Among the rocks and torrid river waters of the uncharted Colombian Jungle lives the feared and famed “Vampire fish”…the Payara   

This species can reach in weights of over 30lbs . The IGFA world record is currently 39 lbs on tackle.

Being an obsessive aquarium hobbyist growing up – I had a collection of Tetra fish.  Now, current day I landed the real deal – full sized tetra -The Payara, Hydrolycus scomberoides, is a species of “dogtooth tetra”. This predatory fish is found in the Amazon Basin in tropical South America.

Ever since I was a young teen,  I loved the fish with frightening huge teeth. Pike being my all time fav,  the payara are up there on my list behind Pike and a possible tie with the Tiger Fish of Tanzania, Barracuda / etc.  

There are some handle with caution instructions I will pass on to you, the reader:

1: Be very careful of the fishes spines that line every fin but the tail.  The spines are teaming with bacteria and I stabbed my self good between my fingers and my skin took about 2 months to heal.

2: Watch for the tiny micro catfish that lurk in the waters: ” Candiru ”  is a species of parasitic freshwater catfish  and pose a threat to the Payara once they are caught and held by the angler – these tiny, nasty blood suckers quickly swim into the Payara’s gills as the angler holds it for the release. I saw this 1st hand.  DO NOT hold your prized fish in the water , you must bring it in and take it out the water to remove the fly, and then for the release – “torpedo” the fish into the water head first-  trust me, you’re doing it a favor by literally throwing it back.  I witnessed the Candiru hoarding into one of the payara’s gills as I let my fish breath and rest before release – they looked  like a school of minnows squirming into my catches gills 🙁  – we had to take them off by hand and release my fish in a new spot , in the quick moving water.  It was a lesson learned.  

Here is a video on the nasty fish:

Lets get on with the gear….

Avidly chasing these Vampires of the jungle rivers – I can say you will need heavy duty gear to master these fish on the fly!


ROD: 9 or 10 weight fast action rod. My favourite rod is Thomas and Thomas 10 wt Exocett 

REEL: Abel Reels / Ross Reels  large arbour reel like the super series, Sealed Drag 9/10 ,  Ross Evolution.   You will need a reel that has exceptional stopping power,  smooth drag and a large enough around to quickly pick up the line once the fish is on the reel.  

LINE:  Tropic Compact from Cortland fly line floating , and Cortland’s Full sink 350 grain  

FYI: I used the sinking line more than the floating.  

LEADER/ Tippet.  I advise using a tarpon shock tippet. I was taught by some Master fly casters and guides that a home made tarpon shock tippet was the best  leader/ tippet to use: I’ve included an IGFA video on how to built your own. 


FLY: They eat bait fish patterns,  the purple and white colour combo was very successful for me.  There are many preferences for different rivers , but the usual streamer (much like a pike fly) can be used.  

Here are some exceptional flies tied and sold by :


Technique :  Hooking the payara is a huge task, they are very tricky as they take a fly differently than a pike, snook, bass and more. They strike with their fangs at a intense speed, it’s very challenging to get a hook in the mouth, but with keen timing you can set the hook on them.  Always be ready.  

There is a very small window of opportunity to set the fly, and when you do, you’ll know it.  They jump, cartwheel and bull dog – hold on!!!  Some times the fangs get caught in the fly and that acts as the hook set.  I hooked mine in the corner of the mouth and the fly was tangled in the fangs – double duty!


Don’t forget your deet bug spray,  and sunblock. The sun is extremely harsh any time of year in SA. I cover up with UPF clothing as much as possible.