wt rod held horizontally with a very firm lock on the reel lest my line or indeed rod disappeared.  It was an incredible spectacle.  

But it was the Temensis we came to catch.  My memories of past fish caught have been suitably seared into my mind, almost as much as those lost.  The chances are suitably infrequent to make every spotted, lost or landed fish extremely memorable.  (Salmon & Steelhead anglers should love catching them!   They require patience, perseverance and as often as not, a great many casts!) 

The Rio Mataven is a dark river, with all sediment seeping in from the surrounding jungle, but it is not what I would call muddy.   A take can come at any time and quite often when you least expect it.  Craig and I between us lost 3 good fish, broken off with snapped 40lb leaders with well tied knots and everything functioning as it should.  On each of the occasions we saw the fish take, one of the benefits of using large and typically bright flies which seem to be the most effective on the Rio Mataven. 

On a couple of occasions the Temensis absolutely nailed the fly, launching seemingly out of nowhere.  On another it casually came out of a hole in the gloom of the river-bank, casually inhaling the fly in a way that only a very large and confident fish might do and then sunk back to consider the strange morsel in its cavernous mouth.  In all cases, when the bite of the hook had set in, the power of a big fish was unleashed with the inevitable scramble to clear fingers, toes and any impediments liable to be caught in the stripped line before everything went as taught as high tensile steel wire.

Working hard for these big fish makes the reward all the better, and at risk of putting prospective anglers off, you do need to work hard.   A 9wt seems to be about the perfect setup to allow a combination of power to both cast a large fly as well as deal with a very powerful fish, whilst being light enough to allow you to cast all day.  8 wt & 10wts will both do the job.   We fished with floating lines using poppers, intermediate lines as the default go to option, as well as sinking lines which allow you to plumb the depths of some of the deeper lagoons.

Much of the casting is from the middle of a lagoon towards the bank, seeking out the structure and hiding places.  Consistent and accurate casts are helpful, as well as allowing the fly time fly sink whilst being wary of the branches both above and below the water that you will catch.  Over our first two days our shoreline catch rate was impressive, our guide and boatman (motorist) diligently taking the line and recovering the fly.  By the 3rd day I would go as far as to say that our casting had improved considerably as was our ability to gently tease the fly out of the offending branches with a very gentle tweaks as opposed to a yank.  Between both our boat and that of our fellow fly anglers, Alastair & Nick, other than flies lost to fish, we did not loose a single fly caught or snagged all week.

Do not however take that as a hint to have a flybox with 5 patterns for the week.  Piranahas, butterfly, wolf fish, matrinxa, mataguaro and pyara amongst others will all give your flies and gear a pasting.   By the end of each day there would be a good supply of mangled, diassembled or unrecognisable flies hanging on the side of the boat!  As is often the case, the fly you are confident in is usually the best fly, but it is important to match the fly you choose to the line so that it works well at the right depth. Too much body on a fly when fished with an intermediate and the fly may not get down quick enough although the same fly might prove to be very effective fished on a sinking fly at depth.

Temensis are by and large territorial.  They also pair up so even if you do not always see a mate, very often the other is lurking.  I made a crucial mistake on none occasion when Craig hooked one to end up fumbling with the camera on my phone to record the action when I should have been casting at the other…bigger fish which was darting around beside its mate.   It is why very often you will see anglers with two large fish, not photoshopped in as one incensed and indignant facebook user declared from a post of a previous trip!

One area where this year’s trip differed markedly from the last WhereWiseMenFish hosted trip in 2023 was that we were a mixed crew with the rest of our group of 10 being made up of spin-anglers.   This was, I must confess an area that I was initially wary of.  Fly & spin are not often great bed fellows, in part on account of the fact that the incredibly exotic array of spin baits, poppers, bouncers, jigs, deep divers, silicon, metal, plug…you name it, undeniably cover more water with a far bigger signature than our flies could ever dream of mustering.   Returning after a day of a 1,000 casts with maybe just a single Temensis opportunity to find our spin fellows had caught a dozen each does not make for a relaxed frame of mind.

Probably more important is the need to ensure the water is suitably rested with the two camps having a good 9 days rest between fishing groups.  When at camp the beats get a 24 hr break between each rotation.  Nothing will beat fishing virgin water but that applies the world over.  Get in their early to new destinations will always stand you in good stead! Quite possibly this applies more to spin anglers.  Noisy surface baits are very good initially but I think become less effective over time.  This seemed to be the case on this trip with a lot of interest from fish on the opening days to the spin team but relatively few hookups.  Subsequently fishing deeper seemed to be more effective. 

As it turned out our catches were surprisingly close and on some day’s fly was the most effective, much to the consternation of some of the spin team.  Maybe more importantly, I simply could not determine with any certainty that the two styles influenced each other’s fishing or more accurately the overall catch results.  Maybe my only comment would be that the fly-angler fishing attire was a little less advertising billboard, just a little more reserved in appearance!!!

Between our 4 fly anglers we landed 14 Temensis of 10lbs or over with the biggest being 84cm in length, which, although not weighed, would have been around or just above the 20lb mark.  A trip such as this must however be about more than a trophy fish, even though of course it is deeply reassuring to know that everyone has got one good picture to take home!  The dolphins made regular appearances all week, sometimes inquisitively following a fly, more often doing what dolphins do, acting with inquisitive intelligence.  Mammals are few and far between, mainly down to the fact that large tracts of the surrounding jungle will be under-water for a good portion of the year.  Birds are our main companions during the day, squawking & shrieking.  At night the insect and amphibians take over, the chorus at times almost deafening, matched by the absolute darkness of the night once the camps lights shut down.

I hope the above will give just a reasonable insight into this remarkable location.  I cannot say if this remote jungle environment will suit everyone.  It is unquestionably an adventure but heat during the day aside, and getting in and out of the water all day long is the very best remedy, the camp and living conditions are not in the least unpleasant and I would suggest by many standards, pretty comfortable.


  • The Amazon is a long way from Scotland, and very very different from my usual trips pike fishing. The experience was beyond amazing. My biggest Peacock Bass, caught on the afternoon of the final day was 81 cm long, and a fish I will never forget. My hands were shaking so much I am just glad the guide could take the photograph!! Incredible. It was a spectacular and unforgettable trip. My thanks to Justin & WWMF for organising this as well as the team in Colombia who could not have made me feel more welcome. -C Gibson-Scotland Feb 2024

  • Embarking on an expedition along the pristine waters of the Rio Mataven in Colombia for Peacock Bass is an experience that transcends the ordinary. The river winds through breath-taking natural scenery. The journey offers an unparalleled fusion of adventure, beauty and wonderful angling opportunities. I am still in awe of my excursion through this untamed wilderness. From the moment I set foot in this unbelievable landscape I was enchanted by its raw, unspoiled beauty. A river motorway of towering trees, cacophony of bird song and silence formed the basis for an unforgettable adventure. The guides with their local knowledge and enthusiasm were invaluable companions during the week. Nothing was too much to ask – or indeed you didn’t have to ask. Whilst the accommodation was basic, it was clean and perfectly suited to my needs. The lodgings allowed me to immerse myself in the now and facilitated a real and profound connection with nature. Of course the highlight was the fishing. It did not disappoint – each cast was met with the anticipation of landing a trophy-sized specimen, on an nine weight fly rod, that is some thrill! Whilst the trip is not for the faint-hearted, if you have a spirit of adventure and embrace a challenge, then this is for you and it will offer you rewards that you cannot measure. A Purdy-Ireland Feb 2024

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