Argentina Fishing Report – Rio Grande Sea Trout

Argentina Fishing Report – Rio Grande Sea Trout

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
Argentina Fishing Report – Estancia Tecka

Argentina Fishing Report – Estancia Tecka

I have spent close to two decades fishing the waters that surround Estancia Tecka, but never experienced Tecka myself until this year.  Estancia Tecka is a massive 400,000+ acre ranch located between Esquel and Rio Pico in the Chubut Province of Argentina. Over the years I had heard so many intriguing things about the hundreds of miles of spring creeks, the 30+ miles of the Corcovado River above the waterfalls, the many lakes and lagunas, the giant hoppers that appear during summer months that cause fish to feed violently, the 20 + inch brown trout that live in small waters and come out from under cut banks, the trophy brook and rainbow trout that move into the Corcovado River from Vintter Lake, and so much more.  Joe Moore hosted a group there a couple of years ago, and he recommended it as a must-do stop for my trip this year.  So, I found myself at Tecka for the first time just over a week ago with a great group of guys from back home – Dan V. from North Dakota, and Steve D. and Steve R. from Oregon.
We explored different water almost everyday. We fished several different spring creeks, lakes, lagunas, and sections of the Corcovado River. We caught brown, rainbow, and brook trout. During the week we just barely scratched the surface of fishable water. Dries, nymphs, and streamers all worked well, but dry flies were definitely the most productive. Foam beetles in sizes 8-12, small (12-16) purple, royal and peacock Chubbys, and especially JoJo’s Royal Ant in size 12-14, all took plenty of fish for us.
Why go to Tecka? Estancia Tecka is a wonderful place to experience for a wife variety of trout fishing with one base lodge.  What makes Estancia Tecka unique is the vastness of the ranch, the lack of other anglers, and the consequent lack of fishing pressure. Wade fishing prospects on the estancia are endless.  All of the smaller rivers and spring creeks provide plenty of action for 14-16 inch fish with chance of catching 22 inch or bigger fish.  Trophy brook trout fishing is best in the fall-March/April, as brookies from Lago Vintter move into the Upper Corcovado River. During November/December one can target 25+ inch rainbow trout  from Lago Vintter in the Corcovado.
One thing is for sure:  I’ll be back!  As far as destinations within Patagonia go, Tecka is top notch!
Gracias a todos en Estancia Tecka , especialmente a Pedro Ochoa, Federico Conesa, y Jorge Gonzalez, por mostrarnos tu magnífico lugar! Until next time!
Best,
Justino
Argentina Fishing Report – Golden Dorado in the North

Argentina Fishing Report – Golden Dorado in the North

Dan Vogel, Steve Rewick, and I just finished an awesome week of fishing for golden dorado in northern Argentina. We spent the first half of the week at Pira Lodge located near the Ibera Marsh and the second half at Suinda Lodge located on the Upper Parana River. Both places offer fantastic lodging, and guides, but the drastically different fisheries between the two locations make for a very fun and diverse week of angling.
The Ibera Marsh is very unique in that the fishing takes places inside a wildlife preserve and few people have access to this protected area. The resident dorado average 4-8 pounds but 20+ pound fish are caught. The variety of birds, reptiles, capybara, and marsh deer add to the fishing experience. There is a plan to reintroduce once extinct Jaguars into the marsh, which could add another incredible aspect to this destination. I have visited Pira numerous times now, and it keeps impressing me. The fish, wildlife, guides, lodge, staff, and food are simply excellent.
Following our time at Pira Lodge, we headed to Suinda Lodge, which has a rustic jungle setting. The lodge is located on the main Parana River.  The fishing takes place on larger water than the smaller, more intimate Ibera Marsh. The Upper Parana has a reputation for 20+ pound dorado – some over 40 pounds have been caught! Waters are clear on this upper stretch of river, making for some incredible sight fishing opportunities. We fished the banks with structure, swung flies near mid river rocks, and sight fished sand flats for massive dorado busting schools of sábalo. We also targeted Pacu, a fruit eating fish, that sits near the bank waiting for fruit to fall out of trees. We saw and heard howler monkey’s and a variety of tropical birds. The lodge, guides, staff, are amazing, just like at Pira.
It is hard to describe in words the excitement of dorado fishing.  Explosive takes, and powerful fights are amplified by the unique setting, hot and humid weather, and exotic wildlife.  The fact that these fisheries pair very well with a trout-based trip to the Argentine Patagonia farther to the south makes them all the more attractive to me.  Variety is the spice of the fishing life!!
This coming week we are off to Estancia Tecka in the Chubut Province to fish for truchas, so stay tuned!
If you would like to find out more about the golden dorado fishing we do in Argentina please contact me via email at jspence@bigskyanglers.com.
Limay River Giants – Hunting for “El Uno” in the Heart of Patagonia

Limay River Giants – Hunting for “El Uno” in the Heart of Patagonia

Everything about the Rio Limay is big.  It is born at the outlet of the massive (Surface Area = 205 sq. miles; Max Depth = 1,522 ft), glacially carved Lago Nahuel Huapi at the base of the Andes, emerging crystal clear and powerful, and regularly flowing between 3,000 and 5,000 cfs in the Fall.  The Upper Limay is one of the most scenic rivers in Argentina, confined between willow lined banks that glow gold in Autumn, with classic riffles, beautiful runs, and clear pools as deep as 30 feet!  Downstream, the river is captured by two consecutive and massive reservoirs developed for power generation, and takes on the flows of tributaries legendary in their own right among fly anglers – the Rio Traful, and Rio Collon Cura (which is formed by the Rios Chimehuin, Malleo, and Alumine).  Below the second dam, the Middle Limay, as it is known, is simply massive – the main channel is typically around 500 feet wide, and with its many side channels and islands, the overall width is nearly a mile in places.  The surroundings are arid and vast – the Patagonian Steppe.  It is South America’s Big Sky Country!  Flows in the Fall typically run between 5,000 and 10,000 cfs, with power generation pulses occasionally bumping flows as high as 20,000 cfs or more.  Because of the dams influence, however, the river remains crystal clear and fishable even at those massive flows… if you know where to look for the fish.

