Monday, May 6, 2013

DIY Fly Fishing Patagonia Argentina: Malleo River Middle Section.

Rio Malleo Facts

Location: Junin de los Andes, Argentina.  Approximately, +/- 1 hour from Junin.
Province: Neuquen
Fishing Season: Generally, November 01 till May 31st.
Licensed Required: Yes, general fishing only.
Floating:  Floating the Malleo is prohibited.
Entrance Fee:  Currently $30 pesos (per day) to enter the lower section or Mapuche reservation.
Camping: Yes, only on the Mapuche reservation, $15 pesos per night.
Length: 64 Kilometers or 40 miles.
Origin: Lago Tromen (third major lake tributary to the rio Alumine).
Termination: Alumine.
Fly Rods: 9ft/4wt through 9ft/6wt. Switch = 11ft/5wt.
Fly Lines:  Floating for dry flies and nymphs.  Seasonal use of sink tips for faster-deeper water.
Flies:  Sorry, but we only share this information with our guest.

In 1999, I spent one year hiking and fishing the Andes mountain range; from Tierra del Fuego to southern Columbia.  I enjoyed fishing all the waters (rivers, lakes, creeks, ponds, and the Pacific Ocean), but the region and body of water that pulls me back year after year, is Patagonia and the Malleo river.  Why?  I have fished amazing waters, both in Patagonia Chile and Argentina, but the Malleo river has what every fisherman dreams of: size, diverse structure, wild brown and rainbow trout, accessibility, and a dynamic landscape that embodies much of what people expect to see in Patagonia.  As a result of these characteristics, the Malleo river has come to be known as the crown jewel of northern Patagonia.  Also, based on my extensive fishing experience throughout Patagonia, this is the best DIY walk-wade fly fishing river.  Unofficially, this is an opinion shared by many, of which was created by the following factors:

  • Size: compared to the big rivers surrounding the Malleo (Alumine, Collon Cura or the Chimehuin), this body of water is a smaller sized, yet charming river.  The size of the river, particularly in the upper reaches, lends itself to short cast, with precise presentation.  As a result, at least for me, within a short amount of time, you'll feel connected to this river; with your mind, body and spirit. Though this river has big fish, my day spent on the Malleo is about my moment of zen.  In fact, time after time, clients tell me, "I now know why you come here...I get it...I understand why you consistently say that you could fish this river for the rest of your life and not be bored."  It's a feeling that is not easily explained, especially by a blog hack such as myself.  But do not be mistaken, what this river lacks in size, it more than makes up for it in heart!  This is one of the many reasons why FCFF focuses heavily on DIY walking-wading the Malleo.   
  • Structure:  some of the waters in Patagonia produce great fish, but they lack structure.  If you were to close your eyes and picture the perfect trout stream filled with classic riffles, pools, flats, pocket water, and cut banks; then you would soon find yourself dreaming about the Malleo.  
  • Fish:  it's about the fish, but not really. We don't fish the Malleo for the trophy mount; however, we regularly catch fish over 20" and over 2 kilos.  The Malleo is all about how we catch them...just makes a better, and more memorable life experience.  For example: during mid summer we are using either 3wt or 4wt rods, with long leaders and fine tippet.  We might use a #18-#22 caddis.  To get the right drift, you'll have to place this fly in a spot about the size of bagel.  If this fish gods are pleased with your efforts, you may pull a +20" trout from a heavily wooden log jam.  Next, I am not sure you'll be fighting with your foe,  or dancing with your partner.  But, as you bring this beauty to net, you'll soon realize this Malleo thing that I am speaking of, touches your soul, in its entirety.
  • Scenery:  the Malleo has three distinct sections, each displaying a unique Patagonian landscape. The upper section is notable characterized by the towering 12, 293 foot (3,747 meters) volcan Lanin. On clear days, which are often during the summer months, you can see the snow covered glaciated peak...the views, while fishing in a serene trout pool, are stunning.  Another feature of the upper section are the ancient araucaria trees (monkey puzzle trees).  For the angler, the combination of these trees, along with bamboo forest and other exotic vegetation, makes this section an avatar like experience.  The middle section is noted for its willow tree (sauce) lined banks, and offers up stunning panoramic views of volcan Lanin.  The canyon of the middle section offers the intrepid angler/hiker a chance to explore parts of the river that many anglers never see.  And the lower section, is an arid desert valley, featuring sculpted rocky cliffs that will be sure to amaze you.
  • Accessiblity:  with the exception of a few private ranches, such as Estancia San Huberto, much of the the Malleo is accessible to the DIY walk-wade.  The upper section is located in a national forest and access is free of charge.  Via the 'yellow bridge' the middle section is a great spot for those who like to 'hike' and wade.  And the lower section, once you pay the $30 pesos fee, much of the river is yours to fish.  Lastly, the Malleo river is only an hour or less away from Junin de los Andes.  In other words, within minutes of leaving Junin, you enter a different world...a world where time is measured by the setting of the sun and the rising of the moon.  Lastly, the proximity of the river to Junin de los Andes, offers the DIY angler the option to camp stream side, while having immediate access to in-town modern conveniences. This opportunity makes for a great DIY, 1-3 night camp/fishing adventure.  

