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While the golden dorado has long been admired in Argentina, until recently it was almost completely unknown to the outside world. Only within the last decade or so have dorado become recognized as one of the world’s most exciting and prized freshwater game fish. A unique species that defies categorization, the dorado is rather like a supernatural hybrid between a turbo-charged bass and a trout on steroids, with powerful jaws and rows of razor-sharp teeth to feed its voracious appetite. Combine these characteristics with its propensity for acrobatic leaps, savage takes, and brilliant gold-plated scales, and it’s easy to see why Larry Dahlberg dubbed the dorado, “the world’s toughest game fish.”
The dorado of Argentina is often confused with the more widely known saltwater dorado (a.k.a. dolphin fish or mahi mahi), though the two species share nothing in common aside from their namesake (dorado means golden in Spanish). And despite having Salminus in its name and sharing a similar body shape, the golden dorado (Salminus maxillosus) is not related to any species of salmonid. Ranging anywhere from 2 to 40+ pounds, dorado are THE top-level predator in their domain and feed largely on the sabalo baitfish. The most common technique when targeting them is to cast large, noisy flies with aggressive strip retrieves. Much like a trout, they prefer structure such as logs, rocks, current seams, or overhanging vegetation from where they can ambush prey. Their takes are terribly violent, followed immediately by a series of jumps that leave most fishermen with their mouths hanging down to their chins.
Dorado are endemic to the Rio de la Plata watershed, which drains a massive basin covering nearly 1/5 of the South American Continent, including central Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, parts of Bolivia and northern Argentina. Tributaries such as the ParanÃ¡, Uruguay, and Corrientes rivers are the primary destinations for visiting fishermen, just to name a few. The climate is subtropical and in many places supports exotic wildlife such as capybara, caiman, water buffalo and hundreds of exotic bird species of all shapes and sizes. This bio diversity extends below the water as well. In addition to dorado, you’ll likely be catching other native species such as pacu (an incredible game fish in its own right), piranhas, pira pita, tararira and surubi, among others.
Unlike much of Patagonia, where do-it-yourself fishing is a distinct, if not always easy, possibility, those wishing to target Dorado will need the services of an outfitter. Large, ominous rivers or labyrinthine canals and marshlands demand the use of a powerboat and an experienced guide to navigate you onto fish. This is simply a fact of life, though it is well worth the expense. On the plus side, most Dorado destinations are much closer to Buenos Aires than Patagonia is, which cuts down on travel time & expense.
Some of the more popular destinations include the Esteros de Ibera¡, which is a sublime expanse of virgin wetlands roughly twice the size of the Florida Everglades, the Corrientes river delta where it meets the Rio Parana, the Rio Uruguay below Salto Grande Dam, and the Parana river near Yahape and Goya.
The Upside: a completely unique experience; amazing scenery; exotic and powerful fish.
The Downside: no DIY opportunities, hot, tropical weather
What to Bring: fast action 7-9 weight rods, floating lines, steel leaders, BIG streamers
When to go: The dorado fishing season is nearly year-round, though local fluctuations are highly pronounced due to changing water conditions and fish migrations. Be sure to plan ahead and get knowledgeable advice so that you choose the right destination given your timing.
Primary nearby towns: Esquina, Goya, Corrientes, Concordia, Mercedes
Regardless of which fishing destination you choose, or how the catching is when you actually get there, fly fishing in Argentina is truly a one-of-a-kind adventure. Although it is certainly an exotic and remote destination, it is also much closer and more convenient than you might think. Consider, for example, that the distance between Miami and Buenos Aires is less than the distance between Miami and Anchorage. Direct flights to Argentina from the US average around 10 hours, while those to New Zealand are roughly twice that long. Finally, Argentina is only one hour ahead of our Eastern Time Zone, which significantly reduces “jet lag” and leaves more time for fishing. And this is to say nothing of the incredible hospitality of the Argentine people, which combined with an abundance of modern amenities and the popularity of the English language, will help smooth the transition for less-experienced travelers. So if you have ever dreamt of fishing Argentina but were discouraged by logistics or any number of unknowns, the fly fishing trip of a lifetime is closer and more feasible than it may seem. With so many appealing characteristics, the hardest part of fishing Argentina is simply deciding where to begin….See you there.