Among the species that swim in Argentinean waters, golden dorado is by far my favorite. His whimsical humor, beauty and a growing misunderstanding about his behavior are very appealing. It is a fish able to trigger a feeding frenzy like no other, a fish that could take a small fly delicately. A rival smart enough to choose the best way to deal with obstacles and break off violently, leaving you stunned.
I hadn’t fished in Santiago del Estero for more than 15 years. I had memories of huge wolf fish from Rio Hondo reservoir and their vicious strikes on poppers. By then, we were quite disappointed about the lack of adequate guides. On top of that, the pollution of its feeding rivers from Tucumán turned quite unpleasant to fish there.
The stretch of river downstream of Los Quiroga dam is fabulous; the river runs wearily over a sand bottom, only interrupted by structures such as logs and tree branches that become good holding places for this golden predator. Along with my friend Marcelo Mihura we made a short trip.
During the first evening, wading upstream of the bridge, we had a couple of takes as we watched thousands of sabalos around us. Dorados were feasting on them. We tried deceivers of every size and color, Andino-type and craft fur without success.
That night we easy knew the next day we would fish with Mario Santillan, a professional fly fishing guide.
We floated the stretch of river between Sumamao and Pirucha. My chosen gear was composed by a SAGE Xi2 690-4 rod, a Lamson Litespeed 2 reel, and a Mastery WF-F Saltwater #7 with an 8’ leader made of Maxima Chameleon ended in 27 pound Sevenstrand wire. The leader-cable set was nearly invisible in the water.
Throughout the morning it was overcast, which helped us to better carry environmental temps over 40 degrees Celsius. Dorados were taking the fly as it landed. In this respect, casting from the raft gave us a clear advantage over wading. From the top of our casting platforms we could change the casting angle, bringing the cast back higher and making the fly literally hit the water. Marcelo tried small deceivers while I lean preferably chain eyed flies. Black and orange combination made a clear difference over others. In the afternoon, the sun came out and everything turned a bit slow, until the last hour when the river came alive one more time and we had one strike after another. More than 20 goldens left us very happy.
On the third day we floated with Carlos Oleiro and Diego Buzzurro from Achala Experience. During the morning we had to work hard to land some fish. After a couple of hours without notice, on Diego’s recommendation I switched to a large fly with deer head and lead eyes. In less than 10 minutes it gave me two dorados. Was it worth denying a little on the pitch?
We stopped for lunch in the shade soon after crossing a sandy beach under Saharan temperatures. Table with tablecloth, plates, cups and cutlery preceded a fine lunch with starter, main course and dessert. I particularly appreciated the cold beers that mitigated the heat a little. Small details that put together make a great difference.
Water temperature was 37 degrees Celsius when we tried to refresh ourselves. Yet, leaving, contact with the air gave a good sense of coolness. Quick-drying clothes with UPF helped a lot. I prefer high-temperature wide-brimmed hats with quick-drying fabric that can dampen or straw Panama type hats, very cool. Factor 50 sunscreen will prevent undesirable sunburns.
While it is true that golden dorado feeds regardless of water temperature, most of my best memories are linked to high temperatures. But to what extent the heat favors? This time the water never lowered 29 degrees. However, when the sun was present with greater intensity the dorados disappeared, hunting sporadically within tree branches, deep in structures not accessible to our flies.
In the afternoon the wind began to blow, bringing a storm down. The sudden change in air pressure turned on the dorados. The average size significantly improved, the strikes were better if we let fly the fly to swim deeply before bringing it back at full speed when it to got close to holding structures. I had an important rise but the trophy rejected the fly and never showed up again.
At one point we saw Marcelo was fighting something important downstream. We hurried to get to witness the scene and take out some photos. After a few minutes of dizziness Carlos could grab the tail and pulled the fish for pictures. That fish will never be forgotten, but certainly repeated.
Please practice Catch & Release