Putting some ur­gency into my bucket list paid div­i­dends re­cently in South Amer­ica. Nice to know there are still some fish that can make me jump...

Trout Fisherman (UK) - - Contents - Peter Cock­will: Tackle shop owner, fish­ery man­ager, guide and Trout Fish­er­man con­trib­u­tor of 35 years

Start mak­ing up your ’bucket list’ be­cause life’s too short not to

I’M sure you saw the re­cent fea­ture by Dave Lewis which de­scribed his ad­ven­ture to South Amer­ica and fish­ing for the ex­otic golden dorado ( TF is­sue 502). It was a timely read for me, as it co­in­cided with my re­turn from roughly the same area, and like him, I thor­oughly en­joyed the trip. Yet de­spite or­gan­is­ing trips for 28 years, I never had much in­ter­est in this par­tic­u­lar fish. Fi­nally, it hit me that I was be­hav­ing like too many peo­ple I talk to, and keep­ing too many things per­ma­nently on the ‘back burner’. It was the loss of a friend, who had talked ad­ven­ture with­out ever go­ing on one, which made me ac­tively plan a new ex­pe­ri­ence. The out­come saw my wife and I mak­ing the long-haul flight down to Ar­gentina in October, for a few days in bustling Buenos Aires, be­fore head­ing north to the Parana re­gion, which is a truly vast water­way. It’s hard to com­pre­hend the sheer size of this fas­ci­nat­ing marsh­land area, which has a wa­ter flow ex­ceed­ing the com­bined rivers of Europe, and is home to a be­wil­der­ing va­ri­ety of birdlife. The trip in­volved a meet­ing of old friends and the chance for us all to try a whole new ap­proach to fish­ing hol­i­days. Over the decades we had each fished from var­i­ous lodges and com­fort­able tented camps, through to more ba­sic out­post camps, and some of us had re­ally roughed it with pup tents in ex­treme wilder­nesses, but this was al­to­gether dif­fer­ent.

The mother ship

It took the ge­nius of Lu­ciano and Roberto Alba to over­see the con­ver­sion of a large boat into a float­ing ho­tel/lodge which can move around the com­plex wa­ter­ways of the Parana to wher­ever is fish­ing best. This fa­ther/son com­bi­na­tion op­er­ate the hugely suc­cess­ful La­guna Verde lodge on lake Stro­bel in south­ern Ar­gentina and their lat­est ven­ture is sheer ge­nius. The boat proved to be so com­fort­able, with su­perb din­ing, that any mis­giv­ings I might have had about tak­ing my wife along, were very quickly dis­pelled. This lovely lady is well ac­cus­tomed to be­ing a fly-fisher’s wife and has many times been to Alaska with me, so this style of hol­i­day proved to be a win­ner and we now have yet an­other fab­u­lous mem­ory. But what of the fish­ing? Well, I have to say that dorado are pos­si­bly the most ag­gres­sive fresh­wa­ter species I have ever fished for. They don’t ‘take’ a fly, they attack it! They will gang to­gether and am­bush their prey or launch un­ex­pected as­saults while lurk­ing near cover. Search­ing for those con­cealed in­di­vid­u­als de­mands ac­cu­rate cast­ing into the bank or around snags, with bulky, weighted flies which then need a strip re­trieve. When the attack comes you have to strip-strike in­stantly and then re­peat: all this to set the hook into a mouth of teeth and steel, which you must hope won’t re­ject the hook dur­ing the se­ries of ex­plo­sive jumps that you are about to wit­ness. It’s ex­cit­ing, de­mand­ing and very dif­fer­ent. Would I do it again? Em­phat­i­cally yes. I loved the re­mote­ness, the com­pany, the luxury of the ‘mother ship’ and above it all – the fish them­selves.

Hooked fish get at­tacked!

Dorado are pretty, they are tough and they come in all sizes from a pound to 20lb. I didn’t per­son­ally net any­thing over 5lb but then it was un­sea­son­ably cool and windy: at least that’s my ex­cuse. How­ever, there were fish to 8lb caught and much bet­ter tro­phies are there for the tak­ing. As if you didn’t have enough on your plate as a hooked dorado, chances are you will also have to con­tend with your big­ger rel­a­tives, who think it’s per­fectly fair to bite chunks out of a strug­gling fish. We all like full-tailed, full-finned catches but in this con­text, it’s a bonus one learns to trea­sure even more than usual. Their main prey species – the sa­bal­ito – can get to about 7lb but it must be a fraught ex­is­tence for them, never know­ing when you are next go­ing to be at­tacked. Apart from this tooth­less, bait­fish species, ev­ery­thing else seems to have teeth, and more ter­ri­fy­ing than oth­ers. I’m sure there will be more species to come on my next trip, but I did en­joy fish­ing for the traira, or wolf fish. This tough preda­tor likes to be sta­tion­ary in slack wa­ter ar­eas and am­bush any­thing un­wary, whether it’s a bait­fish, a frog, a baby duck or just any­thing ed­i­ble. It was fun to cruise the guide boat into a shal­low, weedy back­wa­ter and smack a float­ing, popper onto the weeds and then twitch it back. My good­ness the take was so sud­den that I lit­er­ally jumped. Then, a bit of a thrash, and this toothy wolf fish was ready to pho­to­graph. Okay, it wasn’t too clever to drop it in the boat next to my wife’s feet as she was tak­ing the pic­tures, but I hope that the few days in the Buenos Aires shops were com­pen­sa­tion! I reckon that this ‘mother ship’ style of fish­ing in the Parana is a ma­jor hit, and it’s go­ing to be an­other ‘highly rec­om­mended’ ad­di­tion to my es­corted trips. Eas­ily reached the same day that you land in Buenos Aires, af­ter a road and boat trip, it’s not ridicu­lously ex­pen­sive ei­ther and an 8wt rod is enough, al­though you def­i­nitely need a wire trace and heavy lead­ers, with a se­lec­tion of 4/0 flies. And it re­ally pays to have some cast­ing lessons on how to smack these bulky pat­terns into the struc­ture.

“Well, I have to say that dorado are pos­si­bly the most ag­gres­sive fresh­wa­ter species I have ever fished for. They don’t ‘take’ a fly, they attack it!”

The writer with an Ar­gen­tinian golden dorado.

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