Golden Dorado

Golden Dorado, Parana on the Fly

Golden Dorado

Golden Dorado at Parana on the Fly Lodge

Parana on the Fly

I have been trying to come up with the words over the past few weeks to describe the jaw dropping experience at Parana on the Fly in Itati (Corrientes region), Argentina. It has been harder than I figured it would be to find the right words. I traveled to Parana on the Fly with Ed McCoy and a group of anglers including Jerome, Kean, Robert, John and Paul. We spent a week chasing one of the ultimate predators, “The Golden Dorado”. What a ferocious and unforgiving species, this fish is unlike anything else I’ve ever encountered!! Now pair the Dorado along with an impressive Parana River system that left me speechless due to it’s pure size, flow, and the amount of baitfish it holds. Words can’t describe the overall experience and lasting impression that was left upon all of us who travelled there to fish, truly amazing!!

Michigan Anglers Travel Well

I have always said and believe whole heartedly that if you can fish in Michigan you can fish anywhere in the world and this held especially true on this trip. If you put your time in and train in Michigan you will develop a formidable skill set that will travel well anywhere in the world. I couldn’t have been more

Golden Dorado

Big Golden Dorado on the Fly

proud of Kean, Jerome, and Robert with how they handled themselves mentally and opportunistically by using the skills that they have honed on Michigan waters. Dorado are not easy to catch by any means and they will test your moxy as an angler.

Golden Dorado require that you have the physical and mental capacity to remain in the game throughout the day. You need a good understanding of gamefish behavior and how they want to kill their prey. Fishing with big streamer patterns was our normal daily tactic. The flies weren’t huge like some that we fish for muskie, but good sized trout streamer patterns tied on 3/0 hooks. While fishing for Dorado you have to be willing to make a lot of casts and believe in every cast.  Most importantly when you get that opportunity you need to have the mental fortitude to strip set, “DO NOT TROUT SET”, when the bite occurs. Be AGGRESSIVE on the strip set and be ready to rumble as these fish are as strong as any fish I have experienced, there were some broken rods on this trip!

Bonus Time

It did not take long for Dorado to teach me a very valuable lesson. Having arrived at the Lodge on the banks of the Parana River, the guides gave us some bonus fishing time our first afternoon. Everybody quickly put a rod together, mine being a 9foot 9wt Scott Meridian. I knew we would be stripping streamers so I was rigged with a Scientific Anglers Jungle Titan Clear Tip Fly Line. Our terminal tackle was a 5 foot leader of 40 pound fluorocarbon and the tippet was about 18-24” of AFW 7×7 50 pound wire. This set up could turn over any fly that I was required to throw.

River Structure

As we set out for the afternoon of bonus time on our 3rd spot we pulled into what is best to describe as a Dorado kill hole, meaning a big piece of structure in the middle of the Parana River. The Parana river is massive system that dwarfs anything we fish here in Michigan, average flows are reading around 150,000 CFS. To put this  into perspective the biggest flows I’ve ever guided the Big

Golden Dorado

Parana River with Rock Island Structure

Manistee River was around 6000 CFS. Flood stage on the Parana is somewhere in the millions of CFS, this River is beyond big!! So the structure that these Dorado are going to use to ambush prey is going to have to match this trend. On the first afternoon of fishing we pull up next to a rock structure in the middle of the river and you see this big seam kicking off of the rocks and it looks fishy! Lucas, my guide for the afternoon, wants us to throw the fly next to the rocks and slowly strip the weighted deceiver pattern through the fast water along the rocks. Read more

Dry Fly Fishing in Patagonia

Dry Fly Fishing in Patagonia

Dry Fly Fishing in Patagonia
Patagonia Brown Trout

Shortly after the Christmas holidays ten of us took off from the USA and headed to Argentine Patagonia. Our airport destination was San Marin de las Andes. Our ultimate goal was to arrive at Spring Creek Lodge in Junin de los Andes. As a result we would spend the next eight to eleven days pursuing brown, rainbow and brook trout with mostly dry flies. We were there for dry fly fishing in Patagonia.

