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    Home > International Anglers Insider
Garrett VeneKlasen’s
 International Angler’s Insider
June 1998 © 1998 Garrett VeneKlasen – All Rights Reserved
    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 sound?
    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!

    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 at night.
     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!

    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 key points:

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 mail service.
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 fishing opportunities.
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 at best.
    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. 

    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 So

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