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I recently saw a television program on fishing for “golden dorado” on the Parana River near Corrientes, Argentina. What turned me on about this opportunity was the terrific fighting ability of these fish. At about the same time, my friend Kay Mitsuyoshi of Fishabout (*) visited the Parana River to get a feel for this type of fly fishing. After listening to Mitsuyoshi’s report I decided to give this trip a try.
The trip started with an overnight in Buenos Aires. The next morning I caught an early commuter flight to Goya, about 350 miles north, where I was met by Carlos Scheller and his wife Sylvia. They were my hosts for the entire visit. Their English is limited, as is my Spanish; but we had no major problems communicating.
Carlos, who was also my guide, specializes in fly fishing not only for dorado, but also for several other species of game fish that live in this huge watershed. The dorado native to this watershed (Salminus maxilosus) do not migrate to saltwater and are not related to the saltwater dorado (dolphin fish or mahi mahi). The Parana dorado are among the strongest and most acrobatic of all fresh water species. They have a distinctive golden color, a mouth rimmed with very sharp teeth and a unique tail with a reddish black spot. Dorado often attack each others’ tails, and many fish you catch show signs of this cannibalistic behavior.
Scheller is extremely knowledgeable about fishing areas. The Parana is a fast moving river with an average width of more than a mile. The river has formed countless braids that vary in width down to a few feet wide. The water tends to be quite discolored, which means you have to blind cast except when the fish are feeding close enough to the surface to reveal themselves. Fortunately, when you do cast to a presenting fish, it usually strikes immediately and viciously.
I was completely ignorant about these fish when I started out, so I had to learn as I went along. Each evening I tied new flies based on the experiences of that day. Ultimately, in six and a half days of fishing, I caught 51 dorado. My largest dorado weighed 26 pounds. I took it on the fifth day of my trip. I also took a 22 pounder on my last day.
My tackle system included a #7 Loomis IMX 9 1/2 foot four piece travel rod, a loop graphite reel, a #8 shooting taper Wet Cell IV, a shooting line, backing and a three foot leader with a short shock tippet of 18 pound wire. I tied my fly patterns on a Mustad #3407 size 3/0 or 4/0. My flies were basically large burr or muddler heads with a long, full flaring bucktail body topped with peacock herl or grizzly tail. I also used lots of pearl flashabout or crystal flash. The best colors were green, black or white bucktail with a black or white muddler head. Their overall length was 3 1/2 to five inches. When fishing in heavy current, using small to medium sized lead eyes was very effective.
Most of the fishing here takes place from a boat. Scheller uses a 16 foot aluminum open boat powered by a Johnson 35 horsepower outboard motor. He lays a large piece of net on the floor and over the motor and stern to prevent the fly line from becoming entangled. He uses a grappling type of anchor on a long rope to position the boat effectively to work a run or seam.
Weather conditions were excellent during my stay. Scheller says March through May and August through October are the best times for this type of fishing. The typical fishing day begins at 8:30 a.m. and continues until about 6:30 p.m. Scheller can provide different types of lunches depending on your wishes. You can have anything from an excellent full fledged “asada” barbecue with all the trimmings (takes about two hours) down to a simple meal of sandwiches, fruit, local wines and/or soft drinks.
The cost for 6 1/2 days of fishing, all meals and lodging (double occupancy) in Goya was $2,450. Airfare and meals and accommodations in Buenos Aires were extra. Bob Grayson.