Arapaima, also known as Pirarucu, are the largest scaled freshwater fish in the world and can reach over 9 feet in size and the largest recorded fish weighing 440 pounds.
They are the ultimate freshwater gamefish and are frequently referred to as freshwater tarpon. They are also considered one of the hardest fish to catch, as hooking them is extremely difficult due to their bony pallet. Strip sets are absolutely necessary and broken rods are common when fishing for these river monsters.
These massive fish are piscivores and target baitfish in the Amazon river systems. Their main food sources are small Peacock Bass and Red-Bellied Pirhanas. They also breathe air and can be spotted when they break the surface to collect oxygen.
A 10-12 weight rod is needed to throw the large flies and wrestle in the fish. Whereas, a 6-8 wt is adequate for catching juvenile arapaima.
What To Look For In An Arapaima Fly
The guides in the Amazon recommend fly patterns in black, black/red, black/purple, black/orange, or white, white/red, white/olive, white/yellow. The baitfish imitations must be large as well, 5 plus inches is recommended.
The flies are large and extremely strong sharp hooks are needed to have a chance at catching arapaima. Make sure to focus on this detail the most when shopping or tying flies, as the hook is the most important aspect of the fly
Here is a list of the flies to bring on your trip to the Amazon in search of arapaima.
Top 5 Fly Patterns for Arapaima
The Reducer is a great pattern for South America because of its vibrant colors and large profile. The fly is also tied on a very strong hook that can handle the strong jaws of the arapaima.
#3/0, 1/0: Peacock
- EP Jungle Special
The Amazon Special is a fantastic fly pattern to bring to the Jungle. The fly is large for predatory fish and is tied with a very strong hook. EP flies are made with the utmost care and craftsmanship and include the option to buy with a rattle.
#4/0: Black/Yellow/Orange, Chartreuse/Orange/Yellow, Olive/Orange/Yellow
- Super Mushy
The Super Mushy is a great baitfish pattern that works well for a variety of piscivores fish, especially in the jungle. This fly comes in colors that are perfect for chasing Arapaima.
#3/0: Black, Blue/purple, Firetiger, Mackerel
The Deceiver is a saltwater fly tied by Left Kreh but works extremely well all over the world. The fly is tied with a saltwater-equipped hook that can handle the immense force behind the arapaima.
#4/0, 2/0: Black, Chartreuse/White, Red/White, White, White/blue
- Flashtail Whistler
The Flashtail Whistler is big and mean, perfect for targeting large aggressive fish in the jungle. The Whistler is a fantastic large baitfish pattern to use for Arapaima in the dirty water of the Amazon due to its bright coloration.
#3/0: Orange/Yellow, Red/White, Red/yellow
Where to Go
Fly anglers have the opportunity to tackle the biggest and most elusive fish in the world deep in the remote water systems of the rainforest.
If you feel the need for adventure check out the Piracucu Lodge in Brazil and the Rewa Eco-Lodge in Guyana – each has access to fantastic jungle fishing opportunities.
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