When we talk about Fly Fishing in Argentina, the first images that usually come to our minds are the giant Sea Trout from the Rio Grande, the massive Rainbows of Jurassic Lake, or even Golden Dorado on the Paraná River. These fisheries are famous throughout the world, but surprisingly, Argentina has even more to offer to fly anglers: fly fishing for Argentine Flounder in shallow coastal environments! These saltwater fish grow big down here and I bet that the world record Flounder has probably already been caught in Argentina sometime in the last few years.
There are fly fishermen spread across Argentina, but some places lack Trout or Dorado because of their geography and water characteristics. One example is the Buenos Aires coastline. These flat and vast lowlands include the confluence of endless numbers of rivers, streams, and wetlands with the Atlantic Ocean. These rivers form huge lagoon-shaped estuaries, a perfect environment to sustain high concentrations of bait and their predators. Flounder, commonly known here as ”Lenguado,” thrive in this ecosystem. We can find fourteen varieties and one of these can be found feeding in extremely shallow water.
Curious to learn more, we began trying to research these fish, their habitat, and how to target them on the fly. During this process, we met Ceferino Traverso, the undisputed pioneer of Flounder fly fishing in Argentina. He has been generous with his time and information. We’ve been lucky to have had long talks with him trying to understand how he started targetting these facinating fish and what he has learned about catching them on the fly. We hope you enjoy this interview with our friend Cerferino. After talking to him, we are really looking forward to hooking one of these Southern Flounders soon!!
Flounder on the Fly in Argentina – Talking with Ceferino Traverso
-Tell us a little about yourself, where were you born and raised, what is your profession and where did this passion begin?
My name is Ceferino Traverso, often known by my nickname Chapa. I was born in the Oriente province of Buenos Aires and I grew up in the countryside near the sea. That was my playground and where I learned all that I know about fishing. I went to high school in my hometown and afterward, I moved to Tandil where I attended college and years later graduated as a Veterinarian.
-When was the first time you picked up a fly rod? Could you describe your first experience targeting Flounder on the Fly?
I spent my whole life fishing with bait and lures, but after so many years I felt that I needed a new challenge.
One day by chance, I discovered Fly fishing which marked a turning point for me as a fisherman. It was back in 1999 while I was fishing for Trout with a friend. He was Fly Fishing and I was Baitcasting. As it often happens, he lost a fly on his back cast and I was lucky enough to find it minutes later. I tried to give it back to him but he insisted that I should keep it. That led me to ask him if I could try to cast for a while – until then, I had only tried casting few times – and I liked it big time!! My first impression was: “why is this lure so difficult to cast and why is my shoulder so sore after few minutes of casting?’’
My first real experience was with a spinning rod and using a small weight to be able to cast the fly. Soon after, I learned how to cast properly and that’s where the story begins …
For Flounder, the biggest challenge at the beginning was to find the right tackle. Keep in mind there was no substantial information about fly fishing for Flounder then. There was no internet in my town or fly shops in the nearby cities. I looked for information in books or anywhere where I could find internet connection but I didn’t have any luck. I only had a sinking line and no clue about which fly could work. It was kind of frustrating but I just decided to experiment with what I had and to tie flies with any material that I could get in my area. Eventually, I started catching my first Flounders and it became addictive!
-Which is the variety of flounder that you target? What kind of environments are you fishing for Flounders?
There are many varieties of Flounder in Argentina, about fourteen, of which some are coastal and others are from the high seas. Luckily, the largest variety is the Paralichthys orbignyanus which can weigh up to 12 kilos. They are found in shallow places such as river mouths, inside streams, brackish marshes, and lagoons.
My favorite environment to target these fish is in shallow waters, especially those where the visibility is good. Rivers and lagoons near the Ocean are the best. I look for structures such as small depressions in the sand or mud, channel edges, or rocky mounds. That’s where Flounder hold waiting for bait to come by.
