June 1998 ©
1998 Garrett VeneKlasen – All Rights Reserved
DORADO ADDICTION CONTINUES . . .
Somebody slap me! I’ve been accused of being
an obsessive outdoorsman a time or two, but this freshwater dorado thing
has gotten way out of hand. I close my eyes and all I can see are
leaping dorado flashing gold in the evening Argentine light.
I’m telling you now – like I told you ten years
ago about peacock bass – that freshwater dorado are the absolute hottest
thing that swims! They’re a trout with an attitude – a salmon with
pizzazz. Dorado slam your fly or lure like a runaway comet, then
go absolutely nuts in a series of mind boggling jumps and runs that will
leave you breathless.
Last year’s trip was on the expensive side.
Much of the cost was wrapped up in lodging. So, for several of my
trips I’ve switched over to a quaint little bed & breakfast instead
of a fancy estancia and dropped the price almost $1,000! How’s that
The same trip as last year, which includes six full
fishing days (four on the Paraná and two on the clearwater Iberá
Marsh), now costs only $2,995 (excluding international air)! I’ve
already arranged several fantastic trip packages for this fall and next
spring – and Annie and I will be there to join in on the fun. In
late April, pigeon/dove hunting packages can be added on to the trip.
Patagonia trout fishing trips can also be added on in March.
So what are you waiting for? Give me a call
and I’ll send out a brochure that will have you drooling – but hurry, because
the trips will book up fast!
PEACOCK BASS ‘98/’99 –
CHOOSE THE TRIP THAT MATCHES YOUR PARTICULAR NEEDS. . .
Each river in the Amazon system has its own idiosyncracies
tailor made for a certain kind of angler. Some rivers have trophy
peacocks, but low numbers of fish. Other rivers have great numbers,
but poor trophy potential. Certain rivers are better for fly casters,
while others are spin/casting rivers exclusively. It’s important
to know where and what you’re fishing before you get there!
There are three basic types of trips currently available; houseboat operations,
fixed camps and safari-style ‘mobile’ fishing camps. Each one of
these options has its positives and negatives. (See my web page or call
me, for a detailed overview of virtually every peacock camp in existence).
Houseboat Programs — Fishing from an air-conditioned mother
ship in the Amazon appeals to many anglers. If you’re a bit squeamish
about your first Amazon trip or you plan to bring along a non-fishing companion,
the houseboat option (or a fixed camp) is probably your best bet.
The houseboat trips greatest assets are their mobility and relative comfort.
Water levels and fishing conditions often change on a weekly basis in the
Amazon. In theory, a well-run mother ship operation should be able
to keep its clients in the most productive water at all times. Those
operators with the greatest
success (like the Amazon Angel) have well planned weekly itineraries
which access large expanses of productive water. This gives
them many different options in terms of daily fishing schedules. Unfortunately,
outstanding fisheries are often hundreds of miles apart and a trip
from one location to the other can take several days. Also,
time can often be wasted running to and from the port of embarkation.
In other words, if an outfitter picks you up in Manaus at the start
of the trip, it may take up to 24-hours to get to the ‘prime’ fishing
grounds. Time can also be wasted if the houseboat needs to move
from one fishery to another. A houseboat’s comfort factor
can sometimes be overrated. Certain outfitters try to cram as
many clients on their boats as possible. This can mean extremely
cramped living quarters. A ‘big’ room on most houseboats is
8'x8', so don’t expect palatial accommodations. They are, however,
air conditioned and to some people this is a life or death necessity.
Keep in mind that Amazon temperatures often drop into the mid-seventies
Over-booked trips also jeopardize your fishing
quality because there are only so many productive spots within a given
running distance of your home base. If eight boats are competing
for the same water, someone is going to end up having a poor days fishing.
When planning to book any houseboat-based trip, make sure to ask about
room size and the maximum numbers of anglers fishing on a per-week basis.
A maximum of ten anglers is best and eight anglers per week is ideal.
Mother ship programs generally access fisheries with good ‘trophy’ peacock
potential, but daily catches are often low. This is because the houseboats
must travel in big waterways accessible both to local and commercial fishermen.
For this reason, I don’t recommend this type of trip to fly casters or
to anglers wishing to catch large numbers of fish (Peru is an exception,
but the fish size is quite small comparatively). Fly anglers and
the latter should concentrate on headwater tributaries with higher numbers
of fish. Blind casting a nine-weight fly rod all day to catch 10
peacocks is not worth the effort.
