Story of my first Patagonian SeaTrout Adventure
Flying out of Buenos Aires with its 14 million inhabitants reflecting
on the Iberia Marshlands and the Golden Dorado with most of my saltwater
flies in tatters thanks to the destructive nature of Golden Dorado
with some help from the Piranha felt surreal.
Thinking of landing at Rio Gallegos in the Santa Cruz province at
the southern end of the South American continent brought on a glowing
feeling. Patagonia at last, and out of the still warmth of the marshes
into the ????????, well I had heard a lot of different stories about
the wind, cold and tough conditions. Now it was time to find out,
was I ready, did I bring adequate clothing and fishing gear, what
is it really like?
Could I handle the conditions and the style of the fishing after
the unrelenting, fast paced Golden Dorado attacks and the warm still
conditions of the Iberia Marshlands?
Reminiscing suddenly came to an end as the plane circled the Rio
Gallegos estuary heading for the air strip on the other side. The
estuary did look rough and blown apart, the landscape barren. Now
where did I pack that soft shell, as the light fleece I had put
on for the plane trip started to feel insignificant. A glance throughout
the plane confirmed it, everyone was adding layers and the clothing
looked substantial. The plane landed and I was as far south as I
had ever been on the ground.
Gaston the head guide from the lodge, and a local from this town,
met me coming off the plane. Gaston left me momentarily outside
the airport to retrieve the vehicle I realised how well the soft
shell technology actually worked, this jacket is windproof.
The hour long trip drive along the river to the lodge was passed
chatting with Gaston about the area, the fishing and sea trout.
Gaston has been involved in a government study on the sea run browns
of the Rio Gallegos for the last 3 years and has guided for many
years on this river. My appetite was more than whetted and I was
keener than ever to get on the water and make some casts.
Arriving at the lodge was a pleasant affair and a chance to meet
all the staff, partake of some refreshments, unpack, set up the
fishing gear and get ready for the afternoon fishing session starting
I rigged up my single handed 8 weight Loomis with a 275 grain sink
tip line and a sectioned leader tapering down to 15 lb fluorocarbon.
Yes this was set up for trout fishing, but surely it was overkill!
What trout would bite on 15 lb tippet and put more than a slight
bend in an 8 weight.
The next surprise came at the river as I realised I was seriously
under gunned for the current conditions. How could a cast be made
in this wind, even with an 8 weight? Well Gaston had the answer
as he took a 14 foot double handed spey rod from the vehicle rack
and suggested we fish with this as the wind was up a “little”
and the water was high and had some color. I say never argue with
the guide, so an interesting afternoon was had learning to cast
a 14 ft double handed rod. Gaston assured me I was learning well,
I’m not so sure. Anyway it was an interesting afternoon, not
every day you get to experience something totally new in fly fishing
like casting a double handed spey rod. Right on dark fishing a very
fast and rocky run, called Abbots, a huge fish rolled, about where
my fly might have been…..hhmm.
Looking out of the window the next morning towards the river, I
noticed that the trees were trimmed to the height of the fence protecting
them from the wind and other older trees had no branches on one
side. So that’s the direction the wind comes from, and it
was windy. The morning session started shortly after breakfast and
I was fishing with Nacho today.
Nacho proved to be one of the best guides you could hope to fish
with. Although the river was dropping rapidly, due to the wind and
high water conditions, I followed Nacho’s suggestion and fished
the “big rod”. By mid morning this monster rod was starting
to feel like just about the perfect weapon for these conditions
and with the long butt tucked under the right arm and retrieving
the fly with the left I was starting to feel like I was seriously
fishing this inspiring piece of water.
Having carefully studied the diagram of the pool as Nacho had been
drawing it on the chalk board for my benefit - prior to starting
fishing, I knew that I had fished the main part of the run and covered
quite well the channel and hot spots where the sea runners may have
been and was coming to the end of the pool known as Fernando’s.
Fernando’s was named after the owner of the estancia, which
has private fishing rights to approx 55 km’s of water on the
Rio Gallegos, on which the lodge is located and has been operating
for 15 years. And the owner was due to visit the lodge this evening
with his friend Carlos. Was it good etiquette to be fishing in his
Suddenly there was a pull on the line, I lifted the huge rod, but
only a little way as it was pulled back down by something on the
other end. Well I was surprised; the large articulated chartreuse
leech fly I had been throwing into the water has actually got a
response. Yes it is definitely a fish, the rod is bent right over
and it is throbbing.