Middle Malleo: Forgotten H2O

If you plan to fish northern Patagonia (Argentina), chances are you have or will read much information about the rivers and lakes surrounding Junin de los Andes.  As well, you might even jump on YouTube and see a handful of videos.  With respect to the Malleo River, 99.9% of the content (both written and video) focuses on the lower and upper sections of the Malleo.  As a DIY walk-wade fisherman does this strike you as odd?  Does it prompt a simple question as to why this is so?

I admit, year after year, I have driven past the middle section, en route to the upper section of the Malleo.  As I would drive by this section, I found myself constantly scanning the waters for a sign...a sign that says, "you need to fish this H2O now!"  But no fishy signs have presented themselves and I am constantly left with a silent self reminder to explore this section someday.  Well, the day has come and I am more than happy to share my thoughts:

  • Comparing the three sections of the Malleo, the lower section, from the beginning to the end of the season, is the best water.  For example, even when water levels drop, the lower section still has plenty of water to hold fish in various sizes.  
  • I am also convinced that the lower and upper sections of the Malleo receive more attention because there is more parking and easy access to the river. 
  • Another convincing thought, most people who visit this area only have 1 week to fish  So, naturally they are going to fish the waters that will increase their chances of catching a trophy trout...the lower section is known for trophy fish on dry flies; and early season, the upper section can be brown trout heaven.     
  • The middle section offers only four parking spots/access points. The two primary and easy to find parking/access points are the two bridges that designate the beginning and end.  The first bridge on ruta 23, about 20 kilometers from Junin de los Andes, crosses over the Malleo river, and if you went straight, you would head to Alumine; and if your turned right, you would soon enter the Mapuche reservation.  The second bridge, on ruta 60, is about 10 kilometers upstream from the ruta 23 bridge. 
  • In between these bridges, there are two spots that look as though you could park, and easily access water.  
  • From all parking/access points, expect to walk up to an hour in either direction, to find various runs/holes.  

Middle Malleo: How is the Fishing?

The fishing is horrible!  Future visiting fly fisherman, PLEASE do not fish this section (just joking).  Seriously, the fishing is good and I will let the photos do the talking.    

Parked the FCFF fish mobile at the first bridge and walked a solid hour up stream = good runs and holes, holding very good fish!

I can't believe I have never fished the middle Malleo!
Another fine looking middle Malleo specimen.

Looking for an easy day trip from Junin de los Andes?  This fellow hooked into a rainbow and a brown, in the same spot.  The size?  Let's say that 99.9% of fly fisherman would be very happy!

Some people are convinced that the middle section is not worth fishing.  Obviously, as a die-hard DIY walk-wade fisherman, I beg to differ and so does this client!

Final Word:

There are lots of rivers/lakes to fish in the Junin de los Andes area.  If you only have 1-2 weeks, and if you are combining DIY walk-wade and float/camp trips, you probably will not fish the middle section of the Malleo. By saying that you're not missing much, is entirely in appropriate.  It's better to say...if you would like to sleep in a bit, or if you are looking for an 'easy on the legs' excursion, you might find yourself fishing middle Malleo...good, easy to access waters, that very few people fish!

Fishing the Malleo with FCFF

From Junin de los Andes (by car), and depending on which part of the river you would like access, it will take about 45 minutes to 1.0 hour.  If you prefer the comforts and convenience of town, we offer day trips from Junin. During the summer months, and if you like to fish the early A.M. and late P.M. hatches, we offer overnight camping trips.  We are in the process of updating our fly fishing services and prices, so for more specific information, please contact us via email

We hope you enjoyed reading this post.  If you have questions or comments, please feel free to do so.  Many thanks and hope to see you next season in Patagonia.

Gone Fishing,


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