Few Americans have ever heard of the South American Dorado, let alone caught one. These rare trophy fish are distant cousins of salmon and share many traits with large salmon and trout. These inhabitants of warm, freshwater rivers are completely separate and distinct from the more widely known and more famous Dorado found in the oceans of the world. Argentina's Dorado are making their own legendary reputation as a fantastic game fish, and it is well deserved. They punish lures and flies, make acrobatic leaps like a tarpon and challenge anglers with finger-burning runs. The beautiful clear-water mountain rivers of northwest Argentina, in particular in the province of Salta, provide habitat to 15-25 pound adult dorado as they migrate up the rivers to spawn. The juvenile fish from 3-15 pounds reside in the rivers year-round. On an average day, an angler might hook ten to fifteen fish and any fish hooked over five pounds will provide an exciting fight.
Chacu Lodge is the place for anglers visiting Salta area. You will stay either at main lodge or its second operation which is located overlooking the Rio Seco and is additionally very close to both the del Valle and aptly named Dorado Rivers. Within easy reach is also the Juramento River. These rivers flow through the ¨yungas¨ (rain forest) forming large pools where the fighting Dorado, the ¨Tiger of the Rivers¨, is found. This ¨warm water trout¨ lives in crystal clear sand and rock bottom rivers which are often small enough that they are easily waded. Anglers can enjoy fly fishing in the warm water without having to use waders!
For anglers, the main draw in the Salta region is the coveted Freshwater Golden Dorado.
These fish are year around residence, but some of the biggest fish do migrate up and down the rivers depending on the seasons, water levels and abundance of baitfish.
Accordingly, the seasons at Chacu Loade are run from mid-February through May, and then again August through November to match the availability of the largest fish.
Chacu has Patagonia-trained guides and have secured the legal rights to the very productive Dorado, Juramento and del Valle Rivers, all of which are easily accessed from the Chacu's operation.
Fishing is done wading the rivers and with a guide per two fisherman's. Equipment wise, #6 to 8 (and some 9's) weight outfits are considered best options.
At the Juramento River you will fish from inflatable rafts with two anglers and one guide on each. The larger rods, 9-weights, are recommended here due to the impressive potential size of the Dorado, as well as the types of fly lines and the flies required.
Flies are streamers tied on 2/0 to 4/0 hooks from 4" to 8" long. These are cast to the banks and obstructions along the river in search of your dream fish.
Dorado on the Rio Dorado River can range from 4 to 20 pounds. At the Juramento river is entirely possible to hook one of 30 pounds or greater.
Dorado are very voracious and they'll often take the fly the moment it lands in the water. It is a sight to be seen when a truly large Dorado rolls over your fly and eats. This is the moment of truth, the moment that will either put you into the fish of a lifetime or a frustrated attempt. Dorado has very, very hard mouths, much like Tarpon. You must strip strike very hard to penetrate this iron like mouth. Once hooked, hang on. They will typically display their aerial acrobatics and then run for cover, often braking off. Dorado are very strong and powerful fish. The will do everything to brake you off.
Dorado, Seco & del Valle Rivers
The fabled Rio Dorado is born near Parque Nacional el Rey. It is a true spring creek since it's born from springs in the Sierra Cresta del Gallo.
When you arrive to Rio Dorado you'll be amazed at its beauty and your first impression will be that this is the "perfect trout stream" where the water is crystal clear and holds Dorado that average 10 lbs but there are fish up to 20 lbs in many pools. Within these pools and run, there are huge schools of Sabalos (Dorado favorite food) all over the place. And, although vegetarian by nature, these fish sometimes take flies and put a very steady fight.
Since Rio Dorado is a small stream, it is wading only. The lodge takes up to 2 to 6 anglers per week that will share the prime 10 miles of private water. This stretch of water is divided in 7 beats so each client has the opportunity to fish all the different beats during their stay. Each angler will be accompanied by another angler and one guide. Your guide will carry your food, first aid kit, flies and spare rods, but be prepared to be able to your own drinks, spare rod, and accessories.
The Juramento River is located on Salta Province in Argentina's Northwest and it is now known as a world class Golden Dorado (Salminus Maxillosus) fishery below the Cabra Corral dam.
The Juramento is located on the transition zone between the high altitude Andes range (16.000 ft) and the rain forest. It usually flows at a stable 90 m2/s, except during the rainy season (January and February) when it reaches almost 170 m2/s. The water is tea colored but varies from crystal clear (upper reaches) to milky brown on the lower reaches. It also varies depending on the rain.
