Argentina Fishing

Argentina Fishing

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Resort Area Bariloche

Bariloche Argentina

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The Towns

Article More with Charles Thacher

You will probably land in Bariloche in the early afternoon. It's the largest town in the area - over 75,000 people. This is a popular resort area with many places to stay, but it is quite a distance from most of the best fishing spots. San Martin de Los Andes and Junin de Los Andes are more centrally located.

San Martin is nearly a three-hour drive from Bariloche. The shortest road (100 miles) is that over Paso Del Cordoba. It's scenic, passes several nice streams, but is winding and mostly dirt. The road past Villa Angostura and going along the Siete Lagos (Seven Lakes) is even more scenic, somewhat farther (130 miles) and also mostly dirt. The fully paved road through Junin is longer (170 miles) and not very scenic. My experience is that these roads take within about 15 minutes of one another. Watch your gas tank, as there are no services between Confluencia (about 40 miles north of Bariloche) and San Martin or Junin.

By the way, I have not found driving in rural Argentina to be much different than in the rural USA. Except, a lot more dirt roads and fewer services. Argentines in rural areas tend to drive more slowly than I do - possibly because there are many old vehicles. Buenos Aires is another matter.

San Martin is a summer and winter resort area. It is a charming, Tyrolean town of about 25,000, beautifully situated on Lago Lacar. There are many hosterias, but it is a popular tourist destination, so reserve in advance. Use the Internet. There are also excellent restaurants and other services that you might need, including a small fly shop (where you can buy a license), although you shouldn't expect to find much of a tackle selection. Tackle is more expensive here than in the US. San Martin also has a disco, if you can deal with starting your evening's entertainment well after midnight. San Martin is not as convenient (by a half hour) to most of the prime fishing as Junin, but it is much nicer and more interesting.

Junin is a sleepy town of about 8,000. It has a nice new fly shop, but lacks the vitality or charm of San Martin. It does have some lodging and restaurants, and can be fun if there's a gaucho festival going on, which is fairly common. One of the area's top rivers, the Chimehuin, runs right through the middle of town and that section is excellent fishing.

The Principal Rivers

Rivers of Argentina:

Alumine River , Azul River (Ar) , Foyel River , Limay River , Manso River - Upper ,Manso River - Middle ,Manso River - Lower , Traful River , Villegas River ,

The reason to go to Argentina is the rivers. They are numerous, varied in type, crystal clear and lightly fished. Most days you see no other fishermen. I will cover the principal rivers that are most commonly fished, proceeding north from Bariloche. There are many other beautiful rivers with trout and public access that are more rarely fished, and which will probably entice me on a future trip.



The reason to go to Argentina is the rivers. They are numerous, varied in type, crystal clear and lightly fished. Most days you see no other fishermen. I will cover the principal rivers that are most commonly fished, proceeding north from Bariloche. There are many other beautiful rivers with trout and public access that are more rarely fished, and which will probably entice me on a future trip.

Many of the best rivers, or sections of rivers, flow through private estancias (ranches) and access is effectively controlled by these estancias. I say effectively because the river access law in Argentina is similar to that in Montana. The riverbed to the high water mark and a few more feet is public even if the surrounding land is private. So, legally, you can fish the river in an estancia by entering from a public spot, but frequently this is impractical. So it may be necessary to stay at the lodge run by the estancia or gain permission (not likely) there in order to have access to fish. The estancias are frequently huge, even by our Western standards. 50,000 acres is common, with some much larger.

Traful - About one hour's drive north of Bariloche on the paved road to Junin. A world-renowned river for its landlocked salmon and prodigious browns and rainbows. The water is incredibly clear - some think too clear. The salmon move down from Lago Traful and can be in the river at any time, but most are caught in the spring (November and December) and fall (March and April). Fishing in the Traful can be very challenging and frustrating. Even experienced anglers often have fishless days. Large fish rarely rise, and dry flies are unlikely to be effective. Most effective are brown or green woolly buggers (imitating the pelican crab which is prevalent in many Northern zone rivers), and large nymphs. But the trout can be of astonishing size, particularly in girth - some could use a truss.

