At this point in our trip, we have moved faster south than the change in seasons. Although it’s
summer, it’s cold here. The wind is fierce. It’s mostly in the 40s F. If Junin felt like Colorado, this feels like Alaska. Rio Gallegos, the city, has about 60,000 inhabitants. It’s located on the estuary where the river flows into the Atlantic. The river has its headwaters in the Andes and is a major watershed for the entire southeast part of the continent. For fly-fisherman, Rio Gallegos (and Tierra del Fuego generally) is noted for the sea-run trout. The trout are brown trout or marònes. When they go to sea, they return silver and are known as plateados (plata is Spanish for silver). In North America, we have sea-run rainbows, known as steelhead. Sea-run trout are significantly bigger than their land-based cousins.
When we arrived, we had beautiful weather for New Year’s Eve–it was warm with little wind. We went to the river and saw numerous groups of fisherman and picnicers. The river was clear and the water level was falling. At one point, I saw numerous fish rising (small, resident 12-18 inch trout that I did not target). That night, it began to rain and rained all New Year’s Day. After the rain, it got cold and windy. We visited Bella Vista in the middle reaches of the river and the tributary, Gallego Chico. The wind was so strong it was difficult to assess the riffles, pools, depths or seams. I had to pick my spots to fish downwind. I caught a couple of browns. The Hotel Bella Vista is open. The Estancia looks prosperious. Everything else looked closed and deserted.
We returned to the lower Gallegos to the water tower west of town for two more days. Worse than the wind and cold, the water level was up considerably. Snow melt and rain run off made the river muddy, cold and difficult to wade and impossible to cross. I kept switching fly lines from sinking to floating/sinking to floating and finally, back to sinking. By early afternoon, the wind was too strong to fish. The last day, I caught a silver, by stripping a greenish brown matuka through a seam at the tail of a pool. It felt like a coho salmon, about 6 to 8 pounds and measured just short of 24 inches. To really fish the river, you need time to learn it and wait for the right conditions. Maybe, next year. Despite the weather conditions, I really enjoyed the environment. Most days, we had the river to ourselves. Waterfowl were everythere with young ducklings. Wild flowers were abundant. The big, blue skys were streaked with high wind-blown clouds. The air was fresh and crisp.
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