I flew to Santiago and traveled throughout southern Chile and Argentina, fishing the area known as Patagonia.
Here are the posts for each country:
My posts include fishing reports from Rio Chimehuin, Rio Rivadavia and Rio Gallegos. I comment on flies, tackle, river conditions, insects, fishing tips and trout species. Fishing destination were near Bariloche, Junin de los Andes, Parque Los Alerces and Tierra del Fuego.
I visited South America for two months to fly fish Patagonia. Patagonia is a dream come true. There were more fish and bigger fish than I imagined. The scenery was spectacular; the people endearing, and the culture captivating. Key places I visited from 11/15/2006 to 1/15/2007 included Junin de los Andes, Parque Nacional de los Alerces and Rio Gallegos. I used my normal Gear and Fly-fishing Techniques. I traveled without the benefit of a tour, and didn’t have any problems with Travel Plans.
Rivers. Patagonia is an area in southern South America that includes Argentina and Chile. I flew to Santiago and then to Bariloche; I drove to Junin de los Andes. From Junin, I could fish several major rivers. I liked the Rio Chimehuin the best. The river begins at Lake Huechalaufquen, the mouth or “boca” is famous for its trophy fish. The cold, glacier-fed river flows through dry rangeland suitable for cattle and is reminiscent of the American Rockies. Willows line the riverbanks. Other rivers in this area include Rios Curruhué, Malleo, Alumine, Collon Curre and Limay.
From there, I drove south for a day to Esquel and Parque Nacional de Los Alerces. I fished the Rio Rivadavia extensively. Other rivers include Rio Arrayanes, Rio Menindez, the Rio Grande, and in the valley, Arroyo Pescado.
The park has snow-capped peaks and crystal clear lakes with a stunning variety of trees. From there I went south by car, bus and a four-day boat ride to Tierra del Fuego, the very tip of South America. Here I stayed at the town of Rio Gallegos and fished the river of the same name at a spot located about 20 kilometers west of town. The river winds through grass-covered prairie; the winds are extreme.
Gear and Technique. In the Junin and Esquel areas, I found nymphing most effective with flies like Prince Nymph and Beadhead Hare’s Ear in sizes 12-16. Caddis pupae also worked. I used a strike indicator and added split shot for stronger stream flows. In the evening, caddis dry flies in sizes 14-18 worked well under the willows. The fish are hungry and not overly particular about the fly patterns. I used a 5 weight with a floating line and 4x to 6x tippet.
While floating the Rio Rivadavia, the guide told me about Type IV sinking lines. The weather had been warm and then it started to rain. Between snowmelt and swollen tributaries, the river was very high and fast. I was using a floating/sinking line with a Type III head. But the shooting taper was not long or heavy enough to get down to the fish. At the suggestion of our guide, I returned to town and bought a full sinking Type IV. I hiked a tributary and fished the confluence. With the heavy, full sinking line, I could get my Wooly Bugger deep into the seam and was rewarded with several large trout.
The Rio Gallegos has sea run brown trout or “plateados.” Like the Junin and Esquel areas, it also has resident browns and rainbows, but most fishermen target the large “plateados” when they are running. The plateados live in the sea and similar to American steelhead return to fresh water to breed and then return to the sea again. The Type IV full-sinking line with a streamer like a Wooly Bugger or Matuka worked best. The Type IV line is slender and casts better in the wind. I heard plateados also take dry flies, but conditions didn’t present an opportunity to observe this.
Travel Plans. The season opens in spring in November and last through the fall. Fishing regulations vary by province and watershed. Catch and release fly-fishing is mandatory until December 15. Game wardens ride motocross bikes along the rivers and check licenses (“permisos”) regularly.
To access Patagonia, fly to either Santiago or Buenos Aires and then to Bariloche. To get to the Tierra del Fuego in the south, return to Buenos Aires or Santiago and fly to Ushuaia or Punta Arenas respectively. If you have time, travel 1,500 kilometers by car or boat. I recommend renting a truck or SUV rather than a car because of rough roads and remote fishing destinations. The major travel expenses are airfare and car rental. Lodging and restaurants are widely available and considerably less expensive than in the States.
You can book a lodge or hire a fishing guide. I choose to drive to public fishing access points and wade. I generally had good luck and did not feel I was spending an undue amount of time looking for good fishing spots.
Although you want to pack as lightly as possible, you will need boots, waders and a wading belt (sterilize before your trip to avoid infecting South American trout with North American diseases). I recommend #5 and #7 rods with a mixture of floating, floating/sinking and full sinking lines. A basic fly-tying kit will provide versatility for the unexpected hatch. The Wooly Bugger imitates the pancora crab, a local freshwater crayfish (as well as leeches and small baitfish). You will want a jacket or fleece and a good hat. The water is cold, the wind frequently fierce and temperatures dip at night. Take sun block because the ozone layer has been depleted in Patagonia and is thin to non-existent.
In addition to fishing, there are many tourist destinations and outdoor activities for the whole family, including glaciers, volcanoes, mountains, penguins and lakes. Torres del Paine and Perito Moreno are the natural gemstones of Chile and Argentina respectively. Food has a distinctive Italian influence. Beef and lamb are prevalent and delicious. People are friendly, helpful and cheerful. It’s a big plus if you can speak some Spanish. An excellent book is Argentine Trout Fishing by William C. Leitch.
I really liked my visit to Patagonia and hope to go again for a longer time period. In two months, I did not begin to cover the possibilities.