Published Apr 6. 2013 - 11 years ago
Updated or edited Oct 28. 2021

Rio Grande

The Rio Grande in Tierra del Fuego is one of the great trout rivers of Argentina. In this large and windswept river you can catch some of the largest sea run brown trout in the world.

The prize - A grand sea trout from the Rio Grande
Rio Grande prize
Federico Prato

The Rio Grande flows East from the Chilean Andes through the Island of Tierra del Fuego to the Atlantic Ocean into the estuary next to the City of Rio Grande in Argentina. It meanders slowly (1% gradient) for about 120 kilometers through the Patagonian steppes; the average flow is about 40 cubic meters per second. The bed of the rivers is shale, cobbles and pebbles and easy to wade.

As in all Patagonia

, trout of several species were introduced by settlers in the early 20th century.

Though numerous attempts

have been heard of, as far back as the late 19th century when trout were sown in the Chilean mountain streams of Tierra del Fuego, possibly including the head waters of the Rio Grande, the earliest recorded seedings were undertaken by sheep ranch manager John Goodall in the mid1930's. With eggs brought from Chile he hatched and reared Browns (Salmo trutta), Rainbows (onchoryincus mykiss) and Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar). Today Brown Trout, both resident and anadromous, dominate the fish population of the Rio Grande. Though not documented it is said that the Chilean Brown Trout were originally brought from Germany.

Colored - This fellow (the fish that is) has been in the river several weeks
Scarred female - Probably on her first river run, the scar behind her dorsal fin could be the result of an encounter with hungry seals on the way in.
3.5 kilos or 7 lbs sea trout - Freshly arrived from the sea, a beautiful female Brown trout on the Rio Grande. (February 2009)
Pelle - Swedish Pelle taught the author how to use the two handed rod when he first visited the Rio Grande in 2009
Sea trout
Pedro Alfredo Miles

These fish thrived

in the river and its tributaries and it is presumed that the healthy growth of the population affected the availability of food and brought about their migration to the sea, where the large and shallow estuary offers the food they could not find in the river, principally the abundant Fuegian Sprat or Sardine (Spattus fuegensis) and the salt water Silverside (Odontesthes regia). These sea trout do not travel far into the ocean but remain close to the coast where the notably productive southern Patagonian shelf provides ample nourishment.

Recovering - The angler is helping the fish recover before releasing it
Away it goes! - After recovering for a short time, the large sea trout swims off with vigor
One more - A second large sea trout taken in the pool of the Guanacos
Catch and release
Pedro Alfredo Miles - Federico Prato

In the late spring

(November) they start moving into the river in schools to start their annual migration to their spawning waters. This migration continues throughout summer. I am told that in large numbers they hold in fresh water pools close to the sea to work out the salt in their systems, process which involves something like calisthenics and a rumbling sound.

The first reports

of sea run browns in the Rio Grande date from the mid 1950's, 20 years after their introduction.

The author - The author with a large colored male
The author
Federico Prato

The Rio Grande

and tributaries (Menendez, MacLennan, Rasmussen, etc.) flow through privately owned sheep farms, of great extensions due to their low productivity. Good management on behalf of the owners and operators of the Lodges on the river with a strict catch and release policy with little mortality and a low human population density have ensured the continued success of the Rio Grande as one of the best places in the world for fishing sea run Brown trout with about 6,000 fish caught and released annually as registered by the lodges on the river.


human impact, such as dams, roads, bridges and pollution, is virtually nonexistent. Today it is estimated that more than 50,000 browns migrate up river each year to spawn making it the largest sea run Brown Trout population in the world.
They migrate to the sea at about two years of age and have a high rate of return to spawn. Trout of up to 13 years of age that have spawned 6 times have been caught on the river.
These Browns are generally longer than their anadromous European cousins as they can measure up to 1.20 meters as against about .90 meters in Europe.

Though they do not

feed during their stay in the river, they take a fly vigorously and are not leader shy. A wide variety of flies are used on the Rio Grande, from small nymphs, Jumbo John, Bitch Creek, Scuds to Wooly Buggers, streamers and Leeches. At times dry flies can be used, the green machine and it's variations, attractors, etc. Guides will have proven flies on hand. During a study undertaken by U.S. scientists, non fatal Stomach lavage of resident trout produced scud (Hyalella patagonica), snails as well as caddis, stone, mayflies, chironomids, other insect nymphs and terrestrials, and fish remains. Lavage of sea run brown stomachs showed mostly empty digestive tracts, a few had some scuds.

