End of Season 2019
Another season has come and gone on the Rio Grande and as usual, the river taught us many lessons.
The main theme of this season was the drought over the island – which in fact affected all of Patagonia. By the end of December we saw the last rains of the summer and they restarted by mid march. This two and a half month period with almost no rain lead to very low river conditions. Probably the lowest I have seen it in 15 years. Those long,deep, and classic Villa Maria pools, like Barranca de Alen or Moneta, were moving very slowly. Low water conditions also leads to a rise in the water temperatures during the warmest hours of the day in summer, turning the fish torpid during these periods. Sub Antarctic fish, don’t really enjoy sub tropical temperatures!
This mix of less-than-ideal conditions, forced us to pick very carefully the way and time we were going to fish every pool. The wind, sunlight, time of the day, cloud cover, water speed and angler skills and/or limitations are always things we have to have in mind, and mix them properly, to have a successful day. And trial and error is also part of the process
But considering all this, the fishing was very satisfactory and steady along the season. Perhaps was not a year of big numbers but the big fish were around and we were able to catch them along the whole day, not just in the last light of the evening. The river delivered in a perfect manner and everybody enjoyed their fishing time in Rio Grande getting their glimpse at the trophy sea trout that can’t be found anywhere else in the planet. In fact, despite the river’s super low water level, we caught double the number of 20+lbs fish compared to the 2018 season.
As tackle goes, low water conditions pushed us to use lighter tackle than usual for this lower stretch of the river. Shorter and not so heavy sink tips were a norm. So instead of the classic 14´ 8-9wt double handed, we fished perfectly with 12´6´´8wt rods. And instead of 15´ sinking tips, 6 to 10 ft were good for the job. Skaggit lines were still our main preference but many times lines with a more elaborated profile, like a scandi head, were chosen as their longer length and better weight distribution made for a more delicate presentation -when compared to a skaggit head- helping in those times of lightor little wind, or when a heavy sink tip was not needed. Delivering floating or intermediate tips is much easier done with an scandi head.
Also switch rods – 11’ to 11’6”- or old trusty single hand rods -#8 9’ to 10’- were used almost daily. As the river was so low and there was little need of heavy lines, there were not many places that were out of reach for the fisherman that knew how to handle thingsproperly (double haul and right line handling) with a standard rod. 99% of the time these shorter rods were rigged with floating lines and used to fish and swing small nymphs at different depths, sometimes with the help of strike indicators.
Flies remained the same as usual with nymphs and rubber legs being the first choice during harsh light hours and streamers and leeches when light was fading and night was approaching. The main difference with previous years was instead of using a #6 Yuk Bug (too aggressive for the conditions) we had to switch to a #10 EMB. Better smaller than bigger, dull over shiny, smooth twitches over hard pulls and legless than rubber legged.
I want to thank specially to the guide´s team: Maurizio Restaino & Samuel “Rudi” Babikian. Great job guys!! Thanks for the help and team effort. Hope to see you all next year!
I also want to thank Maia, Agustin, Leandro, Karina, Maira & Fernando for making our lives easier and doing a terrific job with all of our guests.
Tight lines and hope to see you all at Villa Maria in 2020!
Villa Maria Lodge Fishing Manager
Week 9: March 8-15, 2019
We just finished our last week of the season at Villa Maria Lodge!
It feels great when you meet old friends again and spend a full week fishing with them !!
We received a group of Villa Maria veterans, from Switzerland, the heart of Europe. To some of them, like Hugo, whom i met about 15 years ago in the old & beautiful Toon Ken Lodge.
The weather improved dramatically from previous weeks with milder temperatures and gentle winds and this combination helped to get the best from the river.
The river remains very low and clear so when you put all this together, you need to be extremely careful how you fish each pool.
But cigars, songs, music, and single malt from Islay helped to deal with the conditions and to wait patiently till the best moments of the day to catch a trophy fish.
We focused our efforts in the early morning and late evening as in those moments the water temperature was lower and the fish more aggressive towards flies.