Our host, Gustavo Heibaum, owner of Andes Drifters assured me when we booked this trip that we would be in the middle of the best part of the season for dry fly fishing in Patagonia. Above all we should experience the fabled dragonfly hatch! Our group consisted of three couples and four single men including my son, Zach and I. The group was mostly comprised of very experienced anglers except one wife. Above all she was coming to both increase her fly fishing abilities and enjoy some non-fishing activities.

Dry Fly Fishing in Patagonia
Father and Son sharing memories

The Waters we fished

The location of Spring Creek Lodge near Junin is ideally central to a lot of very well known lakes and rivers in northern Patagonia. Famous rivers abound in the area. The Rio Chimehuin, Malleo, Collen Cura, Alumine and Calefu are all within a reasonable driving distance. Lago Troemen, Lolog and Lacar have great dragonfly hatches and big numbers of very good sized trout. Over the next ten days some or all of us fished most of these waters.

The Flies

As mentioned earlier, this is dry fly time. Consequently I couldn’t get much response on streamers. The fish were just plain looking up! Broke everyone’s heart…not! When dragonflies were hatching, those imitations were the ticket to success. The number one pattern was Gibson’s Dragonfly an Orvis bug. On the rivers and in the lakes with no hatching dragonflies the usual top dry flies were Fat Alberts in Black, Brown and Pink. The PMX in large sizes 4-8 tied either in a Royal or Peacock bodies produced a lot of fish. After these two the Chubby Chernobyls in a variety of colors was hot. In other words these three flies were the only dries needed 95% of the time.

Dry fly time meant six weight rods were the stick of choice. We had more than average wind many days. This was more than we would normally expect. However even with the wind, most of us stayed with the six weights and fought the accuracy issues. While difficult at times we still managed to catch a lot of trout. The line of choice for most of us was Scientific Anglers Amplitude floating line. It’s a half a line weight heavier than normal. It did a great job fighting the wind and turning over those big flies.

The Calefu and the worm!

We were lucky enough to able to fish the Calefu, it requires a two or three -nights camping trip. It runs almost entirely through private property. The Calefu can only be floated in spring or fall as it drops so low that you can’t get rafts through during the summer months. Firstly, it’s a superb trout stream with lots of pocket water in the beginning half. Secondly, the allure of lots of trout and the natural beauty of the river and it’s surroundings make it one of the best floats in the area. Massive rock out cropings look down on you while you are throwing dry flies to trout up to twenty-two inches long! In other words it’s a little slice of heaven!

In addition to having this water available we were lucky enough to hit the beginning of the worm hatch. Small chartreuse worms congregate on the willow trees along the rivers and devour their leaves. In slower stretches these little worms provide great protein to cruising trout. Plopping a worm in to slow water will usually cause a trout hunting worms to turn and come to the offering. Browns and rainbows of significant size can be had by fly anglers.

Non-Angler Options

Dry Fly Fishing in Patagonia

This trip was the second time that I’ve had a guest that took advantage of the non-angling opportunities that Gustavo offers. For example our guest rode horses and had a private workshop with a world renowned photographer. She kayaked, hiked, got tango lessons, learned about Argentine cooking, and visited art galleries. Along with that she mastered a fly rod and caught a bunch of trout during their 9 day stay. Argentina isn’t just about fishing!

In conclusion after having spent forty plus weeks chasing trout in Patagonia, this time frame was the very best I’ve seen for the dry fly angler. Andes Drifters has been my choice for at least a half dozen years as the very best outfitter in Northern Patagonia for the discerning angler/ traveler. If you have Patagonia on your bucket list let Hawkins Outfitters and Andes Drifters design a program for your specific wishes and desires. You’ll be happy you did!

