After our Patagonia expedition alongside SET Fly Fishing and Rachel Finn, and the forthcoming release of the film “After You’ve Gone,” we seized the chance to chat with Rachel and explore her captivating journey in the pursuit of the elusive golden dorado. Take a look at the full interview below, including how you can book your own Golden Dorado trip with SET Fly Fishing.
Flylords: What is your relationship with the guides and the operation in general with SET Fly Fishing?
Rachel: I met the folks from SET Fly Fishing in January of 2020 when I hosted a trip at their Casa del Campo location. Before my DIY fishing adventure, I spent a week solo in Junin De Los Andes, equipped with a rental car. Gustavo and Matias proved incredibly helpful in guiding me, particularly on the Malleo River. They even graciously invited me over for dinner at the lodge one evening, as my friend Geri Myer from Driftless Angler happened to be there!
Following that, I embarked on my hosted trip and had the pleasure of meeting some of their excellent guides. We had an outstanding journey, and it was evident that I needed to come back. The subsequent year, I organized another group and took them to Spring Creek Lodge – yet another remarkable adventure! It was immediately clear to me that the people at SET were truly exceptional individuals.
I’m excited to announce that in April 2024, I’ll be returning with two groups. The entire experience at any SET location is genuinely heartfelt and sincere!
Flylords: You mention “Dorado fishing is a full time job–it’s a drug,” can you explain this a little more?
Rachel: Well, I borrowed that phrase from my dear friend Lori Ann Murphy, who resides in Belize. A few years back, during my visit to her, she was guiding me on her Panga. I was positioned at the bow and, admittedly, I was being quite talkative—perhaps excessively so, to the point where I wasn’t fully engaged in the fishing. Lori grew frustrated with my chattiness and sternly remarked, “The ready position is a full-time job!” It was then that I realized I should keep quiet and stay focused.
Dorado fishing is akin to that experience in many ways. It demands unwavering concentration because opportunities can arise unexpectedly. It’s not always about sight fishing, so strikes can occur at any moment. It’s a challenging but wonderfully rewarding endeavor, both physically and mentally, and I find the demanding nature of it strangely appealing.
Flylords: Dorado is a species you cannot find everywhere, what was your experience in Argentina targeting them?
Rachel: The first time I visited, it was during the off-season, mainly to explore the lodge at Itati. It was scorching hot, and the Upper Parana River was unusually low and challenging. However, we ventured into the Ibera Marsh, which was undeniably stunning. We set up camp there and enjoyed two days of fishing. During that time, I managed to hook a couple of fish, including one on a crease fly!
Fast forward to this past November, which is prime time for fishing. I returned with the Flylords crew, and the Upper Parana did not disappoint. The three of us were fortunate enough to land Dorado, and some of them were quite sizable. Max Erickson truly excelled in his angling pursuits!
Flylords: What is so special about dorado fishing compared to other freshwater/saltwater species? What would you compare a golden dorado to?
Rachel: Dorado are the apex predators of their habitat, known for their mystique and the formidable challenge they present. Personally, I don’t possess extensive experience in saltwater fishing, and I’m still in pursuit of landing a permit, which, I must admit, proves equally elusive.
When it comes to freshwater angling, you could draw a parallel to the Musky (which I’ve yet to catch, despite one memorable encounter with a follower). Both species share the quality of being exceedingly elusive and demanding, requiring relentless casting of substantial flies throughout the day.
Flylords: If this fish was the biggest fish you have ever caught, what is next on your bucket list?
Rachel: I’ve had the opportunity to catch a couple of Kings during my guiding days in Alaska. I went Tarpon fishing just once, and it was with Diana Rudolph, an incredibly skilled angler. During that outing, I managed to hook into a substantial fish, but the power exhibited by the Dorado I encountered was truly remarkable, especially within the confines of a river.
Ironically, a few days later, while fishing with the remarkable guide Carlo on the Upper Parana, Max and Zento were away, conducting an interview with a Dorado biologist. Without cameras around, I had the exhilarating experience of hooking and successfully landing an 80lb Surubi (a giant catfish) using an old Scott 8wt Eclipse rod. It was quite a wild adventure, and the credit for that achievement goes to Carlo.
When it comes to my fishing bucket list, size isn’t the foremost consideration for me. While I would certainly relish the opportunity to catch a permit (I’m headed to Ambergris and Xcalak in November for that very purpose) and, of course, a Tarpon, my ultimate bucket list item would be to swing a fly for a massive Atlantic Salmon in Norway. It may be a lofty dream, but a girl can certainly dream!
Flylords: If you’re back in Argentina, do you favor fishing for dorado, trout, or seeking other species you haven’t fished for yet?
Rachel: In an ideal world, I would pursue both Dorado and Trout on every fishing expedition! SET Fly Fishing has been venturing into numerous new areas that appear incredibly promising for both Trout, such as northern Patagonia and helicopter fishing, and Dorado, featuring their new lodge Jetu’u – Cabana de Esteros in the Isoro Marsh. I’m eagerly anticipating the opportunity to explore these locations!
Flylords: You mention “time is precious, and I am going to be a little more conscious on how I spend it.” How do you find solitude in fly fishing, and what does time mean to you?
Rachel: I often fish alone, and I genuinely relish the solitude. It seems that being an artist naturally aligns with such solitary pursuits. However, I also derive immense pleasure from fishing with my friends. There’s nothing quite like sharing a small stream with a buddy, taking turns, or spending an entire day in a drift boat with dear companions.
Regrettably, it sometimes takes a profoundly impactful experience, such as the loss of someone close or grappling with illness, to underscore the importance of such moments. It may sound like a cliché, but it’s a truth I’ve come to appreciate. Alongside the moments well spent, I’ve also realized that I’ve “wasted” a fair share of time. Perhaps it’s the perspective that comes with age—I’m now 61—and it’s fascinating how we often refer to time as a currency, talking about “spending time,” and the like. I’m genuinely striving to make better use of my time and be less selfish with it. What I’ve learned, without a doubt, is that time is more valuable than money.