There is a short public access area of the Traful above where it enters a reservoir - a few miles off the paved road. But most of its 10 miles is controlled by two estancias, one of which is no longer open to the public. The north bank can be accessed by staying at the Arroyo Verde lodge - one of the best and most expensive fishing lodges in the world. Unguided (if possible) figure $400 per person per day. I haven't been there, but many say it's worth it. The south bank was controlled by the Estancia Primavera, which operated a lodge for many years. (I have stayed there), but the estancia has recently been purchased by Ted Turner (that's right, with the whole 10 miles of riverbank), and is now closed to the public.

The Traful is an extraordinarily beautiful river, and certainly worth a few days to try to catch some monster fish that are clearly visible. But be ready to work hard below the surface for a few fish and possibly be skunked. By the way, both guides and other fishermen that I have spoken with have concurred that the past two years have been unusually difficult fishing on the Traful. I guess Ted's timing is not always impeccable.

Caleufu - A beautiful mid-sized river formed by the Meliquina and Filo Hua Him, both of which are also nice trout streams (primarily in the early season). Much of the Caleufu (middle section) can be accessed only by staying at a private ranch owned by Douglas Reed. Easy public access is available on the upper river from where it runs alongside the road over Paso Del Cordoba. There is a sign for the short Puente Negro turnoff. This river can be excellent dry fly water. Go downstream a ways from the bridge. Access to the lower section is possible, but is an out-of-the-way drive from where you're likely to be.

Chimehuin - A river of nearly 50 miles flowing out of the beautiful Lago Huechulafquen to the
confluence with the Aluminé to ultimately form the Collon Cura. The boca (mouth) of the Chimehuin at the lake is world famous, having produced some of the largest trout ever caught on a fly rod. The boca is about 15 miles from Junin, and is well worth visiting for its scenic beauty and tradition. You might even catch a very large fish, particularly in the fall when they are most likely to be leaving the lake. Beware of the wind, which even by Patagonian standards can be ferocious.

The boca is a unique fishing experience, but the rest of the Chimehuin will remind you of some of your favorite mid-sized American rivers. Except virtually no one is fishing there! It holds many large rainbows and browns. Below Junin some of the best water flows through an estancia where it is private. The estancia operates a small lodge (Los Pinos), but you can sometimes arrange to pay a $25 fee to fish for the day on the estancia's land. The Chimehuin has riffles, pools and all other features of a beautiful trout river. Hatches occur, but in my experience are sporadic. Caddis in the evening is probably the most common. When there is no hatch, try attractor flies, large nymphs and the ubiquitous woolly bugger.

There is much public access - all the way from the boca to well downstream from Junin. My favorite spot, and some of the best water that I've ever fished anywhere, is reached by walking less than a mile down the Quilquihue River from where it flows under the San Martin-Junin Road (you'll see a parking lot there) to the junction with the Chimehuin. Go upstream or downstream from the confluence. I prefer downstream.

Quilquihue - A beautiful tributary of the Chimehuin entering downstream from Junin. Best in the early season. Public access at the bridge on the San Martin/Junin road and near Chapelco airport. Also, private access (for a fee) at the same estancia that controls much of the lower Chimehuin. No need to tie a nymph or woolly bugger on here. Fish near the banks regularly come up for attractor flies, and you're likely to see rising fish. The Currhue is another early-season river that crosses the road between San Martin and Junin a few miles north of the Quilquihue.

Malleo - One of the top dry fly rivers in Argentina - or anywhere. About the size of the Beaverkill. Crosses a dirt (slowly being paved) road about 15 miles north of Junin. Along another dirt road, going upstream for about five miles or downstream for maybe 10 miles there is public access, although gringos may be asked to pay a few dollars to enter the Indian reservation downstream. The public section is nice and can produce excellent fishing, but the three to four miles upstream from the first bridge to the second bridge is more heavily fished than other rivers in Argentina. That means that you might see a fisherman. The water above the second bridge is a better choice, and public access is available from the bridge.

The great reputation of the Malleo is based on the private section of about 15 miles above the public water. This section is controlled by an estancia that operates an excellent fishing lodge - Hosteria San Huberto. Figure, $300 per day unguided (again, if possible). Much of the top half of this section (called "tres picos") of the Malleo is a quiet meadow stream, then it goes through a short canyon, and becomes a faster flowing river of riffles and pools. The river is lined with willows throughout, and the larger rainbows and browns frequently hide in them. It's a classic, beautiful trout stream. Hatches, particularly caddis, can be prolific, but fish will often rise to attractor flies, and nymphs are effective.