Guanacos - Guanacos (Lama Guanicoe) an indigenous member of the camel family graze amongst sheep on the banks of the Rio Grande.
This rio is grande - The estuary of Rio Grande, showing the extent of the tides here at the bottom of the world.
Fighting the wind - One thing you have to expect on the Rio Grande - wind!
The landscape
Pedro Alfredo Miles

The river and weather

conditions are ideal for two handed rods as in most spots long casts are required with weighted flies and it can be very windy.

I have fished

the Rio Grande both up and downstream of where the Menendez River joins the Grande, and found that the Lodges are experienced, well run with knowledgeable guides, some of which guide in the northern hemisphere during our winter. The sections of the river they operate are long, about 10 to 15 kilometers with numerous productive pools and runs. Anglers are driven to the assigned area in the morning (two anglers per guide and vehicle with a hamper with soft drinks, warm coffee and snacks) which is fished until lunchtime. After lunch at the lodge, a rest and then drive to a different spot to fish until dusk. Assigned areas are changed twice daily to ensure that all anglers have the opportunity to fish those places that during the week have proven most productive.

Small fish - Not all the Rio Grande trout are trophies
Bitch Creek - A variation of the Bitch Creek with tungsten eyes for weight.
Slightly colored - 11 lb male, starting to acquire the river coloring
Fish and fly
Pedro Alfredo Miles

I use

a Spey 14' #9 rod with a 650 grain Skagit head with interchangeable floating and fast sinking lines. The guides will recommend the length of the leader according to gear and conditions. A spool of tippet material (12/13 lb test) is necessary. The Lodge will usually have a supply of proven flies for sale. As with nymphs and streamers, non slip loop knots are what are most used to join tippet and fly.

In view of its latitude

(54º S) summer days on the Rio Grande are long. The water is cold (9 to 12º Celsius) so suitable clothing is a must, long-johns under waders and a waterproof parka and hood. Gloves and dark glasses are also necessary. On occasion have fished in shirtsleeves, but this is not usual.

The best take

I had on the Rio Grande was at dusk. At the time was using a single handed # 8 rod with a shooting taper and a black bunny strip streamer. I managed to see the fish as it leaped out of the water and in no time was into my backing. My guide guesstimated that it was over 20 pounds, it felt as much and more, the rod felt puny as a toothpick. By the time I managed to stumble out of the water it was already dark, and trying to recover line chasing along the bank I fell and lost control of the rod. The line cut and I was left without the catch of a lifetime.
I caught several fish daily, the attached photographs show some of the more notable of them, including fresh arrivals from the sea and fish that had been in the river for some time and had started to acquire their characteristic coloring.

There are daily flights

from Buenos Aires to Rio Grande and the lodges are up to a one hour drive from the airport. Generally arrival is early on a Saturday in time to start fishing in the mid morning, Fish until Friday and on Saturday morning back to the airport for the flight home.

Cityscape - Even the cities are windswept in this part of Argentina
Windswept trees -
Pedro Alfredo Miles



Sarah L. O'Neal and Jack. A. Stanford, Flat Lake Biological Station, University of Montana, USA. "Partial migration in a robust Brown Trout population of a Patagonian river".


Hi guys, I am rea...

Hi guys,

I am really passionate about the the stuff which bonds us together, but when I read e. g. this thread and realize all the impulsive, mean, agressive, more or less intelligent, good meant and whatsoever words we all wrote - I need to remind me that it's 'only' fishing.....
Martin: Thanks for your peaceable Post.
Ernesto: No hard feelings.

Tight lines and all the best for you all.



Martin, good review,...

Martin, good review, I would say beautiful comment!! You understand what is the matter. Thanks for understanding. Good fishing to all!! Ernsto

Martin Joergensen's picture

Folks, Just to le...


Just to let everybody know: I have heard directly from several participants in this discussion - including Jan and Ernesto - and the general message is the same: "We know the comments can become a bit hot at times, but we mean no harm. It's just an immediate reaction to the very forward and direct opinions posted here. We have cooled off now..."

Thanks to everybody!

I usually let most comments slip by, even those that might provoke or stir some commotion. Remember that we have different tempers and different cultures (Scandinavian vs. South American is almost bound to clash!), but we essentially all have the same aim: in this case to ensure the access to the water for as many as possible and enjoy some nice fishing.

I am sure - in spite of the harsh words - that we would all get along fine if we were placed with rods and flies on the banks of the mighty Rio Grande - may it happen some day!

