Sea Trout Fishing Aurelia Lodge Rio Grande Argentina
Returning to the Rio Grande and Argentina in general is always special. It feels like a second home and there’s always great excitement leading up to the trip.
Sea trout have always captivated me and having the opportunity to fish for them on what is unquestionably the finest sea trout river in the world for size and numbers is a huge privilege. It is also a joy to be able to fish for them during our winter and escape the miserable weather at home.
I started my annual trips to Argentina and the Rio Grande around 16 years ago. Yet, the river still holds great appeal after all these years and when I return I instantly start thinking about the plan for the following year. It is never a boring a river and always has its challenges. It is rarely easy and you do need to work for your fish; depth and speed along with fly size is often critical and will be the fine line between success and failure.
It is not about numbers, yet most weeks will end with an average of around 10 fish per rod for six days of fishing, giving a landed average of 1-2 sea trout per rod per day. Of course, some weeks will average higher and within these stats some will catch a lot more, but these are all reasonable expectations on which to travel to the Rio Grande with. A few will be lost and you will get more action than those landed, of course, which usually transpires into a great week of sport.
Look behind those figures and then you will also understand another attraction of the Rio Grande. Most of these weeks will carry an average weight of around 8 lbs, with some coming close to an average of 14 lbs – which has been the case at some lodges this season. As such, it can very much be a case of quality over quantity, but most anglers are happy with these numbers along with the quality.
For the hosted trip this season I chose to return to Aurelia. Aurelia does fly under the radar, but it should certainly not be written off as a result. I believe it represents the best value for money on the river and the average catches/weights over this season alone have not only been comparable but also better than most other lodges, which is testament to what they are achieving.
Aurelia was given a huge overhaul in 2015 and is now in the more than capable hands of Diego Castillo – someone that has grown to be a true friend but also someone I can trust. He is a fantastic guide, manager and also has an immense work ethic. A perfect combination for a lodge manager and he really is doing great things. He has grown a similar team around him and there are no weak links to be seen. All of the house staff are fantastic and create a professional yet homely environment from which to begin and end your fishing stay. The lodge has also been downsized in terms of rod numbers, now taking just four rods per week – this is for some 8 miles double bank of the Rio Grande and some 15 miles of the Menendez! With private fishing access to both banks this means that water is truly rested, which makes a big difference, especially when the water is low and clear – as was the case last year and the majority of this year. Diego guides alongside Walton Hutt, who was a guide at Cameron Lodge on the Chilean side for many years. Between them they really are a dream-team. They have very different guiding styles but bring different experiences to clients as a result. Both are hugely knowledgeable and will always go beyond the call of duty. My hat goes off to them both.
The lodge is spacious and you now get a single room as standard (not bad for US$5,990 per week to include the fishing licence cost). Joining me on the week was Allan Phillips (aka Slayer), who needs little introduction. Guides love him, fish fear him. He fishes every inch of water to perfection and you can always count on him to winkle out a fish or three. We then had a couple of newbies to the Rio Grande accompanying us; Terry Evans (a fellow Welshman) and Mick O’Doherty from Ireland to finish off the Celtic theme to the group and week. Needless to say we had fun from start to finish.
The water was very low and almost gin clear. Very similar to what faced us in 2015, but when chasing sea trout I am rarely perturbed by such conditions. Indeed, these are the conditions I look for at home and what I would prefer above all else. Of course, a little flush to get the line swinging and the fish swimming never goes amiss, but sea trout will run with their backs out of the water, especially later in the season where there’s a bit more urgency about their migration.
The group of four in the week before had over 40 sea trout along with many more lost, snapped, hooked etc. so there were plenty of fish around. As such, it was down to us to get them to take.
Aurelia follows the programme of most lodges along the river nowadays by taking the anglers to the river on the evening they arrive as a warm up session. This is fantastic and it really does help set the scene, allow for minor adjustments in tackle, allow anglers to get a view of what will face them over the forthcoming week and also reward them for their travel time to get to the lodge in the first place. Fish are caught in this session, of course, but it is more important than that and something I’m glad that they have adopted.
The first evening was fairly quiet with little response from the fish. However, a few were seen so spirits were high.
