Santa Cruz, Rio Gallegos
We have had a relationship with lodges on the Rio Gallegos since the late 90’s and remain in close contact with them. The 2014 rates are between $4850-$5950 per angler. Sometimes we post specials in our quarterly newsletter.
Rio Gallegos Fishing on the Rio Gallegos in Santa Cruz Argentina for Sea Run Brown Trout is a must for serious sea trout and salmon anglers and certainly for all anglers who have fished the Rio Grande. The Rio Gallegos is full of character, huge fish and probably has as many sea run brown trout as the Rio Grande.
The Gallegos River lies in the Santa Cruz province of Patagonia, Argentina. It stretches over 300 km from the southern Andes Mountains to empty into the Atlantic Ocean at the city of Rio Gallegos.
Unlike the Rio Grande, the Rio Gallegos has many high rocky cliffs and rocky shoreline. There are even a few round boulders and willow trees that dot the river corridor. Wildlife such as Guancos (llamas), Silver Foxes, flamingos, geese, ducks and grebes are seen at almost every pool. In mid March Ashy-headed Geese congregate is huge flocks all along the river before heading north for the winter.
The river itself is shallow and easy to wade; however, wading is not encouraged. The shallow pools also alleviate the need for heavy sink tips and big flies. Success on the Rio Gallegos depends on not spooking the Sea Trout. Often times anglers will be using small nymphs tied on strong hooks, light tippets, floating or intermediate lines and single handed rods. Stealth must be practiced in approaching the pool and in fly presentation.
There are an estimated 70-90,000 Sea Run Brown Trout that return to the Rio Gallegos every year, yet they are scattered over 300 km of water. Therefore, it is assumed that the fish are simply less concentrated than they are on the more famous, deeper and considerably shorter Rio Grande in Tierra del Fuego.
The Sea Run Browns on the Rio Gallegos start to enter in late October and consequently, anglers can do well in November and December. January and February are considered peak months. However, in 2011 we caught many fresh fish coming in the Rio Gallegos in early and late March. Fresh, silvery Sea Run Brown Trout on the Rio Gallegos exist all season long. By April spawning beds can be seen in the middle to upper portions of the Rio Gallegos and by May 1, sea trout are also spawning in the two 90 km tributaries, the Penitente and the Ruebens. By mid June returning fish are back in the Rio Gallegos estuary where they fatten up over the winter.
Before, 1994, the only people fishing the Rio Gallegos were locals. Some with fly gear, some with lures and some with nets in the estuary. Bella Vista Lodge starting bringing in catch and release anglers in 1995 and when Las Buitreras Lodge opened around 2000, fly anglers outnumbered those keeping fish. However, only a few years ago there were 55 netting licenses in Rio Gallegos that caught around 50,000 Sea Run Browns annually. (But there was still good fishing up river at that time!) Thanks to the efforts of the lodges and other concerned groups, very few of those nets exist today and those that do fish for Robalo only and are regulated to release every sea trout alive. Recently another law was passed making the Rio Gallegos 99% catch and release. That 1% rightfully goes to the locals who are allowed to keep one fish per year if it is caught in February.
Thanks to Las Buitreras Lodge, Bella Vista Lodge and concerned citizens, the Rio Gallegos has a thriving population of Sea Run Browns that is estimate to equal or even rival the population in the Rio Grande. The per day catch rate is just barely behind the Rio Grande but it is our opinion this is only because the Rio Grande is less challenging to fish. As to which river has larger fish is certainly debatable, but with so many 20-25 pound Sea Run Browns being caught in the Rio Gallegos today, a pound or two difference is irrelevant.
Sea Run Brown Trout can be very aggressive and quite passive. Often times, a small salmon fly will work on the Rio Gallegos. But when the fish become selective, small nymphs usually produce more strikes. Regardless of fly patters, Sea Run Browns prefer a bit of movement in the fly rather then a slow steady swing. Every guide on the Rio Gallegos seems to have his own favorite fly.
When fishing the Rio Gallegos anglers will need to have a double and single hand rod rigged and ready. Mostly you’ll default to the double hander because of wind and the need for distance. However, many holding lies can easily be covered with a single handed rod. The delicate waters and spooky fish of the Rio Gallegos demand a subtle presentation which is more easily achieved with a single handed, 9-10ft, 8 weight, medium-fast action rod.
Anglers who wish to go after the 16-19 inch resident Brown Trout in the Rio Gallegos will want to bring along a 7 or 6 weight single handed rod.