Published Mar 31. 2018 - 6 years ago
Updated or edited Apr 29. 2020

Limay in November

A failed autumn trip to the Patagonia river Limay sparked a spring trip this last November

Pulmarí lake from the boat
Fishing the Pulmarí lake
Bass from Pulmarí lake
Pulmarí lake brown trout
Fishing Pulmarí Lake
Richard (Dickie) Miles

Every year, in the month of May, mid fall, I head south to Argentina’s Patagonia to fish the big browns that swim up the Limay river to their spawning waters. They have spent most of the previous year gorging themselves on the abundant prey in the Chocón dam reservoir.

Last fall was different. A year before I had taken a bad fall, landed on my shoulder and had severed several of the complex muscles in my right shoulder. The medical profession concluded that surgery was out, too complex and with uncertain results. So I taught myself to cast with my left arm and slowly recovered some of my casting ability with my right.

The Limay river proved too much for me. I was a complete flop, as I could cast no further than about 20 meters. My partner, with whom I do a lot of fishing and who is a superb caster, was placing his fly over double the distance that I could. He caught several 7 to 10 pound migrant browns, whilst all I caught was the much smaller resident browns and rainbows. The Limay is a very big river that requires long casts, dead drifts with heavy lines and big flies to tempt the large fish that hold in the deep channels. Our guide, Gaston Ambrosino, suggested that I try “his” part of the river in the late spring or early summer when the resident fish start eating close to or on the surface. Then the fish would plentiful and there would be little or no fishing pressure on his beat, about 40 km upstream of the Chocón reservoir.

My trusted #4
Richard (Dickie) Miles

Throughout our winter had fished for fresh water dorado and improved my left and right single handed casting and honed my skills with a switch rod. I acquired an 11’3” switch rod for a 7 weight line to cast two handed overhead for the distances that I could no longer achieve with a single hand rod.

Patagonian Rhea and young
Patagonian Rhea and young
Richard (Dickie) Miles

So at the end of November 2017, with my son Dickie, we drove 1400 km south to Patagonia. To hedge our bets we spent a couple of days closer to the Andes fishing the rivers of the Aluminé Lake system. This winter the Andean area of Patagonia had abundant snowfall and a bout of fine weather hurried the thaw, so the big rivers were carrying a lot of water and were challenging to float. At the recommendation of our guide we fished the smaller Pulmarí lake and the head waters of the Pulmarí river. We managed to tempt several 2 to 3 pound browns with streamers, but had no luck on the surface.

Rock face
Spring colours
Pehuen trees line the ridges
Patagonian armadillo
Over the steppes
Richard (Dickie) Miles

After winding up in the Aluminé area we drove about 200 km over the high steppes on sandy roads to head to the Limay river. Though desert-like, the steppes are home to numerous species of wildlife. Condors and vultures glide lazily above, and we saw several herds of guanaco, the camel-like indigenous mammal. We also saw groups of choique, the Patagonian rhea, smaller than its cousin in the north, several foxes and a small Patagonian armadillo that with total disregard for us and our truck, continued feeding on roots digging them out of the sandy soil with his snout and his strong front legs.

The morning after our arrival at the estancia house close to the river, we geared up. Hitching the guide's drift boat to his 4x4 pickup truck, we drove to the river. I had prepared my #4 rod with a floating line and, at the suggestion of our guide, tied on a Chernobyl Ant as the Damsel and Dragonflys were hatching. The action started immediately. On his third cast Dickie caught a nice rainbow and whenever we passed a reed filled bank, fish could be seen leaping out of the water trying to catch the low flying Dragonflys.

Fishing the riffles
Resident brown
Setting out
The riffles
Richard (Dickie) Miles

After taking several fish, we came to a large riffle in the middle of the river where the water was wading boot deep and flowed sideways into a deep channel. The boat was moored and we stepped out to cast across the riffle to try to tempt something out of the channel. Dickie waded downstream of the boat and soon was on to a lovely rainbow. I stumbled my way upstream and after a couple of casts saw what looked like a long stone in the riffle in about 20 cm of water. Looking carefully we realized it was a fish nymphing. I changed the dry fly to a bead head #12 nymph and managed to place it right. The fish turned and took. It immediately headed for deep water and after a careful fight on a 4X tippet, I landed a 63 cm brown trout. As you can see in the picture it was a bit marked by the spawning, nevertheless a beautiful male that later in the season could become a 6 pounder. By this time we were fishing in shirt sleeves with plenty of sun-block as the cloudless day was getting quite warm.

Brown taken in the riffles
Brown taken in the riffles
Brown taken in the riffles
Limay fish
Richard (Dickie) Miles
Resident brown newly landed
Preparing lunch on the bank
Towards the end of the fight
Lunch and fish
Richard (Dickie) Miles

After lunch on the riverside the wind picked up, so I started using my 6-weight with a floating line and a leader tapered to 3X. We alternated using dries and small streamers and in this way we took several resident trout, both browns and rainbows. After lunch we also started seeing more and more dragon and damsel flies and took several nice fish on attractors and Fat Albert patterns. Just before sundown we were met by the truck, hooked up our boat and after a five minute drive were at our lodgings where a nice shower, drinks and dinner awaited.

Back into the river
Richard (Dickie) Miles
Bright brown trout
Brown trout
A feisty rainbow
Dickie and one of his rainbows
Rainbow closeup
Brown on a streamer
Lots of fish
Richard (Dickie) Miles
Another brownie
Early mayfly
Inspection and refusal of my fly
Mayfly, dry fly, streamer
Richard (Dickie) Miles

The following morning, after a hefty breakfast, we headed towards the river. This time we were getting in the water where we had left off the day before. Our guide suggested we break out the heavier gear as the wind had picked up The first part of the river we would be floating was narrower, faster and with deep channels and pockets of slow water by the tree-lined banks where the bigger browns lie. So out came my 7-weight switch rod with amnesia running line and a 30’ 400 grain sinking line with a 9’ leader tapered to 0X and a multi-coloured streamer on a 2x #6 hook.

Chernobyl dragonfly
Hefty brown trout
Brown trout on a rubber leg fly
Limay catches
Richard (Dickie) Miles

I had just finished stripping out line for my first cast when our guide pointed out a small pocket of quiet water against the bank under some trees. I managed to put my fly in the right spot and fish on!
We saw it when the hook set, but with the thrill I did not compensate and as the fish swam into the fast flowing current the tension was too much and the hook came out. So I lost the fish of the day.

Nice brown
Another rainbow
Into the net
In the net, in the hand
Richard (Dickie) Miles

A few meters along another similar pocket of quiet water, and once again put the fly in the right place and another fish was on! This time I was ready for the moment. This fish also entered the strong current, but stayed hooked, and minutes later I landed a lovely 5 pound resident brown. We continued to fish in this way until lunchtime, and caught several nice browns and rainbows. This time we had lunch at our lodge where we were regaled with lamb roasted on the grill. After a short nap it was back to the boat. By this time the wind had died down a bit so out came the lighter gear and we spent a delightful afternoon catching rainbows and browns on little flies.

We left the river early as we wanted to be on our way to cover some miles that evening and shorten the long drive back home next day.

I will be back next May for the migrant browns with my switch rod and in the summer, perhaps a bit closer to Christmas, when hopefully the hatches will be varied and abundant.

Useful contacts

Pulmarí Guide:
Martin Vogelius

Limay Guide:
Gaston Ambrosino


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