Saturday, February 16, 2013

DIY Fly Fishing Patagonia: Rio Limay

Before I start, I would like to mention that you may experience a few format and grammatical errors.  I am doing my best to put my best English forward, but I simply do not have the time to thoroughly edit/review everything I would take too much time.  In advance, thanks for understanding.

For those of you who are into wiki-facts (me included), not necessarily fishing facts, your welcome to read about the Limay at the following link:  

The Limay is 
born from the ocean like lake Nahuel Huapi, and only minutes from Bariloche, the famous "Boca" is the starting point of Rio Limay.  The river holds a healthy population of large rainbow trout, but given the amount of good rainbow waters in Patagonia, most fisherman fish the Limay for seasonal monstrous sized Brown's (+15lbs), migrating from Lake Nahuel Huapi and the adjoining 5 hydroelectric reservoir systems.  This fishery is so large, it can be seen from your plane, and when described, it's commonly broken into the upper, middle and lower sections.

View Larger Map

To understand how this river system works, and how it consistently produces large fish, click on the map, enlarge it, switch to the satellite view, and then follow the river from Bariloche to Neuquen, Argentina.  If you have done this, you'll no doubt agree this is a BIG river system.  You may have also noticed, five dams and adjoining man-made reservoirs on this river system.  Stop, take moment and think how Brown Trout, in the fall, spawn upstream.  Now go back to the map and take a look at how big Lago Nahuel Huapi is!  Can you imagine the amount of fish, very large brown's, spawning from the lake, up-river to the first dam.  If you can imagine this, and want to fish it, then you'll want to fish the 'boca,' just short drive from Bariloche.  As you can see from the below photo, the boca is not that's more like a fish funnel.  What does this = show up at the right time year, put your time in, pray for good weather, pray to the brown trout fish gods, and hopefully you hook into something like...

FCFF's Limay Partnered Guide.

Now, back to Chapter 1, Rio Limay 'For Dummies'...remember fish spawn upstream, and in this specific case, from Lago Nahuel Huapi, until the brown's reach the first dam.  That's right folks; the end of the line..there are no fish ladders on any of the dams!  So, if you don't catch a world record at the boca, or if the chill of late season temps, or 15-30 knot winds, or wade fishing only at the boca tends to bother you, we can jump in the FCFF fish mobile, and fish the first dam...the end of the upper limay river, literally.  Now for those of you who are long in the tooth, and no longer wade fish, but wish to float the the upper Limay, no worries; we can easily put you on a float.  But fair warning, this is technical water and best for experienced anglers; or mad men who will travel thousands of miles to hopefully spend a day with the Brown Trout gods.

Chapter Two: Rio Limay 'For Dummies.' Guess what happens at the out flow of the first dam?  The Long trip upstream,  and spawning process ends, with fish coming out of the reservoir, many miles down stream. Did I lose you? That's right, the process is reversed, and this reversed process continues until the last dam (remember there are 5 dams and reservoirs; and one huge lake that you can see from a plane,  at +20,000 ft in the sky!).  Many serious anglers know that hooking into a brown beast will take some time...perhaps days, if not weeks!  So, the financial thought of floating each day, quickly fades for most anglers.  This is why the middle section of the Limay is so's easily accessible by foot!

If you are a D.I.Y. fisherman, wanting to fish the middle Limay, the closest access point is via the small dusty town of Piedra de Aguila (eagle on the rock).  From Bariloche, this is about a 2 hour car ride, and from Junin de los Andes, it's about 1.5 hours.  You are welcome to learn more about this desert town via  But,  there is not much to see or do...most people come here to fish, or stop for a bathroom break and refill their gas tanks.

I was serious when I said you could see this river system from a plane!

Along the middle Limay, there are a number of access points, all of which charge you a fee for entrance, camping, and food/beverages (folks...this place was discovered along time ago, and now you must pay to play). The first of these access points, less than 10 miles outside of town, heading towards Neuquen, is called Campo de Martinez.  From the dam pictured above, this camping area is 5 minutes downstream.  Warning, this camping area is not scenic, and the services are rustic at best.  In fact, the land is quite barren and offers almost no shade.  But, the fishing is good, very good!  

