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The Epic Yatorana Fish; Best Jungle Sport Fish?

The jungles of South America are filled with fantastic fish species for the destination angler! Very few fly fisherman have heard of the Yatorana. Those who are familiar have likely caught one themselves. Pound for pound, the Yatorana fish fights harder than even their close cousin, the Golden Dorado. They might even fight harder than any other species in the Amazonian headwaters!

After a few weeks of guiding our anglers in Bolivia, we quickly became enchanted with this overlooked species. A quirky adversary, we found these large-scaled fish to be a highlight of our guide season. Yatorana have a very diverse diet, from fruits to baitfish. This diet will keep a fly box busy!

As with all destination travel, we recommend our anglers find time to dedicate to the non-target species. Trust us, the Yatorana does not disappoint!

Yatorana Fish
Photo owned by Gregory Houska

The Yatorana Fish 101

When fly fishing for Yatorana, or “Yats” as we call them, we find them in either aggressive or wary states. With such a spectrum of moods, these fish can be very challenging to catch on the fly! After all, a dynamic adversary keeps the game interesting.

Once hooked, Yatorana go crazy. Unlike dorado, these fish might just take you into the backing if you are not ready! As strong runners, Yats are also jumpers and put on quite a display.

Yatorana are omnivores. They eat nuts, berries and other fruit in a very similar fashion to the Pacu fish they cohabitate deep pools with. Just as often, though, you can find schools of Yats cruising and corralling baitfish like their much more piscivorous cousin the Golden Dorado! In fact, it’s not uncommon to find Yatorana hanging with juvenile dorado.

Little is known about the life cycle of Yatorana. As with many jungle species in South America, there’s not much recorded, or at least translated. From our experience, the Yatorana seem to top out around 6 pounds. Juveniles tend to school up and it’s not uncommon to see 20 of them at a time. Adults are mostly found in singles or pairs.

fly fishing for yatorana
Property of greg houska

Where to Catch Yatorana Fish

Yatorana can be found throughout the cold water reaches of the Amazon watershed. The most common places fly anglers run into them are in Bolivia while fly fishing for golden dorado. While they share pools with the larger and predatory dorado, anglers looking to specifically target Yatorana should explore up tributaries.

In larger, almost stagnant, pools look for Yatorana basking or cruising underneath over hanging trees. These fish are acting opportunistically and are waiting for fruits or insects to fall out of the tree. Our clients have had very good success fishing in these situations using giant jungle-sized terrestrials like Chernobyl Ants. Just make sure they are tied on stout hooks!

Tributaries can be gold mines for sub-species like the Yatorana. We’ve taken anglers up un-fished streams teeming with juvenile Yatorana. While these tangents are not what most anglers come to the jungle for, it’s worthwhile to do some truly unique expeditions! Often, these pools are teeming with fish, so competition breeds aggression and catching them can be quit easy.

What Set-Up to Fly Fish for Yatorana

Yatorana are stay within a size range from fishery to fishery. Currently, there is not a “trophy” fishery for them. This means that gear for Yatorana is fairly uniform and will work across the board! We like our guests to always bring a lighter set-up to the jungle, although most fishing will be with larger rods used for primary species.


A fast action rod from a 6 wt to a 7 wt will keep Yatorana fly fishing sporty! Yatorana will eat big dorado flies or small terrestrial fly patterns. It is important to have a rod that can fish both! While slower action rods work, they just don’t generate the line speed most anglers want for getting the flies where they need to go!

FlyTramp recommendation: Redington Predator (7 wt)

Courtesy of Redington Fly Rods


Once hooked, these Yats will jump and rip line! As they might actually run into your backing, the reel does matter. A good saltwater reel with a solid drag system will work great. Don’t forget, buy nice or buy twice – a reel for Yatorana can be used for salmon in Alaska too!

FlyTramp recommendation: Sage Spectrum Max (7/8)

Courtesy of Sage

Fly Line:

Fly lines are important! A floating weight forward line will be the ticket for most jungle fly fishing. The line taper needs to be able to turnover a large fly or place a delicate dry fly.

FlyTramp recommendation: RIO Jungle Series (WF 7)

Leader & Tippet

For Yatorana, leaders need to be strong! Not only that, but wire tippets are a good idea. While you can get by without a bite wire tippet, it’s n to uncommon to catch other toothy fish when targeting Yats! Guides in Bolivia have dialed homemade leaders down to simple 40 lb fluorocarbon with tippets of 30 – 40 lb bite wire.

Guides should build leaders for you, but bring leader materials with you. There are no shops in the jungle!

FlyTramp recommendation: Rio Saltwater Flouroflex Tippet 40 LB & Rio Powerflex Wire Bite Tippet 30 – 40 Lb

Building your own leader: Start with about 6.5-7 feet of 40 Lb fluorocarbon leader material. Create a perfection loop for the leader to line connection on one end. We recommend using a figure eight knot for our leader to bite wire connection. Make sure this leaves 12 -16″ of bite wire on your leader. Create another perfection loop when attaching the fly – it synchs well with bite wire.

(Guide Tip : monitor your bite wire for fraying. We’ve also seen heart breaks!)

Best Flies for Yatorana

We’ve got a lot of thoughts on the best flies for Yatorana. After all, we’ve seen many patterns work! For the most part, we’ve found best success choosing flies based on the scenario we’re seeing the Yatorana in. For example, a laid-up basking Yat will surely want a terrestrial pattern!

But to wrap this post up, here are the essential three patterns you need!

FlyTramp 3 recommended Yatorana flies:

Chernobyl Ant: Good luck finding them commercially tied on strong enough hooks for jungle fish! They don’t exist. Tie themselves on stout hooks with lots of foam!

Nut flies: You should have these in your box for Pacu too!

Brush Flies: Yats will eat dorado flies, but smaller sized brush flies work exceptionally well!

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