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Post-season reports from Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, are that the fishing on the Rio Grande for sea-run browns just keeps getting better with more big fish being landed. You’ll recall that last year the season here started out tough, with heavy rains raising water levels and clouding visibility. Despite that, anglers did pretty well, landing plenty of 15-plus-pound fish and a number of 20-pound-class trout. This season saw some fluctuations in water levels. Low water early on made it difficult for fish to swim upriver, thus concentrating them in the lower beats for a large chunk of the season. There were also a few weeks of high winds, with one day in February when winds reached speeds of over 84.5 mph!
What’s noteworthy about the fishing itself is that one in 14 fish caught this year was over 20 pounds, with one pending IGFA World Record of 35.2 pounds landed by an angler named Tom Wall while fishing at Estancia Despedida Lodge. Daily catch rates averaged three to five fish per day. The average weight was similar to the last five seasons at 10.8 pounds. But we hear more 20-pounders were seen than in previous years; 9.5 percent of the total catch this year was 20-pound and bigger fish.
We also told you last year that the two controlling families who own the lodges and estancias in this part of Argentina, together with their booking agents, are funding a comprehensive scientific study of the fishery. The purpose is to define the status of the brown trout population and learn more about the effect of fishing on population structure and productivity within the Patagonia/Tierra del Fuego river systems. Also, operators want to know what other factors may limit trout productivity in different reaches of the river system. Researchers from the University of Montana worked with guides and paying anglers the last two seasons to measure, tag and take samples from all landed fish. An interesting statistic is that in two seasons of tagging trout, only two percent of the tagged fish have been recaptured. That supports a population estimate of runs between 30,000 and 70,000 sea-run browns in the Rio Grande. You can read more about the study and the researchers’ findings on the university’s web site. The results from this year’s data collection should be posted by the time you read this. Last year’s findings are available as well.
For next season, Rio Grande operators plan to purchase a $50,000 sonar counter that will be able to count several fish at one time, even small schools, moving up the river simultaneously and provide better population estimates.
The Rio Grande is touted as the number one fishery for sea-run trout in the world for size and numbers of fish that anglers can expect to catch. Most of the lodges on the Rio Grande are booked out months in advance, with priority for spots going to repeat clients and a waiting list of anglers getting spots that become available. So, anglers interested in this fishery should call soon for availabilities next season, or for a place on the waiting list.
Fernando de las Carreras of Nervous Waters operates three lodges on the Rio Grande and is represented in the US by Frontiers International. Kau Tapen is the oldest lodge on the river and is booked at $7,895 for a week. The Villa Maria and Toon Ken lodges are priced at $5,795 a week. Nervous Waters has also developed a new combo package that has clients stay half a week in The Villa Maria and the remaining period at Toon Ken. The combo packages allow clients to sample almost 40 kilometers of river and two different kinds of fishing – double-handed fishing in big pools close to the ocean in Villa Maria, and single-handed fishing close to the Andes Mountain range out of Toon Ken. Combo packages run $5,495.
The Fly Shop books the other three lodges on the lower section of the Rio Grande. The cost of a week-long package at Maria Behety Lodge is $5,495. La Villa is $5,795, and Estancia Despedida is $4,795. All of the Rio Grande lodges provide quality lodging, meals and guiding services.