Sea Trout Fishing on the Rio Grande, Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina. A complete guide to Why, When, and Where by Steffan Jones.
If you love sea trout fishing then the fishing in South America has probably piqued your interest, with the thought of a double figure sea trout, and perhaps even a fish of over 20 lbs, becoming and attractive proposition.
The allure often prevents itself in the depths of our winter where many more months must pass before we can venture out on our home rivers in search of these mystical and enigmatic fish. By far the best way to alleviate this is to do as the birds do; fly south in the winter.
However, wading through the myriad of lodges can be a perplexing affair; knowing what lodge will suit best and where to be when. After all, this is a long way to travel, the trip is not cheap, and it may well be that ‘trip of a lifetime’. As such, you should never leave such things to chance, which is where FishTravel comes in as we have visited almost every lodge along the Rio Grande and have been travelling there to fish for over twenty years. FishTravel has unparalleled knowledge of these lodges and has more options open to you on the Rio Grande than anyone else.
Why travel all that way for sea trout? Is it really that special? Yes, we have great fishing on some river here in the UK and Europe. However, when it comes to size of the run and size of the fish, it does not even come close to what the Rio Grande can offer. Let’s put this into perspective alongside some tangible data. You can spend a lifetime pursuing a double figure sea trout in the UK and Europe yet they are a daily occurrence to most anglers on the Rio Grande, with 4 lbs fish not even making it onto the daily tally at some lodges. If the thought of a 20 lbs salmon gets your pulse racing then imagine a 20 lbs sea trout! The British record stands at around 27 lbs, but fish of this calibre are caught each and every season, with one lodge producing two of over 30 lbs in a single season. If this isn’t motivation enough, then you can add the fact that virtually all these fish are taken in daylight hours, so no need to clamber around in the middle of the night wondering which way the current is flowing.
1. The average weight of Rio Grande sea trout over a season is around 9 lbs with 1 in 5 being over 15 lbs and 1 in 50 will tip the scales between 20-25 lbs!
2. Fishing pressure has actually decreased on the river over the last decade; this is due to the lodges lowering the amount of rods they accept on a weekly basis, which means less fishing pressure on the whole.
3. The run of sea trout in the Rio Grande is estimated at between 50,000-75,000. In fact, during the last study in 2008 it was estimated at closer to 85,000!
4. Catch expectancy is around 2 – 4 landed sea trout per rod per day. This does not include lost fish and most lodges do not count fish under 6 lbs. This works out at 12-24 sea trout per rod over a six day fishing period, but some anglers will catch almost double that, as was the case in the 2017 season, for example.
5. Sea trout in the Rio Grande are on average 17% heavier compared with sea trout from elsewhere of the same length. They are also on average 14-21% heavier than Atlantic salmon of the same length.
Did that get your casting hand twitching and your appetite whetted? Then let’s move onto the ‘When to visit’.
The plus side for those located in the northern hemisphere is that prime-time for sea trout on the Rio Grande is during the southern hemisphere’s summer. As such, you get to escape the winter blues and chase some warmth and sunshine. Even when fishing on the Rio Grande you can expect days reaching twenty degrees Celsius plus, which is a welcome respite from what you have probably left at home. The best window to travel as a whole is from Early January through to late March. This is a fairly wide window, which is why it’s important to know where to be when as there are lodges along the river that will fish best at certain times within this window. FishTravel is here to help on that front; we give totally unbiased advice and represent lodges along the river, so know where to place you to maximise your trip’s potential.
We know why the river is so special, we also know a travel window. However, what are the lodges to choose from and which one may work best for you?
This is where FishTravel comes in and will make sure you have the best chance possible. If the availability does not exist where you need to be, then we will tell you that and would prefer not to sell you into another lodge purely because they have availability. We want your trust and future loyalty, which only comes through helping you make the right decisions and providing you with full transparency to make an informed decision.
FishTravel knows these lodges intimately. Each one can fit individuals differently, so please do call on us to help tailor your lodge choice accordingly.
Lodge choice; a journey down the Rio Grande.
