So why am I compelled to tell you that you just need to put fly fishing for sea trout in Argentina on your bucket list? Well, having spent 35 years chasing Salmon all over the world, Sea Trout were for me, a welcome by-catch, appreciated but not particularly cherished. A few summer evenings spent fishing for Sea Trout on the River Tweed were always an enjoyable addition to the main event, but truthfully, I always had Salmon on the brain. My best fly caught sea trout stood at a more than respectable 8lb, good, but not exactly outstanding.
So when a good friend asked me in 2017 if I wanted to join him on a trip fly fishing for Sea Trout in Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina, I hesitantly agreed on a “bucket list” basis but little did I know that the experience would be a total game changer for me. So, here are my top 6 reasons why, if you get a chance, you should definitely get out there too:
1. The Landscape
First, driving from the regional airport at Rio Grande to Estancia Maria Behety I have been struck by the beauty of the wide open spaces of the pampas, the rich undulating grassland stretching into the distance with the snow capped Andes punctuating the far horizon. The absence of landmarks make it impossible to gain any clear understanding of perspective;,the plains seemed to go on for ever. Its so different to anywhere else you can go fly fishing. It is only on arrival at the Lodge at EMB that you get your first look at the river.This beautiful blue painted Lodge sits high on the edge of a bluff overlooking the flood plain giving panoramic views over the river which winds like a snake through the landscape, giving the changes of direction so helpful with dealing with TDF’s notorious wind when fly fishing.
2. The Hospitality
The facilities within the lodge are excellent and the welcome from the staff is just like visiting old friends, where the conversation continues on seamlessly from where you left it a year earlier!.Once you are settled in, the routine,successfully honed over many years, takes over.Everything you could possibly need to make you comfortable is at hand.Excitement builds on the first night as Beat and Guide allocations are posted and your evening meal reminds you of just how good the food is here. During the week the opportunity to prove that you are an Alpha Carnivore will present itself over and over again with barbecued meat dishes to die for.
3. The River
From being a medium size river at the top of the Estancia to a wider stream lower down, the Rio Grande provides all
Types of pools; fast riffles, slow deep streams and long glides.The flood plain is heavily gravelled producing long beaches and good access to the river.The wading is the most consistent of anywhere I have fished in the world, a smooth gravel bottom with very few obstacles providing a safe platform for even the most nervous wader.The river is not gin clear and colour will vary slightly depending on the source of the water but the river is very rarely unfishable in the Southern Hemisphere summer.
4. The Sea Trout
These fish are truly exceptional with short muscular bodies and powerful broad tails.The takes are generally very aggressive, especially in the darkening, and they fight ferociously with the Sea Trout’s famous aerial ability on display.It is important not to try and hold the fish too hard when they first take because the fish come across the fly at speed and it is easy to either break off or pull out.I have to admit it took me quite a few lost fish before I got the hang of “strike and let go”.This is NOT Salmon fishing!
Early season in January the fish are a wonderful Silver with iridescent blue glazing on their gill covers and marble white fins. Gorgeous!.As the season progresses they take on colour but still retain their beauty.
The biggest fish caught recently weighed 31lbs and there is a really good chance of a 20+lbs fish every session.The Lodge only record fish of over 15lbs!, but there are many more caught below that weight.This year I had my PB of 18.5lbs on a Nymph and a terrific late battle into the dark with a superb 17.5 lbs beauty whilst my fishing partner Karl Simmons was simultaneously landing a 21lb fish.38.5 lbs of Argentinian Sea Trout at the same time!!.Both fish on the famous Leech fly.
5. The Guides and Tactics
When I first saw the group of young guys who were to guide us I thought “this is going to be energy over expertise week”.I couldn’t have been more wrong!.During my stays I have learnt so much from fishers half my age whose technical expertise matches their considerable knowledge of the river. Head Guide Frederico Molinolo is steeped in the history of the fishery having learnt from his father who fished the river for many decades. Many of the Guides are close family members creating a really harmonious atmosphere and fact -sharing context in the team.
Fishing is carried out in two sessions: Morning 8-12.30 and evening 18.00 – dusk with the last half hour really electric as light fades.
I set up with two NRX 13’ 8/9 weight rods, one carrying a floating line and one a Float sink 2 or 4 depending on water height.This combination works well for me and both set-ups produce fish throughout the day but conditions can change quickly and a Skagit with a large range of tips is essential to have available .What I have found unusual is that the fish seem to congregate in certain areas of the pools and it is more productive,having found the right area, to fish through several times with different combinations rather than cover large stretches of water.
Tapered leaders make turnover better and in low water casts of 6 metres or longer produce more fish.
The flies used vary from Sunrays to heavy nymphs with the EMB rubber legs, which looks like a spider , very productive.It is as well to be willing to change frequently with Green Machine, Woolly Bugger, Yuk Bugs and Monkey all having their day. For the hour before dark long bodied Black flies are essential with Leeches and Intruders go to- patterns.
6. The Wildlife
First glances over the floodplain would lead you to believe that not much is going on, but once you have the chance to walk the valley floor you are joined by an amazing variety of wildlife. So many small birds, many like the UK Pipit and thrush families. Walking through the grassland it is not unusual to disturb the beautiful Southern Ibis and flocks of Upland Geese. At some time in the week you will be fishing with a Condor over your head-what a sight! And where else would wild Foxes (culpeo) actually come forward from cover to sit just with adequate flight distance from you hoping for a tit-bit ?
The star of the show for me is the engaging Guanaco, a close relative of the Llama, which lives in family groups and you can observe the daily, sometimes hilarious, interaction of these animals close at hand.
All of this takes place on a massive tract of land upon which many thousands of sheep graze alongside native horses and much is made of the Gaucho tradition which permeates all aspects of your stay.
As far as I am concerned after just three visits fishing for Sea Trout in Argentina I still have loads to learn about the river and how better to improve my chances of catching these amazing fish. Its no longer on my bucket list – it’s now a definite “must do again”.
Rae stayed at the Villa de Estancia Maria Behety on the reknowned Rio Grande and booked his trip through Roxtons. To see what the sea trout fishing is really like in Argentina check out this epsiode of Artic Waters where Vikings actor, Jasper Pääkkönen fishes on another prolific sea trout river, the Rio Gallegos.
This blog was written by Rae Borras, owner and founder of Fishing TV, and presenter on the Game Fisher’s Diary