The setting is vast and spectacular, but what makes the Limay absolutely unique are the races of giant, migratory brown trout that live there.  In most places, a 5, 6, or even 8 pound brown would be considered a true trophy.  But on the Limay, thanks to a combination of interconnected lake, reservoir, and river habitats, and the presence of pejerrey baitfish and pancora crabs in huge numbers, a fish over 10 pounds is considered very large, with individuals pushing 15 pounds considered true trophies. Simply put, there are few rivers in the world like the Limay.  People often think the photos they see of Limay browns have come from the Rio Grande in Tierra Del Fuego, which is home to some of the largest sea run brown trout in the world.  But the fish of the Limay spend their entire lives in fresh water.  We have been fishing, exploring, and guiding anglers on the Limay for over 15 years and we continue to be blown away by the massive brown trout that come out of the river. Fall in Patagonia (April and May) are the prime months to fish the migratory run.

For many years the Limay simply wasn’t talked about.  Local guides selfishly kept it quiet.  It was the place they went to fish and unwind after a long season behind the oars. Where they went for a shot at the fish known as “El Uno”, or “The One”. The fish of dreams.  Over the years, word of this fishery has gotten out, and today the Limay is no secret, but there are still very few anglers and guides who really understand how to target its largest migratory fish.  Justin was among a small group of Argentine guides who devoted weeks every fall to cracking the code on the Limay.  By thinking outside the box, bringing in new types of gear including modern fly lines and fly tying techniques, and truly studying the migratory habits of these amazing fish, they began to unravel a few patterns.  “Lucky catches” slowly became more common over time.  More than a decade of experimentation later, Justin and our team of guides in Argentina now feel that they truly understand what it takes to give visiting anglers a legitimate chance at hooking and landing  a double-digit fish.

This is streamer fishing to the max.  Boats are critical to the approach on much of the river, offering transportation as well as aiding in the presentation of flies in the best holding water.  We generally fish seven or eight weight rods with 250-350 grain, super fast sinking lines for presenting the truly large streamers that move these big fish.  In many ways, the angling approach is more similar to saltwater fishing than classic trout fishing.  Long days and lots of long casts, sometimes in difficult conditions, are what it takes when looking for “El Uno”.  But landing the fish of a lifetime is not just a matter of luck and time.  Your chances greatly increase by investing your efforts intelligently, by fishing the right methods and flies in the very specific areas of the river that these migratory giants congregate.  If you have ever tried steelhead fishing and like its mental and physical challenges, you will love the pursuit of migratory trophies on the Limay!

We are super excited to offer guided trips on the Limay to those who love chasing trophy browns on big streamers.  This is not an all inclusive lodge trip, as there are no lodges that are located in the right location to fish the specific sections of the river where we find larger concentrations of trophy fish.  Rather, we arrange lodging at a variety of small local hotels and cabins, and eat at local restaurants, which allows us the best opportunity to be on the best water at the right times.  In other words, the fish dictate everything about this trip.  We are currently booking limited slots for the Fall 2020 (Late April – May) season.  If this sounds like an experience for you, please contact Justin Spence for more information and details at jspence@bigskyanglers.com or call the flyshop at 406-646-7801.

Exmouth, Western Australia Trip Report

Exmouth, Western Australia Trip Report

Exmouth, Western Australia:  The final stop on the adventure that my good friend Dan Vogel and I shared this winter.

The two incredible weeks fishing with Jono Shales of Exmouth Fly Fishing, not only taught us a lot about saltwater fly fishing, but also left Dan and I wanting more. We were super excited to make it to Western Australia because of the stories that Matt shared with us about his time there. I told Jono early in our trip that Dan and I both had limited saltwater experience and that my own personal goal for the trip was to become a more complete angler. Like any type of fishing there are subtleties that one can only learn by spending lots of time on the water. It also helps to fish with people like Jono who have dedicated thousands of hours to learning these little difference makers.  

The fishery surrounding Exmouth is so diverse that it is nearly indescribable.  One day we would fish the flats and target permit, golden trevally, GTs, and bonefish.   The next day we would be offshore on the Indian Ocean chasing marlin and sailfish.  Occasionally, on our way to a flat or the blue water we would see birds busting bait fish and we would race over and cast into slashing schools of tuna, mackerel, and trevally. The diversity in Exmouth is very unique and allows us anglers to play so many different and interesting games!  Even after two weeks, Dan and I felt like we were barely scratching the surface of the fishery.

Like any top-notch guide, Jono is a great teacher and a very passionate angler. His life is built around fishing and sharing his experiences with others, and he is an absolutely gracious host and a true ambassador for Australian fly fishing. Dan and I learned more about saltwater fly fishing than we ever expected thanks to Jono.  My own expectations were exceeded as I left with a better understanding of tides and how they influence fish behavior, different types of retrieves, strong saltwater knots, how to make quick, long, accurate casts, and most importantly, how to keep calm during the chaos. I highly recommend Jono as a guide and Exmouth as a fishery. I can’t wait to make it back!