In the Field: Alto Parana, Corrientes Province, Argentina

I had fished big water before, no problem. The Kennebec next to navy destroyers; the mighty Mississippi in all her glory; and some might even categorize the South Fork of the Snake River as big, and there were others. However, I was not prepared for what I saw when I stepped out of the Toyota Hilux at the put-in for the new Alto Parana fishing program offered by Nervous Waters on the Parana River.

“Now that is some big water,” I exclaimed as the custom-built center console with a brand new 115-hp Yamaha four-stroke slid off the trailer. Noel Pollack, dorado guide extraordinaire, walked by and slapped me on the shoulder exclaiming, “You’ll live, and it will fish. Trust me.” Now the far shore, which I was certain would be Paraguay (it was not), was but a green shadow on the water just peeking above the horizon. The morning was still cool but cloudless and windless. It promised to be a hot day on this border river, and that was an understatement.

The head guide of the program, Fabian Anastasio (many of you have fished with from Bolivia to Tierra del Fuego) fired up the engine and we were off, sliding effortlessly across the pond-calm water to what I thought was the far bank. As we approached, I noticed that the shore was not continuous. It was a lattice of side channels and braids that turned this mammoth water into a series of intimate and manageable sections. A guy could get lost for a week here casting flies to fish that had never seen a fly much less eaten one.

Thus began my first day on the Parana River, fishing for golden dorado as powerful as this river herself. We would also fish for dry fly sipping, knuckle cracking pira pita that I would later learn could nearly disintegrate my Sage six-weight rod. But, perhaps I should backtrack a bit.

Alto Parana is a new destination offered by the Nervous Waters family of lodges and is located approximately 100 kilometers west of Posadas in Miniones Province. Posadas is a gateway city between Argentina and Paraguay on the Parana River. The lodge is in the final stages of a renovation to bring it up to the standards and similar “look and feel” found around the world at all Nervous Waters properties — exceptionally comfortable and well-appointed. Accommodating just four anglers at any one time, Alto Parana offers single room accommodations at no additional cost. That’s unusual for fishing lodges and is welcomed after a long day on the water. Seasoned manager Carolina Coco was involved in developing many lodges in South America and has an eye for all the little details as well as a knack for customer service. Rest assured, you’re in good hands with Carolina. Now, let’s get back to the fishing.

The Parana reminded me of jungle fishing in the Amazon. We used spun deer hair streamers for dorado and smaller patterns along with big dries for pira pita. Our casts needed to be close to the deadfalls and as deep into the shade of the overhangs as possible. Big river fish, much like saltwater species, have a power that many other fish can never achieve. They know how to use current and structure to their full advantage. In the side channels, you have to scissor strip hard, use the body of the rod and get the fish on the reel quickly otherwise you’re in the timber or broken off — that’s just the way it is.

When temperatures are warm, the pira pita action is continuous and there is always the chance for dorado to be lurking around. On the main river in the rocks and jetties, the current boils up and a combination of sinking and floating lines with gaudy files will bring fish off the piles. Here even small fish will mess with you and the big ones can be downright work. Think striper fishing on the tide in Montauk or Fishers Island but add bluefish teeth. The atmosphere is beer-casual and tequila-crazy all at the same time.

So that’s my story for now. Keep your eyes peeled for future blog posts highlighting some visual marsh fishing at Pira Lodge in the Ibera Marsh and the Delta Day Program fishing off the beaten path but with the Buenos Aires skyline in clear view . . . epic.

By: Hank Ingram, South America Department Manager