I mainly fish for them in my home river, the Rio Quequen Salado, which holds resident fish all year round and receives some migratory ones too. Most of the action is either near the river mouth or in the river itself, sometimes even a few kilometers upstream. Near the Ocean, there is a lagoon and it is like fishing on an endless sand flat about one to three feet deep. When the tide is too high then I like to move upstream. The rivers are fun and variated with small runs and pools and mainly rocky bottoms. The best season is late summer when the big ones come. Then I go a bit further south to what I consider the best areas, Mar Chiquita lagoon, and its renowned outlet, or San Blas Bay which has endless kilometers of coastline to fish.
-How do Flounder behave depending on Tides and Moon phases?
The behavior of Flounder varies depending on where we fish. We need to have in mind that tides control the bait movements and this determines where the Flounder will be. I try to be fishing when the tide is in its last two hours of descent and the beginning of the rise. Flounder are often found on the bottom waiting to ambush any prey that goes by. These predators use visual cues for food detection, responding primarily to moving prey, and feed mainly on active rather than sedentary prey.
Regarding the lunar phases, in my opinion, I haven’t seen much change in behavior. Flounders are always located where the food comes by and when that happens they always tend to react. In fact, I have fished for them in a totally unfavorable moon phase with very good results.
-What do Flounder eat?
They will feed on what it finds the most in its habitat. They have a varied diet, including crabs, shrimp, prawns, squid, and any fish they can swallow. Here the Silverside is its preferred prey because it is the most abundant fish in this entire marine coastline.
-What are the rods, lines, and flies that you choose for Flounder.
We must take into account the winds in the area and the size of the fish. My preferred setup is a 6 weight rod matched with a floating line and six to eight-foot leaders. Depending on the location, tide, current, or depth, I make many variations such as changing the leader to 10 feet intermediate poly-leader or even a type 3 sink, but not heavier than that.
Regarding the flies, we try not to complicate it too much. We have to know what prey is available at the time and location we are fishing and try to imitate those sizes, silhouettes, and colors. When there is not much activity, I try to irritate them with flashy flies like the chartreuse, red and pink Oriental fly pattern, which is a kind of string leech tied with craft fur.
– Would you describe a typical day of fishing for Flounder and how big are they generally?
A typical day of fishing depends on the place and the time of year, generally. There are times that we can fish all day and sometimes it is only for a couple of hours since they quickly change location as the bait moves with the tide. The size of the catches has been decreasing as the years went by, as have the quantities. Nowadays it’s normal to catch fish from two to eight pounds. Although there are always larger ones in the groups and these can reach up to twenty pounds.
– Which is your favorite place to search them?
It’s difficult to name a favorite place, but since knowing my home waters so well I would say this is my favorite spot. Mar Chiquita marine lagoon and San Blas Bay are dream places with endless miles of coastline which would take several days to fish.
-What is the biggest Flounder you have caught? tell us a little about that day.
My all-time record flounder was 27 pounds but I have caught several between 17 and 22 pounds. The day I caught my record fish I invited a group of friends to fish my favorite spot. I saw Flounders in several places and I caught plenty of good-sized fish the previous day. But, as it often happens, I had to say to my friends, ‘’you should have been here yesterday’’ cause nothing was going on while they were fishing! By end of the day, in the distance, I saw a Flounder chasing a group of small mullet. I went there right away, made a few casts, and a big one took the fly! It was a beautiful specimen of 12 kilos that ended up marked and safely released. I’ll never forget it!
-What do you think is the current state of conservation of the Flounder on the Argentine coast ? What can we do to improve it?
The state of conservation of the flounder is deteriorating as the years go by. Their reputation for having tasty meat plays against them, and unfortunately, very few fishermen practice catch-and-release. This is even worse if they are big, because as we know, it is imperative to return those instead of the smallest fish. Regarding catch and release, I can assure everyone that Flounder have a great survival rate after release. I have been tagging them for more than five years and recaptured several of them in different years.
-Which other coastal species have you targeted on the fly?
You can Fly fish, I would say almost all species. The most common is to hook silverside and weakfish from shore. Others that are not so common to find are Corvina, anchovy, palometa, grouper, shark, stick fish, and catfish.