In the morning small nymphs, and leeches in the evening, were the most successful options.
Thomas, on his second visit to VM landed a fantastic 24lb cock fish, topping up his biggest 23 lbs fish from his past -and first- visit! Joerg, his fishing partner, not to be outdone-landed a chubby 23lbs hen from Primera Vez but not before working really hard for 4 long days when the trophy fish were elusive to his flies.
Lighter lines than usual were better options than long tungsten tips. So clear intermediate tips or short sinking ones were heavily used.
Several small flies worked fine, but leeches and legless nymphs were the best options coming out of the fly boxes while the green machine was the best player coming from the bench. Witness of this was Tommy when in a very quiet and sunny morning, from the very flat & calm tail of Largo was able to pull out a fantastic 20lbs male fish that jumped no less than 6 times with a little green machine fished just under the surface.
The day after we were finished, the weather was changing heavily and we had 3 days of heavy rain. So far not sure how it will affect the different headwaters, but surely the lower stretch of the river will see some serious changes in the levels of the water. Something really welcome after a very dry season!
Largest fish of the week, 24 lbs.
Fish over 20 lbs: 3
Week 8: March 1-8, 2019
Another week has passed and we were excited to see a bunch of new faces made there way to Villa Maria this week along with Kelly, a repeat fisherman and guest at Villa Maria.
The low water and changing weather patterns forecasted for challenging fishing but both guides and guests were motivated and had a positive attitude that was needed to tackle these tricky conditions.
The fishing was very difficult the first few days of the week with light winds and lots of rain that seemed to make a lot of the bigger fish inactive. But with light lines cautious wading, a proper approach to the pool, and small flies with long leaders anglers were still rewarded with quality fish. Both Robert and Brett landed some beautiful fish including a 22 lb hen and 17 lb fish on the second day.
Throughout the week anglers were able to catch a few larger fish here and there but the consistent change of barometric pressure seemed to make for tough fishing but again motivation and a positive attitude allowed anglers to catch fish in the brief windows that they were open. Kelly was rewarded with a beautiful 17 lb male on his last few casts of the third evening and his fishing partner Aline landed a beautiful 19 lb specimen the following morning.
On the last day, the pressure got the perfect trend for fishing -that’s raising continuously overnight- and we had a nice breeze from the west that turned the fishing on. Sergei was able to land a 20 lb hen and lost a few other nice fish after an epic well fought battles. Brett and Robert cleaned up in the evening session with 12 fish over 9 lbs including 21 and 22 lb bucks.
As you can see, the river conditions didn’t change this week either so the fishing setups remained similar to last weeks, using mainly floating lines but 10ft sink tips in different densities were used according to the clarity and temperature of the water or when we were fishing the last 30 minutes of the days.
Largest fish of the week, 22 lbs.
Fish over 15 lbs: 20
Villa Maria Lodge Fishing Manager
Week 7: February 22 – March 1, 2019
This week we welcomed back two of our former guest David and Johnathan. The rest of the group were all first timers on the Rio Grande.
Like the last couple of weeks, the river kept varying its level daily due to slight rains and snow melting in its headwaters at the mountains. These variations were very mild and predictable and there was no sudden 10inches of overnight overflows. We did though have the first frosts of the season for a couple of mornings. This resulted in cold for water for the morning sessions and small changes to the usual tactics. Deeper lines and bigger flies did the trick. Bruce got his first ever Grande trout short into his first run of the pool and the scale stopped at 19 lbs. Sarah and Steve also had a fantastic debut at Villa Maria ending the evening with a 16 and a 18 pounder. On the morning of the second day Jonathan put his all his 27 years of Rio Grande experience into to work and landed the first 20 lbs fish of the week. The big male took a black and green streamer. The water slowly got back (to what has been the tale of the season so far) its low state.
So, the fish stayed in the usual places, like deeper channels and slower moving waters.
The big fish kept taking and David had himself a day with a with two 18 pound females one in the morning and one in the evening.