Until then: feel free to continue the discussion, but remember to go for the ball and not the man as we say.

PS: we accept anonymous posts, not because we think people are hiding, but because many prefer not to write their full names and email-addresses online to avoid spambots to pick it up. We must respect that. All names and email-addresses are known to me, so if I need, I can contact people directly.


Martin Joergensen's picture

Folks, I know the...


I know the waves are going high here and I'm torn between an urge to stop them and a wish that they will pound on.

I will leave the discussion open, but please restrain yourselves to the subject and not to opinions about people. I know that Ernesto can be a strong cup of coffee to swallow sometimes (and I have discussed this directly with him on several occasions), but remember that English is not his mother tongue and words may come out differently that they are meant, and trust me when I say that he is as engaged and enthusiastic about fly-fishing as the rest of us, just a bit more straight forward and impulsive than most.
So Ernesto: be nice!

And think of Pedro Alfredo Miles who wrote this fine article and has contacted me, feeling bad about the bushfire he felt he had started. Let's put out the fire and not scare him away from contributing more.
So Pedro: write some more!

And let's enjoy the fact that we still have some fine fishing and some people who are willing to defend everbody's right to access it.
So everybody: go fishing and cool off!


Ernesto, with all...


with all respect for your commitment, your way of arguing and discussing is,not for the first time, really unpleasant and absolutely disrespectful and also difficult to follow sometimes. You seem to have a pretty huge ego with a lot of vanity, to write your arguments in such a way again and again. For me you often disturb the relaxed atmosphere here in GFF and I will avoid to read your posts in the future. Be happy with yourself.



janswsfgdi: I think ...

janswsfgdi: I think what I'm putting this post is not understood by some. There is no class struggle, but a reality that as the Patagonian, is a local reality, unlike Alaska, New Zealand and other places, but all these place have something in common about fly fishing, is that of access to good fishing places and exclusive places. It seems to me that small is the perception of many of you who do not understand this. Or confused with political questions and theoretical (Marxism, Communism?) I'm not saying anything like that, I'm pointing a kind of reality. There are many comments that are extremely partial and aimed fly fishing in favor of those who have more money, this is a little perception!!! What did Kate is extremely egotistical: I conform to what I'm still alive, and live each day?? And my fishing, my things, the desire to know every place to fish different? Should be distinguished from objective situations of great egoism that people have in the world .... This is to perceive the world in which we live.

Ernesto, your cla...


your class warfare attitude really sucks. Your judging of posts being made by other guys annoys me. Opinions you like are for you 'objective' ( ho ho ho ) the other ones are in your opinion 'no improvement on the theme' - what a small perception!
In my opinion you should be much more open minded against the statements made here and elsewhere, if you really want to change something in the minds of anglers who like to fish in Patagonia.
Please, don't misunderstand me, I would never book a lodge or only a fishing license in advance, that is not my way of travelling and fishing and I also see the lodge politics with critical eyes, but I also can accept the other guys fun in going there. The wisest words in this whole thread wrote Kate for me: Feel fortunate that you are alive and enjoy every day.


PS: There are a lot of good reasons to anonymize your personal informations in the internet, today.


Thomas, you are one ...

Thomas, you are one more anonymous, which contributes nothing to the height of this debate. If you can not point to any improvement on the theme, I believe it is better to be silent!! I stand with name, surname and address (e-mail). Wretched and hapless are those who try to say something and ignorantly refer to anything or make personal attacks meaningless, this is the true arrogance ....

Che Guevara, your ar...

Che Guevara, your arrogance is classic. You pretend to be "the judge" of the rest of the guys that brought their opinions here. You are just 1 opinion. No more. And as I said below, I am in the opposite of your's.
Have a good fishing and enjoy life.

Gentlemen, I am very...

Gentlemen, I am very happy for this debate and no doubt I am impressed by the clear and objective testimony of Noe Ole Christiansen. I fully agree with the words of Noe Ole Christiansen. Who has experience Patagonia and a little awareness of society and the market can understand what you're saying Noe Ole Christiansen. What seems very clear is how Ole talks about existing monopolies in the best places of the world flyfishing in favor of some interests (like the Loop) and the connivance of natives in favor of businesses themselves. Fishermen who have some experience and a lot of time on this "metier" know how this works. Those who defend these petty interests and public access closures do for their own benefit to a market that favors them. Wulff's words appear only the reflections of someone who only thought about petty marketing fishing. I regret opinion as unpleasant Steve, still a little attitude gentle asks to be anonymous, in a high-level debate like this.
I thank once again the opportunity of Martin Joergensen we can talk about fishing and about these issues as important to flyfishermen

Martin Joergensen's picture

Folks, Let's let ...


