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Here at The Angling Report, we love it when two or more subscribers report on the same destination. We feel it gives the clearest possible snapshot of what that destination really offered at that moment in time. This month, we have two subscriber reports on Despedida Lodge on the Rio Grande River in Argentina. One is from subscriber Gene Koecheler, the other a letter-length report from Honor Roll subscriber Bill Taylor. Both subscribers booked through Harry Robertson of Hanover Flyfishers Ltd., who has exclusive access to the river the final week in February (when both Koechler and Taylor fished) and the first week in March. Both are considered prime weeks.
Both Koechler and Taylor describe the river’s fabled sea run brown trout as “abundant” when they visited; agree that the services offered by the lodge rate good to excellent throughout; and they give the cost of their trips as $5,000. Both also note no problems with air service on this particular journey.
Koechler describes his catch as “….normal – many trout over 20 pounds landed. This is all wade fishing. The winds were also normal for Tierra del Fuego – gusts to 40 miles per hour.” Among the highlights of the trip, Koechler lists the lodge dinners, Argentine wines and the company of fellow anglers. “This is one of the world’s top five fly fishing adventures. It’s always dependable if dates are selected carefully.”
Taylor reports catching approximately 30 fish in six days of hard fishing, including two over 24 pounds, one over 20 pounds and two in the 18- to 19-pound range. He goes on to write: “This was my sixth semi-annual trip to Argentina to fish for big sea run browns on the Rio Grande, arguably the best seatrout fishery in the world. The conditions change from year to year: Off-season flooding changes the shape and depth of the runs and pools; local rain and snowmelt in the Andes change the water level and temperature; and the air temperature can vary from freezing cold to uncomfortably warm. Only the wind is a constant: It almost always blows 15 to 35 mph downriver from the west or northwest. Another constant, most importantly, is that the fish keep coming back.
“I have been staying at Despedida Lodge since it was built in 2002 and I fished with its manager, Danny Lajous and his partner, Osvaldo Corazza, before they had a lodge. Despedida is located on the south side of the river between the mouths of the Rio Mendez and the Rio Mac Lennon, truly el carazon del rio (the heart of the river), opposite Estancia Maria Behety, with which it shares several of the best pools on a rotation basis. The lodge accommodates six rods in three double rooms with ensuite baths and has a comfortable, complimentary bar and lounge area with fly-tying bench, small fly shop and a dining area seating eight at the large table. The food and wines have always been good, but this year there was an upgrade, with a culinary school graduate brought in as chef – this had to be the best dining room in Rio Grande.
“In previous years, I used a single-handed 7-weight fly rod with a Teeny 200 line. But with the need to strip in line to the 24-foot tip, roll cast to get the tip on the surface and sometimes false cast backhanded and shoot line in heavy wind against the drag of the swift flowing river, it was a lot of hassle. This year, I decided to fish exclusively with a two-handed rod, and I worked diligently to prepare for the downstream wind. I was prepared with everything from floating Scandi heads to a 500-grain Skagit head with various lengths of T-14 level sinking line looped at both ends as tips. I did catch one fish (a nice 14-pounder) on a floating head, but most of my fish (and all of the larger ones) were caught using the Skagit head and 10 to 16 feet of T-14.
“My fishing partner was also using a two-hander but it was his first time to use that kind of rod. Our guide, Tommy Lajous, is an excellent Spey caster, and he had my partner making fishable casts and catching fish in no time. Neither of us would go back to a single-handed rod for the big river, but if you want to fish for native rainbows on the Mac Lennon, or seatrout on the Menendez, take a single. In the interest of full disclosure, the biggest fish caught during our week (a 25-pound monster) was caught by Chuck Moos on a single-handed rod, which he stubbornly refuses to give up.
“The river and the fishery were in great shape, and there’s no doubt there are rods open for next season at last year’s prices or lower. That’s true at Despedida and at the four other lodges that offer fishing on the Rio Grande. This is a first-rate experience for anyone who loves to cast and swing wet flies for large, strong and acrobatic anadromous fish.”
(Postscript: Regarding open rods, at press time we spoke with Harry Robertson and discovered that he does indeed, due to the declining health of two of his regular customers, have two rods open for February 20 to 27, 2010. Prices will remain unchanged from this year, he says. Move quickly if you are interested.)