DIY Fly Fishing Argentina. Best Wade or Float Spots.

Fly Fishing Travel

Picking a place to fly fishing in Argentina is like trying to pick a place to fly fish in the Western US. If you Google “Fly Fishing Argentina” you will get tons of hits, most of them from lodges offering all-inclusive guided 6-7 days of fishing. From Golden Dorado in the north to the high mountains of Patagonia with the lake run brown trout and Atlantic salmon. To the famous giant browns in Tierra Del Fuego.

I emailed a bunch of the lodges to get more information and cost. The emails I got back were friendly and full of great pictures. The cost ranged from $5000 – $6000 for me and another $5000 – $6000 for my wife who likes to travel but doesn’t fish.

I emailed them back, asking if there was a discount for my wife seeing that she would not be fishing. Some of them replied that they would give a $200 discount, but that she would have a personal guide to do whatever she wanted. They had many things for her to do, but she is not the kind of person that wants a personal guide or have things planned out for her.

Fly Fishing Argentina. Rio Lemay River Argentina, with snow cap peaks.

After we talked about it, we decided that for $12000 we could get a hotel room and plan out a lot of our own activities. They’re plenty of Airbnb & hotels to stay at and plenty of fishing guides that were willing to pick me up at any hotel, and for that much money, you could stay a lot longer than a week!  

So after Googling “fly fishing in Argentina” to figure out where to go, I went on Amazon to see if there were any good books on the subject. I found this book, “Fly-Fishing in Patagonia: A Trout Bum’s Guide to Argentina,” but it was $70! I order it despite the price, figuring if I got one day of unguided fishing from the book that it would be worth it. It was an excellent book and was very helpful in planning our trip, and once we got there, it was helpful to find places to fish without a guide.

We settled on going to San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina. It is a bigger town in the Andes mountains, and one of the largest ski resort in South America loaded with restaurants, activities and shops, with many places to fish nearby.

Rio Lemay River Argentina, with snow cap peaks.

Below is a list of questions a friend asked me about planning a trip to Argentina, which should help you plan a trip.

Where did you fly to?

Buenos Aires and we stayed in the Recoleta neighborhood. It seemed the best location for what we wanted to do, and we stayed for three days. We went on a historical walking tour, Tango Show, shopping and dining. We spent one day in the public markets. I let my wife plan out these activities, seeing I was going fishing for much of the rest of the trip.

One thing I found out after I got back is you can fish golden dorado on the river that runs near Buenos Aires. A friend of mine did it, but the water was so off-color that they went for other species, you can get more info if you want at http://fishinginbuenosaires.com/

Keep an eye on your return flights; the Argentina airline switched airports on us for the return trip. We had to take a taxi from the domestic airport to the international airport for $50 and 4 hours.

What towns or cities did you stay?

From Buenos Aires, we flew to Bariloche, AKA, San Carlos de Bariloche, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bariloche. Bariloche is a lovely tourist destination with winter and summer activities with many restaurants and shops. I was told that it has the largest ski / snowboard resort in South America. There is one fly shop in Bariloche that is well stocked. They did not speak English, but I was able to get what I needed.  I never got any reply to my emails that I sent before the trip, may be if they were in spanish?

Rio Lemay River Argentina, with snow cap peaks.

What rivers did you fish? Fly Fishing Argentina.

Rio Lemay is close to Bariloche maybe a 20-minute drive. I fished this river almost every morning we stayed in Bariloche. I got there at first light and fished until the sun was on the water, and then I went and did things with my wife. I was targeting the lake run fish that drop down into the river to spawn. If I were to go again, I would try and go in the first part of April.

The Rio Lemay is a big river; it’s comparable to the Bighorn in Montana. The water is very clear so you can easily see the bottom in most places. It’s getting its clarity by draining Nahuel Huapi Lake which gets its waters from the snow-capped peaks of the Andes; this lake is almost as big as Lake Winnebago, (205 mi²) but with more character.

At the beginning of the river, you will find excellent access and other fishermen. It’s just 20 minutes from Bariloche. Many of the locals use spey rods to cover this big river. They are polite and helpful; they also have some proper fishing etiquette. They will rotate through a pool and take turns, giving everybody a chance at the best water. During the week I would only see a few other fishermen, on the weekend there were more people, but it never felt crowded.

