Gearing up for an expedition to Bolivia's jungles in pursuit of golden dorado is not overly complicated, but there are some fundamentals to keep in mind when sourcing your equipment and apparel. This is a very remote destination within the Amazon jungle, and while the accommodations are exceptional, anglers need to prepare with care.
+ Bolivia Equipment List Video Series
What Rods Should I Bring?
Nine foot 8 and 9-weights are the bread and butter for the Bolivian fishery. We recommend anglers bring at least two rods -- though a third or fourth rod allows anglers to easily manage varying fishing scenarios, as well as stay in the game if a rod breaks. Dorado flies are large, so it may be in your best interest to bring at least two 9-weights in order to easily cast large flies over a week of fishing.
Additionally, pacu have quickly become a highly sought after species, regarded for their aggression, strength, and fondness of massive dry flies. For this reason, anglers can always dedicate one setup for pacu to allow for quick and easy access.
Selecting the Right Reel
Golden dorado are routinely compared to saltwater species--big, aggressive, and seriously strong. A high-quality reel with a durable drag system is crucial for leveling the playing field against a brutish dorado. The same can be said about pacu, a fish that is remarkably strong and matches the dorado's stamina and pulling power.
Reels should have approximately 200 yards of 30# backing, and anglers are encouraged to bring spare spools to quickly change between floating and sinking lines depending on the conditions and location.
Choosing A Fly Line
The first and most important aspect of a fly line for Bolivia is selecting a line designed for tropical or jungle settings. The Amazon is hot and muggy, so it is mandatory you have a line designed to stand up to those conditions.
Anglers should bring both a floating line and some form of a sinking line--whether it be intermediate or a sink tip. The floating line will likely be your primary line as Bolivia's golden dorado fishery is markedly different than those in Argentina and Uruguay where anglers are primarily blind casting with sinking lines. Sight fishing in shallow water to voracious dorado is what makes this fishery so remarkable, but if water is high due to rain or you come along deeper runs, an intermediate/sink-tip line in a 200-300 grain will be very useful. Often, these deeper pools hold the biggest fish and your fly needs to get down in the water column.
In the event you are targeting pacu, your floating line will be suitable for casting large dry flies, poppers, or a baitfish pattern.
Finally, anglers should do their best to have a fly line with a smooth taper. A shooting head is certainly convenient, especially when casting large flies at long distances, but this isn't always the best for enticing fish. Since the water in this fishery is often clear and the fish are near the surface, stealth and a delicate presentation are paramount to success. With that said, if you are not as confident of a caster, consider "overlining" your rod with one size heavier fly line or opt for a more aggressive taper.
As a side note, make the simple and cheap investment in some sort of fly line cleaning product. Your line will be routinely coming into contact with dirt which WILL effect your ability to cast. Quickly swiping your line at the end of the fishing day will ensure you are ready for the next day and extend the life of your fly line.
Leaders & Tippet
Packing leader and tippet for Bolivia is exceptionally easy. In almost every situation, you will be fishing a straight section of 30 or 40# flourocarbon leader.
The addition of 40# wire bite tippet will mean landing a fish versus losing one. Dorado and pacu will make trash of your leader without the addition of bite tippet. Anglers should bring at least one spool, or two to be safe.
Building Your Fly Box
For an all-encompassing, hand-picked selection of flies, head over to our Golden Dorado Fly Assortment.
If you prefer to build your own box or tie your own flies, we can provide some recommendations by species below. The key for ALL flies is to invest in high-quality hooks with the guides preferring the Tiemco 600SP. For a week of fishing, eighteen to two dozen flies is ideal--but keep in mind, dorado and pacu can eviscerate a fly.
If you have decided to build out your own box or tying your own golden dorado flies, there are some factors to consider. Firstly, many flies advertised for golden dorado are not best suited for Bolivia. Many of the flies on the market are heavily weighted with large heads designed to push water. However, golden dorado in Bolivia are often found in clear, shallow water, meaning flies need to generally be lighter to avoid spooking the fish. With that said, we strongly encourage anglers to have a few of the heavier, bushier flies in their box to ensure they are prepared for everything.
Baitfish patterns in 2/0-6/0 are the standard, but 3/0-4/0 is most often the guides' preference. Flies should be approximately six inches in length, and a complete box should have a range of color combination. The most important component, however, is flies have STRONG hooks.
Golden Dorado Flies
- Cruiser (Black/Purple, Red/Black, Yellow/Black)
- Jungle Thunder (Chartreuse/White, Olive/White)
- Flashfire Mushies (Olive/White, Chartreuse/White, Gray/White)
- Bad Attitude Baitfish (Grey/Orange/Yellow, Black/Red)
- Jungle Love (Black/Red, Black/Purple, Black/Chartreuse)
- EP Dorado
- EP Amazon Special
- El Dorado Deceiver (Black/Orange, Black/Red, Black/Purple)
- Bubble Head
We recommend anglers bring a few flies, though there are some flies that are not commercially sold such as fruit imitations made from deer hair. These can be acquired on location.
Apparel, Packs, and Must-Haves
Clothing: Lightweight, quick-dry clothing is very important for Bolivia. This is at times an expeditious fishing trip, with anglers routinely getting in and out of the boat, crossing the river, etc. A full-length capilene shirt is recommended for protecting you from the sun, but also staying comfortable over long days of fishing. A lightweight rain jacket is an item you will likely want and need at some point during your trip.
For pants, there are a few options. We recommend anglers either bring saltwater wading pants, or the preferred combination of wearing shorts with a pair of athletic or running tights underneath. This allows you to move through the water easily without drag, and also protects you from the sun and bugs.
Two or three sets of fishing clothes are all you will need over a week of fishing as the lodges do offer laundry service. A couple sets of casual wear for the lodge should round out your apparel needs. Finally, consider wearing neutral colors or darker colors -- a brightly colored hat or shirt is enough to spook a hyper-aware golden dorado.
Wading System: Durable, felt-soled wading boots are highly recommended with the optional addition of studs. Rubber and vibram are not going to offer enough traction in this environment.
This can be an exhaustive fishing trip consisting of ample hiking. If you feel you would benefit from extra support, a wading staff is a wise addition. Given that you will largely be wading for most of the fishing day, a pair of flip-flops or sandals are highly recommended for the evenings at the lodge.
- Waterproof Pack: This can consist of a single backpack or both a backpack for the boat and a smaller sling or hip-pack while fishing. You will want to store your flies, sunglasses, tackle, rain jacket, and essentials here as rain is common and you are routinely getting in and out of the river.
- Polarized Lenses: Bring at least one pair, if not two. Both for incidentals but to also give yourself the best options depending on light. An amber or copper lens is ideal for sunny conditions, and a dedicated lowlight lens can be a big help under cloudy conditions or at the beginning and end to the day.
- Pliers/Nippers: Golden dorado teeth can make quick work of 40# fluorocarbon leader material, so we don't advise using your hands to remove a fly. While your guide can take care of this, a set of pliers is strongly recommended for tightening knots, snipping tag ends, and clean fish releases. If bringing nippers, make sure they are durable enough to routinely snip the 40# wire bite tippet--A cheap pair will quickly dull!
Additional Gear Guides: