One of the most renamed places at earth is Rio Grande, we all have heard or fished in its waters for big sea runs. But that is not the only reason you should travel across the world right to the end. There is more…
2016 started with some new ideas for me and Siggy, a friend from Switzerland. Every year he comes to fish some of south Patagonia and then travels to Chubut waters with another friend and local guide to fish for browns. Siggy is in love with Patagonia and each year he is in for new adventures, even though some of them are more scouting trips than visiting regular fishing operations.
I was following for a while a guy from Ushuaia called @sebastian mundiñano and his local project at Ushuaia and surroundings called @mymflycast . If you visit his flikr or facebook you are immediately dreaming awake. Huge browns, big brooks and some really cool rainbows. But for brown fans this is something to write down on your bucket list (good pricing).
I got in touch with Seba and in a few minutes we were speaking the same language. I know Tierra del Fuego quite a bit because I have family, and also fished it for many years in the lake district. Great landscape but tough fishing… well, that is when you don´t know that much!
We travelled with my father who would be in charge of cooking and also we wanted to try the new cabins my grandfather built in the mid of the woods were he lived for the last 26 years.
I met Seba and picked up Siggy and went straight to the cabins to prepare for the fishing. On the next day we would visit some lakes and lagoons to fish them with belly boats. Sig and I had never tried bellys before so it was new and interesting what could happen. We set up some 6 and 7 weigh rods along with some intermediate and fast sinking lines. A mix of classic streamers like woolly buggers, zonkers and some local flies from Seba were shared previously.
We went through the forest right at the feet of a smaller section of the Andes. The landscape is breathtaking all the time, it changes from the “land of fire”, flat and yellow steppe, becoming in an hour trip (70km) from Grande into a pristine “lenga and cohiue woods” surrounded by high Andes with snow at the top and lots of green. Seba has some private accesses to some of the best fisheries and we started in one of them called San Ricardo lake.
Bellys to the water and within 30 minutes Siggy was hooking and landing a 5 pounder. I started to follow with my camera, and after lunch went for some casts. The sensation of fishing sitting in a coach is awesome, but you work hard with your legs, never quite… you must feel the drift of your fly all the time or your line loses tension. After getting the idea of how to do it, Seba grabbed a rod and hooked a big brown. The fight was crazy, he felt right away that he was struggling a male and that was over the average size. It was indeed, we didn´t weighed but my eyes told me over five kilos, and less than 6 kilos. We came back to the cabin and had some steaks and malbec to celebrate life!!
Day two was hard work. We went to another lagoon, also private, that held some good rainbows along with browns and brooks. The view still mindblowing. Seba told me about an old fish that lived in a “castorera” (beaver pond) that they estimate in 9 kilos, impossible to catch due to the woods sitting on the bottom. They said the fish was almost black color due to the pigmentation and slow water without oxygen created by beavers. Beavers were brought to Tierra del Fuego in the fifties for their skin but it rapidly became a huge mess. The woods of these lands are not prepared to live in the water, so as soon as the beavers form the ponds all the trees die. It’s a plague.
January 2016 was pretty uncommon; the snow and the cold delayed all the season. Rio Grande in its classic lodges was not having a great time and looked like the rest of the waters were similar.
We struggled to hook a couple of rainbows, and we could see fish jumping all over. Very exciting, but at as soon as you paddle to get closer the rises stop. That is why I like wind so much…!!
We decided to finish in the same lake than the day before to try on big browns. And yeap, Seba did it again! This time right at the end of the day he landed another 3 kilos fish after an excellent fight. He was using a fly of his own very similar to fuzzy wuzzy made in red. I would have never try that…
One more day to go for me on this adventure and the big lake Fagnano was on my list. I fished it many times but never on a belly boat and I was excited to see what could happen. Seba came along to pick us up from the cabin with his friend and partner Martin, super cool guy too.
We went to Margarita Lake, public and very famous for its browns and brooks catch on sight fishing. Our plan was to fish it completely from north to south using the wind on the back. We parked the trucks and went across the lake to the other side. Listen to me please… biologists on the this lagoon using a net caught fish over 20 pounds. That`s all you need to know. Super deep lake with some sediment that gives the color to the lagoon, but is clear enough to throw nymphs on small size too, or use some Chernobyl ants in this particular moments. There was a lot of action on the surface, fishes around1 up to 2 kilos were feeding on some hatch of caddis located right below the trees. Siggy was on before I could jump into the water. My friend landed around 4 and I landed other 3 browns and one rainbow. All were the same size and no big ones seen or caught this time. In the afternoon the wind was still blowing but I didn´t want to skip the big lake. So we went to a public place called Laguna Bombilla, very famous for it’s camping spot in the woods. After some solitude in the other places it felt like the city. Three or four families were camping and dogs and kids were shouting. We had a clear mission! So we jumped in this small closed bay that has a big mouth that goes into Fagnano lake and the plan was to finish in the big lake. After a few seconds no sounds were heard.
Seba told me where the run of fish from the lake could be, so I put my legs to work and went straight to the point. As soon as I was arriving a fat brown took my black streamer and gave a really hard fight. Fat and in excellent conditions! I couldn’t get a picture on the belly, didn´t even try.
After that, I went over the mouth and also did Martin and Siggy… Fagnano lake waves were getting smaller. This is the second biggest lake of Argentina and you want to be careful with it, it’s a f.. ocean.
After half an hour my line got straight after letting my fly sink for 10 seconds, and I thought I had a good fish. It fought very well, even better that my last fish and when I landed it was a 2,5 kilo brownie smiling at me, not even fat! Some silver on it still and some brown too, I couldn´t believe the fight I had on that fish. The lake fish is absolutely something else. After me, Siggy landed an excellent fish around 4 kilos and I could see them celebrating far away from me.
It was all about to end. I was very happy with the experience and so was Siggy who was staying for a couple more days. So we started to swim again into the bay and passed over the mouth. Both of us were making the lasts casts. I wasn´t paying attention but I could hear Siggys reel screaming… I turned around and something was taking his line… not stopping! And it never did… the face and his look was “wtf”… As soon as this happens, my line gets tension and the same thing ocurs to me… a big train takes my fly and just leaves to the lake… believe me – I guided many years in Jurassic Lake, Gallegos river and even for kings – this take was something else, could´t even see the fish either, but it felt big and very powerful, it straighten my hook, size 8.
If you plan to come for the trip of your life to Río Grande, well do it! But there is more out there. And people don´t know it! The potential of these lakes and the small rivers that run into them are really attractive. Its not easy fishing, but if you are a real fisherman easy is no good. Seba and Martin are local guides and they are willing to make you test some of the best browns of Tierra del Fuego, just take a look at their profiles and the quality of the fishes out there deserves another week in this place. Excellent guiding and not expensive! Next year I´m back for my big brown!