'Simply the best sea trout in the world!': A report on Tierra del Fuego
By Charlie White
Dave Parkes returned to fish The Rio Grande last month. Here he explains exactly what it is that keeps him and his friends returning year upon year...
"Our annual trip to fish the Rio Grande was again upon us. I had spoken to the guides and to Jim Curry who had fished the first week on the river and both said that the river was low and clear, even lower than last year but our head guide Federico reported with a smile that the river was 'LOADED!'.
First fish of the trip with head guide Federico Molinolo.
There was a lot of hastily tied small nymphs to combat the conditions and Jim had said they had also taken quite a few fish on small traditional salmon flies. So they were added to the luggage.
The journey to Tierra del Fuego is always a rather tedious operation; we have a thirteen hour flight from Heathrow to Buenos Aires, then another four hour flight to Rio Grande, so we have an overnight in Buenos Aires to sample the fine city and our usual steak restaurant. Lawrie Hickman had joined us for this trip, and we have to thank him for the extortionately expensive bill we received because he asked for the restaurant's finest Malbec wine. We merrily drank six bottles at around $65 a bottle... thanks Lawrie!
So the following day we arrived at the lodge and prepared our tackle. My usual outfits were 13ft 9in Lxi 7/8wt with a Vosso 7/9 reel coupled with a long belly full spey line for complete control of the fly, and a single-hand 10ft 7wt LPXe and Vosso 6/8 reel and 4cast floating line. We had a reasonably early night and waited for the fishing next morning.
We were greeted by the guides and old friendships were renewed and we were soon on our way to our alloted pools. Our first day was to be spent on very good pools and the small nymphs were put to good use and we got a few good fish, but we only caught fish in the head of the pools in fast water, although there were fish in the lower, slower section of the pools we could not tempt them with anything, we soon found out the low, clear water didn’t suit our usual method of fishing in the slower water. Again on the evening session the fish we got were all caught in the faster headwaters of the pool.
The last thirty minutes of the evening session as the light fades has always been the prime time to catch sea trout on the Rio Grande; we use big black streamer type flies and strip them back as fast as possible to induce the take, but during the week this was nowhere near as effective as usual. What did work for the last ten minutes was my favourite method I use back at home, 'the surface lure' or wake fly. It doesn’t work at home until it's very dark but here it works in the gloaming, the good news about this is you can still see the fish attacking the fly and sometimes I had many strikes at the fly on the same drift before one would hook up. This is really frustrating but great visual FUN!!!
Because of the low, clear water pools were not fishing well due to the lack of flow and the guides were trying to think of ways of catching these fish in the slower pools. One guide in particular is a very good brown/rainbow trout angler, and his methods of dead drift fishing with a floating line and long leader with a heavy nymph worked very well, casting upstream and keeping in touch with the fly and as the fly drifts level with you and then downstream, line is paid out to enable it to continue its journey past the fish. Takes vary from vicious pulls to subtle twitches, so concentration is most important, not the same heart-stopping pulls as traditional down and across but exciting all the same.
The whole group had a lot of fun fishing, learning new methods in the low water conditions and were rewarded with about 140 fish for the week averaging more than 11 lbs each. In short, this is simply the best sea trout fishing in the world!
The rods as usual performed very well and coped with all the big sea trout landed, most impressive were the Vosso reels, they were perfect and well up for the situation.
A great experience and a great time was had by all."
Dave Parkes, 2017.