Tag Archive: Rio Negro

Usually when you read about a river cleanup program, it is usually accompanied by an image of a streak of brown, flotsam and jetsam, and perhaps even some carcasses of local fish and fauna on the coastline. So I was rather surprised [and then again, not so surprised] to see a cleanup program for one of my favorite Patagonian rivers, the Rio Limay.

Crystal clear waters of the Rio Limay

Crystal clear waters of the Rio Limay

Bariloche “gets it”!

This is what  really marks a difference between the southern Andean provinces of Argentina versus others. It comes down to culture. Developing a culture of cleanliness and a culture of awareness about how even one individual can effect an environment, and a way of thinking, is key.

There’s no doubt that it’s easier to develop a cleanup campaign when your province, local and private institutions have, and are willing to spend, money for such programs, but the most significant factors are not economic ones.

Even education is effective only after there is a cultural tendency [an openness] to learn and apply certain modes of conduct. It’s really not that hard if you think about it. We are all creatures of habit and nobody wants to be looked down upon. I remember being a kid and simply being called a “litter bug” was a pretty good deterrent and motivator to keep garbage where it belonged. There were many campaigns on television and radio about picking up litter and I think it shows today in most parts of the U.S. that these constant messages and efforts towards awareness have paid off.

But there is more than “shame” working in Bariloche, and the Andean provinces of Rio Negro, Neuquen, Chubut, Mendoza, etc.

The key may be pure and simple self interest. These Andean provinces didn’t start out with a culture of conservation. In fact the motivation for conserving the natural resources in these provinces [particularly those that lend themselves for tourism] is to be able to continue to exploit them and maintain the notable economic growth these provinces have seen over the past 10 or so years.

So how could other provinces such as Corrientes, Entre Rios, Misiones and others approach the need for change?

One of the best sources of hope are actually in the businesses that exploit eco-tourism. It will definitely take collaboration with local game authorities and local governments in the provinces where the natural resources will otherwise continue to dwindle. But if the private sector can engage politicians and local governments in the right way, it may be easier than it might first appear.

Young people, for example, present another great opportunity. A generation is all it takes to effect change, as most of us know. But results could be seen even faster. Take for example the case of the Professional Fishing Guide Association of Bariloche. The Association‘s CleanLimaymembers have a very large number of young fishing guides. They often work as skiing instructors in the winter months, and fishing guides the rest of the year. It’s a health-wealth thing for them. They enjoy and depend on the health of their environment to generate the wealth that they and their community survives on. Young people are easily motivated, have the strength and energy, and the right amount of idealism to quickly make a difference in their communities.

Developing similar initiatives via guide associations in other provinces could quickly have positive environmental and economic effects. Local schools can offer guide training and certification, thus generating additional revenue through this course offering. Additional programs for working in the promotion of tourism could also be offered in a broad range of courses such as advertising, hotel management, and other service/tourism oriented professions.

In fact, some provinces have started to implement some of these programs and course offerings. They are beginning to generate some results, but the emphasis needs to stay on “what’s good for whole, is good for the individual”, versus “what’s good for me…” [and the part about the common good is quickly forgotten]. Thus it comes back to a “cultural thing”.

It doesn’t help when your leaders don’t appear to have any moral standards and grab as much as they can – while they can – because they can. And the perception that most of us get from the news, television, etc. is that everything has pretty much gone to hell already. Give this view of reality, most people don’t want to feel like a schmuck being the only goody-good Samaritan working towards something better, while everyone else seems to be working in the other direction.

Realistically speaking, sometimes you come across [and must deal with] mentalities where “it’s all about me”. I wouldn’t be the first to say that human nature has a large dose of that philosophy. But politicians are always generally motivated by the all mighty $. When conservation is articulated properly, people can begin to understand that local economies and businesses benefit, tax revenues increase, public services find there is more money in the coffers, and provinces realize greater influence on federal budget spending. Again, money isn’t the only or even best answer to the problem of keeping the environment clean. Privatization, for example, only keeps select areas clean while there is an economic interest in doing so, and economics by itself has no moral compass.

The heroes in a happy ending to the story about “how the human race protected the environment and lived to enjoy it”, will be those that learn how to use society’s weaknesses and the good and bad of human nature to make a change in the currently non-existent wanting culture of conservation.

Playing the litter-bug shame game, articulating community and personal economic gains, and even leveraging human vanity may be the tactics needed in a long term strategy to help everyone else to finally “get it”. I certainly plan to continue to do my part so that eventually the term “brownlining” will only be applicable for decribing your shorts after getting a monster hit and landing the biggest trout of your life, on a body of water as clear as your bottled water, and as free as nature [not Evian] intended it.

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).


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