Tsimane Lodges Golden Dorado - TRIP REPORT

Four-Day Exploratory Trip - July 2022

Fly Fishing Tsimane, Bolivia

by Brad Staples

This past July, I took an overdue trip to the Tsimane area in the Bolivian Jungle for one of my favorite freshwater species, the Golden Dorado. The Tsimane are indigenous people living in the Isiboro Secure National Park, a remote landscape where the Amazon jungle meets the Andes Mountains. Tsimane is a fly-fishing-only destination. All the fish are handled with care so they can be released unharmed. You will need to bring an 8 or 9-weight fly rod with a floating and an intermediate sink tip line. Each day I had two rods set up for the different fishing conditions. You'll be walking and wading, with some fishing from stable dugout canoes. The Argentine fishing guides speak Spanish and English. The native boatmen are from the village.

Trip Planning:  Besides working for Fishing with Larry, I am also a steelhead guide on Oregon’s Deschutes River. My season usually coincides with Tsimane's dorado season. But in 2022, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife delayed our season until mid-August due to a low return of steelhead the prior year. The delay gave me a chance to explore Tsimane finally. The outfitter was able to find space for me at Pluma Lodge for four days. Tsimane has two other lodges—Agua Negra Lodge and Secure Lodge.

Getting to Tsimane:  I flew from Portland to Dallas, then to Miami, and then to Santa Cruz, Bolivia. In Santa Cruz, I met Tsimane’s team that handles supplies and logistics. They drove me to an upscale hotel for my first night in Bolivia. The following day, I flew in with the group of anglers for the week. We flew in small planes, accommodating three to five people. It was about a 90-minute flight to Oromomo Indian Community. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the Tsimane people—the area’s namesake. While they unloaded our gear and supplies for Tsimane’s lodges, I changed into fishing clothes and wading boots with felt soles—getting ready for the boat ride upstream. (Rubber soles should not be used, and spiked soles are not allowed because of the damage they cause to the dugout canoes.)

We were transferred from the village to the Lodges by dugout canoes with small outboard motors. After motoring about thirty minutes up the Secure River, I ran into my friend Fabi, a fishing guide in Argentina, who had one client in the boat. On impulse, I grabbed my gear and switched boats. In Fabi's boat, I was soon into a nice seven-pound dorado. We caught another couple of dorados. Towards the end of the day, I landed one about 14-16 pounds, which is a nice dorado for this section of the river. Golden dorado can reach over 25 pounds on these rivers.

Brad Staples and Fabi (the guide)
Guide Fabi with Tsimane Golden Dorado and Brad Staples

Pluma Lodge:  I stayed at Pluma Lodge, which sits high on the bank overlooking the Pluma River. The Pluma flows into the Secure River. The Lodge caters to six anglers per week for the Heli-Fishing program. The Lodge is very nice, with good-sized rooms, private bathrooms, and plenty of storage. Delicious hearty meals are served with several choices of wine, including Argentine Malbec, beer, and mixed drinks.

Since I was at Tsimane to see as much as possible of the program, Marcelo, one of the owners, lined up a fishing guide to take me to Agua Negra Lodge. The guide took me by motorized canoe down the Pluma River, then about one hour upstream on the Secure River to where the Agua Negra flows into the Secure. (Where the Pluma joins the Secure River, the basin area is very wide to accommodate the large flow of water from the seasonal rains.)

Agua Negra Lodge sits on a high bank overlooking the Secure River. Up to four anglers per week stay in large covered tents on elevated platforms. You’ll dine and relax in a wood-framed building. There is the option of spending a night or two at an Agua Negra headwaters camp, which is reached by walking/wading for about 60 minutes from the Agua Negra Lodge. After touring the Lodge, we fished our way down the Secure River, hooking and landing a couple of nice dorado.
The next day we explored upstream from Pluma Lodge. The river levels were low in some places, so the two boatmen poled the dugout without using an engine. There were places where Fabi and I got out and helped them drag the canoe over the shallow rifles, which was too difficult for just the two guides. As we headed upstream to the Itirisama River, I caught a few dorados. The Itirisama is typically a very clear stream with many miles of accessible fishing spots. We did not have time that day to hike further up the river.

Besides the Dorado, you can catch a few other species, such as Pacu, different types of catfish, yatorana—a cousin of the golden dorado they also like to jump and make for exciting sightfishing, plus other jungle species.

The following day I left the Lodge and went downriver to the Oromomo Community for my flight back to Santa Cruz. I stayed in the hotel and left for the States late that night. I had a short but amazing four-day fishing adventure.

This trip is very special as you are in the remote Bolivian Jungle. You need to be in good physical condition, as there is a lot of walking and wading. If you are able to make the trip, I believe that the rewards are very much worth the effort. The weather was mild while I was there, but you need to be prepared for warm and cool temperatures; plus, it can rain, sometimes a lot, which can increase water levels and cause streams to get muddy. After a storm moves through the area, the water levels usually drop quickly.

These trips are very popular, so advanced planning is important. Both Guy Schoenborn and I have been to Tsimane, so please let us know if we can help with any questions about this special fly-fishing destination. We have detailed information about this trip, and I have a Dropbox folder with photos from the time I spent at Tsimane that I can send out to you.

Brad Staples
1-800-205-3474  ext. 3
Cell (503) 250-0558
Email:  brad@fishingwithlarry.com

Guy Schoenborn
1-800-205-3474  ext. 1
Email:  guy@fishingwithlarry.com

Tsimane Golden Dorado

Large Golden Dorado Held Above the Water

Flight From Santa Cruz to the Village

Small Airplane in Flight

Dugout Canoe called a Chiman.

Canoe with Motor in Pluma River

Heli-Fishing at Tsimane

Helicopter on Riverbank for New Heli-Fishing

Fabi (guide) and Brad Staples

Fabi Crouched with Large Dorado and Brad Staples

Pluma Lodge at Night

Pluma Lodge Lit up at Night

Dining Room at Pluma Lodge

Wood-Paneled Dining Room

Note the Markings on the Baby Dorado

Brad Holding Baby Golden Dorado

One English-speaking professional fly-fishing guide for every two anglers and two native boatmen.

Local Guides with Brad Staples

Brad Staples with Tsimane Dorado

Brad Staples with Bright Dorado at River's Edge

Click here for Tsimane Lodge Main Page.

More Tsimane Lodge Links:

Fishing Travel Experts

Guy Schoenborn

1-800-205-3474 ext. 1

MT Office:  406-322-5709

Email:  guy@fishingwithlarry.com

Brad Staples

1-800-205-3474 ext. 3

Cell (503) 250-0558

Email:  brad@fishingwithlarry.com