I am just about recovering from the long journey back from Argentina, after a remarkable fly fishing trip. Two good friends of mine, Ricky and Peter, had made the long journey to the Salto Grande dam last year, and I was thrilled by their tales of great battles with golden dorados. One side of the river is Uruguay, and it was based from a hotel there that my pals fished. That operation, for reasons unknown has been discontinued, at least for the moment, so arrangements had been made by our friends at Sportquest for Ryan and I to stay across the river at La Zona Lodge on Argentine soil. One way or another I just had to fish there!
The flight to Buenos Aeries from the UK is a thirteen-hour stint, only to be followed by a rather bumpy six-hour bus ride, and it was two fatigued and drowsy fishermen who eventually arrived at the lodge. The bad news was that the river was two metres up on what was expected at this time of year, and of course very coloured. I am not naturally pessimistic, but when I saw the muddy water, I just couldn’t imagine how the fish would be able to see the fly. Alexandro and Franco, our guides, assured us that we would catch fish, however, so who was I to doubt it? At least we would give it our best shot!
We had taken advice from Pete and Ricky to take hefty lure outfits, in case conditions demanded it, but both Ryan and myself are desperately keen fly fishers, and were determined to at least start with fly tackle.
From the mouth of the little creek where the boats are moored, the dam looks modest in size, but as we sped towards it we soon appreciated how awesomely enormous it really is! At one thousand, four hundred metres in length and a height of about one hundred and forty feet, it truly is intimidating, especially as many millions of cubic metres of water per second are racing through the huge sluices, and tossing the boat about angrily at times. Alex cut the motor with the call of “Right Amigos – let’s cast!”
Out went the beautiful 6” flies (kindly tied for us by Ricky), on 350 grain Airflo “Depthfinder “ lines, the order of the day being to allow a few seconds’ sinking time followed by slow strips back to the boat. Bear in mind that while this is happening the boat is careering downstream at probably 8 or 9 mph – it took a bit of getting used to – but I was thrilled when third cast I had a savage pull and found myself attached to my first ever golden dorado.
Ryan hooked one almost simultaneously, but his one came off unfortunately. After a good fight my fish was boated, and at seven pounds (above) turned out to be the smallest fish I was to catch during the four days! Perhaps I should point out at this stage that only four anglers in two boats are allowed to fish four days a week in La Zona / The Zone, and this rule is strictly enforced by the police, who are ever present. We even had to produce our passports before we could start fishing!!
By lunchtime the score was five fish, the other four – mostly nice doubles – all being caught by Ryan. By now our confidence levels were rising substantially, and after a terrific lunch we resumed operations, catching another 13 fish, of which I was lucky enough to get a 20 and a beautiful 26-pounder! Wow – how wrong could I have been?! We ended the day on a real high and, after a magnificent ribeye steak and a couple of bottles of local Malbec, we were glowing!
The following day we were really getting into the swing, although it was our leanest day for numbers at 16. Having said that I had fish of 18, 20, 22, 28, 30 and 32 pounds – totally astonishing sport! We were also broken twice each, both of mine and one of Ryan’s breaking at the titanium wire traces, which I had found great for pike. They certainly were not man enough for these powerful and savage takers, so we reverted to traces of 46lb American Fishing Wire, as advised by Alexandro. After that we had no further trouble.
It was slightly embarrassing that I seemed to be having all the luck with the big ones. Ryan is a good fisher and lovely caster, we were using identical lines, outfits and flies, and we were catching fish for fish, but all the biggies seemed to be coming my way. His luck changed, however, on the third day when the water had dropped quite a bit, some of the rocks starting to show above the surface. After an epic battle, a magnificent fish of 44lbs (below) was eventually lifted expertly into the boat by Alexandro… What a beauty!
We had 26 fish that day, me catching lovely specimens of 22, 24, 30 and 42 pounds! Two 40s on fly in one day is, we were told, very unusual… and I can believe it! I’m pleased to say all the fish were released and can report that the guides take real care of the fish, not least through a comprehensive tagging programme.
The job was a ‘good ‘un’ now and we felt couldn’t be hurt, but our final day proved once more to be quite epic. We caught a further 22 fish, of which Ryan caught the majority but, again unbelievably, not one over the magic 20lbs mark. Old ‘Golden Bollocks’ here, although not catching as many, couldn’t go wrong with the biggies, with five 20s and a 34. There’s just no accounting for it, but that’s fishing!
So, 82 fish averaging perhaps 18 or 19lbs in four days of fly fishing. It has to be up there as some of the best fishing in the world, and we floated back to England on air… But only after an outstanding steak in Buenos Aeries, a couple of bottles of Malbec and a Cuban cigar on the balcony. Life surely doesn’t get much better?!!
I have to say that, if anyone is thinking about following in our footsteps, the organisation by Sportquest was fabulous. What’s more my ten-weight TiCr2 TFO fly rod and Orvis Mirage Reel proved to be a delightful combination and a perfect for the job, although both being tested to the absolute limit, I’m sure. If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer when I can.
All the best and tight lines,
Mike – a VERY happy angler.