Photos taken by Joe unless otherwise noted.
Whatever you’ve heard, read or seen on You-Tube, about golden dorado, is true. They are one of the most viscous and aggressive freshwater predators and they are just as golden alive as they are in pages of magazines! A large head packs powerful jaws with saw-blade sharp teeth! The thick body and broad tail enable this apex predator to jump clear of the water like a tarpon, multiple times, and pull like a bulldog. Here is my adventure chasing my golden dream.
It was a loooong wait to finally have my shot at for Golden Dorado in Argentina. COVID did to me like it did to everyone else and having booked the trip for 2020, it was postponed until 2022! The trip was conducted through Parana River Outfitters (PRO) owned and operated by Fabio Anastasia and Pablo Chapero. They are also the main guides who are local natives and well-seasoned for golden dorado! Booking arrangements were taking care of by Nervous Waters (who have many classic fly fishing destinations).
As my partner, Jerry and I flew in to Buenos Aires early in the morning, I caught a good view of the Parana River and was amazed by its size. That's when it got real, and the jitters kick in with the reality of golden dorado just up the river. But wait! There’s still about 7 more hours before we reach the final destination on the middle part of the Parana. My jitters are going to have to manage without me, we jump on another plane and fly to Corrientes and then another 45-minute car ride south to Bella Vista to our final destination. The traveling is exhausting but the promise of golden dorado the next morning was tantalizingly close to being a reality that I had waited an eternity for.
The first impression of the river is its vastness. You feel small against this huge body of flat water. The Parana at this location is impressive. Looking at the river on our first morning I wondered how do the guides ever find the dorado?
Another fish-able option are the huge shallow sand flats, where hundreds if not thousands of sabalo can be schooling up. The sabalo, an herbivore, are very large for a baitfish (like 3 lbs) which is likely one of the reasons why dorado can surpass 30 lbs! Hence using big flies. The stalk on the flats is very, very, slow in terms of wading the area. You don’t actually see the dorado, only the reaction of the school of sabalo which is either an open hole in the middle of the school or a frantic white water spray on the surface as they try to escape from the golden wolf! If this happens within casting range, that's your shot to make the cast and hope you get bit!
Fishing conditions were tough while we were there for 8 days. Lots of difficult weather changes and a rapidly rising river challenged being able to find fish. Although, river turbidity doesn’t seem to matter too much as these predators have keen vision to pick off their prey! A large snaky black streamer with weighted eyes about 6-7 inches long drew attention if the golden dorado was present. We didn’t catch a bunch of dorado but the few that were caught sent my adrenaline wide open! I can’t wait to go back, somewhere out there is a 20-30 pound dorado with my name on it!
If you are an avid traveler in fly fishing, you always try to book your trip by the o’l adage, “timing is everything”. But, it’s always a crap shoot because you never can control the weather. However, I can attest that the overall experience was great! There were no disappointments when it came to the culture, the scenery, wildlife, and company of the guides, hosts and chef and eating great food! The shoreline lunches rock! I always joke about taking trips just to eat the food and PRO did not let me down!
Perhaps this trip was only a small fortune in gold but I left the big river very educated and humbled (trout sets suck!). A return trip is definitely warranted and I will be twice as ready to catch the trophy golden dorado!
Tight lines in your fly fishing pursuits!
For more information, you can contact myself, or go to the web sites, Parana River Outfitters, or Nervous Waters.
Fly rods- Epic 8’8”, 8 wt; custom NorthFork LMX 8’ 6”, 8wt; Fenwick FF 112-5, 9’ 3”, 9 wt
Reel - Aspen 400M
Lines - Rio Coldwater Winter Redfish WF9 & 10F, AirFlo Depth finder 300 gr (highly recommended is a floating line mult-tip with 10’ changeable tips of various sinking densities)
Leader – four to five feet 50-60 lb mono butt section connected to 20-24”, 40 lb multi-strand wire.