Building on far left is the guesthouse for fisherman.
La  Cocina or Kitchen

Let me tell you about Campo de Martinez:

  • Daily entrance fee is $30 ($5 USD) pesos per person, fishing only.
  • $40 pesos per person ($8 USD) will give you three days of camping. You can use the kitchen and bathroom facilities while camping. Inside the kitchen area they have a refrigerator and freezer.
  • If you would like, they can cook you lunch and dinner, each for $50 pesos per person. For a fisherman, the food is not too bad.  I recommend bringing your own wine or beverage.
  • If you would like to rent a room, it is $130 ($15 USD) pesos per person, per night.  In each room, there are a bunk beds, sleeping a total of four fishermen per room. The bathrooms (2), with hot showers, are located just outside your bedroom. 
  • If you would like a float trip, you will need to speak to Nano Martinez. Nano lives here and is a licensed guide. For a full day flew it will cost $1,250 pesos ($250 USD), and you will float about 15 km of the middle Limay. If you can provide your own transfer, a one-day flow will cost you $1000 pesos ($200 USD).  Note: I have not finished with Nano, so I am not able to speak about his skills and abilities.
  • If you prefer to walk and wade, you can walk upstream to the damn, or you could walk downstream from many miles.
  • The best time to fish this section of the Limay is the end of March and all of April. This is the best time of year to catch a huge brown trout.
  • Another option for day fisherman, you can park near the dam, just off the side of the road, on the left, and there is no charge.  Most DIY fisherman who stay in PDA choose this option.

As I said before, Campo de Martinez is a rustic camping ground, with little or no shade. But, because the dam is just upstream (the end of the line for HUGE spawning Brown Trout),  as ugly as this spot may be, it offers the serious budget angler some of the best, big trout fishing in all of Patagonia.  If you would like a camp ground with better accommodations, and better scenery (more shade), there are a number of campgrounds further down the road.  One campground worth mentioning, is the campground called Pantanito.  This campground is located 75 km from PDA, and the pricing and services are as followed:

  • $50 pesos for one night, per person.
  • $80 pesos for two nights, per person.
  • $100 pesos for three nights, per person.
  • Like Campo de Martinez, they will prepare food for you, including an Asado.
  • Note: I have not stayed here, but I have heard good things from other fisherman, about the campground...not necessarily better fishing.  I plan to visit this campground and will provide more information in the future.

Wet Wading the middle Limay= lots of fun catching wild bows on tiny flies

Okay friends, I need to get going and I will post more about the middle Limay soon.  Please feel free to post comments or ask questions.  Thanks for reading and I hope all is well.

Hasta Luego,


Orvis Access Mid-Arbor Reels - Titanium (Google Affiliate Ad)

Though I have a Orvis Battenkill Barstock (2) 6wt, 99% of the time, I use an Orvis Access Mid-Arbor 6wt reel with my ECHO3 9wt/6wt fast action/tip flex rod.  Why? The rod-reel-line set-up is designed for big water, big fish, big Patagonia winds; and is my go-to set-up for float trips, and equally, when I park my ass in the river, fishing deep, for big fish.  Unlike the Battenkill Barstock (2) this reel has a better drag system and holds more backing line. Lastly, the weight of this reel balances perfectly with the rod and line.  I really feel that a mid arbor, versus a large arbor, is all you need. In my opinion, large arbor reels are over-hyped, and tend to create an unbalanced system, with most rods.

Orvis Hydros Running Line (Google Affiliate Ad)

On my Orvis mid-arbor access reel, I use 20lbs dacron backing. followed by .029 running line.  Why? On this particular reel-rod set-up, I use a multi-tip or shooting heads system.  Remember, I am fishing for big fish, in nasty conditions., either from a boat, or wading.  In one moment, I may need to get my fly down to 20ft, and in another situation, I may need to only get my fly down 4ft.  Plus, by using multi-tips/heads, I don't have to carry bulky spare spools...this is critical when you travel and fish multiple rivers/lakes.

Orvis 4-in-1 Multi-Tip Line System for Single Hand Rods (Google Affiliate Ad)

15ft tips only.  I can get more distance using shooting heads but I tend to prefer the multi-tip line system.

Orvis Complete shooting head fly line kit, specify line weights (Google Affiliate Ad)

28 ft heads only.  I also use Airflow, from Rajeff Sports,  40+ shooting heads.