Tag Archive: Rainbow Trout


A while ago, I started a review of what I know about Trout, but since there are so many species (over 60) I’ll keep this focused on the basics and True Trout today and later we’ll review some species of Char. Here are some that you already know about, and maybe one or two you didn’t.

Future Monster

Rainbow trout are among the most popular game fish. Their natural range is from Alaska to Argentina, but they have been widely introduced in other localities. They are olive to greenish-blue above and silvery below with a prominent red or pink stripe along the side. Stream-dwellers have dark spots on the body, dorsal fins, and tail. Lake-dwellers usually have weak spots or none. Rainbow trout have been recorded weighing up to 50 pounds (22.5 kg)… although I don’t know anyone who’s caught a monster like that, but apparently it is true.

Steelhead

Steelheads are actually sea-running rainbow trout. They go out to sea when they are about a year old, returning upstream to spawn two to five years later. Steelheads have been monitored traveling 2,500 miles (4,000 km) from Adak in the Aleutian Islands to the Columbia River in Washington. While at sea they are colored like the lake-dwelling rainbows (sort of a opaque silvery color), but near spawning time they resemble stream-dwellers. They can weigh up to 35 pounds (16 kg). Now, this is the weird part because, here in Argentina, the Steelheads are usually much larger than the Rainbows. In fact, I would invert the weight estimates between Rainbow and Steelhead here.

Cutthroat

Cutthroat trout get their name from a bright red streak on the throat. They are found in coastal streams from Alaska to northern California and in inland waters of the western United States and Canada. I’ve never heard of them here, but I’m checking with some guides I know in various provinces to be sure. Cutthroats in high mountain streams are often called spotted trout. Sea-running cutthroats enter the ocean when a year old and remain there a year or two before returning to coastal streams to spawn. Cutthroats average around 5 pounds (2.25 kg), but some attain a weight of 40 pounds (18 kg).

Big Brown

Brown trout are native to Europe from Iceland to the Mediterranean Sea, but have been successfully transplanted to other parts of the world. They are golden to greenish brown with darker brown or black spots on the sides, back, and dorsal fins. There is also a sprinkling of red or orange spots, with pale borders, on the upper sides. While fishing the Chimehuin River in the Province of Neuquén two years ago, we actually caught Browns there were both dark brown with orange spots and silvery browns, depending on how many days they had been coming into the river from Lake Huechulafquen (try not to choke on that name, although it might clear up some congestion trying). Apparently, the change in color has to do with the hormones that accompany breeding activity.

Brown just in from the lake. Note the difference in color.

Brown trout are difficult to catch because they are much more aggressive fighters and use the river current to their advantage. Some individuals grow to a weight of 40 pounds (18 kg), but the average brown trout caught in the United States weighs 4 to 7 pounds (1.8 to 3.2 kg), while I believe that the average Brown in Argentina is probably 20% larger.

Golden trout are beautifully colored fish found in mountain streams and lakes in California, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Again, I’m pretty certain there are no Golden trout in Argentina (although there are Golden Dorado… but that’s another story.) Golden trout, as you may have guessed are pure black… just kidding, actually they are gold in color with a pinkish stripe along the side and a golden or reddish-orange belly.

Golden Trout: Note the red and spots

The dorsal fin, tail, and upper part of the body have dark spots. Golden trout average one pound (450 g) or less, but some attain a weight of about 10 pounds (4.5 kg).

The nice thing about fishing for trout here in Argentina, is that you can’t always be sure what you’ll get. Many species share the same habitat, and compete in the same waters for survival. Depending on when each species is actively spawning or feeding, and depending on whether you are in the right place at the right time, you may catch several different trout in a single outing.

While taking a break from a 4×4 excursion through Mendoza’s Valle Hermoso, in 20 minutes I could three different varieties of trout. In fact, I’m sort of doubtful about one of them. I think it may have been a land-locked salmon, since it was so different from the other two. It was the first I caught that day, and I didn’t have my camera ready, but you can see from these pictures, that the second two trout were definitely different species. Now can you tell which is which?

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The adventure begins...

The adventure begins...

“Inedito” in Spanish translates to “unheard of”. I didn’t know the translation of this word when I first heard it. I didn’t know how much I would later understand the meaning of the word.

