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 for more information.
Tierra del Fuego Sea Trout – Estancia Despedida

Tierra del Fuego Sea Trout – Estancia Despedida

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!!