Capt. Chuck Hawkins

dragon fly hatch

Argentina Anticipation

Argentina Anticipation

Very often during this time of year I find myself anticipating my annual trek to Argentina. I go to Patagonia every year to fish for Brook, Rainbow and Brown Trout in lakes, rivers and spring creeks. We base out of Spring Creek Lodge near Junin de los Andes. Most trips also include a short camping trip to access waters that can’t be floated in one day. We usually fish dries (with or without droppers) and streamers. Depending on the water you fish one or the other may be more productive. Fishing also varies with the time of year, trout season opens November 1st and closes May 1st. Remember, the seasons are reversed, November is spring, April is fall.

Some years I also go to northern Argentina to fish for Golden Dorado on the Parana River. Both locations are among my favorite places in the world to fish. At both locations the Argentina experience is the full package, the fishing, people, food, wine, guides and equipment are all top shelf. Every need will be met and most likely exceeded!

In 2019 we have two hosted trips, one to each location. Jon Ray and Ed McCoy are hosting a group at Parana on the Fly, January 5-12, 2019. They have one spot available. The cost is $4750 for 6 days, seven nights all inclusive except travel and gratuities. I’m hosting a trout trip to Patagonia with Andes Drifters from December 29, 2018 to January 5-7, 2019. The dates are flexible you just need a minimum of 7 nights. The cost is $5250 all inclusive except travel and gratuities. This is super prime time for dry fly fishing, especially the dragonfly hatch. Big fish eating on the surface during the day! I have two spots left!

Watch this short video on trout fishing in Patagonia. It will wet your appetite.

If you want more information on these two opportunities give me a call at 231-228-7135

Northern Patagonia Best Trout Fishing from Andes Drifters on Vimeo.

Alaska Trip 2018

Alaska Trip 2018

Alaska Trip 2018

Alaska, the last frontier!

I’ve just returned from two weeks in Alaska. The first week I spent chasing rainbows, Arctic char, silver, pink and chum salmon. We were  at Angry Eagle Lodge with Hawkins Guide, Jeff Topp, General Manager, Derek Boschma, and Owner, Andy Miller along with several long time Hawkins Outfitters friends.

The Fishing

We caught all of the above species on egg patterns, swung flies and top water wogs. My two best fish were a 25+ inch rainbow (think steelhead) that I caught on aAlaska Trip 2018 swung fly and had to wrestle out of a log jam! The second was actually multiple silver salmon that ate top water wogs (think poppers) with reckless abandon. It was epic! In addition to fantastic fishing we had great bear viewing! The bears were enjoying nature’s bounty and seemed to care less that we were around.

The Lodge

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Garden River Fishing Report

2017 Salmon Fishing Garden River Recap

Salmon Fishing Garden River

Salmon Fishing Garden River

Garden River 2017 Recap

Fly fishing on the Garden River First Nation for King, Pink and Coho salmon, along with steelhead is the best in the Midwest. The reason is privacy, this section is private,owned by the Garden River First Nation, a band of Ojibway Natives. No one is fishing where we are! The lack of pressure makes the salmon more likely to eat a fly and the steelhead beyond willing!

The Garden River fly fishing in 2017 started with a run of very large pink salmon. Usually when we have larger than normal pink salmon the numbers of fish is less than normal. That was not true in 2017, it was huge run of pink salmon. Fresh fish continued to move up the Garden River until the end of September!

Weather Struggles

Salmon Fishing Garden River

Garden River Steelhead

The dominant characteristic of 2017 season was the lack of rain and high air temperatures. The last significant rainfall was in the week of Sept 10th. After that a couple of small thunderstorms was it. The rainfall in the week of Sept 10th brought a nice run of large king salmon upstream along with a nice surprise, steelhead! For the next 10 days or so we had great fishing with all species available.

The Garden River Fly Fishing was humming right along until mother nature threw us a curve ball, 5 straight days on 90 degree temps and a continued lack of rain. This shut off the fish tap and started reducing water levels. The fishing suffered accordingly. Most noticeable was the lack of steelhead.

Salmon and Steelhead

The day that the weather broke we had high temps in the low 60’s with clouds and drizzle all day. That brought in another small push of kings but not many steelhead. That gave us enough fish to finish our Garden River 2017 adventure.

