May 7th, 2020
Just north of the Straits of Magellan in southeastern-most Argentina flows the lovely and incomparable Rio Gallegos. For many a seasoned rod, this lovely low-gradient system and the charming Las Buitreras Lodge that serves it represent the pinnacle sea trout experience. Why? Well, the reasons are many, beginning with that fact that the international and eclectic cast of anglers that visit the lodge are essentially the only anglers on the entire system. Add to that huge beats of well-rested water, incredible wildlife, some of Argentina’s most skilled guides and a chance at some of the largest and best-fighting sea trout in the world and you will start to understand the loyalty of the river’s many followers. The good folks at Las Buitreras Lodge put together this 2020 Season Summary. Thank you Solid Adventures and Las Buitreras Lodge – we’ll see you next season!
The 2020 season at Las Buitreras has come to an end. As most of you probably know we had to close the lodge mid March already due to the COVID-19 virus that has swept through nations and is currently holding the whole world hostage. As unfortunate as this may be, especially for all of you that were not able to make your trip, this was a decision taken by governments all over the world with all of our best interests in mind. We are now hoping that the world gets back on its feet as soon as possible so that all of us will be able to enjoy the good things in life again. One of them being chasing big sea-run browns in Las Buitreras.
Moving on, here is a brief summary of this year’s shortened season and some of the highlights. It’s amazing how quick the season passed and it’s still hard to believe we have to wait another 8 months until we are back on the water in southern Patagonia, chasing silver bullets. Until then we’ll be confined to watching photos and daydreaming.
Since we spend a lot of time fishing this river with small, size 8-10 nymphs and similar flies, losing fish is not uncommon. This year however we lost quite a few fish due to hooks opening and even breaking. At some stage we worried it was our own supply of flies that had been tied on a batch of bad hooks but luckily that wasn’t the case.
With this in mind we can’t stress enough the importance of bringing flies that are tied on proper hooks. Flies tied with patagonian sea-run browns in mind. Regular trout flies are great for smaller resident browns but they don’t cut it for the sea-runs down here. Trust us when we say that you don’t want to be the person that travels across the globe, all the way down to southern Patagonia in search of that trophy fish and finally hooking up, only to lose it due to a weak hook.
Both weather and river conditions remained consistent as we entered February with rather cold temperatures and good water levels. However, about a week or so into February summer finally decided to arrive with full force. All of a sudden we were leaving the fleece jackets in the lodge and smearing our faces with sun lotion before every session. Along with the warmer weather we also experienced a river that dropped quickly. With low and clear water it was finally time for the traditional summer tactics, using long leaders, even smaller flies, and an overall stealthy approach. Although these conditions can sometimes be a little tricky as they require anglers to cast and wade more carefully, fishing remained really good. The smaller flies accompanied by long leaders worked perfectly, at least in terms of hooking fish. Landing them was, and always is, another story however and the smaller hooks unfortunately meant an increased amount of lost fish. As thrilling as a violent take and the initial run can be, as heartbreaking, if not more, it is to see a proper 15 lbs fish go straight up in the air, land in an explosion of water, followed by a slack line.
And while we are on the topic of losing fish: one story that stands out from this season was when our German friend Peter hooked an absolute beast of a fish during an afternoon session in Zone 1. Fishing a size 10 Copper John in C-pool the water suddenly exploded! Seconds later Peters reel was missing a good 60 meters of backing and the fish was still running. When it hit the pool below, a pool called Shelf, the fish finally turned and started swimming upstream. The fight lasted somewhere between 15 to 20 minutes and saw the fish all the way into the bank several times, but still always half a meter out of reach of the net. Witnessing this spectacle was Peter’s fishing partner Willi and our guide Lawson. Everyone who’s ever been guided by Lawson know’s the difference between his reactions to an OK sized fish and a BIG fish. A fish below 10 lbs may if you’re lucky bring about a “good job buddy” once the fish has been landed. A 15 lbs plus fish on the other hand will have him on his toes during the whole fight, constantly repeating the words “ it’s a good fish this is! It’s a good one“! This time however Lawson’s face was pale white. Rumors has it he forgot to breath for a full minute after seeing the fish the first time but that’s yet to be confirmed. What we do know however is that at some stage around the 20 minute mark of the fight, after several rounds of Peter running back and forth between C-pool and Shelf, the fish was about to be landed, or so we thought, when right in front of the net the fly popped out and the fish was gone. What happened after that is again unclear but from what we heard Peter actually broke out laughing, super excited about the fight and the experience. Lawson on the other hand couldn’t speak for a good 10 minutes. Coming back to the lodge that evening he finally opened up saying he has never been so close to net a 30 lbs fish in this river. A heartbreaking loss indeed but it’s also super encouraging to know that those fish are out there and at any given moment it might be your fly that gets hit by a monster.
By the end of February we finally had a new push of water, seeing the river rise to around level zero again. From here on we kept getting smaller pushes of water through to the end of the season keeping the water level rather consistent. Along with the small pushes of water we were also seeing new fish entering the system on a regular basis. Early March we had several runs of smaller fish in the 4-10 lbs size moving up the system, mixing it up with some of the big guys that had entered the river weeks or even months earlier. These big runs of fresh fish usually occur from March and onwards, during the so-called late season which runs from March to late April. This is usually a really good time for anyone chasing big numbers of fish. Unfortunately we were never allowed to capitalize on all the fish in the river this season as we had to close the lodge March 14.