Barrie had yet to land one of the bigger elusive fish but on the morning of the fourth day, he got himself a 19 pound pleasant surprise to start the day with.
The fishing setups remained similar to last weeks, using mainly floating lines but 10ft sink tips in different densities were used according to the clarity and temperature of the water or when we were fishing the last 30 minutes of the days.
Again, our guests did a great job and had tons of patience to follow our suggestions! thanks guys!
Largest fish of the week, 24 lbs.
Fish over 15 lbs: 18
Villa Maria Lodge Fishing Manager
Week 6: February 15 – 22, 2019
Another brilliant week has gone by at Villa Maria Lodge.
The group this week was formed by old-time repeaters, like Mark and John -founder and presidents of G&T team. Also, there were 3 special people to me, Rabbi, Jonni, and Helgi, all of whom I met in Iceland 15 years ago. I spent my summers teaming up with them while guiding over there. Örn, another Icelandic guide was part of the group, but he works on another world-renowned river, the Spey River in Scotland.
The river conditions remained the same as the prior weeks, low and clear. I can say that the weather was nice, as the temperatures and wind remained mild throughout the whole week with long periods of overcast conditions.
Those conditions helped a lot and the fishing was great both during the day and in lower light conditions and 20lbs+ fish were happy to take our flies. Jonni landed his first 20 pounder in the warm-up session at 7 pm, it was 14 C/ 57F degrees and a very mild breeze was just breaking the surface helping us to mask the landing of both line and fly.
Floating lines with long leaders and nymphs were the most successful set up as the low and clear water makes the fish skittish if you are not careful or delicate enough– and very often the typical skaggit lines and sink tips were too splashy and noisy for the conditions, especially when it’s not windy enough to mask their water entry.
Anyways, it was not all was just floaters and small flies. The sink tips did shine when the sun started to go down and the use of flies with bigger silhouette was required.
As flies go, the classics are still going strong. rubber legs, green machines, Pepe´s nymph, wonder bugs, prince nymphs, and leeches were most successful.
We are still waiting for some rain to stir things up a wee bit but the forecast says that we will have more sun and wind along the next week. Hope to see you soon on this magnificent river.
Largest fish of the week, 25 lbs.
Fish over 20 lbs: 12
Fish over 15 lbs: 38
Average fish weight: 12.7 lbs
Villa Maria Lodge Fishing Manager
Week 5: February 8 – 15, 2019
By Alejandro Martello
This past week we welcomed a group consisting of four old friends, (Gilbert, Nigel, Bob, and Ken) and 2 new friends (Dave and Joe). The river remained low so we had to continue our practice of fishing with stealth. Nymphs were the top selection and our old friends showed that several years of expertise paid off. Mastering dead drifts and feeling a very light touch to the fly, with 20 mph winds and waves its not an easy task– but after a few hours of tuning up the set ups and refreshing the skills, the results were nothing short of astonishing.
Nigel showed his skills off in the warm up session the first morning while landing 2- 16 pounders, plus a 17 and a 19 lb. fish. Each fish was celebrated with Gilbert’s Belgian chocolates and Hardy’s smooth Cognac. Joe was quick to pick up the Rio Grande fishing game and landed an 11, 14, and 21 lb fish in a morning shift. Strangely enough for Villa Maria waters, single handed rods + floating lines were the best option. But as always, a good presentation and drift were more important than the line/rod itself. Dave was able to test his swinging skills and was quickly rewarded with a 21 lb hen in the first evening of fishing
Most of the small flies worked fine, but nymphs from #6 to #10 were the best options coming out the fly boxes. Green Machines were good also-they fooled picky fish when they were not even looking at the tiniest nymph we could find in our boxes. Of course long, dark, slender streamers were a must from the moment when the sun was getting close to the horizon and afterwards. During the last three fishing sessions, the wind began picking up slowly and on Thursday morning we experienced winds up to 110 km/h (75mph) and despite these near impossible fishing conditions Ken and Bob were able to land an 18, 21, and 23 lb fish. That evening the wind was so strong that it forced us to leave the river very a bit early, the gusting winds and murky water makes flyfishing a difficult sport, but when you are putting 20 pound trout in the net- it is all worthwhile!
