If you asked a fisherman where you’d find the best fishing in North America, you would probably receive a different answer from every angler you asked.
Fortunately, South America can broadly be divided into neat climactic zones, which can be separated into the type of landscape you would like on your fishing trip and the species of fish you wish to catch.
If you’re looking to fish for trout and sea run trout, then you should go to southern Argentina; for golden dorado, go to northern Argentina, Bolivia, and southern Brazil; peacock bass can be found in northern Brazil and southern Venezuela; and bonefish in the archipelagos off Venezuela.
For sea run trout, the best place to go is Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. These fish were originally introduced into the local rivers by homesick Scottish ranchers in the 1930s, who had transported the parr, by boat, from Loch Leven in Scotland.
The Austral Sea is famous for holding some of the most intensely calorific kelp anywhere, on which the trout gorge themselves over the winter months. Frequently, these fish reach 25 pounds or more. In fact, the record set on the Rio Grande is 35 pounds. The fishing season runs from December to April. There are only three rivers of note in which to catch these beauties:
Rio Grande: The Grande is a big river that winds through open tundra with little shelter. The conditions and the wind can be tough going, but the rewards are immense. This river probably still yields the most and the biggest fish. For more information on fishing trips here, see: www.flyfishingtravel.com.
Rio Gallegos: This river is smaller than the Grande, and not actually on the island of Tierra del Fuego, but on the southernmost tip of mainland Argentina. It’s also in open tundra and is less daunting than the Grande. This river is more tidal, and it is important to visit the right lodge at the right time of the season.
Rio Irigoyen: Far smaller than the other two, this stunning, narrow river is sheltered from the winds by the Patagonian lenga beeches, which line its entire length. Short casts, targeting particular features and pools, makes this the most technical of the three, but in my opinion, the most charming. Do not be fooled by its size. Fish well over 20 pounds are frequently caught.
Where to Stay on Your Fishing Trip
Nick Palliser is managing director of The Latin American Fishing Company. Contact Nick for information on the fishing lodges he recommends in South America—e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www.latinamericanfishing.com.
Prices start at around $4,000 per person, including all fishing, guiding, accommodation, ground transfers, and overnight stays in connecting cities.
The golden dorado is fast becoming one of the most sought-after game fish in the world. Its viciousness makes it the most ferocious freshwater fish. There are four key areas to fish for them in Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia:
La Zona: This lodge is on the banks of the Uruguay River in Argentina. Not the prettiest location, but by far and away the biggest fish. Fish up to 50 pounds are regularly caught here. You can fly fish and lure fish. This is a good place for beginners and intermediate anglers, as well as for people with reduced mobility, as the boats are large and stable.
Bolivia: For many years, Bolivia has been “el dorado” for golden dorado addicts. There is finally a first-class operation opening up this extraordinary place, located in the Santa Cruz area…fishing the Pluma and Secure Rivers. There are clear waters and sight fishing for fish up to 40 pounds, but only for the more adventurous. You’ll need fly-fishing skills and a good degree of physical fitness, but the rewards are extraordinary.
Esteros del Ibera is the vast marshlands in northeastern Argentina. There are some first-class lodges in the area, but, sadly, it isn’t quite what it was a few years ago due to environmental idiocies. Still, it’s a beautiful place to go with some good fishing (beginner to advanced).
The Pantanal: One of the most stunning landscapes in South America, the Pantanal covers an immense area in western Brazil. The fishing is good, but has the added advantage of magnificent eco-tourism. This is ideal for those traveling with a non-fishing partner or a family.
Some Florida fishermen will be familiar with peacock bass, since they were introduced into the Keys some time ago. There is no comparison, however, to catching them in their native Amazon rainforest. There are now several safe, well-run lodges in various parts of the Amazon where people can travel with confidence. The peacock bass is another fierce predator, but the fish itself is a beauty to behold, combining the most exquisite colors, and no two fish are quite the same. There are also some good lodges currently operating in the Venezuelan Amazon, as well.
Otherwise known as the “ghost of the sea,” the bonefish is also a popular target in the Florida flats. Overfishing has made catching them in Florida a problem, but this is not the case in the magnificent sand flats of Los Roques, a beautiful archipelago in the turquoise Caribbean waters off the Venezuelan coast. These “pancake flats” are famous for being ankle-deep and gin-clear, making sight casting particularly thrilling. Every take is rewarded by several reel-burning runs.
Gran Roque is the principal island and home to several lodges. This is another excellent destination for those traveling with friends or family members who don’t wish to fish.