Let's let people express their opinions here. It's OK to argue, but before the discussion gets too heated let me say that I will not publish harsh remarks or personal attacks. Right now it's OK, but getting close. Keep to the subject and post you serious arguments, please.

This is a serious subject that deserves a serious debate.


Ole Noe, sleep well ...

Ole Noe, sleep well with your mis-informed, condescending, pseudo intellectualism.

Hmmmm.... No One own...

Hmmmm.... No One owns One takes Care... I can only assume that you are talking about your own moving in Fishing and life... In my experience thousands upon thousands of People in every nation show altruism in every aspect of life ... Including conservation and river care. I have fished patagonia for many years and these days most fly- and sportsfishermen are more Aware and educated about catch and release ... It's by the Way a global phenomenon... Not a lodge monopoly... Even though they would Like to give the impression...

What we are talking about here are are pure and simple theft ... The theft of the públics right to move along river systems and fish with a national Fishing license... Without Being harassed and threatened by estancias deeply affected by the decease .... ME ME ME... And FUCK YOU ALL ....

It's also a pecularity i have noticed with producers of Fishing gear and Fishing journalists .... Please commoners buy my gear... Read my articles... But stay off MY RIVER ... Get it .... out off my sight and off my Fishing spots...

I Can see garrett hardin's great works "tragedy of the Commons" is mentioned ... Well i Can only suggest "the tragedy of the anti-Commons" by the american Economist Michael Heller in his book "gridlock eeconomy" .... Just so you Can take your philosophical thinking to the next level...

And when you thereafter have collected your thoughts maybe you should consider former british prime minister Tony Blair's farewell thoughts about future coexistence at the Davos meeting in 2005 .... "Interdependence is the governing characteristic of 21 st. century politics. "

Plainly speaking ... We are all in the same boat.... And the World today are digitally connected in a Way that you Can't fool People anymore...

So i Can with confidence reject Lee wulff's hyphothesis .... There can't be trophy Fish in public waters ... I catch trophy Fish all over the World ... And i would never visit a lodge... And i practise catch and release....

Also i Can reject no One owns, no One Cares... The recent salmon runs in the thousands in several rivers in Denmark ... Even of trophy size... Hasn't been created by landowners efforts ... Which straightened and polluted the rivers, lakes and shorelines in the first place... No it has been government regulation and incentives, public pressure and thousands upon thousands of sportsfishermen who put in non paid labor and dedication ... Same same with the recreational Fishing for searun browns and trout....

Finally .... I wanna say something that i Think on a low level ....disturbs the millions of sportsfishermen and readers of the thousand of magazines globally ..... I Think The readers are smart and they don't really appreciate Fishing journalists who approve of restricted access for the commoners and Hail expensive lodge Fishing and even gives Them the moral High Ground in terms of conservation...

Well, again argentines, kiwis, russians, chilenos, north americans, scandinavians.... Stand up and fight for your right... Cause i know you have the moral High Ground in terms of conservation, catch and release, Fishing skill and technique, dedication etc.

Have a wonderful Day out there... And May you get a Big One ..


Ole Noe christiansen

Lee Wulff said it ye...

Lee Wulff said it years ago. Good fishing for trophy fish can only be sustained on private waters. The lodges on the Rio Grande and Rio Gallegos enforce catch & release fishing. Water open to all comers is subject to something called "the tragedy of the commons." When no one owns the water, no one takes care of it.

It's all a mafia. I ...

It's all a mafia. I have fished all over the World .... Patagonia, north America, new Zealand, russia ... And it's all the same ... Countries have open access along rivers ... But estancias and land owners dó everything to steal that right ... So to fill their lodges with wealthy clients ... In need of a guide to tie their knot and Tell Them Where to cast... And preferably fast ....since clients are Rich in cash but short of time... Maybe the lodges should keep a dozen trophy searuns in a tank at the Rio grande airport ... So clients Can have their Photo taken with a trophy searun Brown ... Everybodys happy and they Can make a 180 degree turn and get the same plane back home ... And the bragging with mates are assured.... Let me Tell you .... The estancias don't give a damn shit about the trout and the environment.... But what they Care about is protecting their investment ... If that means Stealing access Rights to the river.... Well so be it... I remember the glory days Fishing the area around seccion Rio grande in Chile .... Those Where the days... The 90's ... Well Then came a lodge around.... Same shit in Rio gallegos... With the bellavista and loop lodges... This guy Christer has a tendency of monopolising in Rio gallegos, jurassic Lake, kola etc.... All under the pretext of conservation .... TO PRESERVE only i christer and mates are allowed to Fish .... Maybe flyfishers Don't buy loop products anymore for the same reason... I don't ....

