Tackling the sea trout of the Rio Grande in Argentina and Chile – by Steffan Jones

Without wishing my life away, I look forward to returning to Argentina to fish for the gargantuan sea trout of the Rio Grande almost as soon as one trip ends.

This has never wavered in all the years I have visited, even when considering the travel involved. It is a special place, with each return visit feeling like a pilgrimage. I started visiting some twenty-four years ago, and I was as excited and full of enthusiasm this year as I was all those years ago. Testament to the place and how it keeps on delivering, with each cast being full of promise.

Let’s be clear, no river on earth delivers what the Rio Grande does, regardless of what marketing you may read to the contrary. It is difficult to convey, but some science certainly helps with the process; the average annual run of sea trout is between 50,000-85,000! Carrying an average weight of 8lbs.

It is an arduous journey to get there, of that there is no denying. However, the travel helps make it special. If it was closer and easier to get to, it would probably be overexploited and less magical in some way.

My early days of visiting the island of Tierra del Fuego involved renting a car and then camping alongside a myriad of different rivers and lakes strewn across the island – both on the Argentine and Chilean side. Amazing adventures, memories, and insight.

Nowadays, my travels are a little more elaborate. Creature comforts close to hand! This year my trip took me to both the Argentine and Chilean side, visiting Aurelia Lodge for a week before heading up to Cameron Lodge for the second. A great combination, that dovetail beautifully, whilst providing very different experiences.

With all the issues we have locally and across the world regarding fish stocks, it is a welcome breath of fresh air to witness a system that is not only surviving but thriving. The sea trout runs we witnessed this year were as healthy as I have ever known them – as strong as I remember in the early days of visiting the island.

Everyone in the group managed fish in the 16-20lb bracket – incredible specimens – along with a decent amount of action every day.

The Argentine side is pure, hardcore, unwavering sea trout fishing. If you’re just after sea trout then look no further, there are a myriad of lodges present to be entertained. However, if you’re after a mixed bag and some variety, then you really should look at the Chilean side.

Over half the Rio Grande flows on the Chilean side. The river is around 160 miles long, with around 70 of these miles being on the Argentine side. The river is VERY easy for the fish to navigate with no major obstacles. As such, they can make it through to the Chilean side in just a few days (even under low water conditions) with relative ease, if they want to. You can absolutely catch bars of silver on the Chilean side, regardless of what some may have you believe.

However, and having said that, I would not recommend the Chilean side for those specifically looking to target sea trout. You will, as a rule, get bigger numbers on the Argentine side and it is a safer bet. For those looking for variety during their stay, then the Chilean side is for them. You can explore a myriad of different streams, rivers and lakes during your stay, not confined to the Rio Grande. Indeed, what works well is to fish a lake or small stream for resident trout during the day, then head to the Rio Grande for the evening and night session – night fishing is allowed on the Chilean side.

Our week on the Chilean side was filled with fish and adventure. It is such a beautiful place with the terrain and landscape changing dramatically compared to the lower parts of the river – the vista from the lodge is truly breathtaking. There tends to be more wildlife around too, which adds to the overall experience – non-anglers often stay on the Chilean side, whereas there’s very little for them to see and do on the Argentine side.

With the run of fish we saw during our stay the previous week on the Argentine side, we knew full there would be a good head of sea trout waiting for us on the Chilean side. Cameron Lodge is bestowed with around 50 miles of the Rio Grande at its disposal! This may seem like a blessing, but it also becomes a curse as it’s an incredible amount of water to explore over a week and to such few rods – a normal week is 4-6 rods! Considering the other water at your disposal during your stay, you only scratch the surface.

During the calm, sunny days we had fun exploring a small tributary and some lakes. However, we were constantly drawn back to the Grande like a moth to a flame.

I love exploring, so would just set off each day fishing over new and largely unexplored water – heaven. I was literally fishing pools that had not been fished all season! It is a true sanctuary. Sea trout were present in every decent piece of water (you would see them roll), but to add to the sport you also have a great head of brown trout on the Chilean side – much more than that found on the Argentine side. These brown trout varied in size from 2-5lbs, with a sprinkling of smaller and larger fish outside this range. Great sport, especially if the sea trout were proving hard to tempt.

The trip ended far too quickly, as they always do when you’re having fun. However, after two weeks of fishing it was time to pack up the rods and recharge the batteries, then start planning for the trip next year…

Steffan Jones is the owner of www.FishTravel.co.uk which specialises in fly fishing holidays across the world. He has an extensive knowledge of fishing in South America, having visited there for over twenty years and arranged holidays there for over seventeen. Please do make contact if you’re interested in a trip – info@fishtravel.co.uk