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Golden Dorado “River Tiger”
For my second week in Argentina, I was hosted by Vittorio Botta from Golden Flyfishing. He picked me up from the Resistencia airport and we drove two and half hours to the town of Mercedes in the province of Corrientes, in northern Argentina. There we were joined by our guide Tulio, for the final hour drive to Ibera lodge. I wasn’t sure what to expect, we seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, but when we turned off the dirt road and arrived, I was amazed at the beautiful five star quality lodge in front of us.

We were greeted by the chef with a thirst quenching freshly squeezed orange juice. I was shown to my room to freshen up before being treated to a wonderful dinner, complete with a fantastic bottle of Argentina red wine.

We started our first day of fishing at 5:30. Excited to get on the water, I purchased a two day fishing license $100.00p from Tulio while Vittorio organized my gear, then we were off into the Ibera wetlands.

In 1983, an area of about 13,000 km was established as a Provincial Nature Reserve by the Government of the Province of Corrientes, the reserve is the largest protected area in Argentina. The Ibera wetlands are formed by a network of streams, marshes, lagoons and swamps. The area has a rich and varied animal population like caiman, capybara due to its particular geography and difficult access.

 With our gear loaded onto a flat-style skiff we headed down the channel. It took us an hour to travel the 14km to the reach the fishing ground. The time flew by as I enjoyed watching the crocodiles basting on the shore or sliding into the water. The capybara, the largest rodent in the world just sat there and watched as we passed by.

Tulio maneuvered the skiff through the floating grass islands till we reached the main channel. Vittorio set up my 8-weight rod, with a Rio saltwater WF #8 floating line with an intermediate sink tip, an eight- foot 20-pound test leader followed by a foot of 20-pound stainless steel leader. Using a loop knot on the stainless steel leader next to fly and loop knot to attach the mono leader. He tied on a 5-inch weighted red and black Lefty’s Deceiver which I had tied in Canada. The casting was difficult, the flies were heavy, requiring an accurate double haul. The key was to cast three inches off the shore line and then strip fast, if you miss the hit, don’t stop stripping, continue right to the boat and immediately cast again. Trying to find my rhythm, I made a number of casts, I was working pretty hard to hook up my first fish. The temperature was in the 30 degree range and I had to remember take time to drink lots of water. After three hours of hard core fishing, we stopped at a hut on the shore to enjoy a lunch of sandwiches, boiled eggs and Argentina patties. After lunch I took the opportunity to practice my casting standing in the warm water.

The practice paid off, back out on the open water, with my first cast I hooked my first ever Golden Dorado an 8-pound beauty. My next fish exploded the surface when it hit, it did three massive jumps then spit the hook. It looked to be about a15-pounds Dorado.

This is what I had traveled here to fish:
Freshwater dorado or… Salminus maxillosus, often described as a prehistoric salmon with the jaws of a pit bull, the definition seems pretty accurate to me. Dorado are golden in color, marked with holographic black horizontal stripes, and have a powerful set of jaws and razor sharp teeth reminiscent of a dog, they hit- hard, are incredibly-strong, acrobatic fighters, strong swimmers, and are prodigious fighter. They typically range in size from 5 to 10- pounds. As soon as you set the hook, these wild leapers explode out of the water. Once fooled with a fly, their arm-wrenching strike is a testament to their aggressiveness and ferocity. This patterning, coupled with their powerful jaws has earned the Dorado the sobriquet “River Tiger” in Argentina.

I’d found my rhythm. My next fish took me right into the backing, and then just as quickly was gone, I hooked two more, lost them both. I was covering the water casting and stripping fast, when my fly stopped moving and a huge Dorado broke out of the water, the fight was on. He jumped, ran, jumped again, taking my fly line into the backing, I’d gained some back only to quickly lose it again, he kept jumping until he finally started to tire and I was able to bring him to the boat, a beautiful 20-pound Golden Dorado.