Many thanks to all of the anglers that fished with us up north in 2017. All in all it was a pretty good year. Weather hurt us a little but didn’t kill us!

Most of the customers rebooked their spots so we have limited availability in 2018. We have Sept 8-10, 4 spots. This date may be reduced to two days as it is prime pink salmon time and great for kids. Call for details of reduced pricing for children. On Sept 20-22 we have 4 spots available. These are prime time for all species with historically steelhead start showing up. Available dates are subject to change. Learn more about the Garden River on our Travel page.

If you have any questions or want to book one of the remaining openings give Capt. Chuck a call at 231-228-7135 

Dorado

Dorado

Dorado

Dorado

I’ve recently returned from three weeks of fishing in Argentina, my favorite place in the world to fish. Due to adding 8 days of fishing in northern Argentina, I’ve added another reason to spend time in Argentina with a fly rod, Dorado!!

They are beautiful, ferocious jumpers that take a fly readily. Consequently dorado are a fly anglers dream. Dorado are one of the most bad ass fish I’ve caught. Another plus is the fishing reminds me of trout fishing, hitting structure, running seams etc. Most of all imagine trout that average 8 pounds, can reach 40 pounds and you have dorado.

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Dorado Trip to Panara

Dorado Trip to Parana

Dorado Trip to Panara

Chuck Hawkins is hosting a Dorado trip to Parana on the Fly  Lodge in Corrientes, Argentina, April 1-7, 2017

Dorado are considered by many knowledgeable anglers to be the fiercest fresh water fish in the world. The Upper Parana River has the biggest Dorados in the world! We are fishing the Upper Parana River In Correntes Province. Were we fish is a section of the river known as Alto Parana, which is the tail water of Yacyreta Dam.

Floating line streamer fishing is the most effective method for catching dorado. They are an ambush predator, so much like trout fishing here in Michigan you are casting to structure created by rocks and wood. Fantastic fights follow when you hook up. These fish run and jump with the best of them. Average fish run 5-10 pounds, most anglers will land a fish around 20 pounds and most weeks behemoth 40 pounders are caught.

In addition to dorado the Parana River system holds good numbers of Pacu (8 to 12 pounds) and Pira Pita (to 10 pounds). These fish are caught on dry flies mimicking fruits and flowers. Both species are highly sought after gamefish. The large size of these fish coupled with a dry fly rise situation makes them a very fun quarry.

An average week (if there is such a thing) will see an angler land 15-30 Dorado per angler plus 10-20 Pira-Pitas, and 2-3 Pacu. Big mean fish on streamers and dry flies, warm weather and a great lodge, what a trip!

The cost is $4450 per week all-inclusive except gratuities and flights.  This price is based on two anglers to a room and a boat. You will fly into Buenos Aries Saturday morning arriving by noon. You will catch a connecting flight to Corrientes at 4:00 Pm arriving there at 5:30. You will fish all day for 6 days and then depart Corrientes Saturday morning April 8th for your flight home.

Come join me on this world class adventure!

Chuck Hawkins

231-228-7135

 

Words are hard to describe these great fish. You can get a good feeling for the water, the lodge and the fishing by watching this video


 

Upper Parana, River of Gold & Mystery. from Andes Drifters on Vimeo.

dragon fly

Dragonfly Hatch

dragon fly hatch

Dragonfly Hatch

Tips and Techniques for fly fishing in Patagonia!

 

On my recent tip to Rio Manso Lodge in Patagonia near San Carlos de Bariloche, I had some eye opening experiences. I learned a lot about the dragonfly hatch. I learned some tips and techniques from the guides there that showed me ways to catch trout unlike anything I’ve seen in Michigan. Fishing the dragonfly hatch in Patagonia will blow your mind!

 

Those of you that know me realize that I’m an unapologetic streamer junky. If I go fishing I throw streamers unless I see good fish rising to dry flies. Fly fishing in Patagonia I’ve always brought my streamer staples, Nutcrackers, Hat Tricks, Triple Doubles and Lapdancers. These streamers, along with some simpler, bugger kind of stuff, has yielded me many large fish all over Patagonia.

