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Dorado on a Fly

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Dorado on a fly - a story of poor planning - a contribution from Eduardo Marino who lives and fishes extensively in Argentina.

The Deceiver-Andino is one of
most popular dorado flies in
I was recently invited to join a small group of fly fishermen in pursue of a different fish: the Dorado. It was not the first time for me but it was for everybody else in the party. They were all excited because for trout anglers - and all of us were Patagonian fly-and-trout anglers - it would be a significant change.

Actually, several contrasts: from the cool weather of Patagonia to sub-tropical Argentina; from crystal-clear waters to turbid ones; from light tackle to #8 or 9; from smaller dries and nymphs to huge streamers; from comparatively good tempered trout to the temperamental Dorado.

Both this fly and the Deceiver
Andino are good for dorado
as they share the
dark-bright-dark colour pattern
that has proved to be effective.
But on arrival at our destination we were confronted with a sad reality: one of our friends, who had made the reservations with the outfitter had not asked him the key question: Is that a fly-fishing area? And it was not.

This prompts me to advise all anglers who might have heard of this fish and are willing to come to Argentina for fish for Dorado on a fly to ask two basic questions when requesting information from hotels, fishing lodges, or outfitters: Is this a fly-fishing area? Are your guides proficient in fly-fishing? We found, to our dismay, that in our case both answers were honest but negative.

And it was really a pity because the area is a beautiful one, the lodge was good, well managed and the pricing was reasonable, the boats were safe and comfortable, and the guides were very friendly and showed a good knowledge of the river and the fish. They were professional but they had never seen a fly-angler before.

A map of the areas mentioned
in the article: location of Itá Ibaté
in the Corrientes Province (shaded
in brown); Buenos Aires, capital
city of Argentina; and Bariloche
City in Patagonia
(shaded in green)
The fact is that we flew 2200 km (nearly 1400 miles) from Bariloche in Patagonia to a riverside town called Itá Ibaté in the North-eastern Argentine province of Corrientes, which borders Paraguay and Brasil, in the subtropical region of Argentina. It lies on the left bank of river Paraná, a giant whose basin covers about 1,600,000 sq. km (620,000 sq. miles) in the three countries.

The river Paraná, in the vicinity of Itá Ibaté is about 3 km (2 miles) wide and 10 to 12 metres (30-40 feet) deep. It holds huge Dorado, with cock fish up to 80-90 cm long weighting 6-8 kg; and hens that grow larger, up to 20 kg.

The usual ways of catching them are bait fishing and deep trolling with huge Rapala-like lures with two treble hooks. This can be poor sport and boring for fly fishermen but it must have some hidden appeal because there were 40 to 50 boats trolling that section of the river each and every day we were there. Perhaps it is the prospect of hooking one of these big creatures.

During our three-day stay we caught about one fish per angler per day on average which is good for local standards. The largest one I got was a 75 cm cock (about 6 kg) and one of my boat companions hooked an impressive 16 kg female.

Anyhow some of our uncompromising friends decided to wade the banks of smaller tributaries and cast their streamers.

The water was warm and inviting; the stream thermometer gave me a reading of 24° C (76° F). Such a difference with the usual 10-15° C (50-60° F) of Patagonian waters! But after a couple of hours all they had got were some half-hearted chases and no bites at all.

 With the guide riding a boat
towards the fishing area. It is
not a lake, it is River Paraná.
Dorado - Salminus maxillosus to give it its zoological name - is a superb fresh water fish, native of the Paraná River basin, which Argentina shares with Brasil and Paraguay. It also lives in other north-eastern rivers and in the Iberá Marshes, a large stillwater area in the Corrientes province.

It belongs to the family Characidae, sub-family Salmininae, somehow related to Salmonidae the family of trout and salmon.

It is not surprising that it has some traits in common with them that are of interest for us anglers: they are all-muscle fish; they are carnivorous, hence they chase and attack bait fish imitations; they jump when hooked; and they fight fiercely until they throw the hook or they are landed.

Dorado means literally Golden, or Golden Fish in this case; the name comes from its sulphur-hued sides, with a dark back and whitish belly. The tail and lateral and ventral fins are orange or reddish while the dorsal and adipose fins are darker. It has a double row of sharp, pointed teeth that can easily cut a nylon monofilament line and make you keep your fingers away from his strong jaws when unhooking and releasing it. Its strength is impressive. When hooked it leaps out of the water several times, in a rainbow trout style, and starts a series of runs that strip the line off the reel and bend the rod.

Fly tackle fit for Dorado are 6 to 9# rods and lines, depending on the area you are fishing. I use a 4-piece 9' 8" 9# Red Start Redington myself, with 8# floating and sinking lines, leaders and tippets not smaller than 0X (10 lb test) or stronger hand-tied ones with a nylon coated steel wire section of 10 to 20 lb test to protect the monofilament tippet from the teeth of the Dorado.

My 75 cm, 6 kg
dorado. I was amused though
not very proud of having hooked
it with a lure.
It is a carnivorous fish so bucktail streamers imitating smaller fish are favoured. Large ones, like those used for salt-water fishing such as the Deceiver and Hi-Ti do a very good job. Deceiver-Andino is a modified Deceiver with a muddler-like head that improves its performance in fast waters.

It was devised by Carlos Ingrassia, an Argentine fly-fishing guide, and first used on the River Carcarañá by the town of Andino. These flies are tied in dark colours with a bright stripe on large hooks such as Mustad 3406, 3407 or 3366 on sizes 2/0 and 3/0. Smaller Dorado also take Matukas and Wooly Buggers. Foreign anglers often bring their Tarpon flies, and they work very well.

There are other areas of Argentina were fly-angling for Dorado is more common and professional fly fishing guides having a very good knowledge of the trade are to be found. A good example would be the Iberá Marshes, reputedly the largest body of fresh water in the world, two and a half times the size of the Florida Everglades in the US, and also a good place for wildlife watching.

The largest catch of the
weekend, by my friend Nico.
This fish stripped most of the
more than 150-metre line
out of his reel.
The sizes, in these places, are not as large, but who wants them! The takes are always wild and it might not be possible to stop a 10 kg Dorado with regular fresh-water gear, though catches of over 7 kg on a fly have been recorded.

All in all, although we missed casting a fly and - at times - were bored sitting on a boat we were satisfied with the experience. It taught us - perhaps the hard way - not to be naïve or conceited: not everybody shares our passion for fly fishing. It is not the only way of fishing and we must respect people who do not think like us.
It has also revived our determination to go back to the realms of Dorado. But next time we shall be pretty sure that our destination is a fly-fishing one.

You can contact Eduardo Marino at: e_a_marino@yahoo.com.ar In his next article, one a series, Eduardo will be writing about some of the many wonderful rivers and lakes for fly fishing for brown trout in Argentina.

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