We took a few quick photos then released him to fight another day. After the release of my big fish we celebrated with a cold drink, Tulio had brought cold ice tea flavored mate, served in a metal cup with a big chuck of ice. It was delicious and sure helped to replenish my fluid levels as the temperature was now closer to 35.

Sadly it was time to make the16km up river trip back to the lodge, it took us a full two hours. What a ride more than once Tulio had to get out of the boat and push it around floating grass islands to change its direction so we could proceed.

We were met back at the lodge with tall cool mango shakes. Followed by another fabulous dinner and an early night, I was beat and looking forward to tomorrow’s adventure.
A hearty breakfast at 5:30am, then off to the same fishing grounds as the previous day. I started hooking Dorados straight away, the smallest was about three pounds the largest about 8-pounds. I felt like I had found my groove. We had a great morning, at 11:30 we headed back to the lodge for lunch and a rest out of the mid day heat. At 3:30 back on the river for an evening fish. I hooked a small barracuda, and then on my next cast a big “River Tiger” he devoured my red and black deceiver and headed straight for a small floating grass island, my fly line went under the island with the Dorado on the other side. Tulio maneuvered the skiff, Vittorio hanging over the side of the skiff, worked the fly line till he freed it from the island and I landed a 12-pounder.

A few more cast with no luck, another day done. There were mint and apple smoothies waiting for us on the deck back at the lodge. Dinner was an Argentina traditional barbecue, words alone can’t possibly describe well enough to do the food justice, it was plentiful, varied and everything was spectacular.

The following morning we left for Golden Flyfishing Lodge in Paso de las Patria, Corrientes, home of brothers, Vittorio and Vicente Botta . The lodge, with a capacity for 10 guests, is a rural colonial style house, 5 minutes from the Rio Parana , with fully appointed air conditioned rooms, and (in suite) private bathrooms.

Vicente was to be my guide for this leg of my journey. We launched his 17-foot North Carolina boat and headed out into the High Rio Parana, the second largest river in South America. I was told about the “Grand Slam” opportunities on this river for, Golden Dorado, Pira Pita and Pacu.

Using my Saltwater WF 8F/I from Rio with a black deceiver fly I hooked my first fish a Pira Pita -Parana Salmon, a good start. Next up I hit two Dorado’s and lost them both, I changed flies to a orange and black deceiver and successfully landed my first Golden Dorado, weighting in at four-pounds. Next cast yielded another fish about the same size. By now, the fly was destroyed by their sharp teeth and I switched to a red and black deceiver.

Vicente instructed me to cast near a rock about 10m from the shore. I cast, striped fast, then the fly rod was near ripped out of my hands, then the jump, “did you see that” I cried out to Vicente, that’s a monster”. It was into my backing in a blink of an eye, I started reeling trying to gain line, and then it shot off into the sky flashing those golden scales. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, that fish had to be 25-pound plus and it was acting like a 4-pounder. It was a tug of war for 15-minutes till I got it closer and it darted under the boat, and held there, I couldn’t move it. Vicente slowly angled the boat and I was able to ease the fish to the side. Vicente put on his glove to tail it, and as soon as the fish felt his touch, it raced away. It was determined not to give up, I brought it back once again and this time Vicente was able to grab it by the wrist. We took some clutch and grin photos, and gently released it into the calm waters. Vicente figured that Dorado would weigh-in around 24 to 25-pounds, one of the bigger fish in the Rio Parana.

We took a brief time out for a swim, and a cold drink of mate-flavored with lemon, as we relived my catch. Rested and refreshed I was right back fishing and spent the next couple of hours hooking Dorado, at 11:30 we headed in for lunch and a rest out of the heat of the day. At 3:45 we headed back out and I hooked six fish, the largest was about six pounds. Another amazing day spent, we headed back to the lodge at 9:00 to a great three course dinner and early to bed, 5 am wake up calls come quickly.

Early on the water, and what a great morning I brought eight fish to the boat in no time, I lost count of the number I hooked and lost after that... I would hook a fish then we’d enjoy some cold mate, then I cast again, what a great way to fish. I was starting to run out of flies, of the 24, weighed deceivers I had tied at home, I was down to two.

