Week 6: February 7 – 13, 2020
This week we finally had the blessing of stable river conditions, something that the previous weeks were lacking. For the first time this season, we didn’t have any shift in water coloration or river depth. What was challenging, however, were the winds. This week, they seemed to blow from any imaginable direction, making the fishing a bit tough at moments. We had to be very careful in planning the fishing sessions as there were pools that needed to be fished during the right moments in the day to avoid the windiest conditions.
This resulted in a couple of challenging days to start out the week but we were still getting big fish to the fly. Nigel started his week with two very nice and fresh fish of 17 and 19 lbs in the first session.
By the third day, the fishing really picked up and all our returning guests started to get into a groove, all landing fish on various beats around our section of the river. The day was capped-off by Gilbert’s stunning 22-pounder that, of course, required a proper celebration with his favorite Hardy brandy and fantastic Neuhaus Belgian chocolate. Kelly also found his fish of the week, landed after a hard-fought battle on both sides, his fish tipping the scale at an amazing 23 lbs. Aline, Kelly’s fishing partner, followed up the 23 lber with a beautiful 17 lb chromer only minutes after Kelly’s fish was released. David and Joe had a few tough days on the water but landed some solid fish up to 17 lbs and lost a handful of heartbreakers, hopefully, we will see them again next season to get revenge on some of those monsters.
The last evening the weather was tough and most of our guests decided to return to the lodge early to pack and get ready for our traditional Tapas Night, but Gilbert decided to continue fighting and he got his reward landing four fish, 10,13, 17 & 18 lbs, respectively while fishing in far less than ideal fishing conditions.
In the tackle department, there were no surprises and the usual skagit+heavy sink tips were the top choices. As far as flies were concerned, the selection was our usual: green machines, leeches, and different sized rubber legged flies being the most productive.
Alejandro Martello. Villa Maria Lodge Head Guide.
Week 5: January 31 – February 6, 2020
For our fifth week of the season, we welcomed back Bruno, Mike, Michael, and Sandee.
During our warm-up session, as we expected, the river rose from the heavy rain up in the headwaters that hit the region in the previous week. Even with the rising river, we were very optimistic about the week to come because of the steady weather that was forecasted.
As predicted the first day started with a bang with several nice fish coming to hand from all of our beats. The river was slightly off-color and it seemed that with the right setups, flies, and persistence the fish were more than willing to take a fly. Throughout the week we had a consistent stream of algae floating down the river but with a fresh run of fish in the system, there were still some great fish caught.
In the middle of the week, we had warm calm days that allowed us to try new methods which included some topwater flies. This resulted in some incredibly exciting action. A few of the week’s highlights included Michael’s first two sessions during which he landed 9 beautiful fish who were all in double-digit territory. He also had an amazing 18-pounder, who rose from the depths to take a skating Bomber.
Longtime fishing friends Bruno and Michael enjoyed each other’s company, swiss chocolates, and a beautiful 20 lb male. Sandee had consistent action all week and wrapped it up with a great chrome 18 lb from our upper beat. Although he struck out trying to get a fish on a Bomber like Michael, he was lucky enough to hook a couple and rise several other fish when the conditions were right to try them.
The rods and lines we prefer to use are classics here at Villa Maria Lodge. Two-handed rods from 12’-13’6” were the most comfortable options to fish. Switch or single-handed rods were better suited when fishing on the surface.
As you can tell from the report above, we were fishing the entire water column this week, from the surface to as deep as we could, dependent on the pool and the conditions, so sink tips of various lengths and weight were used, but we can say that T14 was the best all round.
The river is dropping and clearing up as I type, so we expect a good week for the upcoming group at Villa Maria Lodge!
Alejandro Martello. Villa Maria Head Guide
Week 4: 24th – 30th January 2020
This week we welcomed back Gerald, Marc, Gina, Bruno, Jonathan and our new friend Hans.
The week started off with a bang. With the river at a near-perfect level, fresh fish in the system and some veteran anglers staying with us we had the “perfect storm”.
It seemed like every session anglers were coming back with sore arms, grins from cheek-to-cheek and fish stories that will be told for years. Throughout the week, the wind picked up and dropped the water level. The fish seemed to be on the move running upriver and the average fish size decreased to healthy fresh 5-12 lb specimens. Every pool we arrived to seemed to have a few taking fish which made the week fly by. On the final day, the wind picked up to near-impossible speeds for fishing, clocking in at around 60-90 kph. The lack of visibility and cold river temperatures seemed to drive the fish to the bottom with lockjaw. Due to this erratic behavior, we experienced lots of short strikes with the occasional successful hook-up.
The week was filled with good company, lots of quality size fish, and as always delicious food and beyond comfortable living conditions.
The week seemed to have too many highlights to mention but let’s give it a try. During the first couple of days, Marc, Gina, Gerald, and Jonathan all landed fresh, chromed-up 20-21 lb sea trout. On the third evening, Bruno landed a beautiful 22 lb hen on one of his last casts. Gerald, shortly after losing two “monsters,” got redemption on a marvelous 24 lb buck from an unsuspecting hole using a Leech in slightly off-color, but very fishable, water clarity.
The top flies for the week were leeches, heavy rubber leg stones and, when the water clarity allowed, the infamous Green-Machine. We were mostly using floating bellies matched with different densities T-tips, based on the flies, pool structure and wind/water conditions. A 12 ft rod was the most useful length as an all-around tip.
Even with the “slow” last day and a half of fishing, the final tapas night was filled with fun camaraderie and a plethora of fishing stories from the week.
