Big Flies for (Really) Big Fish

Big Flies for (Really) Big Fish
Oliver White recommends flies that imitate red-bellied piranha or small peacock bass, tied on Owner Aki 8/0 hooks. Beth Sweeting photo

Tying arapaima flies with Oliver White and guide Shun Alvin

When I came back from Guyana and showed friends and family photos of some of the fish we caught, the first question was often, "What kind of fly do you use to catch something like that!?"

Arapaima are the largest scaled freshwater fish in the world, but when you fly fish for them, they are just like any other predator. Your strategy is to use your creativity to make a fly that imitates the prevalent food sources. In the Rupununi wetlands near Rewa, Guyana, that means flies that imitate red-bellied piranha and small peacock bass.

The method is the same as with tying any large-profile baitfish pattern. You stack the EP Fibers on the top and bottom of the hook shank to create a fly that has a large profile when viewed from the side, but it's narrow when viewed from top and bottom. This imitates the shape of many baitfish species, and is crucial to making a "large" fly you can actually cast.

The key to a good arapaima fly, says Oliver White, is the Owner Aki 8/0 hook. Getting these fish to eat the fly isn't all that difficult, but sticking that hook into something solid is. White has caught more (and probably also lost more) of these fish on a fly rod than any other person alive, and he's very particular about the hook. If you're flying halfway across the world to catch the biggest fish of your life, it's a good idea to pay attention to these small details that will make a big difference in your success.

For more info on arapaima fishing in Guyana, see my story "1 Guy with a Fly Rod" in the Oct-Dec 2017 issue of FLY FISHERMAN or watch the film by Outside TV we shot on location in March 2017. The fly-tying short you see here is an out-take from that shoot. 

liver White recommends flies that imitate red-bellied piranha or small peacock bass, tied on Owner Aki 8/0 hooks.

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