Just like Kendjam, Xingu is another multi-species jungle fly fishing destination within the Kayapó Indigenous lands, with one distinct difference – Xingu is the most prolific payara fishery in the entire Amazon jungle. A program developed by “The Jungle Experts” at Untamed Angling, the Xingu Project took three years to develop and has redefined trophy payara fishing.
The Xingu River, much like the Iriri River at Kendjam, flows over granite bedrock, and runs gin clear, allowing for exciting sight-fishing opportunities for a broad variety of species. Anglers will encounter fish sipping and rolling on the surface like trout – including insect-eating pacu and matrinxã – while aggressive predators like peacock bass, bicuda, and wolf fish patrol along the deeper edges of the river, ready to attack poppers or streamers.
What really sets Xingu apart from anywhere else in the Amazon are the impressive numbers of large payara. These “vampire fish” are famous for their impressive orthodonture, and while they often make for spectacular photos, they are also one of the hardest-hitting, strongest-fighting fish in the Amazon Basin.
This is an adventurous trip in the middle of an extremely remote tropical jungle. The variety of different fish species you will pursue at Xingu makes having the proper tackle critical, and the following essential fly fishing equipment is what you need.
9-foot rods are by far the best for distance and accuracy, both of which are important at Xingu. 6 to 10 weight fast action rods are what to look for, as they have the proper taper to cast streamers and wind resistant dry flies and fight heavy fish. For payara we like to fish 9-10 weight rods and for the other species like matrinxã, peacock bass, pacu and bicuda, we prefer 6-7-weight rods. You might also consider taking a 5- or 6-weight trout rod for fishing pacu and matrinxã on dry flies.
Aggressively tapered fly lines, purposely built for the jungle, are what you need. Standard coldwater floating fly lines will not cut it and become soft and limp in the jungle environment. Most of the payara fishing is carried out on the water surface, although having sink-tip fly lines is important.
- Floating – Scientific Anglers Mastery Jungle Titan Taper: great popper line (9-10wt)
- Sink-Tip – Scientific Anglers Sonar Titan Jungle Clear Tip: awesome streamer line (9-10wt)
- Shooting Head – Scientific Anglers Mastery Jungle Custom-cut Super Sinking (300-460 grains)
- And for dry fly fishing for pacu and matrinxã, we suggest Scientific Anglers Mastery Bonefish or Amplitude Bonefish or Grand Slam taper fly lines in size 6 and 7 weight.
- We strongly suggest you bring at least one back up fly line.
You’ll need a quality saltwater fly reel for Xingu. A quality large arbor reel with a smooth and sealed disk drag, machined from bar stock aluminum, with a large, easy to adjust drag knob is what to look for.
- Abel SDS Saltwater Fly Reels (7-9 weight)
- Nautilus NV-G Fly Reel (7-9 weight)
- Hatch Iconic Fly Reel (7-9 weight)
- Galvan Grip Fly Reel (7-9 weight)
- Galvan Torque Fly Reel (7-9 weight)
- Abel SDF Freshwater Fly Reels (5-6 weight)
- Nautilus X-Series Reel (5-6 weight)
- Galvan Torque Fly Reel (5-6 weight)
Hatch PE 8-braid premium backing is rated at 68-pound test and is the undisputed champion in the world of backing. You get what you pay for with this stuff. It is three times the strength and half the diameter, so you can get twice as much on the spool, and we like only having to buy backing once for the life of the reel.
The fish you target at Xingu are not normally leader shy; however, the water is very clear, so fluorocarbon leaders and tippet make a difference. Leaders should be strong and heavy enough to turn over big wind resistant flies, so leaders with stiff butt sections are important.
- Tippet – spools of fluorocarbon should include 16, 20, 30, and 40 pounds.
- Leaders – Scientific Anglers Absolute Fluorocarbon Big Game leaders (9’)
- Dry fly leaders – Scientific Anglers Absolute Monofilament leaders (9’, 16 – 20 pounds)
- Wire – RIO Powerflex Wire Bite Tippet (30 & 50 pound)
- Payara: Heavily dressed flies in lengths from 5 to 12 inches in barbless 3/0 to 6/0 (high quality hooks) are required. The most typical flies used are tied with synthetic materials in a wide variety of colors, light to dark (white/black, all black, black/red, black/purple, black/orange, and black/chartreuse). Large baitfish imitations have proven to be very successful and it’s very important to have flies with trailer hooks, as payara are tail biters. Tube flies work well as you have the option to adjust the hook distance. Flies to consider include Girl Next Door (6/0), Cruisers (3/0 – 5/0), Brush Fly (6/0), Bad Attitude Baitfish (4/0) Major Bunker (4/0), Tarpon Snake (4/0), Cuda Killer (4/0), Swingers Convention (4/0), PSP Bubblehead (4/0), Big Boy Trevally Popper (2/0).
