Scientific name: Salminus brasiliensis (Cuvier, 1816)
Other common names: Dorado, pirayù (Argentina and Paraguay), Dorado, casare (Bolivia), dourado, piraju (Brazil), golden dorado, freshwater dorado (US).
Ecology: This fish belongs to Salminus genus which has only 4 exclusive species in South America. Brasiliensis is the southermost species. Its name comes from the Latin word salmon, which means “salmon” and its diminutive inus.
It is a migratory and slow growth fish. It is not sexually dimorphic but there are differences regarding life span expectation and maximum size. While males hardly ever weigh more than 8 kg (7 to 9 years old), females can be 25 or 30 kg (and 25 years old) Such samples are extremely scarce due overfishing and environment degradation. This is a very fertile species. Females are able to deposit up to 2 million of eggs.
The dorado is the most representative fish of River Plate basin (the Paraná, the Uruguay and the Paraguay Rivers and all their tributaries). The only other places where such fish can be found are Dos Patos lagoon (Brazil) and the upper basin of the Chapare and Mamoré Rivers (the Bolivian Amazon).
This fish is strong and muscular and has a strong bony head that is one quarter of its length. As a result, this fish has a tremendous bite. Its disctintive features are its golden livery, which is more intense in transparent waters; the thin black streaks on its scales and its vermillion fins. This is one of the most emblematic species in the world due to its beauty and recognition on sport fishing.
Tsimane is a natural sanctuary that offers great quality dorados. Besides, its number in such place is larger than one has ever seen. The average weight is 4 to 7 kg. There are high chances of catching 9 or 10 kg fish in the best beats. Samples that weigh from 11 to 13 kg bite almost every week. The biggest fish caught on a fly rod in Tsimane was 17 kg. The worldwide record is 24.95 kg. Said fish was caught on a fly rod in Zona Lodge (an Untamed Angling operation).
A surprising fact from dorados is their great perception of the environment and how they use the whole water column, including the lowest and quietest parts as well as the deeper and faster ones.
It is basically a piscivorous fish species (sábalos, bogas –South American species of ray-finned fish—and catfish), but it does not refuse eating any other beats it may reach. Big insects and any type of small vertebrates such as rodents, snakes, lizards, frogs or birds were found in dorados’ stomach. This place, where the number of small and jungle rivers increases (more dependent on land ecosystems) encourages to carry out unbeatable floating fly fishing activities.
Fishing Strategies: It is believed that dorados are easy to catch due to their aggressiveness when they are fighting. However, reality shows something different and fishing in Tsimane’s crystal clear waters, where anything can be seen, proves that.
The dorado has a extremely complex behaivour due to its life-style: longevous and migratory. Besides, it lives under high evolutionary pressure in an environment where there is wide geographical and biological diversity. It is a cyclothymic Dr Jekeyll and Mr. Hyde that can be either a savage murderer or an extremely careful and timid fish. This hunter is as efficient alone as in schools. A global experienced angler, hardened by different fresh and salad water settings, will notice that the dorado itself has the personality of many other fish species. Depending on its mood this fish will remind anglers of a jack crevale which is patrolling shallow waters; a salmon – when it is relaxed in open waters-; a snook (linked to a log structure) or directly of peacock bass or sharks when they start feeding frenzies. To interpret such reality without prejudices is the best way to catch this fascinating game fish.
Dorados can be approached in different ways depending on their mood, the weather conditions and the river structure. When we fish in open water freestones, the techniques implemented are very similar to the ones used to catch the Atlantic salmon or large brown trouts in some of the famous Patagonian “mouths”. Long casts, a detailed grid map of the river and good control of the angles and mending are required. In fact, bites are alike; although they are 5 times more violent. In this place it is recommended trying out different stripping speeds even using dead drift streamer .
Sight casting prevails in pocket waters in rugged mountain rivers. Here fishing is done presenting the streamer almost as a nymph, which in such a short trajectory must be sunk quickly until the nose of the fish is brushed. At that momento, a fast strip or a change in direction triggers attack.