Fixed Camps — Fixed camps are also a good bet for those who
want to experience the great outdoors from the indoors. Accommodations
vary greatly from camp to camp, but most offer relatively comfortable
lodging which gives one the feeling of being securely walled off from
the ‘wilds’ of the Amazon. Virtually all fixed camps are located
on one or more productive fisheries. Anglers visiting these
camps inevitably fish the same waters day after day. This is
not a big deal if you’re one of the first several groups into camp
each season. You get fresh fish that haven’t been pounded day
after day, but don’t make the mistake of visiting one of these camps
at the end of the season. I can almost guarantee that you’ll
be disappointed. Just like any other fish, peacocks get smart
fairly quickly — once hooked, twice shy, so to speak. If you
do book one of these trips, try and get in on one of the first four
weeks after it opens. Several fixed camps access clear water
fisheries which are great for fly casters and those interested in
catching big numbers of fish. I’ve recently heard positive reports
on two fixed camps in particular – Venezuela’s Laguna Larga Lodge
on the Cinaruco River and Brazil’s Roaraima Peacock Bass Reserve on
Agua Boa River. Laguna Larga is said to have the best daily
numbers of peacocks in all of South America. Hundred fish days
are not uncommon, with fish size up to about 16-pounds. Agua
Boa is a clearwater fishery much like the Tapera, and fish up to 26-pounds
were taken last year.
Safari-Style Camps — There is only one outfitter, River Plate
Anglers, currently offering safari camps in the Amazon basin. All
their trips are operated in the Brazilian Amazon. Safari-style camps are
designed with the hard-core, adventurous angler in mind. They are
not a good place to bring along a non-fishing companion, because it is
not comfortable to stay in camp all day while you’re out fishing.
All in all though, safari camps are quite comfortable and surprisingly
well outfitted, with electricity, refrigerators/freezers, complete kitchens,
etcetera. The accommodations are also quite ample — much larger than
those of the house boats, but not quite as plush as the fixed camps. The
whole theory behind these safari camps is to access the most inaccessible
waters in the Amazon. We’re talking about the heart of the rainforest,
where no one else dares to fish. The payoff can be quite spectacular,
because the fisheries are virgin and often brimming with both big peacocks
and high numbers of smaller fish. As with the fixed camps,
try and book the first four weeks of the season. River Plate usually
moves their location every four weeks, but make sure you’re not stuck in
a camp that’s been in the same spot for more than a month.
The bottom line here is take your time and carefully
consider your own personal criteria. Don’t let an agent or outfitter
try and talk you into their destination unless it’s right for you.
Call me and I’ll help you do your homework, so you won’t be disappointed
with your next trip!
SALTWATER FLATS FISHING . . .
The world of international flats fishing is vast
and often-times intimidating. Not only are there numerous species
to consider, but also an incredibly wide range of destination choices from
which to choose. Before booking a specific trip, consider the following
I recently published a series of detailed articles on flats and offshore
species, which discuss the pros and cons of individual regions and their
corresponding camps. They can be accessed through the Internet at
www.reel-time.com, or give me a call and I’ll send you copies via regular
Species Preference – If you’re new to the sport, my suggestion
would be to go to a place which offers a chance to catch as many different
species as possible. It’s great to be able to have a shot at bonefish,
permit, tarpon, snook, snapper, barracuda and even reef and offshore species
in the same day.
Once you get acquainted with all the different species,
you can then focus on individual type of fish during subsequent trips.
If you’re rabid about catching only permit, choose a destination where
this fish is the main focus.
Wade-Fishing vs Fishing From a Flats Skiff – Many anglers love to wade,
as it gives them a great deal of freedom and peace on the flats.
Some individuals cannot (due to physical limitations), or do not like to
wade, while other people like to have both options. Not all locations
have wadeable flats. Bottom substrate can vary greatly from deep
mud to solid coral foundation. On the other hand, certain destinations
are almost exclusively limited to wade-fishing (like Christmas Island),
as they do not offer specialized flats fishing skiffs. This is heaven
for those able to wade all day long, but absolutely the wrong choice for
someone physically challenged. Other locations offer extremely-limited
wading opportunities (like Boca Paila in Mexico). The majority of
their flats are too soft to wade and therefore one should expect to fish
almost exclusively from a skiff. Then there are also a handful of
places that offer both wading and boat fishing opportunities (like Casa
Blanca in Mexico). Keep in mind which one of these scenarios best
appeals to you.