FISH OVER 15lbs –20
Fish Over 20lbs— 6
Week 4: February 1 – 8, 2019
Another week has gone by here at Villa Maria Lodge and we were visited by a full group of familiar faces, as all our fishermen have been fishing our waters for a few years already.
Just like in the past weeks, weather conditions – hence fishing conditions- have constantly been changing here on the Rio Grande.
In the past few days, water levels and temperatures were seesawing but when conditions lined up properly the fishing was fantastic.
The week started off with a bang when Bruno, a returning guest of 12 years, landed 6 fish between 6- 19 lbs. Kevin, another Villa Maria veteran landed a beautiful 20 lb male in the first hour of being in the water. That was a promising first fishing session!
On the second, third and fourth day the temperature started to rise and Rio Grande broke it’s record for hottest day in recorded history, 30.5 °C. This warm spell rose the water temperature to an uncomfortable 21 °C, 10 degrees over the preferred fishing temperature. The fish became lethargic, but our fisherman were able to land some nice fish with slow retrieve in well oxygenated holes with small flies.
To get there, however, we had to modify our normal schedule, moving the starting of the morning session all the way forward to 7am so we were able to fish the cooler hours of those days and it proved to work really well. As the sun and temperature started to rise, the fish became completely inactive.
On the evening of the fourth day the weather and river started to stabilize and the fishing started to pick up again. We landed 12 fish including two 20 lb specimens using traditional Rio Grande tactics.
On the final day we experienced some fantastic fishing. Sandy and Jim ended up landing 12 fish between 5-20 lbs in the morning session. Throughout the day fishing remained consistent, landing 29 fish with the largest being a gorgeous 22 lb male.
Again, it’s difficult to narrow down a selection of flies/lines combination we used as the conditions changed so much and were so challenging. We were going from skating hitch tubes all the way to scratch the bottom of the pools with tiny nymphs.
Single handed rods and small switch rods were heavily used as the presentations of those set ups are much smoother than that of a skagit setup with a T level sink tip.
Anyways it was probably one of the most challenging weeks i remember but our guests had a tremendous amount of patience and skills to deal with the conditions and made it a really good fishing week.
Fish Over 15lbs: 22
Fish Over 20lbs: 6
Largest Fish of the week: 22lbs
Week 3: January 25 – February 1, 2019
We just finished our 3rd week at Villa Maria Lodge.
Like the previous week, we can easily split the fishing week in two parts: The first three days we had low water and clear conditions. Fishing was good and fish were consistently active in the morning and evening sessions.
Marc started the week with a beautiful 21lbs buck (male) followed by his wife, Gina, who got a 16lbs in the first session. The first day ended with a bang when James landed a 19lbs male.
At the end of the 2nd day, there was a good amount of cloud cover over the Andes and after a few local rain showers, the fishing continued to be good and steady. By the end of day three, as the river began to rise, the fish started to behave oddly. We got reports from Kau Tapen Lodge that the Rio Menendez, the biggest tributary of the Rio Grande, bringing almost 30% of the water we see in this lowest part of the river before it meets with the ocean, had risen two feet which rapidly made our water rise and color up.
Leaving anglers with no more than 4 inches of visibility, after the river rose, all the classic ways of fishing had to be abandoned and we had to adapt to the conditions. The only option that we found worked were sinking bellies or long, heavy sink-tips plus a tandem of big dark flies which provided lots of contrast and pushed a lot of water.
On the 5th day, the water stopped rising, but was still very murky. Ginny had a great session landing from 4 fish from 12-14lbs. By the end of the week, the water was dropping slowly, but steadily. The river began to clear up on the final day and the traditional methods started to be productive. Despite the some of the difficult conditions during the week, Gerald caught fish consistently and ended up landing 6 fish over 15lbs.
