Rio Limay - March 2009

Rio Limay - March 2009

One of my favorite places to fish (and this is true for many fly fisherman traveling to South America) is in the southern provinces of Argentina. I was fortunate enough to be able to get away and fish with my friend Scott, for three days on the Rio Limay (Limay River) in the province of Rio Negro. We walked and floated the river.


The weather conditions were spectacular with temperatures between 40F in the early morning warming up to about to 78F. In fact, it was a bit warmer than is normal for this time of year. The wind only picked up in the afternoon and tended to die around dusk.

The river is crystal clear, and that is something that you will appreciate, especially when you can actually watch the fish taking your fly or lure. Casting 25 yards away, I could watch my streamer work along the far bank, just above the stones in about 6 feet of water. Water depths run from inches to close to 30 feet in some spots, but the average is a couple of feet with several areas around 5 to 8 feet. In these deeper spots we needed our sinking lines to get close to the fish which, due to the warm weather and lack of rainfall, were hanging out primarily in these spots close to the bottom. Floating is a great way to get to hard to reach spots.

The fishing conditions were not optimal during our trip. There has been a drought throughout Patagonia for the last several months. This has resulted in somewhat lowered water levels in the upper portion of the river, however, more than anything it has inhibited the earliest migratory trout from the lake into the river.

Characteristics of the fishing location:

Find this location

Find this location

The Rio Limay is an outlet of the Nahuel Huapi Lake, upon which sits the well known city of Bariloche. The lake was formed from a volcano and a natural barrier at the mouth of the Rio Limay creates an obstacle for migrating trout when the water levels are low. In fact, even when drought conditions don’t exist, there is usually a need for a easterly wind during the start of the spawning season to help the trout move out of the river and up into the Rio Limay.

One major benefit to trout fishing in this region is the obligatory (and enforced) catch and release policy. Having fished other locations that do not have (or enforce) such policies, the results are quite obvious.  There are three major sections of the river; superior, middle and lower. The later sections are controlled by dams which regulate their water levels. However, that doesn’t address the ability of the trout to enter from the lake for the lack of rain.


The Rio Limay host primarily Brown and Rainbow trout. You can expect to catch Rainbow between 6 to 14 inches, and Brown between 6 to 18 inches.


The fishing season ends in Rio Negro province at the end of April and begins again usually around November.


There are more and more hostels, hotels, resorts, etc. springing up in the area. In fact, since there is a lull in tourism in this region between February to mid-late May, finding accommodations is quite easy, and at all levels of comfort.

Fishing Gear:


We fly fished the river and used nymphs, “ugly bug” floating attractors, and craw fish imitators in burnt orange or army green shades.


We used floating line and sinking fly lines on #6 and #8 rods.

Our sinking lines were a combo sinking and shooting, 240 grains OutboundTM WF6I/S8).

I like to switch between two different floating lines, depending on the wind. With low or no wind, I use a yellow front tapered fly line by Bass Bug (WF-7-F). In windier conditions (in this case, each afternoon during our trip) I use a white 175 grain quick descent with floating running line designed for Salmon and Steelhead (Cortland 444). It’s a little bit stiffer and helps me control the line better.

On all our lines we used 13lb. nine foot 1x leaders and did not require tippet (Jim Vincent’s RIO Trout Tapered Leader).

Rods and reels

I use two different reels. I have my two two floating lines on the two spools of my Pflueger Trion 1990. For getting down to the fish in the deeper pools, I have my sinking line on an STH 2 Cayuga (Cassette) reel that I’ve picked up in Argentina. If you are not familiar with this brand of reels, check them out. They are made and exported from Argentina. They are very solid, durable and reasonably priced. The big benefit of these reels is the “cassette”. Instead of having a separate spool for each line setup, you can purchase additinoal cassetts which swap out as easily as a regular spool and only cost a fraction of the price. I purchased my STH reel for about $100 dollars. It comes with two cassetts. Each addtional cassett costs about $7 dollars. For most reels additional spools cost 50% of the cost of the reel. Since I like to have a several choices of line setups, this is a great solution for me.


If you plan on spinning, pick up some Meps 1, 2 or 3 size spinners. Colors that work best are silver or bronze, and combinations of black with florescent green or orange. 10 or 12 lb. line is sufficient.

Our guide:

Our guide, Fabian Philipp, operates his own guide service (Fly Fishing Trips). Having lived in this region and worked for several larger outfits for many years catering to foreign fly fishermen, Fabian is a seasoned guide who knows the rivers and lakes throughout the provinces of Neuquen, Rio Negro and Chubut like his own backyard… because it is his backyard. Fabian runs a small personalized service and speaks basic English, but can set up an operation for as many as 12 fishermen at at time, with English speaking guide’s-assistants, transportation, etc. I would recommend him if you are looking for an economic-personalized package for a small group, but at the same time, be confident you are working with a guide that equals any of the high end guides for his capacity to find the fish.

Our fishing experience:

The effect of the drought and low water conditions was that we caught less fish than we would have otherwise, but having said that, we did pretty well under the circumstances.

We fished the “superior” section of the Rio Limay, and caught most of our fish within 200 yards of where we put in our float. We floated and walked depending whether there was walking space along the river, or whether or not we could reach a particular area of water.

In total we actually fished only about two entire days. We fished the afternoon of the first day, and until about 3pm on the third day. We were on a tight schedule and would have enjoyed fishing a couple more days, trying some lower sections of the river. Our largest catches were 13″ and 16″ Rainbows. We only picked up one Brown around 6 inches which was sitting in a calm water spot at the mouth of an outlet. It hit on the first cast.

Since the season is open until the end of April,  there is still time for the rains to come, the wind to blow (allowing the fish to migrate more easily) and create some spectacular fishing for Browns and Rainbows.

If Fabian calls and says the fish are migrating, who knows… I might just sneak back down there, even if it’s only for a couple of days… (with my wife’s permission of course).