- Peacock Bass and Bicuda: Saltwater streamers in white, yellow, chartreuse and combinations of these colors are very effective. Flies with a good amount of flash make all the difference in our clear waters. Light colored Clouser Minnows or Flashtail Whistlers with flash in the tail work well.
- Wolf Fish: We usually cast weighted flies with dark color combinations like black/red, black/purple or all black. Andino Deceivers are a great choice. Flies tied with synthetic materials last longer on toothy fish. Glimmer Minnows, Sardina Cruisers. Enrico Puglisi Flies, Whistlers, Umpqua’s Tarpon Snake, Deceivers, and Half and Halfs all work well.
- Foam saltwater poppers in light colors variations with flash along with Gurglers and Divers in 1/0 to 3/0 are good surface choices.
- Terrestrials are very productive for matrinxã and pacu. Fly patterns like the Fat Albert, Umpqua’s Pool Toy, and Chernobyl Ant are excellent choices. These terrestrial patterns need to be tied on strong hooks, as normal trout hooks will not hold these fish. The hook sizes are #6 for pacu and #4 to matrinxã.
- For algae flies, we use small-weighted olive Woolly Buggers tied on strong hooks sizes #6 to #10. The #6 Milky Magic fly fished for milkfish is an excellent choice.
You’ll want three pairs of fast drying pants and one pair of shorts (swim trunks) – the same type of garb you would wear while flats fishing.
- Simms Superlight Pants
- Simms Superlight Zip-Off Pants
- Patagonia Sandy Cay Pants
- Patagonia Sandy Cay Shorts
You will also want to bring four or five tropical, long-sleeved shirts for fishing and relaxing around the lodge.
- Patagonia Long Sleeve Sun Stretch Shirts
- Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody
- Simms Intruder Hoody Shirt
You’ll be wet wading in rocky freestone rivers all week while fishing at Xingu, so wading gear is critical, and a pair of sturdy, felt-soled boots with carbide or aluminum studs or cleats is a must. Rubber-soled wading boots don’t work on the thin algae film that covers the rocks and gravel.
- Simms Flyweight Wading Boots
- Patagonia Foot Tractor Wading Boots
- Korkers River Ops Wading Boots (felt)
For footwear, a boat shoe with a non-skid sole will give you plenty of support and traction in the boats. Astral Loyaks or Crocs are a good choice. Be sure to bring a couple pairs of lightweight, lightly-colored socks to protect your feet from the sun.
There is a strictly-enforced 40-pound weight restriction per person for the charter flight to and from Xingu, divided as follows: one 10-pound carry-on piece of luggage and one 30-pound checked bag (soft duffel bags with no rigid bottom except for rod cases).
- Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag (70 or 100 liters)
- Patagonia Great Divider (26 liters)
- Patagonia Guidewater Waterproof Backpack
- Patagonia Disperser Roll-Top Pack
Bring a reusable water bottle (Kleen Kanteen, YETI or Hydro Flask) along with packets of Gatorade, EmergenC, Liquid IV or another electrolyte mix. The jungle is hot and humid, and you will sweat a lot. Water is great, but if you are constantly sweating, you will lose salt and minerals, which will cause cramping. We like to drink three full water bottles mixed with electrolytes – one in the morning, one at lunch and one after fishing. Believe us, this is a game changer.
Other ancillary items to bring include:
- Two pairs of polarized sunglasses (in case you lose or break a pair)
- Waterproof sunscreen SPF 30+ (UVA) (UVB) – apply twice a day
- Medicated powder – Gold Bond or similar
- Anti-itch cream
- Lip balm with sunscreen (highest SPF you can get)
- Hook sharpener
- Stripping fingers, finger tape and fishing-sun protection gloves
- Line clippers
- Hat with dark under brim
- Buff® (bring two)
- Lightweight rain jacket and pants
- Insect repellent with 30% + DEET
- Water bottle and dry Gatorade mix, EmergenC, or Liquid IV
- Boat bag (100% waterproof)