Like in the previous week, we experienced a variety of water and weather conditions so it is difficult to describe what line-fly combination was the most effective. We got fish using full floating lines to Sink 3-5 shooting heads rigged with tiny nymphs to big leeches during bright sunlight. Bottomline: Be ready to try different technique and to adapt to the various water/weather conditions and fish behavior.
So far, season looks really promising!
Fish Over 15lbs: 18
Largest Fish of the week: 21lbs
Week 2: January 18 – 25, 2019
We just finished our second week at Villa Maria Lodge
We can easily split the week in two: The first three days the river remained low and dropping like the week before with normal to strong winds from the W – NW. as the weather was normal for the time of the season, the fishing was just absolutely fantastic! Fish were taking flies hard, giving extraordinary fights and there was not 1 pool topping the rest. Almost every pool was delivering fat, silver and heavy fish! Everybody, guides, and guests were in Nirvana!
At the end of the third day, the wind started to change and the barometric pressure dropped substantially. During that night there was some heavy rain. The next day the fish were acting notoriously strange compared to the 3 days before. We could check that the river had a deep green color and the water was cold, around 7C. All that was pointing to some snow melt in the headwaters of the Rio Grande. After talking with our colleagues of Kau Tapen Lodge – our sister lodge located 40 miles upstream- we were able to confirm that.
The river did rise along that day between 3 to 4 inches and the fish started to think
More into running upstream than taking flies. We witnessed this phenomenon in several shallow runs where fish were pushing upstream in small groups making almost impossible to convince them to attack a fly.
The river dropped back very fast and the fish settled down again becoming active but never at the frenetic rhythm they had for the first three days.
Among the fisherman of the week was Alejandro Bianchetti, who was the head guide of Villa MARIA Lodge for 5 years, and he put all his tricks and expertise into practice and by the end of the fourth day, literally in the last cast of the day, he managed to hook and land a fantastic 31lbs female!!
The other 2 rods, Axel and Henrik were not lacking action as they managed to land the stunning number of 22 fish in the 15-20lbs range with several massive fish lost during hard fights.
Because all the changes in water levels, water clarity & temperature Its difficult to describe what line-fly combination was the most effective. We got fish from full floating lines to Sink 3-5 shooting heads and from tiny nymphs to big leeches during bright sunlight. So the best is to ready to try a different technique and to adapt to the fish behavior.
So far, the season looks really promising!
Fish Over 15lbs: 32
Largest Fish of the week: 31lbs
Villa Maria Lodge Fishing Manager
Week 1: January 11 – 18, 2019
Welcome to Villa María Lodge 2019 season!!
This year we started with normal conditions for January here, that means dry and windy. The water level is similar to last year at the same time and surely on the low side for the time of the season. But the river looks in a good shape and without many structural changes.
Our opening week we welcomed a mixed group. Joerg and Heinz started to visit as in 2006 and Douglas, Greg and Leo were making their very first experience in Rio Grande.
The wind and air temperature were major players this week. Almost every day we had gusts reaching 70 km/h, making fishing some spots very difficult. But nothing was impossible as we were able to adjust the tackle and techniques, and all the guys were very patient listening to our suggestions and all of them learned many of the tricks to catch some gorgeous fish!
All the newcomers achieved great success and all of them caught fish in the 18-20lbs range!! Kudos guys!
Aside of those personal records, several double figured fish were caught, all super silver, super fresh and with unbelievable power and explosive fights.
Water clarity was not compromised most of the days due to the wind, but low air temperatures over night made water temperatures drop significantly.
Having all these factors into account, the most successful set up included good skaggit lines, medium to heavy sink tips (10ft usually) and long leaders.
In the fly department, no big surprises here, and rubber legs and nymphs were the most productive patterns of the day, increasing slightly the sizes of them in the moments of lower light.
We are very enthusiastic for the upcoming season with this fantastic opening week we just enjoyed.
Largest fish of the week, 21 lbs.
Fish over 15 lbs: 17
Villa Maria Lodge Fishing Manager