The father of my son’s classmate, introduced me to the group. Initially Raphael had explained that he had a couple of friends who took off-road trips a couple of times a year to different locations throughout Argentina. These friends turned out to be a small “club”. A few guys taking autonomous trips over the years had become a group of over 10 enthusiasts and Inedito 4×4 was now getting one more “member”.

Raphael and I have a shared interest, which is not fly-fishing, but rather that we each own a Land Rover. The only similarity in our vehicles is the name and some aesthetic resemblance in the lines. He has owned a few “landies” over the years, and I have owned one for a little over a year.

His is a couple years old…

207 Defender Tdi

2007 Defender Tdi

…and mine just turned 52 years old.

1957 Land Rover Series 1 SW - 107

1957 Series 1 SW - 107

The first time I met the group of friends, was two weeks prior to the trip, at a dinner convened at the home of Christian, a tall, friendly dentist of German decent. I came alone and was afraid that was too early, since I was sure that my only connection to the group, Raphael, hadn’t arrived. I was dreading that awkwardness that goes with making conversation while sharing a friend, but not yet sharing a friendship.

But, the thing about the Argentine people is that they almost always try to make outsiders feel welcome by finding a connection or a common interest. It could be a city you’ve both traveled in, or favorite movie. And once you’re in, you’re in… for better and for worse, just like a really close family. They get under your skin. Fortunately, in my family, playful teasing is one way of showing affection. I guess these guys grew up the same way. Before long we were trading jabs over parrilla style pizza and very cold beer. [some of my favorite things…]

Eventually we got down to business and the purpose of the get-together. Anibal came prepared with topographical maps and had done some research with a guide [Gustavo Bruni] who would be joining us on the trip. He began explaining and sharing details with the group. Several maps, in fact, appeared as everyone gathered around the circular table, more interested in the logistics than the ice cream being served.

At this point I started to notice something familiar about these guys. There was a sudden change in their attitudes. The joking and hazing quickly evaporated and was replaced with the kind of enthusiasm that I often get when reviewing a river’s characteristics and course, checking my line weights, assortment of flies, hooks, weights, etc. before a fishing trip. I began to realize that these guys were more than just motor-heads. They had a passion too.

This is also when I noticed that once we left Highway 222, the area we would be traveling in was nothing but mountains…

(Thank you Google Maps)

A voice in my head, like Chief Brody and the most famous quote from the movie Jaws, said “You’re gonna need a bigger boat warmer sleeping bag.”

As we began to gaze over the topographical map, I quickly focused in on the squiggly lines trying to memorize the names of the rivers and streams as quickly as possible. Having grown up speaking English, it’s sometimes hard to remember Spanish names. Thank goodness I though to take a photograph of the map with my cell phone camera.

[Later I was able to cross reference the names of the rivers and lagoons with my friends and other guides. My friend Claudio had heard of the Rio del Cobre and Eduardo from Mendoza Fly Fishing also gave me some great tips.]

During the two weeks between the dinner at Christian’s and the first day of the trip, we were all rushing around getting prepared. Since there were several of us divided up between 6 vehicles, we decided to meet up in Los Molles, Mendoza at a hotel called Lahuencó [home to hot springs and a shrine to the late Victor Garcia; a auto-sportsman from Mendoza of Juan Fangio caliber] which, at a minimum, was a 10 hour drive for most of the group.

Lahuancó - Los Molles

Lahuancó - Los Molles

We all came in at different times. Most of us hadn’t slept much. I’d just returned from a trip to Central America, and had slept only one hour the night before. We were all so tired that few words were spoken around dinner, and we quickly ate and turned in, flopping into our bunks. The mattresses were thin, “aromatic”, and my pillow had seen more oily heads than Carroll Shelby, but I slept like a baby ’til dawn.

Breakfast was at 8am with delicious, strong coffee that put the wind back into everyone’s sails in addition to the adrenaline associated with a trip, long awaited and finally, about to begin.

At Las Leñas we topped off our reserve fuel-tanks, left 222 and started overland for five days of serious off-road exploration, the intensity of which I had hardly imagined.

“But wait, isn’t this a fishing blog?”

“Of course it is. I was only trying to build the anticipation add some suspense bring the reader, or anyone who might hope to fish this region in the future, to the edge of civilization and the point of departure for reaching the rivers and lagoons we later encountered.”

To be continued in Valle Hermoso, Part 2: Unfinished Business

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.

Conditions:

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.

Species:

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.

Season:

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

Accommodations:

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:

Flies

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

Line

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.

Lures

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).

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