The weather conditions during prime time are mostly sunny and warm to hot depending on how close to summer your week is scheduled.
As the only certified Outfitters by the Province of Salta, Chacu's clients will float several different reaches depending on several factors that may include water color, spawning season, etc.
Floats average 15 miles per day as there are not many access points to the river.
International travel can be accomplished either by first arriving in Buenos Aires, Argentina or via Santiago, Chile. Both cities have connecting flights to Salta, Argentina. There is also an option to arrive by air to nearby city of San Salvador de JuJuy. Regardless, the lodge representatives will meet your flight and you will be transferred by van or truck to the lodge which is about a one hour's drive.
The fishing, and if you are interested, the dove shooting, is accessed easily from the headquarters of Chacu. The drives to the fishing areas range from 20 minutes to an hour.
If you are a dedicated angler with the single-minded purpose of pursuing dorado, then you will likely wish to base your stay at Chacu's new fishing dedicated facilities, San Fernando. These new accommodations are approximately 40 minutes from Chacu, completely staffed and very nicely appointed.
Chacu Lodge has been named one of the best hunting and fishing lodges in the world. Chacu is set in one of the most spectacular environments surrounded by the best freshwater dorado fishing as well as dove hunting available in the world. The lodge sits in a lovely hillside location on a 12,000 acre private ranch.
The opulent new 20,000 sq. ft lodge, Estancia Chacu, offers nine bedrooms, lovely dining and cocktail areas, shaded patios, gardens, fountains and all of the charm of a European country manor, but with modern comfort and convenience.
A Cordon Blue trained chef will serve the best cuisine dishes. Chacu's main building is complete with sauna, massage room and spa. Salta is the best place to go all year round!! Dining is uniformly terrific, featuring famed Argentine beef, local specialties, game dishes and delightful red wines. A professional massage therapist is available every evening to relax and reinvigorate exhausted limbs and sore shoulders.
Wine enthusiasts will delight in regular wine tastings conducted by a sommelier in the lodge's very own cellar. A carefully selected collection of Argentina's finest wines is accented by an impressive array of wines produced in Salsa's famous wine region, Cafayate
The program for San Fernando is totally new. It is located 40 minutes away from Chacu and is ideally positioned to access the best 40 kilometers of the Rio Dorado river. The really, really hot part is about 20 km and has more than 50 fishable runs and pools holding fish from 5 to 12 kilos (10 to 25 pounds). Here, you will find no poachers or other anglers – actually no people at all. This is a beautiful river, and walking/wading river and stalking/sight fishing is the general method for these fish in the clear water. With that approach in mind, this is a river that those anglers with some experience fly casting Wild and incredible waters.
Guests enjoy ¨asados¨, Argentine barbeques, prepared in the field as well as elegant accommodations at the new Chacu Estancia Lodge.
Chacu Lodge offers an extraordinary variety of activities for the non-angler (or non-hunter) depending on their desires.
Many groups choose to spend a day or two either before or after their lodge stay in the city of Salta, the capital city of the province. Visiting the city of Salta is one of the best choices for great shopping and dining. Salta offers wonderful historical tours from the mummies museum to the Spanish conqueror trails and the Indian market, all in a unique ambiance from the charming city of Salta.
Chacu has moderate impact sports like mountain biking, trekking in the El Rey National Park and the Rio Dorado, Rafting class III, Canopy tours over the Rio Juramento, kayaking in the area's rivers, as well as 4WD tours into the jungle.
Also offered is horseback riding on famous Peruvian or Paso Fino horses, which are unique to this area. The estancia has a fine and well maintained herd of these horses. Everyone can find magnificent companion for the day or the week.
For those who like wine, you are encouraged to go to the wine country area of Salta, Cafayate. You will follow the route of the wine. This is the home of the highland Malbecs, Merlots and the famous Torrontes. The tours include the visits to the most exclusive wineries and boutique wineries.
The area of Cafayate offers also incredible rock and panoramic formations for those who fancy themselves camera buffs.
This is the start of the famous Route 40. This is one of the last wild routes in the world, and people from all over the world come to drive this famous road that goes from the North to the South of Argentina and cover almost 4,000 miles of spectacular scenery.
From Chacu you can experience the famous ride of the "Train of the Clouds". The train rises to over 12,000 feet in elevation and it is known one of the 3 best train rides in the world.
Possible tours also include visits to Pumamarca Cachi, Quebrada de Humahuaca (declared by UNESCO to be one of the world's monuments) and the Calchaqui valleys.