Upstream from the San Huberto property much of the river flows through private estancias, although the first several miles below the boca are in the Lanin National Park where there is public access. It is a smaller, mountain river here and the fishing can be excellent. In the park you will be surrounded by a major grove of araucaria (monkey puzzle) trees, which is enchanting. And in the late summer/early fall look under the female trees for the pinones, which can be peeled for excellent eating (even better if roasted) - tasting something like a chestnut. You can also buy pinones at a product market to bring home.

The San Huberto can accommodate about a dozen fishermen. The service, accommodations and general ambiance provided by Carlos and Carmine Olsen, the owners, are wonderful, and given the accessibility of a variety of water types, a stay of five days would not be too long. The estancia also operates a lodge on beautiful Logo Tromen (the source of the Malleo), which is popular for boat fishing, especially for brook trout to five pounds.

If you travel about eight to 10 miles past San Huberto on the road to Chile, you will see a yellow bridge crossing the Malleo. This otherwise private section of excellent water can be accessed by entering the riverbed from the bridge, upstream or downstream. Of course, you must stay along the riverbed.

An unforgettable sight on the upper Malleo is Lanin, a dormant volcano in the classic conical shape. At over 12,000 feet, it towers above the landscape. Lanin is always covered with snow, and it would be a stolid angler indeed who could resist putting down his rod to spend at least a few minutes contemplating its majesty and, of course, snapping a few pictures.

A small stream, the Huaca Mamuil, enters the Malleo upstream from the yellow bridge. This can provide excellent fishing in the early season.

Aluminé - This is a large river that has already flowed for about 75 miles when the Malleo enters it. If you proceed north on the dirt road after crossing the Malleo, in about 25 miles you will cross the Aluminé and then the road runs along the river for about 50 miles. A gorgeous river with intermittent pools and rapids. Probably only a couple of dozen people live along these 50 miles of river. Most people fish the Aluminé by boat with a guide. Float trips usually start from the tiny village of Rahue and can go for 1-3 days.

I floated the Aluminé for one day, and have fished for a few hours along the road, so I can't claim any profound knowledge. Fishing was tough, with only an occasional rising fish. But it's enticing water and has a reputation of being productive at times. The river is best known for prolific "hatches" of small green worms that fall from the willow trees in March. Supposedly, that's the best time to be on the river with any fly that's green and tubular.

There is a good lodge at Rahue called Hostería Quillen. It's not as pricey as some of the other lodges, but the accommodations are fine and the food and hospitality are as good as any. It provides excellent access to the Aluminé and lower Quillen.

Quillen - The Quillen flows into the Aluminé at Rahue. It's my favorite Argentine river - one of my favorites anyplace. It's similar in size to the Malleo. You never need to fish below the surface in this river, although it can be effective. The bottom five to 10 miles of the Quillen allow public access in many spots, and it is beautiful, productive water. But the upper section (to about a mile below Lago Quillen) is the real gem, and it is accessible by staying at Puerto Lussich, a small but charming (and expensive) lodge on one of the two estancias that control this section of the river. Puerto Lussich also has accommodations on Lago Quillen, and the other estancia also has a lodge. I have stayed on the upper Quillen three times for nine days, and no one else was at the lodge all of that time. Keep in mind, this is quite remote. It's about 80 miles on a dirt road (with no services) from Junin. But really not a bad trip.

The Quillen has all kinds of water - riffles, flat pools, back eddies, even some sections with large weed beds - very much like a spring creek. It is not easy to catch the large trout, but there are plenty around. Sippers can often be spotted, and they provide the same challenges and pleasures as on our rivers. I have never seen another angler on the Quillen. Attractor dries are effective, particularly in the faster water, when there are no rising fish. A #12 Adams is very reliable.

If you stay at Puerto Lussich you eat your meals with the owner, Mario Lussich, and his family. He's an expert and incredibly enthusiastic fisherman, and often will accompany (i.e., guide) guests for a day of fishing. He's a partner in the Buenos Aires Orvis shop. You might ask him about the Mallalco, but don't be surprised if you can't get to fish this small, beautiful spring creek (a tributary of the Quillen) because its fragility is assiduously protected. If you get to fish it, you should have an unforgettable day.

Other Rivers - There are other rivers in the Northern zone that can provide fine fishing. These include smaller rivers such as the Norquinco and Trocomen, and large rivers such as the Collon Cura and Limay. For me, another time.

 Article Charles Thacher








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