DE
ESQUINA, PROV. CORRIENTES, ARGENTINA, FEBRUARY 2013

Once again, the last week on the Rio Grande was incredibly beautiful, the fishing there is just extraordinary. In addition, I was lucky with the weather – as in all my travels. You can get used to finding clear rivers and optimum water level… // Actually, it is a risk to change the fishing spot after such a successful week and to fish a completely different famous species, the Golden Dorado. It’s a shame that my friend Georg couldn’t come with us. He was trying to get a flight, but it did not work out. His decision came just too late.

Argentina is an impressive country considering the expansion and landscape. At the Rio Grande, I experienced a cold week, wearing winter clothing and freezing. // Now I fly to the north of Argentina, to the province of Esquina/Corrientes and there it will be up to 35°C and subtropical climate. Accordingly, I have a lot of luggage this time. Georg took home a part of it, which makes the trip for me far more pleasant.

JOURNEY & ARRIVAL

At the airport in Rio Grande there are problems. For some strange reason my luggage cannot be checked in through to Residencia, and all this with only one hour transit time in Buenos Aires. All discussions don’t help me; I am angry, because I already suspect that it will not work out.

And so it happens. In Buenos Aires, I am waiting for an hour at the carousel. The connecting flight is gone of course. I hope that the flight to Residencia is delayed, like so many flights in Argentina, unfortunately this does not happen.

After a long back and forth I rent a taxi for the ten hours’ drive north, for a whopping 400 USD, rather than waiting for a flight the next day. At midnight, I arrive in Esquina. Augusto, the owner of the Estancia La Pelada picks me up, and we drive a further half hour to the Lodge. It is midnight and still very warm and humid and the insects are active, less mosquitoes but otherwise everything that is crawling and flying. // We discuss how my first fishing day will begin, then after the gruelling journey I just want to go to bed. I'm totally done.

The lodge is very tastefully decorated in colonial style and is in an idyllic location right on the Rio Corrientes. The food is excellent. Augusto is a very nice, interesting guy and fulfils his customers' every wish. We are always together at the table, and so I find out a lot about Argentina and have great entertainment. Who wants to fish at Corrientes or Paraná on Dorados, is best housed in the Estancia la Pelada, with its 5,000 acres of land and over 5,000 cattle.

3.02.2013

At breakfast at 7 a.m., I meet our guide Nacho. He can barely speak English, so I speak a little Italian, and we cope just fine. Our boat is perfectly equipped and is located at the boat landing directly below the Lodge. 115 HP engine and an electric motor with sufficient space, remote control to keep the boat from drifting. Very professional. Nacho checks my equipment and my selfmade giant flies. He explains the fishing to me, we assemble a rod and then we go.

My plan is to fish in the Corrientes the first two or three days and then the Delta and the Rio Paranã. The Paranã and the Delta are currently not really fishable: The water colour is a pale chocolate brown and highly segmented. That doesn't sound ideal. I have read in my travel preparations that the Paranã is known for particularly large dorados, and this is why I really want to go there.

The water is not very clear at the Corrientes, but it turns out that for this time of the year it is still fine. Up to 50 cm is visible, not much more. The water colour is light brown but not necessarily segmented. We drive about two kilometres upstream and stop.

The fishing tactics remains more or less always the same. We usually fish from the boat. Nacho keeps the boat at about 15-20 meters distance parallel to the shore, and we drift with the current. I cast close to the steeply sloping banks; 10 cm are ideal. We are looking for places where the water has movement and flow. Dorados love the flow and are happy where there are many obstacles in the moving water.

The bite is 90 % in a fraction of a second after the fly lands with a splash. I fish partly with 20 cm flies, they make the right noise. The dorados are at the bottom of the drop-off, the splash triggers the attack. You have to be prepared straight away for a line strip, best two, three times. Everything happens really fast. // The most impressive thing about fishing for dorados is definitely the bite. The attack and the bite are fast and brutal. At least every second fish you lose in the first few seconds. The mouth of a dorado is rock hard. I have flies with Tiemco 600SP and Owner AKI Saltwater hooks in size 2/0 to 5/0

A good start: after the fifth cast, the first attack! The bite I more or less missed, because it came so quickly after the splash and I was not prepared for a hard hook strip. Five minutes later, I cast into a quiet inlet of the river and my guide laughs. Where the water stands and is barely a current, the piranhas stand. Yes, and so I start with a piranha which destroys my fly completely. Very interesting: One does not see the razor-sharp teeth of the piranhas at first; they are hidden.

Then finally my first dorado. Cast, land with a splash and attack! By the first strip strike, the fish is pulling with brute force through my fingers – through a burn, I learn my lesson. Be careful, or wear finger strips. // On this day, I catch six more Golden Dorados, but only up to 2.5 kilos, so rather Doradillos. // The evening return journey leads our boat at sunset by hundreds of birds. All kinds of migratory birds make rest in this area in large swarms. A breathtaking play of nature.