Alejandro Martello. Villa Maria Lodge Head Guide
Week 3: January 17-23rd, 2020
This week we excitedly welcomed back our friend Axel and former veteran guide Ale Bianchetti.
When we approached the river during our warm up session, we realized the river was still affected by the previous week’s rain. The river was high and slightly off-color but fortunately, it appeared to be dropping quickly so we were optimistic for the week to come.
During the next two days, we experienced a strong down-river wind, which helped to push a lot of water out of the system and bring the river to a very “fishy” level.
Many fish have moved into the river system, but with the unstable weather and river conditions, getting fish to move on a fly proved difficult. Our anglers stayed motivated and continued fishing through difficult conditions. When the proper conditions aligned, and our guests flies were in the water there were some beautiful fish landed.
By the tail end of the week ,the new moon we were looking forward to, brought in a fresh run of fish. Who began to settle into their pools up and down our beats. Even the odd pools we rarely fished in the past seemed to be loaded. Needless to say the week ended on a high note.
Axel and Ale were using different sink lines and the new game changer lines matched with “T-tips” of different density to slow down our drifts and get down to the fish in the high water we experienced early in the week. When the river dropped, we were able to properly fish the river with lighter sinking heads and lines as we normally do. The top flies for the week were the classics: leeches during high water and the evening, and green machines and rubber legs when the river cleared.
Highlights from the week included Ale Bianchetti’s picture-perfect chrome 20 pounder he landed on the second to last evening, that must have been in the river for no more than a few hours. Axel’s banner last two sessions featured 7 fish between 15-19 lbs.
Congrats guys! We’re already looking forward to seeing you next year.
Alejandro Martello – Villa Maria Lodge Head Guide
Week 2 – January 10 – 16th, 2020
We just finished our second week at Villa Maria Lodge. Once again, the week was dominated by challenging weather, strong storms, and changing river conditions.
Our opening week concluded with heavy rains along the Rio Grande’s valley, all the way up to the Andes. This resulted in higher water levels and murky visibility. The low visibility seriously affected our first couple of sessions, and as a result, they were slow and difficult. The river began to show improving conditions during the second fishing day and the catch-rate started to pick up.
The weather was still a challenge during the week, with some daily showers that turned into some serious rain as the week went on. But, our anglers stayed on the river and gave it their all!
As the heavy rains subsided, the river level raised 20 cm and the visibility dropped to unfishable levels, mainly due to high levels of runoff entering the river via the Ona and Menendez Rivers.
I would like to thank all of the Kau Tapen crew and guides who received us and let us fish part of their water so Villa Maria guests didn’t lose a fishing session even with the complicated conditions.
With regards to the fishing, the tackle we used was the same as the opening week. Rods between 13 to 14ft were the best choice matched with intermediate Skagit heads. The sink tips of choice were around 10 to 12 ft and with fast sink rates like the T-14 or even the T-18. Again, the selection of flies varied greatly, depending on the pool and the angler.
Didrik caught several fish up to 18 pounds using small rubber legs, while Mark had most of his success on leeches. Speaking of Mark, he starred in one of the highlights of the week breaking his all-time personal record twice in the same day. Mark started the day off with a 21 lb female in the morning, and capped off the day by releasing a whopping 24 lb male!
Oliver took a short cut to a different area of the river, and landed another 24 lb male in his first trip to the Rio Grande. Hooking his fish at almost the same moment Mark landed his! Congratulations guys!
Finally, from all of our Villa Maria team, we would like to thank Mark, Louis, Lars, Didrik and Oliver for their great attitude, flexibility and patience, allowing us to adapt our schedules and fishing plans to combat the challenging fishing conditions.
By Alejandro Martello. Villa Maria Lodge Head Guide
Week 1 – January 3-9, 2020
We are back for a new season at Villa Maria Lodge! We just finished up our opening week and it was really exciting for several reasons.
The river conditions we encountered in the River were phenomenal. The water level is the highest we have seen since 2014. This is a great thing to see after several years of really low levels and a drought during most of the 2019 season.
The river looked beautiful! Its level was low enough to cross the river – in selected places – to fish. Fishing-wise, that means the pools were long and have consistent flow throughout them.
The water was slightly colored and murky but was perfectly fishable even with small flies.
For these conditions, we chose to go with heavier than usual setups. Rods between 13-14 ft were the best choice, even though in some places we used slightly shorter ones. My personal choice was a Loop 7x 13’2” #8.
Selecting a line and sink tip is more complicated than ever due to the endless combinations available nowadays in fly shops and online.
Due to the conditions and that the fast-flowing pools, the best move was to fish partly sinking Skagit heads. A good example of those is the Rio Game Changer which comes in a combination of F/H/Intermediate sink rate through the head of the line, which makes it a really handy option if you need to fish deeper and slow down the drift of the fly.
The sink-tips of choice were around 10 to 12 ft and with fast sink-rates like the T14 or even T18.
The selection of flies was vastly eclectic and the final fly decisions were made specifically according to which pool we were fishing and the time of day. For example, one morning our group was fishing the lower stretch of our section. Florian was catching double-digit fish in Herradura with a green machine. Tom was hooking them with massive intruders, just around the corner in Cormorant! Meanwhile, Alex, Tom & Stephan had back to back 17, 20 & 20-pound fish fishing small traditional leeches, and Bernhard was catching them on rubber legged flies, especially at the beginning of the week. The best move is to be ready to change strategies and flies quickly and adapt your game to the conditions.
We closed the week with some very heavy rain that lasted a full day. The precipitation raised the water level by 30cm and stained the water. But, by the next day, it was already lowering back to normal levels and clarity, so we expect great conditions going into our second week!
Alejandro Martello. Villa Maria Lodge Head Guide.