Though most of the Rio Grande is on the Chilean side of the Tierra del Fuego border, nearly 80% of the spawning of sea run trout occurs on the Argentina side of the island. In fact, most of that is in the first 35 miles above where the Rio Grande enters the Atlantic Ocean. Above that point, the pools of the river become increasingly shallow, with progressively more marginal spawning habitat, and fewer and fewer sea trout. Small resident brown trout thrive in the main river tributaries, and there is a very healthy population of rainbow trout in the Chilean headwaters.
Less than a decade ago, a team of the most renowned fishery biologists in the Americas was charged with the daunting task of determining exactly how many sea run brown trout are actually in the Rio Grande.
They returned with their results, along with a bill for nearly a quarter of a million dollars, five years later. The results were eye opening and put to rest a lot of false assumptions beyond river population. At full escapement, it is estimated that there are more than 75,000 sea trout in only 102 pools on the Rio Grande. Do the math. At the same time it reinforced much of what we already knew (or felt) was fact. Still, in the 17 years that Estancia has been dedicated to angling on the Rio Grande, it has been a constant education.
Much is said about the winds of Tierra del Fuego and it is seldom that any of it is good. The truth is that the Rio Grande isn’t super wide, casts are seldom seventy feet, and almost never directly into the wind. Competent casters have little difficulty adjusting to the almost constant gusts and even those that struggle agree quickly that the results are worth every effort.
Tackle and techniques on the Rio Grande are not very complicated. Anglers choose from a broad range of lines, tips and terminal tackle according to the water conditions. Experienced steelhead and Atlantic Salmon fishermen immediately feel “in their element.” Quartering downstream with streamers or dead drifting nymphs are the most common methods used, and skated dry flies are terrific when the conditions are right.
The Rio Grande is one of the easiest streams to wade in the Americas. The river is seldom more than thigh deep, and can be easily crossed between pools. There’s no moss on a bottom made of nothing but perfect spawning habitat ranging in size from pea gravel to golf ball sized rocks. Leave your studded boots at home because there isn’t a rock big enough on the Rio Grande to trip over.