Friday, April 18, 2014

DIY Fly Fishing Patagonia Argentina: Rio Santa Cruz, Atlantic Steelhead, Part 1

Big-Bad and full of Steelhead!

Our mission at First Cast Fly Fishing is to provide no B.S. Do-it-Yourself (DIY) information and to also host trips for DIY anglers.  That being said, and as you probably know, there are thousands of DIY places to fish in Patagonia. We strongly encourage you to do your own DIY trip, but if you don't speak the language and your time is limited, then maybe working with us is a good idea.  Regardless of your decision, let's talk about one of my favorite species: Steelhead.

Most anglers don't come to Patagonia targeting Steelhead.  Anglers are consumed with float trips targeting wild Brown/Rainbow Trout.  Other angles are driven to catch Sea Run Brown Trout.  But what about Steelhead?  Is it possible to DIY walk-wade for Steelhead, in Argentina?  Without any hesitation, the answer is YES-YES-YES!

In less than 30 minutes, every star in the sky will be visible and it is mind-blowing beautiful.

Welcome to the Santa Cruz river; the only known Atlantic Ocean Steelhead fishery in the world.
Let's review the facts that makes the Santa Cruz one of the best DIY Steelhead fisheries in the world:

  • Location:  Piedra Buena.  230 Kilometers north of Rio Gallegos.
  • How to Get There:  A) overnight bus from Buenos Aires.  B) Fly to Rio Gallegos and either rent a car or take a bus to Piedra Buena (2.5 hour drive time)
  • Public Transportation:  There are no buses to/from the river, but you could walk to locations near town or hire a taxi to take you up river.
  • Fishing Season:  December 01 till June 30th. 
  • Licensed Required: General fishing only, good for all of Patagonia, except TDF.  
  • Floating: NO.  If we are not walking-wading, we work with a guide who owns a motorboat. The advantage of the boat = access more areas with less pressure.  
  • Public Access Points:  The land surrounding the river is 100% private; however, you can walk-wade both sides of the river for miles and miles.
  • Length: 380 kilometers of some of the most wildest Patagonia land.
  • Width:  At certain points the river is a half mile wide. 
  • Species:  Rainbow Trout - Steelhead.
  • When:  Fish come into the river at the end of February.  Best/Biggest fish at the end of May. 
  • Origin: Lago Argentino. South America's third largest lake.
  • Termination: Atlantic Ocean.  
  • Walk-Wade Difficulty:  This a free-stone/gravel river, with limited structure.  Current is steady and strong = up to your waist in slow water areas only!
  • H2O:  Fed by the southern ice field, the waters are glacial/silty. Water is cold, never rising above 50 degrees. 
  • Tidal:  Yes; though not dangerous, the river can rise up to 8ft.  
  • Where to Stay:  A) in-town hotel or in-town camping.  B) there is free camping, along the river, upstream from main bridge. 
  • Fly Rods: You could fish with a single hand 8wt/9wt, but with the wind, it's a lot of work! Two handed rods are preferred. 11ft/8wt switch rods will work, but they might not be able to handle the line weight, fly weight, and wind combination.  8wt over-head two handed rods, around 12/13ft, designed for heavy weighted tips, and chucking line far, work extremely well. Traditional 14ft Spey rods work extremely well.  
  • Fly Lines:  Depends on the location/water flow, but 9 meter full-sink T-11 through T-18 work well. Backing = amnesia or running line.  Tippet = 20lb mono.
  • Specific Flies:  The fly selection is not complicated, but we only share this information with our guest. 

I am not sure that I will ever fully comprehend that this is a Rainbow Trout! 

If you read or following our blog, you'll notice how we break things down; generally into three parts.  So, the next post (#2) will focus on how to DIY in/around town, and the last post (#3), will focus on how to successfully fish this river.  Hope you enjoyed this post and thanks for reading.

Saludos y Abrazos Amigos,