Average Fish Size vs Sheer Numbers – Is individual fish size
more important than the sheer numbers of fish in a given area or vice versa?
The average fish size and population density of individual species can
vary significantly from location to location. Some individuals would
rather catch one trophy bonefish (Florida Keys or the Bahamas) than thirty
smaller fish in a day’s angling (Christmas Island, Los Roques or Ascension
Bay). Other anglers prefer constant action, forfeiting size for continual
Seasonal & Environmental Considerations – Make sure
that the date of your trip coincides with the optimal fishing times
of that particular destination. Virtually every flats location worldwide
has a specific and dependable time window when fishing conditions are at
their best. This applies even to the ‘year-round’ fisheries of the
South Pacific. Keep in mind that the ‘optimal’ fishing times for
a given resource can often get booked up a year in advance. Weather
is an important flats fishing variable regardless of the species.
Choose months known for their ‘cooperative’ behavior. Strong wind,
rain and cold are often the flats angler’s nemesis. Light wind, dependable
warm weather and sunny conditions are ideal. Dramatic tide cycles
(where applicable) can often influence where, how and when flats species
feed. Carefully study the tide charts for your area of interest,
paying special attention to the onset of ‘flow’ (incoming) tides.
Flats species tend to feed most aggressively from the onset of flow tide
to its peak. Try and coordinate a week where the ‘flow’ tide begins
at a reasonable hour in the morning or early afternoon to maximize each
day’s fishing. I’ll help you sort through all the seasonal/tide details.
Destination Overview . . .
There are relatively few regions which truly
have ‘fishable’ populations of all the species mentioned above. In
reality, most flats destinations are usually strong in one or two areas.
Exceptions to this are the Ascension Bay region and a few locations in
Belize (especially Turneffe Island). There are now almost a half
a dozen lodges accessing Ascension Bay. They range from Casa Blanca
on the high end, to several new camps, like Xcalak Salt Water Fly Fishing
Lodge on the more ‘reasonable’ end. If you don’t mind crowds, the
Florida Keys offers a great variety of species (including a redfish/sea
trout bonus) and have great potential for trophy bonefish, permit and undoubtedly
the finest clearwater tarpon fishing on earth. For big bonefish,
several locations in the Bahamas or the Florida Keys are my top choice.
For numbers and decent size, fish Los Roques in Venezuela or Christmas
Island. Top permit destinations include Mexico’s Ascension Bay, Placencia,
Turneffe Island in Belize or the Florida Keys. For clearwater tarpon,
my top choice is Florida (May) followed by Ascension Bay or Turneffe Island
in May and especially June. If you’re looking for a place to catch
hordes of small tarpon (5 to 20-pounds), Venezuela’s ‘Rio Chico’ is definitely
the place to go. Surface fishing with light-weight tackle is quite
thrilling if you aren’t particularly concerned with breaking any record
books. Rio Chico is considered a year-round destination, though ‘optimal’
months run from September through November. Belize’s river and lagoon
fisheries include the Manatee, Sibun and Belize River water sheds.
Tarpon move into these rivers in May and June to spawn in the numerous
inland lagoons and then disperse again in July. Fish run on the smaller
side (10-60-pounds), but can be quite numerous. Keep in mind that
Belize’s coastal rivers are at the mercy of inland rains, and can fluctuate
on a weekly basis. Belize River Lodge specializes in river fishing,
and offers attractive packages combining river and flats angling at attractive
prices. Local guides can also be hired out of Belize city on a daily
basis, but this can be a risky experience.
Costa Rica fisheries are holding up, but most of
the tarpon fishing is deep water jigging in the river mouths and ocean.
I’ve heard nothing but negative news coming out of Honduras and mixed reports
on Nicaragua. Not a real good bet in my opinion. Again, Florida
probably offers the best consistent snook fishing, followed by Ascension
Bay and the coastal rivers of Belize.
There are literally hundreds of options when it
comes to offshore/inshore ocean fishing. Guatemala is still one of
the hottest sailfish destinations. Many of the operators once working
Costa Rica’s waters have recently transported their entire operations northward.
