by: Daniel Beilinson
When I visited the region last November I wasn´t able to draw any definite conclusion about fishing the Dorado river due to the lack of time, so this trip was very important to get to know the real possibilities and potential of the river.
The Dorado river rises in the Jujuy mountains (Yungas) and flows over 150 km in a west-easterly direction until it pours its waters in Bermejito river (the old course of the Bermejo river). Dorado river crosses the property where I stayed and feeds on brooks, springs and thermal springs. The river bed consists of sand and gravel. Its clear and green waters meander among the mountains forming a number of riffles and pools, just like a typical mountain river, also easy to wade. The vegetation around it is very dense: Guayacan, Walnut trees, Palo Blanco, Quebracho, Cebil, Carob trees, hawthorns, bushes, ferns and other sub-tropical species. It rarely rains during the winter season, running from May through November, but it may rain over 1500 mm from December to March. In the morning the temperature is quite low but it increases by midday. Summer is very hot and wet.
The trip from Salta to the lodge took three hours. We arrived at 7 pm while it was getting dark. The man in charge and his son were waiting for us, so we arranged the details of our stay and fishing outings for the next days. Located in a slope, the house was plain but comfortable, white painted and with slate roof. It had a a sitting-room with a fireplace, dining-room, kitchen, three bedrooms, one bathroom (another one is about to be built) and an outdoor gallery, great to have some drinks at sunset, while listening to the sounds of the mountain. They get water from the streams heated with a log fire.
After a big breakfast the following morning, Juan, Baltasar and I set out on our journey by horse through a path that was kept open by machetes (during the rainy season the rainforest invades it very quickly), until we got to an area with access to the river. The trip was supposed to take one hour; however, we took 3 hours because there were some fallen trees on the way and the soil was so eroded that we had to turn off the main path.
What was really fascinating was the mixture of scents coming from the rainforest, the different kinds of trees with lianas tangled in the branches and trunks, orchid and other parasite plants, and the sound of birds and the buzzing of insects. There were tapir footprints all over.
We got to the river by mid-morning. It was sunny and the sky was clear. I prepared my SAGE RPLxi #8 with floating line and I picked a weighted black-and-yellow fly with a muddler head. We started to look for riffles, riffle tails, pools and other spots where dorados are usually found. Over 20 minutes had gone by without any hookups until we got to a riffle where two dorados rose but didn´t take the fly. I changed the fly but they didn´t take it either. We tried different places, wading from one side of the river to the other until I got my first hookup in the confluence of a brook with Dorado river. Then a second one hooked and I caught my first dorado. It weighed about 4 pounds; it was healthy and its tail was strong orange and black. After other hookups and two fish like the one described above, it was Juan´s turn. It was the first time he had ever flyfished so I helped him a little bit. After a few casts he got a spectacular hookup: a gorgeous 8-pounder dorado. We kept trying many pools and riffles that yielded good results and caught fish that were similar to the ones described. Baltasar hooked a big-sized dorado, which looked like Juan´s, but couldn´t manage to catch it.
At five in the afternoon we decided to go back, having covered about 2000 metres of coast. The return was faster; we took a bit more than two hours to get back. It was getting dark; we took a relaxing hot bath, had dinner and organized our next fishing day by the fireplace, enjoying some drinks.
We left at 8 in the morning on Sunday and took the same path we had taken the day before. We had planned to walk 14 km downstream to get to the "bebedero" (where there is another path to take us from the house to the river). It was a sunny day without wind. We got there by mid-morning and at 11 we were walking downstream with the three horses behind us. We made some attempts in the first riffle of the day before, but without success. We kept walking along the river, surrounded by a dreamlike beautiful landscape. We were carrying rucksacks with our lunch, the never-forgotten camera and other things. The horses followed our steps docilely. By noon I had already tried every possible spot. The dorados seemed to have vanished in the air, until they started to grab our flies in a riffle tail. Suddenly they started to take the flies one after the other and they were very active. When they felt the hook they fought wildly trying to free themselves and their leaps helped many of them escape. Anyway, I managed to catch 4 fish weighing between 4 and 6 pounds. We headed for another riffle where the hookups and catches continued. We had already got over 10 dorados and the same number of hookups.
Juan managed to catch a 12-pounder in a riffle where we had already caught 5 dorados, but unfortunately it cut the leader. It was about six o´clock and we had covered a vast section of the river. We had also lost track of the number of dorados that had charged our flies.
At about 7 pm we were in a section of the bank of the river that was too deep to cross or wade. Juan started to follow cattle footprints. We walked and walked, always leading our horses, until Juan finally recognized the "bebedero". We felt relieved because it was getting dark and crossing the river was very dangerous, even though we had our flashlights with us. Juan looked for a less deep path to cross the river and was able to do it without any problems, but Baltasar and I stepped on weedy rocks that made us lose balance and fall to the river. We were soaked to the skin, but luckily the horses kept calm (surely because they were exhausted). We were able to get up and get to the shore safe and sound.
After a two-hour ride, having traveled over 14 km along the river, we finally got home. It was 10 at night.
As soon as we finished taking a hot bath, and without losing our good mood, we recalled the adventures we had lived during our fishing day.
Summing up, I can positively assure that Dorado river is ideal for dorado flyfishing. There are many dorados and most catches weighed 4 pounds minimum. We also caught fish weighing between 8 and 10 pounds. A tackle #5 or 6 would be perfect to enjoy this fishing even more. Most dorados were fished with floating lines, but the biggest ones were caught with sinking line.
The water of the river is clear and wading is easy. I found the trip original, different, very funny and exciting; it turned out to be a real adventure. Traveling along the river was a tough task and other anglers will surely take advantage of it. The result of my experience was very positive, both from the human and the sporting point of view, because I was also able to enjoy the nature of the wonderful rainforest of Salta, which still remains wild and unexplored.
Salta, May 6th.