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Articles: Pescando en el paraiso

by: Mario Capovía Del Cet

Background information on fly fishing in the Northeast

Almost thirty years have gone by since Jorge Donovan, "Mono" Villa and Diego Guglielmi got together to foster dorado fly fishing in the Province of Salta. Rivers such as Bermejo, Tarija, Lipeo and Pescado not well-known at that time- started to receive groups of flyfishermen exclusively for the first time.

The films they shot (silent Super 8 films) still take your breath away when Billy Pate catches his 30-pound record dorado on the fly in a Patagonia-like river (this record was broken just a couple of years ago), or Bill Barnes, the owner of Casamar famous tarpon fishing lodge in Costa Rica- displaying dorados weighing over 20 pounds.

An almost inexistent market of flyfishermen, the long distance, the lack of facilities in the area, the instability of these fluvial systems-because they remain clear for a short time (from July to October), which is the dry season in Bolivia-, the risk of rain in the neighbor country turning the Bermejo inevitably turbid, led the organizers to give up the project.

I have suggested organizing a trip to those latitudes many times, but I have always got negative answers: the heat, the insects, the 2000-km distance, the lack of information, etc. So we´ve always ended up heading south to the Patagonia.

Dorado fishing has been historically related to trolling and bait fishing in the Mesopotamia. Only a few of us practised spinning and even less people, fly fishing.

Present situation

Thanks to the growing promotion of fly fishing, many curious anglers have started to investigate and confirm the amazing dorado fly fishing potential in the Northeast of Argentina. Unfortunately this area has always been subject to predation, pollution, the cutting down of trees, and even fishing using dynamite in rivers and springs where dorados usually spawn. The projection of just a fraction of the province economy, based on sport fishing, might make the local authorities open their eyes to the true importance of protecting these spectacular locations.

Dorado River

After thirty years my dream came true when my friend Daniel Beilinson invited me to fish Dorado river, in the province of Salta, where he opened a fishing lodge three months ago.

Only fly fishing is allowed in this river and catch and release is compulsory. It is also recommended to avoid the use of the hook barb. Less fish are hurt in this way and good fishing is assured for an indefinite time.

Only one area can be reached by car; the rest is accessible through paths and by horse. The fear I felt for this " I have ridden a horse only once in the past thirty years " vanished away with the tameness of the gentle animals and the comfortable saddle. The journey to get to the different stretches takes from one to two hours. These horseback trips are an experience themselves, riding among beautiful flora and with chances of spotting toucans, parrots, magpies, charatas and a wide variety of endemic birds.

Dorado River is amazing. If it weren’t for the temperature and the dense subtropical vegetation, you would think you are in the south. The water is very clear and the river-bed is small at this time of the year, with high beige hillocks or reddish soil defining the color of the sandbanks downstream. These sandbanks hold schools of sabalos and some breams, that come and go when they notice our presence. They are also found in the rocks, eating the plants adhered to their surface. Sometimes we might be surprised at a loud splash just at our feet when they don´t notice us until they are a couple of metres away. It is a real aquarium.


As temperatures are usually high and deep wading is not necessary, waders have proved to be useless here. The best is to wear light weight pants. Light weight long sleeved shirts will protect you from insects, such as gnats and mosquitoes don´t forget insect repellent- and from the sun. I suggest you wear socks to protect your ankles. As you will be constantly walking on rocks, it´s better to bring rubber soled shoes. They don´t need to be nonslipping because the rocks are not so smooth; I personally wore tennis shoes.

Also, a wide brimmed hat to protect neck and ears and polarized sunglasses to let you enjoy the presence of fish in such pristine waters even more.

Fishing equipment

Fishing the Dorado requires a much lighter weight equipment than the one used in Paraná river, where the current, the size of the fish and the depth demand tackles for line #7 or #8 and large weighted flies.

Tackle for line #5 or #6 and floating line with a leader of no longer than 1.80 meters, what makes fishing much more exciting. The flies should be in hooks 1/0 and 2/0 (always with the steel wire), with or without muddler head; olive, yellow, brown and black with red, green, orange and some shine.

The fish

This river holds "impeccable" dorados due to the absence of piranhas. In addition to this, the continuous current they are exposed to makes them a fighting species. The average size ranges from two to six pounds and they fight as dynamite if we use light weight equipment. An over-10 pounder surpised me when casting a fly four meters away. Without giving time for a second thought it bowed the rod and the cut was instantaneous. Leaving my disappointment behind, I learnt that this river might be waiting to give us a great surprise at the other end of the rod any time.

The fishing

It is the same as in any river in Patagonia: casting in front of and behind the rocks, in deep-watered riffles and the edges of the sandbanks. Wading is not complicated because the shore can be trodden on all along the river (except for the hillock bank) and the stony soil allows casting easily.
One word of caution: the water is so clear that we have to be very careful when we get close to the shore and fish from a distance, as fish might spot us easily. This is not a river to catch a lot of fish; a good angler might land from three to ten dorados a day, with some chases and rejections (it´s great to see the dorado darting towards the fly and then turn back without attacking), unsuccessful hookups and fish that let go of the hook after some leaps.

Apart from the fishing results, walking along the banks of Dorado river justifies the trip. Its sandy shores are full of footprints of different animals like tapir, peccary, guazuncho. The flats hold thousands of tadpoles and aquatic birds start getting ready to fly just a hundred meters away from us, before we can get a closer look.

If you really appreciate wild landscapes and you travel there some day, you will realize that the images you get there will remain in your memory for good and the wish to go back the following season will always be in your heart.

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