During peak season (November through May), it is not uncommon to catch
‘sails’ literally to the point of physical exhaustion. The two most
popular outfitters include Artmarina’s ‘Fin’s ‘n Feathers Inn’ and ‘Golden
Sail Lodge/Hotel Liken’. Though Guatemala is extremely strong in
terms of sailfish, the country’s marlin and inshore fishing are mediocre
Panama is hard to beat if you’re after variety.
One plus over Guatemala is Panama’s extremely abundant marlin population.
Species include striped, black and blue marlin. Inshore species are
also plentiful around the coastal ‘piñas,’ or rock pinnacles that
dot the southern Pacific Coast. Roosterfish, snapper, amberjack and
other inshore species are quite abundant. Dorado, tuna and wahoo
are also numerous. The best bet from an outfitting standpoint is
Tropic Star Lodge located on the southernmost Pacific coast. Another
popular option is to fish aboard the Coral Star – a traveling ‘mother ship’
that fishes primarily off the Hannibal Bank (Panama’s northernmost Pacific
coast). May is best for sails, smaller marlin, dorado, tuna and inshore
species. February is best if you’re after 500-plus-pound marlin.
Heavy commercial fishing took its toll on Costa
Rica’s once-tremendous offshore fishery (the inshore fishing has also been
affected). Steps are slowly being taken to change problem, but the
country’s potential is not what it used to be. Costa Rica’s offshore
fishery is broken into three separate regions (with three separate seasons).
The ‘northern’ fishery includes the waters from Flamingo Bay all the way
to the Nicaraguan border (including El Ocotal). Prime fishing time
here is mid-April through September with May being the best overall month.
If you want to combine offshore and inshore fishing, the ‘northern’ region
is your best bet. Flamingo Bay pacific Charters, El Ocotal Resort
and Bahia Pez Vela all run high quality operations in this area.
Costa Rica’s ‘central’ region surrounds the town of Quepos. Peak
months are December through the month of May. Lastly, the ‘southern
region is near the resort town of Golfito (not far from the Panamanian
border. This is essentially a winter fishery with optimal angling
from December through March.
If you’re after white marlin (with a few blues mixed
in) and large Atlantic sailfish, and huge yellowfin tuna, Venezuela’s La
Guaira Bank is hard to beat. March through May are the peak months, though
billfish ‘grand slams (white marlin, sailfish and blue marlin)’ happen
year round. La Guaira’s downside is its notoriously rough seas.
No matter when you go, expect to get thrown around. For the fly angler,
this is a serious consideration, as it is extremely difficult to present
your fly while being simultaneously tossed about.
The Mexican Pacific offers a wide range of close-to-
home offshore options. The Gulf Coast from La Paz to the East Cape
fishes well from June through August for sails, blue marlin, dorado, tuna
and wahoo. Cabo San Lucas also fishes well in the summer months for
blue and black marlin as well as big tuna, dorado and wahoo. October
is known as a big marlin month in ‘Cabo’ and blues and blacks up to a thousand
pounds are taken each year. February and April are good months for
striped marlin. The Golden Gate Bank and the Jaime Bank in January
and February are known for their huge striped marlin, dorado, tuna and
thresher shark runs, while the Gordo Bank fish well in September, October
and November for blue and black marlin, dorado, wahoo and tuna. Magdelena
Bay, especially in November can be accessed by the now-famous Royal
Star mothership operation for striped marlin, tuna, dorado and wahoo and
good bottom fishing. San Quintin is known for its year round yellowtail
fishing as well as good offshore action throughout the summer months.
The Mexican Atlantic during the late spring and summer months offers decent
offshore fishing for Atlantic sailfish, dorado and tuna, but I would only
recommend this as an add on to a bonefishing trip or summer vacation.
Several Australian and African destinations
are also fantastic. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef region offers
year round offshore action for both size and numbers. Townsville/Cape
Bowling Green from May through September offers one of the best light-tackle
billfishing grounds in the world and one of the few places where black
marlin are small and numerous enough to be a realistic proposition on saltwater
fly-fishing tackle. The Cairns/Ribbon Reef/Lizard Island from September
to December is the place to go if you want a shot at a thousand-pound-plus
‘grander.’ Black marlin of 400?800 pounds are common, and the chance of
hooking one over 1,000 pounds has never been better!
