May 26th, 2016
For nearly two decades die-hard anglers from around the globe have ventured to Argentina’s massive and mighty Rio Santa Cruz to test their abilities and luck with true Atlantic steelhead. Historically many anglers returned from this trip with modest fishing reports and the Santa Cruz gained a reputation as being a challenging puzzle to solve. Accordingly the Santa Cruz fell somewhat off the map as a worthy stand-alone steelhead destination. So, at first, when Claudio Martin and his partners at Tres Amigos Outfitters approached Fly Water with their new Rio Santa Cruz fishing program, Los Plateados Lodge, we were a bit skeptical. But when Claudio started filling our email inbox with photo after photo of chrome bright, and often large, steelhead accompanied by highly encouraging fishing reports, it was hard denying that he and his team had indeed decoded some of the rivers well-guarded secrets. In short order, planning a trip to “fact check” their findings became a must!
We planned the trip for early April, and due to easy travel logistics we added a week of sea trout fishing on the Rio Gallegos at Las Buitreras Lodge prior to our half-week visit to the Santa Cruz. The Tres Amigos guides met our group at Las Buitreras in the morning and drove us roughly three hours to Los Plateados Lodge along the banks of the Rio Santa Cruz.
The simple lodge is in a prime location for accessing the most productive fishing zones by boat and/or truck.
We were all excited to assemble our gear and head out for our first session on the water. We assumed this was not going to be a high catch rate venue so we didn’t expect much from our “warm-up” session, but after we put two respectable fish to the bank, within our first hour, our anticipation grew for the fishing days ahead. We were off to a better than expected start!
The sheer size of the river was intimidating at first but after wading knee deep in its milky turquoise waters, its enormity faded and the runs seemed much more manageable. We fished 13-14 ft. 7-9 weight spey rods lined with Skagit and intermediate heads with tips in varying lengths of T-14 to T-17 and a variety of classic winter steelhead patterns in black, blue, orange, and pink. The wading was easy and although the ability to cast long distances was helpful the majority of fish came on casts of 60-80 feet.
Five casts into our first full day on the water, steelheading newcomer, Kevin Winter hooked and landed the largest and most acrobatic fish of the trip. It was just shy of 20 pounds.
Our excitement and luck continued as every angler saw good action on the first day… collectively, we hooked 7 and landed 6.
The weather was way better than expected. We had cool and crisp mornings that quickly rolled into windless sunny “bluebird” days.
We split into two groups each day (two anglers per guide) and accessed the river by boat and truck. Typically one group would head out by boat and the other by truck then switch after the lunch break. Travel times were short and varied from 10-45 minutes.
Each morning started off with a standard continental breakfast with fresh made-to-order eggs before venturing out to the river. To save on travel time, delicious hot lunches were prepared and served riverside by the guides. We’d fish until the sun slipped below the horizon then return to the lodge for drinks and a late dinner. For a rustic lodge in the middle of the vast Patagonian wilderness the crew was happily surprised by the scrumptious meals prepared by their spunky chef Jose.
In summary, we all had a great time exploring this unique and intriguing steelhead fishery. We averaged just over one fish per angler per day between 7 and 18 pounds which is comparable to, if not better than, most of the world’s (winter) steelhead venues. Without question, the Tres Amigos crew have made some major strides in figuring out this mysterious fishery and are well on their way in making the Rio Santa Cruz a must-fish steelhead destination.