Dan Vogel, Steve Dixon, and I just finished a week of sea trout fishing on the Rio Grande River in Tierra Del Fuego.  At the very bottom of South America, TDF is an unbelievably unique, harsh, and beautiful place.  From the scenery, to the wildlife, to the wind, and the sea run brown trout, everything just seems extreme.  For those who want a shot at the biggest sea trout on earth, this is the place.  The combination of fertile oceans, great spawning habitat, and protection from commercial fishing makes TDF and it’s sea trout second to none.
We have fished this river for a number of years throughout its length, typically between Mid-February and Mid-March. Every year has been a bit different, but normally there are plenty of fish in the system at this time of year. Going into the week we knew there were good numbers of fish in the river, and plenty of fresh ones coming in every day, too. The week started off great!  Water conditions were stable, visibility was good, and the fish were very grabby.  Mid-week everything changed for us, however, after it snowed in the mountains and the melt caused the river to rise several inches and color up significantly.

Overnight, we went from fishing smallish size 10-12 patterns on floating and intermediate lines to fishing large 3-or-more-inch-long, dark colored string leeches on fast sinking lines. Seeing the river change in such a short time reminded me of the importance of being prepared with a variety of rods, lines, and flies in TDF. The single handed and switch rods that we used earlier in the week were the wrong choice for casting the larger flies and heavy lines required to fish the river swollen with melt water.

The change in water conditions not only changed the gear we were fishing, but the way we approached the river.  In lower flows, the fish were primarily holding and staging in known lies and pools, where we could target them using a slow, measured approach.  We knew where the fish were, and it was our job to figure out how to get them to bite.  Multiple passes through the runs with changes in fly, swing speed, sink tip, or retrieve were the norm.  When the water rose, as typically happens in anadromous fisheries, the fish were activated and started to move within and between pools, and the stained water gave them comfort in different types of lies.  The approach became more of a search, much like a great deal of the steelhead fishing that I’ve done.  From mid-week on we worked very hard to locate fish, but were always rewarded with a couple each day. Big flies made for aggressive grabs and we saw some fish of incredible quality. It was more mentally challenging to stay in the game during the second part of the week, but also extremely rewarding.
If you are interested in learning more about fishing the Rio Grande River in Tierra Del Fuego for sea trout we work with the several of the top lodges on the river. We will gladly help you organize a trip. Email jspence@bigskyanglers.com for more information.
Justino