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Fly Fishing in Patagonia: how, what for and when?

If you’re a fly fisherman, you already know that Patagonia is widely revered as one of the best places to fly fish around the world. The variety and vastness of the landscapes are matched only by the enormous range of the fishing. One day you may find yourself wading in a small creek at the foot of the majestic Andes mountain range, surrounded by dense native forest: the next, you’re floating down a wide open river on the Patagonian steppe, characterised by the widest of open spaces and unique pastel hues.

In the first of two blogs, we give a quick explanation of the best ways to Fish Patagonia and get the most out of a trip to the region.

How do you fly fish in Patagonia?

Fly fishing (mostly for trout) in Patagonia is very varied. We can physically walk in riverbeds or along the banks of rivers or lakes, known as wading or wade fishing. This is the best way to access smaller streams and rivers. To fish the bigger, wider and deeper rivers, we fish from drift boats. This is known as “floating”. We can also do a combination of the two, where you float to certain points which are ideal for wading.

fishermen in a Patagonian river

Throughout most of the season we can fish using dry flies, although it can be very technical and challenging even for the most experienced anglers. We love fishing with dries: seeing a fish come up to take a dry fly on the surface is one of the most exciting moments of a good day’s fishing. Fishing using nymphs or streamers can also be very productive all season, and is a great option for beginners and pros alike.

Not to mention our incredible lakes. Dragonfly hatches start in December in the reed beds around the lakes, providing ideal conditions to tempt out large rising fish with the right dry fly. The landscapes are spectacular, and the structure in the banks with trees, logs, stone walls and depth transitions make for very dynamic fishing.

What are the fish species in Patagonia?

In Patagonia, the predominant species of fish is the rainbow trout. They are very strong, and when hooked normally provide a long, fast run with some acrobatic jumps included. They make for fast paced and exciting fishing. The average fish is around 16 inches but they commonly reach up to 22 inches, while in some of the rivers you can land much bigger specimens.

While slightly less common than the rainbow, the brown trout population in our waters is also very healthy. While they can be elusive and tricky to catch, they are well worth the effort: with some patience and skill, you can expect to catch beautiful browns up to 30 inches.

trout

While less common, we also fly fish for the eye catching brook trout. Sporting beautiful red bellies, they are roughly the same size as a rainbow trout, and are mostly found while fly fishing in Patagonia’s lakes.

The native fish is the perca, which resembles a bass. They are mostly bottom feeders, so are best targeted with streamers. Typically, they range from around 15 to 26 inches in length, although enormous outliers are around. In addition, the Patagonian waters also support other smaller species like pejerrey, puyen, peladilla and bagre which are mostly baitfish, although catching a pejerrey on a dry fly is great fun and a bit of a different challenge.

When is the best time to fish in Patagonia?

Our season opens on the 1st of November and closes on the 31st of May. The best time of the season for you really depends on what you’re looking for in terms of fishing and weather.

November and December are our springtime. Rivers are generally full from the winter runoff, so it’s the ideal time to wade small creeks that will get lower later in the season as the weather warms up. During November in the high rivers the streamer fishing can be very good. When the weather warms up a little bit some hatches will come off and dry fly fishing can be very exciting, although during spring big dries remain the best choice for the dry fly fanatics. In December the dragonflies start hatching in the lakes, and fishing with big dries can be a lot of fun. Water levels start to drop and the hatches become more prolific, meaning we see more fish rising.

January, February and the first couple of weeks of March are our summer months. The weather is warm and days are long, water levels drop down to their average and the fishing is fantastic with any of dries, nymphs or streamers. Given the glorious summer sunshine, this tends to be our busiest period of the season, with lodges and guides booked out well in advance.

From mid March through to May is autumn in Patagonia. The colours on the trees make this time of the year very special: the yellow, orange and red hues given Patagonia a particular beauty. While days become progressively shorter and mornings chillier, daytime temperatures on a sunny day can still be warm, even with the crisp autumn breeze. By this point in the season, fish have been feeding all summer and can be harder to catch than in the earlier months, but the rewards can be great: they are generally bigger for the same reason. We also see some blue-winged olive hatches around this time, which can make dry fly fishing spectacular. Streamer fishing for big browns is also excellent, since as water temperatures begin to drop migratory browns also begin entering the rivers in bigger numbers to prepare to spawn. If you’re after a big fish, this is the time to come to fly fish in Patagonia.

Conclusion

In summary, we fly fish in Patagonia mostly for trout but also for native species by either wading or floating. When you want to come during our season from November to May really depends on what kind of fishing you’re looking for, and the type of weather you prefer. All months offer unforgettable experiences fly fishing in the heart of the Patagonian wilderness.

Any questions? Get in touch to let us answer them for you.

In our next blog post, we’ll explain how to get to us, the kit we use and provide to our guests, and the best fishing techniques to Fish Patagonia.

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