The Rio Grande is by far the largest and longest river on the island of Tierra Del Fuego. The Rio Grande’s course takes it from West to East, with its headwaters strewn across the Chilean prairie, nearly reaching the Pacific Ocean before emptying out in the East into the mighty Atlantic Ocean, crossing into Argentina as it does so around the middle reaches of the river. However, and this is often overlooked, more than half the Grande’s length is on the Chilean side, yet the area receives very little fishing pressure.
Of the 220km that the Grande has cut a course, 120km is based on the Chilean side, flowing through to the bountiful middle reaches when it passes the baton over to the Argentines. Before it does so, it offers the venturing angler a unique experience, and fantastic opportunities.
Just two Estancias (Estates) own the entire 120km length of the Rio Grande, from source to the border on the Chilean side. Of these, one fishing lodge has emerged, a jewel in the crown and a lodge that offers unparalleled opportunities, even beyond the world class fishing on the Grande itself.
CAMERON LODGE offers a unique experience on the Rio Grande. A solid week fishing the same river is too monotonous for many, as they seek variety in terms of species and locations. For decades this has remained a mere ‘desire’ on the Rio Grande. However, Cameron Lodge offers just that. Whilst at the lodge, which has no set itinerary allowing you to pick and choose as the conditions dictate, you have access to some lakes that have brown trout, rainbow trout, sea trout and brook char / trout. There are also further river systems and tributaries that the lodge has access to. All this, combined with the lack of fishing pressure, makes for a truly unique experience. If you are looking for a little variety in your week on the island, then this is the one for you, or just to tag on, for example, three days to combine with an Argentine lodge.
As a result of being on the Chilean side, you have the added advantage of being able to fish at night whilst at Cameron Lodge, which is a big bonus on the Rio Grande when targeting the sea trout. The lodge also offers fantastic value for money at $4,500 per week, taking just six rods per week, each having a single en-suite room as standard.
Venturing downstream of the Chilean side, we get our passports checked and stamped and step foot into Argentina, where the lodge options multiply and the sea-trout runs increase. These lodges are purely about the sea trout fishing, and offer sea trout fishing at its finest.
A myriad of lodges are dotted along the 100 km or so length of the Argentine side, each with an unique attributes and appeal. Let’s continue our journey and explore these lodges individually.
ESTANCIA SAN JOSE controls the fishing immediately upon crossing the border. However, they do not operate commercially, so we must keep wading along a little longer before our first lodge door opens. TOON KEN did operate in this area for a while, but this operation was closed in the 2008/09 season.
Nowadays that water is fished largely by Aurelia Lodge and then some of the lower reaches by Kau Tapen Lodge. However, it is Aurelia Lodge we arrive at first and this really is a gem on the river, albeit one that largely falls under the radar of most anglers visiting the river.
AURELIA LODGE provides a unique experience given that it controls exclusive fishing access on both banks of the river, whereas all other lodges downstream rotate the fishing according to left / right bank ownership. Aurelia has exclusive access to around 8 miles of the Rio Grande and 15 miles of the Rio Menendez (both rivers offer easy wading, with the riverbed being mainly fine gravel), all to just four rods per week! It can also accommodate six rods, if the six are an intact group. Regardless, you are assured that the water is well rested with such low rod numbers.
Enjoy an enjoyable day on the river and return to the comforts of the warm, welcoming lodge in the evening. The lodge is homely and has a real family feel; you never feel like the team are going through the motions or that you’re treated as just another number.
Cost of a week is just US$6,490 per angler based on four anglers or US$5,990 based on six. This includes single rooms as standard on the four-rod week along with fishing licence costs. When staying as a party of six, the rooms are configured as two twins and two singles. Fantastic value for money, especially given the exclusive nature of the fishing and the lodge. Aurelia is the perfect option for smaller, intact parties.
KAU TAPEN LODGE really does have the spoils of the Rio Grande to plunder. Perched above the meandering valley of the Grande, Kau-Tapen has a huge amount of water to fish, including the lower reaches of the Rio Menendez, for those looking for a smaller water to fish – this little river is a highlight and should not be missed out on.