Nacho comes over with a giant net and calmly states that I have
hooked a sea trout. The diesel I have hooked is casually making
its way upstream towards me and I am thankful for the 15 lb tippet.
The big rod helps with the sudden lunges and absorbing of the headshakes.
I start thinking of what it would be like to hook this thing on
a 9 foot single handed rod, my brain quivers and I get on with the
task at hand.
The fight draws down, the color in the water makes netting difficult,
but suddenly there it is in the net. I peer into the huge net and
cannot believe what I am looking at, the bottom of the net is full,
the fish looks incredible, it is a very silvery hen (fresh fish),
with a small head and on her way upriver to spawn. Nacho weighs
the fish and I measure it, 86cm’s and 20 lb’s.
My mind is boggling as Nacho takes some photo’s, we lift the
fish quickly for a photo then put it back in the net. It is hard
to get a good photo as she is so big and squirms and wriggles. Nacho
shows me how to hold the fish for a great photo and I get a one
of him which does not look like a father carefully cradling a baby.
The afternoon session provides the opportunity to get further acquainted
with the river, catching some resident fish on the leech (!!), losing
a sea runner and plenty of casting practice with the 2 handed rod.
The evening is pleasantly spent in front of the fire sipping various
beverages and chatting about fishing. Fernando is surprisingly nice
about the fish I have caught in his pool, as he has flown in especially
to fish it the next morning and the word poacher is only used once.
The next morning it is incredible to look outside and see blue sky
and very little wind. Definitely down from the 60 km’s per
hour or so of the previous day. Gaston, Carlos and I set off for
the morning session, even though it is still the air is bitingly
cold. Both Carlos and I fish single handed rods, the water is also
a lot clearer this morning and our hopes are high.
Carlos pulls out of a large fish in the first few casts. I am having
problems; the water coming off the stripped line is freezing on
contact with the stripping tape on my fingers and falling off as
ice. It isn’t too long before I have to take a break from
casting, Gaston brings me a coffee and as the feeling returns to
my hand with an incredible pins and needles type pain. Well the
beautiful day is warming and I am back in action,
Carlos hooks and lands a 20 lb er. We move to another spot and it
isn’t to long before I am into a fish on the single handed
8 weight. The fish jumps after the take and my heart starts to thump,
the rod is jumping around in my hand and although there is not the
fast sustained run of a bonefish this fight is incredible. The fish
is a beautiful 76cm hen with a little color and Gaston says she
has been in the river over a month.
We retire for lunch and siesta, I choose to fish the Rio Gallegos
Chico for the early afternoon, which is a small spring creek on
the property with over 30 km’s of water as the bird flies
and a lot more on the ground as it twists and braids its way through
the valley. This choice turns out to be a good one as after a ½
hour drive Gaston and I are greeted by one of the most perfect trout
habitats I have seen.
The water is crystal clear, with abundant weed growth, deep holes
and undercut banks. The braid we are fishing is about 15 foot wide,
as the habitat is so perfect I throw caution to the wind and just
walk slowly along the bank upstream. The next 2 hours passes like
a dream as trout after trout is polaroided and comes up to the Chernobyl
ant on 8 lb fluro carbon on the 6 weight. Some see me and spook,
others are missed, and the action is incredible. As the light drops
the fish come up out of the deeper holes and move into shallow feeding
lies. Now I am spooking a lot of fish and realise I can no longer
see into the water. Time to head back to the main river for the
‘magic hour’: that time just when it gets dark that
the sea trout move around more and can be easier to catch.
We position ourselves on the main river just as it is getting dark
and I start to fish the run. The fly is getting deep and bumping
some boulders on the bottom occasionall,y and catching a bit of
weed on this side of the channel. I am working slowly down towards
the hot spot when the fly snags on the bottom, I pull on the rod,
then I pull on the rod a couple more times to try and free the fly.
Then the rod pulses in my hand, what have I hooked? The fish takes
off downstream against serious drag, rolls about 50 meters’
down and is gone. Gaston says it is most likely a very big male
fish. (the living rock?)