The Book, “A Trout Bum’s Guide” does an excellent job of telling you where the access points are. One thing it doesn’t talk about is the rock shelf that runs across the mouth of the river. If the waves on the lake are not too big, you can walk on this rock shelf and get from one side to the other, and you can target fish that are starting to come into the river. There are not a lot of access points, because Fly Fishing Argentina is not as developed in the US and doesn’t have a bridge every 5 miles. Also, the banks have a lot of willow trees, making it harder to find a place where you can wade and cast. I did see a few fishermen walk in and fish a few miles down from the mouth.

The best way to fish the river is by boat; I did hire fly fishing guides for three days, which helped me connect with more fish than when I was fishing on my own.

The first guide I hired was Germán from outfitterspatagonia.com. He had me start out fishing with my Rio Multi-Tip fishing large streamers, but he didn’t like how deep it was getting and had me switch to a 200-grain sink tip. It was not long before I connected with a 3.5 kg brown. I got into some other fish that day but nothing bigger. Germán is a helpful guide, giving feedback on where and how to cast to these big browns. I would call him a full-service guide, willing to help you with everything and not expecting you to help with anything. He made a shore lunch with hors-d’oeuvres, salad, steaks, bbq sausages and a dessert called Flan. It was delicious and enough to put me to sleep.I also hired Matias from barilochefishingtrips.com he is a hardworking guide, and he is willing to get up extra early and get you on the water before any of the other boats. He has a unique setup for your fly rod to help you cast further so that you can cover more water. Matias was very focused on catching big fish. I did hire Matias for a second day. Although I did not land any big fish with Matias, I would hire him again.

Rio Lemay River Argentina, with snow cap peaks.
Big Rio Lemay brown trout.

Middle Rio Manso

Access can be quite tricky along most of its reaches due to the thick surrounding forest. This is not a place for those who balk at a little bush-whacking. The book gives a useful and accurate description of where you can access the river. We did find some trails leading to the river and also some local fisherman. Most of the fish I caught were smaller rainbows, but I was fishing in the middle of the day and did not see any hatches at the time. Next time I would consider doing a float with a guide on this river. There is also an Upper and Lower Manso river which is divided by lakes, only the upper end of the Lower Rio Manso is worth fishing.

Rio Traful

I’ve always wanted to fly fish Rio Traful since I read about it in 50 places to fish before you die. Some of the allure of this river is that it has Atlantic salmon and is one of the few places you can fish for them in Patagonia. After reading more about it in a different book titled “Fly Fishing in Patagonia,” I found that there are only a couple of lodges that have access to the majority of the river.

I emailed the lodges and got a quote of $900us per day for wade fishing with a guide and lunch, plus there was a 25% gratuity tax on top of it. At this rate, I could hire a guide for other rivers for two full days. So I did some more reading and found there were a few access points on the lower section of the river. By using Argentina’s high water access law, you can navigate down to the river, via some of the tributaries. You can even do this to cross Ted Turner’s property, but the book warns you that the groundskeepers will hassle you. Kind of like Black Wolf run on the Sheboygan River.

When I got to the river it was larger than I expected, you could cross it in some places if you were careful. The river consisted of mostly small and medium cobble with an occasional larger boulder to trip you up, but I would say the wading is easy.

Rainbows were eager to take a wet fly on the swing, and I found good numbers of fish in the river some as big as 14″. Most of the fish were located in the tail out of the pools as you would expect in any western river in the States. This river reminds me of the Rock River in Montana, only with smaller rocks. I did see some rising fish and caddis in the air; this is a good river to fish in December – February.

Seven Lakes route

This is a drive that we made in our car, and it has some of the most scenic views in Patagonia. You start in Bariloche and dive up to San Martin,  and yes you drive past seven lakes, many of them connected by rivers. I did fish along the way, but it is a long drive (approx 140km one way), and we had to drive all the way back to Bariloche that night. If I were to do it again, I would book a room in San Martin and fish my way back the next day. The book does an excellent job of pointing out the places to fish along this route.

Fly Fishing Argentina, at the trip of a lifetime.

Rio Manso
Rio Traful
Rio Traful