Feel Free to Call me for Detailed Destination/Camp Information on any
or all of these Locations.
The Atlantic sailfishing opportunities off Dakar
(Senegal) and Bom Bom Island (off Gabon, West Africa) are outstanding.
July and August are best for both locations. Midway Island initially
had great promise, but several of my clients have come back with less-than
impressive reports. Bikini Island on the other hand has come on strong
and I’ve heard the inshore fishing for huge trevally, snappers and other
reef species is nothing short of incredible. Offshore fishing here
is also superb for sails, dorado, tuna and a few marlin. Christmas
Island also has great offshore potential if they can just keep their boats
in working condition.
When and where to find individual offshore species
(or a combination of offshore species) is a seasonal and geographical riddle
that takes careful yearly research. The Atlantic Ocean is more predictable
than the Pacific, as the latter can be influenced by our well known friend
‘El Niño.’ El Niño can and does often completely throw
offshore fishing’s normally-predictable seasons into a tailspin.
During the year’s when El Niño is present, anglers should pay close
attention to the weekly fishing results at their intended destination.
A sudden downturn in daily catch usually signals an end to that year’s
fishing if El Niño decides to make itself present.
TROUT, SALMON AND TAIMEN . . .
You don’t have to fly half way around the world
to find good trout fishing. Heck, right here in Southern Colorado
you can access private water and sight cast to wild fish up to 25-inches.
The same holds true throughout many of the Western States. If you
want more info on specific private Western hot spots, give me a call and
I’ll let you in on a few secrets! Who says New Zealand has a corner
on the market for such a thing?
If you do want to fish New Zealand though, remember
that much of their fishing demands a fairly high level of skill and is
not necessarily for the average fly caster. There are many fantastic
fisheries too complicated to go into, so give me a call if you want to
hear my two cents worth. If you’ve got the trout travel bug, a better
bet in my mind is a Patagonia trip.
Patagonia doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
There’s a great little place I know out of Junin de los Andes, which owns
several miles of prime Malleo River (arguably some of the best dry fly
fishing on earth). They only charge about $350 a night, including
all meals and lodging! If any of you wish, I can easily put together
an inexpensive hosted trip just for you and a few close friends.
Side trips are also easy to arrange on many of the other famous rivers
like the Alumine, Collon Cura and the Chimehuin. If you insist, I
can also always book you into one of the super-expensive Patagonia packages,
but what’s the point if you can save a bundle?
There’s also exciting news out of Southern Chile. Joan Wulff
recently fished Rio Polena Lodge and said it was some of the best trout
fishing she’s experienced in 20 years! Weekly packages are available
for $3,600 from Puerto Montt.
What about Alaska? If you are only planning
to do one trip, I’d recommend a fly out camp in the Bristol Bay region.
Fly out camps will give the widest variety of fishing options in the shortest
amount of time. One day you can be fishing rainbows in an inland
freestone stream and the next you can be catching sea-fresh silvers on
the coast. Float trips are also a fun way to fish a variety
of species in varying conditions. On Bristol Bay’s Kenektok, for
example, you can catch everything from lake trout to grayling, rainbows,
kings, sockeye and chum salmon during a week long float (early July).
Did you know that you can arrange do-it-yourself float trips on several
of Bristol Bay’s most famous fisheries? The trips are easy to set
up and cost about a third of what a guided trip would cost. Give
me a call and I’ll help you set up your own float fishing adventure.
If you want to take several trips (which I highly
recommend), then make sure to focus on a single species at the peak of
their run of most ‘active’ period. For rainbows, I’d chose a fixed
camp in the Iliamna drainage during the heat of the sockeye run.
If you want to catch salmon, pick one species during the peak week of its
run and fish a river mouth fixed camp on the Bristol Bay coast (Kenektoc
or Good News Rivers are two good choices among many). There’s also
a little-known operator named Tony Oney who helicopters into Bristol Bay
headwaters for unbeatable sight fishing for huge kings!
Jeff Vermillion’s Mongolian taimen camp continues
to get rave reviews – good numbers of monster taimen on mouse patterns!
Jeff’s expanded his operation this summer and openings are still available.
I’ve also finally talked him into adding on a spin fishing only week September
26 to October 5, 1998. Call for a brochure and a copy of my Field
& Stream article on Jeff and this fantastic fishery.
Decent reports are still coming in on the