When there are fallen trees structures, dorados shelter inside them and use same as a station to hunt. The fish loses all interest in open water and we must place the fly at some centimeters from the logs, risking the hook in each cast. Here weedless models either made of nylon (0.80 mm) or thin steel wire are welcome. This way of fishing, which combines distance, presentation and precision with big flies, is extremely exciting and demanding. Once the fish is hooked, it is necessary to have solid equipment, the brakes tightend up and to handle many tecniques so as to avoid getting tangled.
Fishing dorados in low waters and when they are patrolling or hunting is exgtremely similar to fishing flats in salt water, where everything is 100% connected with sight. At this point the key is to be synchronized with the fish’s biorythm: casting it in a delicate and exact way when it is “waiting” or “patrolling” and in a fast and aggressive way when the attack is catalysed with the sabalo school. The angler that is able to interpret dorado’s body language and acts accordingly will have most of the battle won.
Rod: No. 7, 8 or 9 of 9 feet. Rod number 7 is ideal for small pools; number 8 is commonly used and number 9 is needed when there are large samples and log structures. In order to avoid carrying heavy load and debilitating oneself during the day, it is advisable to carry out a medium/fast or fast action instead of the current extra fast models.
Reel, backing and line: Solid reel with disk brakes and a capacity of 100 yards of 30 pound backing. The recommended line is a WF-F tropical core, saltwater/bonefish/redfish taper that allows anglers to carry out delicate presentations as well as distance casting. If it is 1 size bigger than the rod, short casts with less false casts will be allowed. Same is essential in feeding frenzies. Sinking lines or intermediate tips are necessary in deep pool or when dorados go aground due to a cold front.
Leader: 5 to 8 feet for floating lines and 4 to 6 feet for sinking lines. Tippet varies between 30 and 40 pounds. The former is used for general purposes and the latter to fish big dorados in regions where there are logs sunk.
Shock wire: 30 o 40 pounds. In order to work out the minimum length, mouth width must be considered and 25% more must be added to that measure. The output varies between 20 and 35 cm. A loop knot is suggested to get more mobility and depth of the fly. We recommend 49 strand flexible wire in camo color.
Flies: Fishing is done mainly with streamers. The basic model is the deceiver type streamer with mudller head. Its length, loading of material, color and brightness depend mainly on the type of water. For sight casting in transparent waters it is advisable to use feather flies that are more delicate and have certain imitation features, no bright, low loading of material and are between 4 and 5 inch long (number 1/0 to 3/0). Flies from 5 to 6 inch (number 2/0 to 4/0) with more loading of material and brighter are used in prospecting productive waters or in less transparent ones. In specific places, 6-7 inch patterns cause the attack of very big samples .
The most effective colors are black in brigh tones such as orange, red, purple or yellow. In crystal clear waters and on very sunny days, gray models or grizzly with peacock back and 3D eyes work very well. Although in particular moments delicate models with feather wings (strung saddle or ostrich) are recommended, when fishing is carried out in bit cloudy waters or in feeding frenzies, synthetic longer lasting and more resistant materials to bites are recommended.
However, not everything depends on the streamer use. Tsimane waters suggest a unique setting for surface fishing. Using aggressive flies such as Slider Titanic, Foam Poppers or Pole Dancer produces spectacular bites when dorados are very active (high temperature) or density increases rivalry. Other flies that work very well are mouse or lizard imitations such as the Ututu of big Gurglers ones.
If we turn up lonely or relaxing dorados, in eddies, slow waters or pockets, it is likely that they rise eagerly the big foam dry flies (Chernobyl Ant type) which are similar to the ones that are used for yatorana or pirapitinga. In this case, the taking can be extremely delicate to the extent they remind us of a selective trout rise in a Pennsylvania limestone. There is no doubt that such scene will be remembered for ever and ever.