Rio Gallegos

A fisherman’s river

The season

While the first sea trout enter the river as early as October and November, river conditions vary a lot during these months so the prime period of the fishing season runs from late December and into April.

Early season on the river often means fishing for sea trout straight out of the ocean. The biggest of those are genuine trophy size. They are heavily built and 20 pounders are being fairly common. The biggest sea trout of the river are in the 25-30 lbs range.  

Later in the season, some of these big fish have coloured up but still get company from fresh run sea trout, and during the late part of the season the big coloured fish gets mixed up with a strong run of fresh medium sized sea trout of 6-12 lbs.

Traditionally, January and February – summertime in Patagonia – are considered the prime months for chasing trophy size sea run browns in Patagonia but it’s an often over looked fact that moving into autumn, and the months of March and April, generally produces more consistent fishing in terms of numbers. Though not of the same size as early in the season, there also a late run of really big fish in late March.

Rio Gallegos also has a strong population of beautifully coloured resident brown trout. We rarely target them but instead see them as welcome by-catches throughout the season, when fishing for the sea runs.

“The ideal setup for Rio Gallegos is the combination of a single hand rod for gentle presentations on calm days or in shallow water and a double hander for anything else”.

The fishing

Rio Gallegos, a favourite of flyfishing notability Mel Krieger, is a river that rewards good angling skills. Because of its rather shallow water, it is a more technical and less forgiving fishery than some of the deeper rivers in Patagonia. On calm days and in clear water, delicate presentation and smaller flies and nymphs on long, light leaders are key. At other times, if the water gets coloured, the wind is up or the light gets low, flies will get bigger and leaders heavier. Adaption is the key to success here.

Wading the river is super easy, and we almost always stay in the shallows in order not to spook the fish. On most of the beats we fish, we start by casting slightly downstream, ensuring the fish sees the fly before the line, swinging the fly while it sinks and as the swing slows down, and to help trigger a take, we start stripping the fly, and fish it all the way into the shallows. Small adjustments can make a big difference so always listen to your guide. Each pool is fished differently and they know how to optimize your chances.

Practising your double handed cast before going will give you a big advantage on the water. You should be able to cast delicately, without splashing the water. The latter doesn’t work well on a shallow river.

Sea trout are moody characters and suddenly an otherwise dead pool might come to live when the light or the weather changes, or new fish enter the area and stir things up. Strikes from sea trout can be quite violent and is a big contrast to the delicate presentation, often with small flies. When hooked, they frequently jump out of the water and make for some pretty spectacular fish fighting!

The wind in Patagonia is famous – for a reason! The are no obstructions to break the wind as it blows across the open plains, and at times there can almost be waves on the shallow water of Rio Gallegos. But most of the time, the wind is your friend. The prevailing wind is westerly and allows for longs casts with little effort, and the broken surface makes the fish much less wary. During such conditions even big fish can be caught in bright midday sun. As the light fades in the evening the wind usually drops.