Thursday, February 23, 2012

Uruguay Freshwater Dorado (Fishing in The Zone)

A few weeks ago, I got the chance to travel south to Uruguay to fish for freshwater dorado in THE place to catch them; in the Uruguay River, right below Salto Grande dam known as "La Zona". It is a government controlled area, with fishing only allowed my permission. One permit is issued from the Argentinians and one from the Uruguayan side. The outfitter I went with, River Plate Anglers, holds one of the permits.

Freshwater dorado are native to northern Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and southern Brazil. While there are some spots that produce good numbers of fish, there are few healthy populations of the fish left. One major exception is La Zona.

These fish have heads just like a salty king salmon, thick bodies and forked tails made for swimming fast. And teeth, muy grande teeth. Once hooked, the smaller fish go nuts (by smaller I'm talking fish to 20 lbs). They somersault out of the water. They make long runs. They jump some more. They dive into rocks. More jumping.

According to their permit, an angler can fish four days per week, seven hours a day. This didn't seem like a lot to me. Patrick Brown, the manager of the operation, assured me that four days in La Zona was plenty of time. My flights were delayed and I missed my flight to South America, leaving me with only three days fishing time. I wasn’t happy about this, but it turned out Patrick was right. The fishing is intense. After three days I had a sore arm and a lot of memories.

Most of my fishing was done with a sinking line and big streamer patterns. Casting them out and stripping them back in. During each fishing session, I would cast poppers near the shore and around large rocks. This was about as much fun as you can have with a fly rod. The takes were explosive. One large dorado came out of the water and took the fly on the way back down. Many times the water would erupt around the fly as soon as it landed, leaving me scrambling to set the hook. I’m not big on whooping and hollering while fishing, but I couldn’t help myself. It’s that fun.

This fish capped off a 30+ fish day. Great sunset, beautiful fish, and one of the best fishing days of my life.

Patrick Brown and my guide, Sebastian, holding my biggest of the trip. 32 lbs. of Dorado takes a lot of pulling. Sebastian did an excellent job keeping the boat over the fish and told me to take my time. Half an hour later he impressed me by tailing the fish bare handed. It's big fish like this that make La Zona the place for Dorado.

If your interested in going, contact myself or at