 

On this, my most recent trip to Fly fish in Patagonia, dry flies were king. We left Michigan a couple days after Christmas on the advice of John Bleh. He’s the marketing director for Rio Manso Lodge near Bariloche. John advised that we would hit the dragonfly hatch. This hatch is like having an all day hex hatch. We caught brookies to 22 inches, rainbows to 24 and brown trout to 25 inches.

 

Fishing dragonflies is different then most other dry fly fishing I’ve done. The dragonflies are hatching mostly near the reed beds so that’s were the majority of the action happened. We were fishing mostly 2X, 9 foot leaders. You would cast as close to or even into the reed areas and twitch the fly. If you were in the reeds a very light touch would allow you to work the fly through the reeds and clear it before casting again. If you pulled you hooked the reeds, which were very unforgiving, you had to row in to retreive your fly. That alerted the fish to your presence and “blew” that area for awhile.

 

The other different thing to learn was the set. Most of the time the fish blew up on the dragonfly imitation, many times going straight up in the air with it in their mouths. So you set on fish flying through the air. A different method, but very cool.

 

It’s hard to describe the excitement of the dragonfly hatch and its importance in fly fishing Patagonia. One of the best patterns was a staple in our boxes here in Michigan, it’s our Damsel Pattern (see video below) , invented by Jon Ray. In this video I will show you how to tie this dragon fly, damsel fly pattern. We tie it in three colors, black, blue and green. The black variation was dynamite for the dragonfly hatch recently.

 

If you love dry fly fishing, big trout and explosive takes, fly fishing in Patagonia for the dragonfly hatch is for you. Join us next year!

 

Hawk

fly fishing lakes in argentina

Fly Fishing lakes in Patagonia


Fly fishing lakes in Patagonia

Fly Fishing lakes in Patagonia

Tips and Techniques

I’ve been lucky enough to fly fish many lakes for trout in Patagonia. Lago Tromen, Fonck, Hess, and Rocca to name a few. All three species, Brook, Rainbow and Brown Trout are available is these lakes in Patagonia. The trout, in spring and fall, are in the shallows hunting edibles to help them put on weight. Fly fishing lakes in Patagonia often will produce some of the largest fish of your trip.

The equipment you bring to a lake trip should be a six weight, fast action rod with a floating line and a seven weight rod loaded with a 250 grain sink tip. Depending on the time of year and where the fish are concentrated you will use one or the other. In late spring, early summer the fish will be in the shallow water, often near reeds looking to eat the hatching dragonflies. Explosive takes from large trout are common! As the water warms look for trout to concentrate closer to inlets and outlets looking for food near these coldwater sources.

As in river fishing, fly placement in crucial. Close to structure is key. Longer casts at times will be necessary Fly fishing lakes in Patagoniaespecially if winds are light and the water is calm and glassy. In Patagonia if the lake is calm throw smaller flies with longer leaders. If the wind is up, common in Argentina, bigger flies like Chernobyl Ants, Fat Albert’s and other foam creations will get attention.

The most important ingredient in your arsenal to fly fish lakes in Patagonia is animation. Twitch your fly! Many times I’ve seen fish cruising, looking for a meal. A little movement will attract fish and often result in hook ups. A little used tactic, often overlooked by north american fly anglers fly fishing for trout in Patagonia is to fish a big foam imitation like a bass popper. Many times I’ve had large fish attack a fly being popped back to the boat.

Streamers may also play a roll when fishing lakes in Patagonia. I have lit them up on a wide variety of offerings. Conehead woolly buggers, Nutcrackers, Hat Tricks and different pancora patterns have resulted in fish landed that have weighed in excess of 7 pounds.

Fly fishing lakes in Patagonia can be very productive at times. If you guide suggests it, happily go along. You may catch the biggest trout of your life.

Salaud!

Hawk