Tsimane Lodge (Dorado)
Offering fly fishing only for giant golden dorado in the midst of remote Indian preserves, Tsimane is more than a fishing experience, it is an adventure of a lifetime. As your charter plane approaches the Andes, there is a clear line where the altitude climbs just to the point where sub-tropic growth collides with mountainous hardwood stands. Here the rivers also change from broad sandy bands to crystal-clear freestone streams nestled among the canyons.
Seasonally, May through October, schools of enormous golden dorado follow migrating schools of Sabalo, their main forage, from the vast rivers to the south and west into these pristine mountain rivers to feed. The result? Anglers can expect to cast to marauding schools of ravenous fish as they drive shoals of bait up onto dry land. Alternately, fishermen can go "boulder hopping" as the rivers cascade down working pocket water for fish well into the 20-plus pound range. A hookup here means you have some work and hiking ahead of you as these fish are brute strong, prone to savage takes and blistering runs while weaving through the boulders at full speed.
Due to the clarity of the water, sight fishing is often possible and standard floating lines or coupled with an intermediate tip are the order of the day to seduce the plethora of species these rivers are bestowed with. From two different species of dorado, which have already been recorded up to 40lbs, through to the immensely powerful yatorana and pirapitinga, all of which will take the fly avidly – this is a fly only lodge and location. Or how about the Pacu? The freshwater permit! These are often sightfished, and offer an amazing fight to any angler fortunate enough to hook one. Fishing is done by wet-wading, whilst the boat and guide is at hand to take you to the next likely spot.
During your stay you will visit two lodges, which are a short flight between community airstrips apart, with 3 days being spent in each. Maximum weekly occupancy is just six anglers, which makes Tsimane an even more intimate experience. But this does limit availability and enquiries should be made early to avoid disappointment and to secure your spot. Beyond the amazing and unique fishing opportunities, the abundant wildlife, flora and fauna with its amazing hues, sounds and smells will amalgamate the adventure into a destination and trip that you will never forget.
Perched high above the river, Secure Lodge overlooks a productive home pool where anglers can get their gear, lines and rods sorted out and their first taste of casting to golden dorado in Bolivia. It is easy to see why the lodge was placed here. Between home pool and the water above lies an ominous looking rapid that is no match for the migrating dorado but would be an adventure by boat. Clearly this is a perfect location separating the upper from the lower river, both of which will be fished during your stay. Anglers spend the first four nights in Secure Lodge fishing three full days on both the upper and lower beats. The lodge has an outcamp upstream at the Yahanna Creek mouth and guests may rotate one night at the outcamp which is a scaled down version of the main lodge with comfortable ammenities.
On the fourth day, a quick repack, skiff ride to the village, a 20-minute charter flight and a jungle trek by Kawasaki Mule ATV brings you to the second lodge of the week known as Pluma Lodge. As anglers travel upstream to the lodge the terrain changes from Serengeti-like verenza to the slightly steeper pitch of foothills. The ride seems to fly by as the surrounding jungle offers magnificent sights and sounds. The two primary fisheries for Pluma actually converge just upstream of the massive home pool, making this a perfectly placed lodge. Anglers can expect four overnights here with three full days of fishing the three water systems near the camp. At week's end, the flight back to Santa Cruz is approximately 1 1/2 hours.
While both lodges are unique, the overall floor plans are similar. Both Secure and Pluma lodges are built with all guest accommodations and common areas river front and each is elevated on stilts and surrounded by hardwood decking. Both offer three spacious two-bedroom bungalows featuring comfortable twin beds with protective netting, reading tables, desk, walk in closet with plenty of hanger and shelf space, bathroom with ample counter space and a private water closet and shower room. The rooms have vaulted ceilings of native design and an "open air" quality via screened windows with heavy canvas drop-shades surrounding 3 of 4 walls. Hot water is available for showers in the afternoon after fishing, although the climate generally welcomes a cooling shower which is available day and evening.
The main lodges complement the bungalows. Here guests will enjoy made-to-order breakfast and dinner and review the fishing day in the comfortable sitting area and bar. The outside deck overlooks the river and is perfect for appetizers or an after-dinner cigar and/or cocktail. Watch the evening mist descend upon the jungle as hungry dorado slash though schools of Sabalo.
While fishing for dorado at both Tsimane Lodges is much the same when one considers tackle and fighting method, the nature of the water is quite different. Beats fished at Secure Lodge vary greatly depending on whether days are spent upriver or downriver.
Downstream from the lodge, the river broadens and features long, slow shallows interrupted by classic riffles, braids and the occasional deep pool. Here anglers can expect a longer boat ride in the morning and evening and a full day of wade fishing the productive waters where the river makes a bit of an altitude drop. Dorado can be anywhere and no water should be ignored. Like brown trout, large dorado will sit in a "wallow" or low spot in what looks to be a shallow riffle waiting for an unsuspecting Sabalo, or your fly, to pass over. Additionally, casts close to deadfalls and behind rock formations can meet with strikes that can literally jerk a rod from the hand of an inattentive angler. Deeper pools and drop-offs should first be fished with a streamer in a "dead drift" manner and then fished as classic streamer water. Surprisingly, double-digit size dorado can sometimes take a fly as delicately as a rainbow sipping a pheasant tail nymph; however, that is where the similarity ends.
Heading upstream from Secure Lodge the river enters a series of high canyon ravines interrupted by plunge pools, riffles and glides. Anglers will instantly see the difference in water characteristics and places for dorado to hold and hunt. Here you will fish your way upstream and take an occasional short skiff ride to the next productive area. Due to the nature of the topography, the river narrows here and stealth becomes even more important. False casting should be kept to a minimum and never over the productive parts of the pools. Floating lines with an intermediate tip or a full intermediate line are best for this water and enable the fly to get to the holds quickly when fishing smaller pockets or shorter glides.
Anglers will fish from a skiff, walk along gravel bars and beaches, and work narrow canyons with limited back cast options. In addition to large dorado this stretch of river also holds pacu and other regional species to target. If you see a rolling dorado, cast to him but he is probably not feeding; if you see a rolling pacu, get a fly on him fast and hold onto your hat! In addition to the main river, the upper section offers several tributaries that the guides are exploring. Since all these prey species are migratory, these tributaries can be "feast or famine" as fish can move in and out; however, we assure you the adventure is well worth your time.
The 'Pluma fishery' at Tsimane Lodge is actually made up of three distinct bodies of water. At the head of the pool on which the lodge is located two medium sized freestones merge to form the larger Pluma River. The first thing anglers will note upon fishing here after Secure Lodge is that more walking is required to cover the vast amounts of water. The second thing they will note is that no good effort goes unrewarded and every turn in the river reveals another pool and a new opportunity for a personal best.
The main river downstream of Pluma Lodge can be covered by a skiff or the lodge’s ATVs. Pools and runs are bigger here and it is necessary to move by vehicle or vessel from one productive stretch to another. Big water means big fish and anglers may not only target the dorado but have a go at the catfish that patrol this section.
The upstream tributaries at Pluma are an area that can require some strenuous hiking at times. This is often dependent on water level and how far recent shoals of Sabalo have migrated upstream thus pulling the opportunistic dorado with them. Dugout canoes are often used for the first portion of the trip upstream until the water becomes two boulder strewn and braided. At this point the guides and anglers hike according to their ability. Great fishing can easily be had within view of the lodge however hikes can also be rewarded with ample fish and a feeling of adventure not often found in this world.