Jetu'u and Itati, Argentina
Anil Srivastava and Jake Crawford July 11, 2023
Jetu'u and Itati, Argentina
SET Fly Fishing operates a unique and diverse golden dorado experience in the Corrientes Province of northern Argentina. They offer three different lodge programs in different fisheries and water-types and provide seamless transfers between operations to allow anglers to fish two venues in the same week with little travel time between destinations. Having three programs in proximity gives them the flexibility and confidence to ensure that anglers are targeting golden dorado on the best water at the best times throughout the long season.
Where did you go?
Our trip began by overnighting in the Recoleta District of downtown Buenos Aires, Argentina. On Saturday morning we were met by a representative of SET Fly Fishing and ground transferred 30 minutes north to the San Fernando terminal. We took a private flight in a Cessna Grand Caravan north to the small town of Goya, Argentina and ground transferred about 30 minutes to the first lodge, Jetu’u in the Isoro Wetlands. After three days of fishing, we took another small private charter plane and landed on a grass runway then ground transferred 20 minutes to our second location, Itatí Lodge, in the Upper Parana River.
Where did you fish?
We fished two different sections of Parana River as well as the Isoro Wetlands that drain off the middle section of the Parana River.
The Parana River is a vast watershed that is the second longest river system in South America, and fourth longest river in the world. The two sections for our trip included what is referred to as Argentina’s Upper Parana River and the Middle Parana River and its adjoining Isoro Wetlands.
The Upper Parana separates Paraguay and Argentina, and starts below the Yacyretá Dam, a massive hydroelectric facility, and flows from east to west through a dense jungle with numerous braids and islands lined with howler monkeys, parrots, and several fish species important to anglers including dorado, pacu, and pira pita. Itatí Lodge is located on river left of the Parana River just upstream the city of Itatí.
The Middle Parana section of river begins below the confluence of the Paraguay River. We stayed at the Jetu’u Cabanas in the Isoro Wetlands, which drains off the Middle Parana. This strategic location enables anglers to fish both the wetlands and the Middle Parana River from one location with 15 – 45 minute boat rides between the different fishing locations.
How was the fishing?
The fishing was fun and challenging and overall a great experience. We had shots at golden dorado each session of each day at Jetu’u and encountered countless palometa (large piranha).
Often you would move a dorado to the fly without hooking up, other times you hook a dorado and would lose it on the first jump immediately after being hooked. About a third of the eats resulted in a fish being solidly hooked and you would get it to the boat.
We celebrated every fish that we moved and enjoyed the thrill of watching powerful dorado of all sizes flash and crash at the fly as you stripped it in.
At Jetu’u in the Isoro Wetlands and Middle Parana River you have more opportunities at fish in the 2 – 20lb class. Most days our boat averaged ten fish to hand between 2 – 6lbs, with others moved or lost. Our largest fish was about 8 lbs, and we hooked and lost several larger fish and saw many fish rolled, jumped, or moved to the fly but were never hooked.
We also landed numerous palometa (piranha) that are incredibly strong and hard fighters. They absolutely destroy the fly and require a change whenever these fish are hooked, so we were glad that the outfitters provided a steady supply.
Fishing at Itatí Lodge is a true trophy dorado destination, where anglers should expect to fish hard for modest numbers of fish with the opportunity at a large fish in the 20 – 40lb+ class. We had between 0 – 5 opportunities at dorado during each session, with several nice fish to the boat, and although we did not manage to land a trophy, it was captivating fishing nonetheless.
Our guides were excellent and worked hard to put us on the best water, and we felt confident we were putting our flies where they needed to be, as close to the bank or structure as possible. The Upper Parana is also home to pacu (another piranha) and pira pita that eat fruit and can be taken with large terrestrial dry flies.
We quickly realized that golden dorado are not a numbers game in the upper river, and we found the key to success was staying focused during each fishing beat and being ready once the opportunity comes. Once hooked, it is critical to have a solid hookset and maintain pressure throughout the fight. The mouth of the dorado is all bone and incredibly tough, and often the hook would fall out of the fish’s mouth once it was in the net!
How did you fish?
At both locations all fishing is done from skiff-style flats boats with an angler on the bow and on the stern. In the smaller water of the wetlands, anglers fish one at a time and you rotate fishing between different locations. Rarely did we get out to wade fish in the wetlands. While in the Middle and Upper Parana both anglers fish at the same time to cover ground and maximize your chances.
In both venues, you are target casting to likely holding water where dorado wait to ambush their prey, and it is important to put your fly as close to the bank or the other visible and underwater structures, while making sure to try and keep it out of the trees.
Where did you stay?
Our trip combined two of SET Fly Fishing’s dorado destinations. The first stop was Jetu’u Cabanas de Esteros located in the Isoro Wetlands, which drains off the middle section of the Parana River. The morning of our fourth day we took another smaller plane and landed on a grass runway 20 minutes outside the town of Itatí in northern Argentina and ground transferred to Itatí Lodge on the banks of the Upper Parana River in Argentina.
Both lodges are extremely comfortable, feature great Argentine cuisine, and are well-staffed by a service-oriented crew. They both have swimming pools that proved to be a great way to end the morning fishing session with a quick dip before lunch, and we started each evening session with a jump in the cold water to cool off from the heat. Our rooms had air conditioning which also made for a comfortable night’s sleep.
Every day the lodges managed to find a way to make our trip special, from riverside dinners on the beach, to having traditional Chamame dancers and musicians come in from the local town and perform before dinner.
What equipment did you use and how did it perform?
We used the Sage R8 Core 9’0” 8wt with RIO Predator Elite tropical floating lines. These lines were easy to load for a couple quick false casts and could deliver large flies, which are often between 6 – 12-inches (or longer!) with muddler heads and long trailing feathers.
The second most important piece of equipment was a quality rain jacket and be sure to keep that on the boat with you as tropical storms can move in quickly in the evenings.
Explore the remote and unpressured waters of the middle Parana and Isoro Wetlands.
Target true trophy dorado in the 20- to 40-pound class.