The Rio Grande, however, is not a big river (contrary to the name) around these middle reaches and a switch rod or a 13 ft double-hander is the ideal companion. Forming the perfect partnership to the world class fishing is the lodge itself. The service and quality of Kau Tapen is revered around the world, as is the international guide team, who really are at the top of their game. There is no finer, modern lodge on the Grande, of that we can assure you, as we know them all, helping you make an informed decision but also helping substantiate such claims.
The lodge takes a maximum of 10 rods per week (12 in the early / late part of the season) at a cost of US$10,350 (not including the fishing licence cost) in the prime weeks with single rooms as standard.
Many of the lodges on the Rio Grande, including Kau Tapen, share their waters, quite simply because one Estancia may own one bank with another controlling the opposite bank. As such, harmonious agreements have been forged and rotations agreed so that the same water isn’t fished by competing lodges over the same sessions or days. With 120 km of waters to explore and the number of lodges and rods per lodge reducing, the river can hardly now be described as being overfished.
DESPEDIDA LODGE is an intimate experience lodging just 6 anglers per week. With its amazing vista overlooking the wind-swept pampas and within easy reach of the river, Despedida becomes an attractive and reasonable proposition. Being sandwiched between the waters of Kau Tapen and Villa Maria it really does have prime, albeit limited, fishing on offer. Great for intact parties and also the budget conscious. Despedida also shares the Lower Menendez with Kau Tapen, which adds an attractive proposition to your stay.
VILLA MARIA LODGE also offers an exclusive experience to a limited amount of rods per week. Villa Maria is situated on the lower Grande, where the river widens out and larger 14 ft rods are called for at times – certainly early and late season where these reaches still bear fruit. Villa Maria composes of two lodges, both used by the same group. One is the main residence, with the other, situated further upriver, being utilised for lunch and siestas and equipped with full lodge facilities. This is a unique experience and an extremely sought after one, especially for smaller parties wishing to escape the hedonism of the larger lodges. Indeed, availability is always at a premium at Villa Maria, which highlights its popularity and performance. The lodge takes a maximum of six rods per week. A great choice throughout the year and a lodge that keeps producing the goods – 2 fish of over 30 lbs were taken from this lodge in the same season. An enviable guide pool with some of the best water on the river, especially early season and in summer lows. It is easy wading, but a sizeable river when carrying some water, given its location below where the Menendez enters.
Just six rods per week and single rooms as standard. Cost of prime weeks is US$10,950 per rod, not including the fishing licence cost.
Whereas Kau Tapen, Despedida, and Villa Maria are located on the right bank, Estancia Maria Behety have a commanding force on the left bank. This 275,000-acre Estancia forms the headquarters for two separate lodges, each offering very different experiences.
Firstly, we have ESTANCIA MARIA BEHETY LODGE. The lodge can accommodate up to twelve anglers each week, which is a low number when the amount of water they have to fish is taken into consideration. This is an extremely warm atmosphere, held by the Menendez family tradition, which still courses through the whole operation and Estancia. The lodge presents good value for money, especially with the outstanding and varied fishing on offer.
The lodge is perched on top of a hilltop, with the Rio Grande meandering below, close to where the Rio Menendez enters. They have water above and below this point, meaning they can follow the fish throughout the season and according to water levels.
Price for a prime week is US$6,900 per rod. Single rooms available at a supplemented cost.
Secondly, there is LA VILLA ESTANCIA MARIA BEHETY, which is located on the lower Rio Grande. This is the oldest and one of the most exclusive lodges on the whole river, where space is always limited. The lodge is part of the original homestead. This is a beautiful house set in stunning gardens, and situated within easy reach of the lower river. It has the look and atmosphere of a traditional Argentine Estancia house, but with all the modern conveniences inside. This is supported by an immense wine cellar which boasts over 9,000 bottles of wine. More than enough to share your fishing stories over in the evening.
The lodge accommodates just six rods per week and has access to over 100 pools. Cost of a prime week is US$7,900.
***NOT SURE WHERE TO CHOOSE? NEED MORE INFORMATION? PLEASE DO CONTACT US, AS THIS IS AN AREA FISHTRAVEL BELIEVES WE KNOW BETTER THAN ANYONE.***