The last day on the Rio Gallegos (pronounced Rio Gaa-shaegos) heralds
a beautiful morning and the wind is up somewhat from the previous
day. Nacho and I hit the river, I am making beautiful long casts
into all the right places with the single handed rod and feeling
good, Nacho is entertaining himself making signs on the iced up
little puddles and taking photos of me through bits of ice as I
am casting. We move to the next run called Meteorite - after a boulder
embedded in the hill on the opposite bank. The hot spot is as you
are fishing opposite the boulder and sure enough a lovely 67 cm
10 lb silver fish comes to the fly and is landed.
The first part of the afternoon is spent at the spring creek and
I land 9 fish on the Chernobyl ant, 1 of them tail walks right up
on the bank and I quickly kick him back before the prickly grass
hurts his eyes, and to continue the fight. The little net is 20
inches and he is curled up in it. The timer on the camera tells
no lies and I have never had such fast fishing to such beautiful
trout. Some of the fish have the most amazing fluro red and blue
spots on the adipose fin and I am not sure I have seen this on other
The camera does not truly capture the deep ruby coloration of these
fish. Nacho is taking the photos as my battery is charging and while
clicking away he tells me the sea trout do not run up this creek
due to the ph of the water and the resident fish from the creek
do not go into the main river. My time on the Rio Gallegos Chico
ends with the sun dropping too low to see into the water.
Nacho and I head to the main river for the magic hour. Nacho is
keen for me to try for the living rock fish of the previous night
but my heart is not in it and the run ends quickly. I am keen to
fish Abbots to finish my unsettled business from the very first
night, and 4 casts into the run I bring a 67cm fish to the net,
right about where that one rolled the first night.
Nacho encourages me to fish out the run. But I finish the day there,
perfect in my mind, 10 trout for the afternoon finishing with a
10 lb’er on the last cast at Abbot’s. My time at this
lodge has been fantastic and I feel like the king of the world.
Muchos gracias Fernando.
The next stage of my sea trout journey involves travelling to the
island at the southernmost tip of South America, Tierra del Fuego,
the land of fire, named for its sunrises and sunsets and home of
the Rio Grande, classed as the number 1 sea trout river in the world....
The transfer is 10 hours by land and involves 4 border crossings
and a barge over the Magellan Strait. The barge was running this
day as it was not too windy, although it was hard to stand up in
wind blowing at about 85 kph. Amazingly the barges run in wind up
to 105 kph.
It is good to be inside the barge eating a hot dog looking out at
the wild weather and lashing seas. I am amazed by the Commerson's
Dolphin’s coming alongside the barge in these conditions.
Small and thick, black and white dolphins which have a beautiful
name in the local Spanish language.
It is interesting to note that the country is a lot wetter and greener
once we are on the island and as we drive across another spring
creek on the Chilean side of the border I can’t help but think
of the Chico I fished yesterday and wonder if all these creeks have
fish. Although getting a fly onto them in this wind would be a challenge.
Finally I am at the quintessential fly fishing lodge and tomorrow
morning will be fishing the Rio Grande, the number 1 sea trout river
in the world. I enjoy the stone fireplace, meeting all the guests,
take in the wooden beams and exposed timbers, unpack and rig up
for the next day.
My time here passes in a flash, memories include that 14 lb’er
hooked in the tail of a pool that is landed 250m downstream, the
4 fish landed on the afternoon session weighing in at 23lb, 18 lb,
17 lb and 14 lb, the 12 lb fish hooked and landed on the very first
cast of the last morning, trying to get the fly onto the water by
using 3 false casts at 10, 11 and 12 o’clock, directly into
the wind up the bank, then releasing on the back cast towards the
Actually landing a backwards cast on the spot, 90 foot behind me
in a 60 kph wind with a 275 grain sink tip, dead drifting, feeling
a pluck and hooking up with a large belly in the line through the
current on a very bright 9 lb fish, then saying that’s it
- my hands are to cold to cast again after the release, then 5 minutes
later remembering a small fish had risen not 20 foot from where
I was standing, walking upstream a few meters to get the drift and
first cast out to catch a lovely 5 pounder and finish the day with
2 fish in the last 2 casts.
South America –incredible lodges, excellent wholesome produce
turned into mouth watering and tasty meals, not to mention catch
and release fly fishing that creates lifelong memories.
Arrange your fly fishing trip of a lifetime contact me on 0458 239
542 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please enjoy the pics from the trip below
Rio Gallegos and Rio Gallegos
Chico pics - hover mouse over for caption
Rio Grande pics
- hover mouse over for caption