There is just a three hour time difference, so there is little adjustment to be made. Of course, jetlag is used as an excuse for excitement and most anglers are up fresh and early on the first morning, ready and raring to go. The guides share this excitement and they want you to catch fish. It’s a fairly long season yet they manage to keep this drive and freshness throughout, it is unwavering.
The amount of action over the first couple of days was truly exceptional. In fact it was reminiscent of the good old days on the river and pre-2006 floods where the middle reaches was always the place to be. I firmly believe that the river is now starting to settle back into its old rhythm and this trend will continue to increase with the lower river holding the fish back less and less. All of the party got action and some of the evening fishing was fantastic, especially with the perfect water temperature getting the sea trout active and attacking close to the surface. That’s another beauty of the middle river; rarely do you need to fish deep and some weeks you will not need to fish any deeper than an intermediate tip.
We then got hit with some cold weather as a front pushed over, putting a blanket of snow in the mountains. This dropped the river temperature considerably and the sport really suffered as a result – the fish went into shock. It’s amazing how you can soon write a river off. You think the whole river is devoid of life under such circumstances and conditions. Yet, the day before it was bouncing with life. That’s fishing and no matter how much you pay or how far you travel there are no guarantees – mother nature is the boss. Furthermore, fishing for a fish that rarely feeds in freshwater means that there are no guarantees even when the conditions are perfect.
The third day was fairly uneventful as a result with very little seen and very little action. However, spirits remained high and these were conditions the guides had seen countless times and knew exactly what to do to counteract them.
The river remained cool for the rest of our stay. This called for a change of tactics and faster sinking tips were often required. The fish were often tempted to larger offerings as a result of the cooler water too, with leeches becoming a daytime approach rather than the usual evening go-to pattern. Sport soon resumed and the fish started to react once more.
We had a small lift in the river level midweek, which also helped. This was no more than 10cm, but this amount can make all the difference. Sure enough fish were seen running hard in the evenings and the necks/tails came alive with fish – amazing to witness. Tide-fresh fish were now being caught, amidst those that had been in for a week and even a few months. There was also a decent push of smaller, fresh fish in the 4-6 lbs range, which provided great sport. It’s funny how these fish are classified as small, but it’s all relative I guess. Either way, on #7-8 rods they were certainly worth catching and they got no complaints from us.
By this stage everyone had caught some memorable fish. I always tell people to set their sights on a fish between 12-16 lbs and rarely will you be disappointed. You can never guarantee a fish of 20 lbs +, they are there. Luck dictates them being caught as much as anything else – your next cast could be a 10 lb’er or a 30 lb’er. That’s the Rio Grande. Mick had a brace of 14 lb’ers, Terry had a brace of 18 lb’ers and Allan had a magnificent fish of 17 lbs among the many other fish landed throughout the week. I say magnificent because it was the most memorable fish of the trip for me. Allan hooked it as it was getting dark. The fish tore down the pool and was immensely strong. So much so that a few minutes into the fight with Allan’s rod bent double (he was playing it perfectly) that we started to question whether it was foul hooked. The take was perfect and he was not fishing deep, so it was doubtful. However, the fish may have missed the fly and the hook may have caught the pectoral – this does happen with the larger flies. Not only was it a long fight but it was an explosive one too; usually it’s one or the other. We finally got a glimpse of the fish and sure enough the fly was nicely placed in the side of the mouth. It was a fresh run female, which are probably the hardest fighters of them all. A memorable fish and I’m glad I was there to witness it.
The food at the lodge was magnificent. The barbecue night, however, was the tip of the iceberg. Nico, the chef, had slaved for hours to slow cook us a whole lamb over an open fire pit. It was truly spectacular and I am salivating at the thought of it. There were also freshly cooked empanadas, blood sausage, chorizo the list goes on…
It was a fantastic week and a pleasure to spend in good company. We ended the week with 62 sea trout for the four rods, which was a decent performance, especially given the change in conditions that wrote a day off. Plenty of great memories that will keep me going for the next 12 months before I return once more to explore this magical area.
Sea Trout Fishing Aurelia Lodge Rio Grande Argentina
If you would like more information on Aurelia or any other property along the Rio Grande then please do not hesitate to contact Steffan Jones or call our office on +44(0)1980 847389.