We ended our morning fish with a swim then back to dock at 1:00. Vicente headed off to take the boat out, a truly a sad time for me as my Argentina adventure had come to an end.

This trip was like living a dream, everyday was better than the day before, I’m grateful to everyone involved in making this one of my most spectacular fishing vacations of all time.
Thank you…. I will share my memories for years to come, I do hope to return one day.

Esteros del Ibera, Corrientes,
Tel: 54 0379 44230228

Paso de las Patria, Corrientes,
Tel: 54 362 4656746
Cel: 54 362 4769014

Huxley’s Run: 

One of the reasons I don’t fish with bronze or brass Gibbs 8 spoons is the polishing involved.

I know it seems lazy. Even so, some of those spoons look so fishy I can’t resist. And then mutter and curse while I shine and polish them later.

Enter my friend Weanus. Weanus is a would-be Tyee rower and someday will undoubtedly aspire to the same levels of unsuccess as the rest of us. I let him use my rowboat and gear at times because that is what old anglers are supposed to do.

I also wish I could impart to him the careful care of gear that my old guys imparted to me. But, alas, I am as weak-willed there as I am in polishing spoons.

Weanus happened to eye a Gibbs 8 Brass Improved in my secondary spoon drawer. He held it up to the light, turned it reverently in his hands and then asked, “Can I row this some time?”

At first I was irritated, but only for the youthful exuberance he had that I didn’t. Of course he should row that spoon. Of course I should row that spoon. And as I took it from his hands I was even more irritated — again at myself — because it had not been properly polished before being put away.

Right then I realized I was setting a sorry example to young Weanus. And right then I decided to right the wrong.
“You’ve got a good eye there Weanus,” I said encouragingly. “You know a good spoon when you see one. Come with me.”

I proceeded to grab the cloth and the Peek polishing cream and set the spoon out between us. I must say there was a strange look in Weanus’s eye when he saw the cloth and the Peek tube. Probably wonder at the old man’s knowledge, I thought.

I showed him how to dab the cream on and begin working it in with the cloth.

“Start with the knob end,” I said. “Then work it in slowly with your thumbs. Run it all the way down to the smaller end.”

And I started to show him what I meant. As I cooed over the brightening metal I noticed that strange look in his eyes again. I was really impressing him. But was he learning anything by just watching? No, I didn’t think so. I handed him the spoon and the cloth and said, “now you do it.”

He actually jumped back a step, he was obviously surprised by the honour I was bestowing upon him. So surprised that he wouldn’t take the spoon or the cloth.

I told him not to be shy, that it would be all right. He was still standoffish. Then I dropped the bomb. “If you don’t polish it, you don’t get to fish it,” I said.

In those few seconds some strange, mysterious conundrum held him in place, eyes widening and then squinting as he thought through it. Finally he reached out, took the spoon and cream and ran off to his house. “I’ll polish it at home and bring it back,” he said.

“But you forgot the cloth!” I yelled after him. He just kept walking, quickly.

He was back in half an hour. He had donned cloth gloves and was just finishing his polishing as he came into my driveway. He held the spoon out proudly. I looked at it closely and saw black lines still on the polished surface.

“You almost have it,” I said. “Now you have to finish it off with this cloth.”

“No,” he said. “I’ll use the gloves.”

I told him the gloves were covered with residue and they wouldn’t work. On the other hand, I said, my cloth still had untouched areas that would provide a good rubbing. He refused. I became forceful, “Do it the proper way Weanus, or don’t do it at all,” and handed the cloth out right under his chin.

He recoiled, moved away and said, “I can’t do it,” and he walked home.

Perplexed, I tossed the cloth onto the shelf. Only then did I see its true nature. It was a black material and the cream residue had left white stains all over it. The cloth was spattered from the bottom, right up to the waistband that had Standfields stamped on it.




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