ARGENTINA; SEA TROUT FISHING AT ESTANCIA SAN JOSE LODGE, RIO GRANDE
DO YOU KNOW THE WAY TO SAN JOSE? Sea trout fishing on the middle reaches of the Rio Grande in Argentina at Estancia San Jose Lodge.
ESTANCIA SAN JOSE LODGE – RIO GRANDE SEA TROUT
You know you have found a gem when you have to be so pedantic in trying to find fault that the best you can do is be disgruntled about red wine being served slightly chilled!
Estancia San Jose Lodge on the middle reaches of the Rio Grande in Argentina is special. I am fortunate to have visited all but one lodge along the Rio Grande, being able to accurately compare and contrast and also place anglers according to individual taste and requirements. All the lodges have their place and appeal in different ways; they are like different sized shoes, with not one fitting all.
You have probably never heard of San Jose Lodge. Join the club! It was not on my radar either until a couple of years ago. This was for good reason; it is a super exclusive lodge that has not been open to visiting anglers until now. Owned by the Ted Turner family (CNN), it was reserved largely for family and friends. The lodge was furnished by Jane Fonda and visitors have included Jimmy Carter, Al Gore and more.
Again, not every lodge suits every angler, and San Jose is no exception. If you’re looking to fish 24hrs a day and not appreciate the level of service the lodge offers, then San Jose is probably not for you. It definitely has an ambience of class and sophistication; beggars belief how I was let through the front door!
The food is as good as I have experienced anywhere in the world and, dare I say, certainly the best I have experienced along the Rio Grande, which is a bold statement and high bar I can assure you. It is silver service, with the formal approach not being to everyone’s taste.
The lodge is not really a lodge, as the property is stone built – rare on the island in general. To call it a lodge does it disservice and seems somewhat demeaning to what is an absolutely beautiful property. The house is nestled around a lenga beech tree forest, with an array of beautiful flowers bordering the outer walls. The vista from the house is stunning and to capitalise on this they have installed massive windows to allow you to enjoy the picture-postcard setting. You can be lying in bed and watch a herd of guanacos pass just metres outside – a bit surreal, but captivating, nonetheless.
All bedrooms are ensuite and generously sized. This may sound like an odd addition, but the beds are worth mentioning; they are immense! Soooooo comfortable and it was a struggle to leave them after a welcomed siesta. The bathrooms come supplied with soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush etc. so you can travel light or are well covered if you forget to pack something.
Given the remote location, the wi-fi is amazing. Really strong, never dropped and was left on all day. There is no cell-phone service, but the wi-fi more than made up for this with video / audio calls working perfectly.
There is a spacious and well heated wader room immediately opposite the main house – about five metres away. Given that it’s just four rods per week, you can clutter the room at leisure and still be left with plenty of space. The wader room has a load of wading boots that you can borrow free of charge; this must be arranged prior to arrival to assure size availability. This is a very wise addition to take advantage of, because it will save you travelling with heavy boots but also help avoid the didymo issue, which is prevalent in the Rio Grande and surrounding tributaries.
You know the lodge is good when it takes me this long to even mention the fishing! San Jose is the only lodge on the Argentine side of the Rio Grande that has exclusive access to both banks of the river. This may sound trivial, but trust me, under low water conditions this is a game changer. To know that water / pools are truly being rested between sessions is a massive advantage.
San Jose Lodge has around 14km of the Rio Grande, starting at the Chilean border and extending down to the boundary with Aurelia Lodge. The character of the river here, especially in the upper third, is totally different to that witnessed downriver. The river meanders a lot more but is also a lot more treelined – it’s more picturesque and interesting in general.
14km may sound like a lot of water for four rods and it is if you have good / high water conditions. However, you will be thankful of this generous allocation if you arrive and are faced with drought / low water conditions, where many of the revered pools start showing their bones and don’t carry enough water to hold fish. You are then reduced to a handful of pools, which is why the four-rod allocation is key and sensible. As you can tell, San Jose is conducting business in a responsible and sympathetic manner to maximise a visiting angler’s experience and enjoyment, not over-rodding to make more money at any cost. A rare breath of sanity nowadays.
Guiding is on a two angler per guide basis, which is normal on the Rio Grande. Following a hearty breakfast, you are met by the guide and head to the river in the guide’s truck. This will take 25-40 minutes, depending on the pools to be fished. The truck literally takes you to the banks of the pool; you park alongside most pools, so there are very few mobility concerns. Indeed, even on the wading front, there are very few concerns as obstacles are minimal and wading is as easy as I have found anywhere – the riverbed is mainly constructed of very fine gravel. No need for a wading staff, unless it help with your stability, or if you prefer to have the reassurance of one when deep wading or when crossing the river.
Following the morning session, you then return for lunch at around 1pm. Following lunch there is time for a siesta (which you soon become accustomed to) before heading back out for the afternoon / evening session. The evening session can be particularly constructive, especially during the magic hour when the sea trout become more active as the light fades – akin to the sea trout closer to home. Following the fishing, you return to the lodge for dinner.
If you’re looking for something a little bit special along the Rio Grande, something with a touch of class, but still has excellent fishing then I highly recommend you checking out Estancia San Jose Lodge, even though it may not have been a previous option or one you had even heard of. To that end this is for good reason; due to the exclusive nature of the lodge, the owners have decided to only offer it through finely selected partners, with FishTravel being one of them – FishTravel has the UK / European exclusivity for San Jose Lodge, which it is very proud of.
If you’re interested in visiting or would like more information, please do make contact – I am always here to help and advise accordingly. You can reach me (Steffan Jones) via email at email@example.com or give me a call on (+44) 07879 898 344.