SCIENTIFIC NAME: Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum (Linnaeus, 1766).
OTHER COMMON NAMES: Surubí tigre (Bolivia) cachara, pintado (Brazil), rayao (Venezuela), barred surubí, tiger catfish (USA) tigerspatelwels (Germany).
ECOLOGY: This fish belongs to the genus Pseudoplatystoma, which includes 7 species, of very similar appearance, exclusive of South America. It is found in the basins of the Plata, (especially in the Paraná and Paraguay rivers), the Amazon, the Corantijn, the Essequibo and the Orinoco (latitude 8°N - 11°S). Its name comes from the Greek pseudos, which means “ false”, platys “flat” and stoma “mouth”. It constitutes one of the most beautiful catfish in the world, easily recognized by its big head, slender body, long barbells, and barred vertical bars.
The average size of the barred sorubins at Tsimane goes from 8 to 15 kg, with visual records of up to 20 kg. Even though this fish has reached historic maximum sizes of almost 70 kg, at present it is extremely rare to find a fish of more than 30 kg. The female is bigger than the male.
It is an active fish hunter, especially of characin (sábalos, Prochilodus lineatus, and bogas, Leporinus obtusidens, local species of ray-finned fish) and occasionally it may feed on mollusks and crayfish. It spends most of the day inactive, particularly when it is in very clear waters and on sunny days. It is an extremely fertile fish with records of up to 8 million eggs. The best places to catch this fish at Tsimane Lodge are Agua Negra and Pluma Rivers
WAYS OF FISHING: the barred surubí is a member of the Super Grand Slam, most difficult to get with fly. Many factors have to align for them to bite, including a bit of luck. It is fished basically in two ways: in prospecting productive waters or by sight casting. Prospecting productive water suddenly takes place when looking for dorados, most probably after the river is obscured by rains, a situation that makes catfish become very active. This also happens at sunset or dawn, in marginal light, when they go hunting.
But undoubtedly the most captivating way is targeted fishing, when making visual contact. This happens in low waters, especially in the backside of pools or sandy banks, where shoals of sábalos are waiting to ambush them.
Although a fish-eater, the barred surubí usually ignores the fly and you need many resources to make it bite. You should pay attention to its body language, so as to avoid unproductive casts that may spook it, and wait for the right moment. Chances are better when you notice they are swimming in a nervous, aggressive way, as if about to attack. Just like the dorado, it generates spectacular flats hunting and this is the moment for it to bite.
It is impressive to see how it goes from a relaxed, slow attitude to a fierce, high- speed attack in just a moment. The violence is such that it is not rare for them to land on the shore and die there.
Being a great swimmer, the barred sorubins is a strong fish once hooked. In fact, it is the strongest of the sorubins pound by pound. It does not jump, but it takes numerous long runs, looking for deep pools or logs where to hook. It knows well how to use currents to defend itself and it takes many minutes for it to surrender.
Rod: No. 8 or 9 feet, medium/fast action. Your favourite rod for bonefish trophy or permit will suit you fine.
Reel, backing and line: Solid reel with disk brakes and a capacity of 100 yards of 30 pound backing. For sight casting or in low waters a WF-F tropical core, Bonefish or Redfish Taper is recommended. In deep pools sinking integrated lines of 200 to 300 grains are necessary.
Leader: 8 or 9 feet, with a 30- pound tippet.
Shock wire: 20 to 30 cm and 30 or 40 pounds. A loop knot is suggested to get more mobility and depth of the fly.
Flies: the surubí is fished with similar streamers to the dorados’, between 12 and 20 cm, and number 2/0 and 4/0 hooks. In clear waters smaller flies are used, and bigger ones in dark waters. Recommended materials are synthetic fibres, suri or strung saddles, and muddler heads to generate vibrations in murky waters. Dark colours are more productive, like black and red, black and green or black and orange.