Well argentines..... Love your beateful country... Keep fighting for open access for everybody ... Including foreign trout bums... I promise you if you visit my country you Can have access to World class Fishing for searun browns ... And we welcome foreigners on same terms as locals .... Even Rich foreigners....


Ole Noe christiansen

Pedro, I know o lot ...

Pedro, I know o lot of places in patagonia, only the publics acces to river and lakes, and this is true that exist to many places to fish. And many public access are too expensive for the services of guides and the cost of living in these places. Tierra del Fuego, Rio Gallegos, Strobel are destinations that are not for any angler, only for those who can spend a little extra money. I fish in cheap places, and fish very well. Happy who can fish in those expensive destinations, this is what I want to point, but this is not for all fly fiherman. If not, tell how much is spent to make a fishery to see if this is cheap or not. I send you greetings, good luck

Tierra del Fuego and...

Tierra del Fuego and most of Patagonia is full of empty space as well as being at the other end of the world, just getting there is quite an undertaking.

There are numerous parts of the Rio Grande, principally close to the sea where access to the river is not limited, except for the need of a fishing license and that catch and release must be practiced.

The fishing Lodges and the local authorities offer a mechanism to local anglers by which a request is made to the authorities and they coordinate with the operators of the lodges free access to the river.

Several guides offer services to out of town fishermen to travel daily to the river based in the city of Rio Grande.

I am sending this to you instead of commenting directly on GFF as I do not want to contribute further to the controversy, publish it if you feel it is appropiate.

Should anyone want to pursue this futher they can contact the local flyfishermen's association:

Asociación Riograndinense de Pesca con Mosca
Montilla 1040 "B"
Rio Grande (9420)
Tierra del Fuego, Argentina
Phone (54) 2964 421268

Pedro Alfredo Miles

Peter Miles

Heiko Schneider's picture

Pedro, Nice artic...


Nice article!

Some more interesting, straight facts about salmonides introduction in Patagonia (Chile ans Argentine) right here in GFF under: "Patagonian Salmonids"

saludos de Concordia

Thomas: Your example...

Thomas: Your example does not proceed, is incoherent, I'm talking about a symbolic good and not a material good. I'm talking about free circulation in national rivers that Argentine Constitution and the Penal Code enables natives. Now the sea or brown are also foreigners? You need to know more about the history of how this resource fishing as a whole took place in Patagonia. And you should know more about the reality of the natives in these places before talking foolishness. It is very easy to pay U.S. $ 5000 for a week of fishing, boarding to a plane and go down to the river and then tell stories about what is not known. Thomas, try to learn more about the topic. Logically, buying a Ferrari is not an injustice, because not serves to to driving on the roads of Patagonia ...

I can't buy a Porsch...

I can't buy a Porsche or a Ferrari...that's not injustice. Is freedom, capitalism, free market. We are not equals. Locals were not the guys that kept the fantastic Rio Grande's population of seatrout. John Goodall (British landowner) planted the browns at the beginning of the last century; the estancias owners protected the seatrout and made a great business. The locals just killed the fish. Now they claim to fish.

It is the logic of t...

It is the logic of the capitalist system in flyfishing. Do you see the product, but can not buy it. Rio Grande, Rio Gallegos as other places in the South America be sold to those who have money and own native can not enjoy them. This is the greatest injustice. I know enough to Patagonia and there are many places that do not have the access to the natives, I have plenty of stories to tell about this .....

Congrats Da!!! Love ...

Congrats Da!!! Love You!!!!

Unfortunately, it is...

Unfortunately, it is a sad fact of life that what are called fully guided fishing trips with quality accommodations, in Alaska, Russia, South and North America, and other places in the world, can be afforded only by folks who have a fair amount of extra money. Many aspects of life are unfair; most of them are out of our control. Feel fortunate that you are alive and enjoy every day.

only for millionaire...

only for millionaires (argentines and sudacas) and gringos .....


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