We have recently fielded a number of phone calls here at Big Sky Anglers asking about fishing in Argentina/Chile this upcoming 2020/21 season. The time is right for an update on travel to Argentina, including the Patagonia regions.
Due to COVID related restrictions, our groups that were scheduled to fish Patagonia this November and December and January have been rescheduled for late 2021/2022.
As of now, we are hopeful that we will be able to safely, effectively, and legally travel to Argentina from February through April. That said, there is a lot that has to happen internally in Argentina before this is an option. Rest assured, we are in close touch with friends and partners throughout Argentina on an almost daily basis, and we are keeping a close eye on what has been developing down south.
Argentina’s fishing season recently opened to Argentine resident anglers, but many provinces throughout Argentina are still not allowing Argentines to move from one province to another. There is a plan in place to allow Argentine residents to travel to Patagonia from other provinces, but this new plan is in its infancy. There is currently no official date in place for when foreign visitors can travel to Argentina, that we have been able to find. Any dates being published are based on speculation. For our friends down south in the fishing business these next couple of months will likely determine if Argentina will open its doors to foreign tourists in 2021.
We here at Big Sky Anglers will gladly visit with you about the current state of affairs in Argentina relating to foreigners traveling in 2021 and going forward. If things do look like they are opening up to foreigners there a number of outfitters/lodges that we work with who will be in a position to operate and provide the fantastic experiences they are known for. If you are interested in visiting more about fishing in Argentina please call Justin, Joe, or Jonathan at the Shop: 406-646-7801. And, we will be sure to provide another update on our blog when we have more solid information in hand.
In the meantime we will be sharing pictures of our close Argentine friends experiencing some great early season fishing with almost no angling pressure.
If you are interested in doing some research on travel restrictions on your own, the following websites may come in handy.
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 email@example.com or call the flyshop at 406-646-7801.
Big Sky Anglers is excited to be able to offer two open spots at Despedida Lodge during the prime time in 2019.
This adventure includes 6 full days of fishing, from March 10-15.
If you’ve ever thought about sea trout, please feel free to get in touch, and we will be happy to tell you more about this and other opportunities.
I made my first trip to Tierra del Fuego in search of sea trout in 2008. Looking back now, I’d have to describe my understanding of anadromous fish at the time as somewhere between clueless and hopeful. I had a set of expectations that were based on things I’d read and stories that I’d heard from friends who had chased sea trout and steelhead. Now I often think back, comparing those initial thoughts and expectations that I had back then to what I’ve learned and experienced over the last 10 seasons. And, if there is one statement I could make about sea trout and Tierra del Fuego, is that both defy expectations, and both have a beauty and complexity that are not truly apparent without experiencing them for yourself.
Not only that, but if there is one place and time to go to experience all the beauty and complexity of sea run brown trout in Tierra del Fuego, it is Despedida Lodge in early to mid- March. Despedida is unique in that it offers access to so many different facets of sea trout water and sea trout angling. The Lodge is located at the confluence of the Rio Grande, and a smaller tributary called the Rio Menendez. It is this location that makes fishing here so unique, and interesting. Because the Menendez is a critical spawning tributary for returning sea trout, the runs and pool on the Rio Grande downstream of the Menendez confluence are staging areas for huge numbers of sea trout. My early March, these runs are stacked with fish, and new fish arrive each day, offering anglers the opportunity to fish over good numbers of fish, and also to experiment with presentations that will tempt both early returning and newly returning fish to grab.
Often it is the water conditions which dictate our initial presentation approach. If rains have raised the river fish will often act aggressively toward larger patterns like leeches, swung on sink tips. In low and clear conditions, presentations become more technical with smaller flies, lighter tips and floating lines taking center stage. These are fairly “traditional” approaches to sea trout fishing, and they are proven over decades. We fish both single and 2-handed rods on the Rio Grande, depending on conditions.
The Rio Menendez also fishes well. While traditional approaches also work there, the intimacy of the water and unpressured nature of the fishing sets the stage for some angling that truly shatters expectations of sea trout angling. I am talking about the ability to fish for double digit sea trout with the upstream dry fly, or dry/dropper methods like we use on the rivers of Montana! For those willing to experiment, there is a complexity and uniqueness here that can’t be described with words.
What I really like about Despedida Lodge aside from the unique angling is the size of the lodge, and the quality of the guides. The lodge setting is small and personal, catering to only six anglers each week. The guides are knowledgeable, skillful, and speak both Spanish and English, and are some of the best I have ever worked with anywhere. When it comes to sea trout, an experienced guide makes a huge difference in shortening an angler’s learning curve and deciphering the sometimes whimsical nature of the bite. The wine and food aren’t bad either!!