4.02.2013

After breakfast at 6 a.m. we start upstream. Not a good day: I have many bites, but cannot utilize them. But one will have to resign himself to it probably with dorado fishing. Five Dorados and a few piranhas, that’s all. Besides, it is extremely hot and almost calm. In the evening, I am slightly sunburnt.

5.02.2013

My plan, to fish the Paraná or the Delta, makes little sense. The guide is continuously in contact with his colleagues in Esquino, assessing the fishing prospects as very low. Better we stay at the Corrientes. The waters of the Paraná has become even worse, it is not really fishable. A disappointment, I would have loved it – now it has got me with even with sub-optimal water conditions. // In the morning we go downstream and turn into a side arm. In the middle of the river a tree trunk extends from the water: this is a top place. Nacho steers the boat in position; I manage a great cast to the best location, and immediately I have a huge attack.

I can set the hook, and the dorado jumps out of the water. Pure adrenaline rush! It is a great fish with ten kilos, and I feel from the play the strength of the fish. I swear when the fish comes off the hook after several jumps. Briefly, I am disappointed because I could not score this opportunity; but it is in my nature that I don’t give up and straight away catch fire. I am totally motivated to try it again.

In the morning, I finally catch five Golden Dorados and in the evening another six. The fish have between one and a half and five kilos. We go back to the Lodge, and I experience another stunning sunset.

6.02.2013

As the day begins, I have a good feeling. Nacho jokes and says, today, we will catch a 20 kilo dorado. We continue downstream and begin at a location that we have fished once before. // In the first 30 minutes, I have six attacks. It’s hit after hit – but I can only land two small ones. An exceptional start to the day. Then all of a sudden, it’s finished, we have no bites at the next places. Two small Doradillos, which is all that I have caught this morning.

In the afternoon we head further downstream, to a place where it looks promising. // Suddenly I have a huge strike. And once again the fish pulls so strongly that I lightly burn my finger. I felt the force, I have powerful pressure on the rod – and then the fish is gone!

100 Metres below this point, the same game again. This time however, the dorado hangs firmly on the hook and jumps out of the water several times. A huge fish, with perhaps 15 kilos, as Nacho says. After three, four minutes play, I am confident to land the fish, he seems to be well hooked and is slowly getting tired. Once again, I'm stuck almost in the boat engine, then I get out and go on shore. I land the fish myself with the hand! Great, I finally have a real Golden! He is about 90 cm long and approximately 12 kilos.

7.02.2013

A visit at the Lodge: Oskar Dono, together with Justi owner of the fishing travel organization FLY FISHING PATAGONIA. I have booked this trip and several before it with this agency. // Oskar lives in Buenos Aires and Bariloche. He takes care of the fishing operations in Argentina and organized hunting in Esquina. Justi is American and brings American fisherman to Patagonia.

We fish together and have great fun. Since Justi is on board, nothing more happens. In the morning, we catch only three Dorados together. Perhaps we blather too much or the boat is shaking too much, and we scare the fish away with loud laughter. //So far, I have seen no Caymans on the River, even though there are many. In the side arms of the river and in the lagoons, they should be found. Augustin proposes to make a small safari during the lunch break. Awesome! Caymans, capiwaras, antelopes, emus and many, many birds, also colibris, come in front of the lens. A brilliant idea, especially in the company of Augustin.

In the evening, we go downstream and catch two dorados. We then drive approximately two hours to the Delta and the Paranã. The Delta is 200 kilometres long and 40 kilometres wide. There the abundance of fish is enormous: dorados, sabalos, palometas, piranhas, surubi (a kind of catfish) and pacu, to name the most important, live there.

I can fish in the side arms because there the water quality is still satisfactory. However, piranhas and palometas dismantle the flies after the row.// Where the Corrientes and the Paranã merge, I see with my own eyes that the Paranã is not currently fishable. It comes from Brazil and is approximately 2,000 kilometres long. Impressively broad and gigantic.

I say good-bye to guide Nacho, who did his job very well. We had a lot of laughs. He will remain with the boat in Esquina.

8.02.2013

Today's my last day of fishing with Oskar Dono. In the afternoon is my return flight; still a few hours. The new boat is also not optimal, because it has no electric motor. Augustin brings the new boat to the water and we say our goodbyes with “Buena Suerte! Oskar knows the river well. First, we continue upstream and fish a known place. There I immediately have a bite, but I cannot exploit.

Then we go to a place where we go ashore. Oskar shows me a few places, where you can cast well from the shore. Looks great, and we do not understand why we have no bite. Then there is a cast opportunity, in direction to a sunken tree. I am somehow familiar, I remember the dorado that I lost. The place looks pretty damn similar.

First cast, successful, one metre drift and Bingo! I have again a great Golden on the hook. Straight away we see the dorado jump, and we see that it is a great fish. After six, seven minutes with the help of Oskar, I land a dorado with approximately nine kilograms and 85 cm in length.

So lucky, and on the last day! It is eleven o'clock, and I decide to finish up. I cannot top this fish. I want to pack in peace and prepare myself for the return journey. A great week here at the La Pelada Lodge is about to end.

ALL IMAGES FROM THIS TRIP