Sea-run browns are beloved by intrepid fly anglers everywhere. And of all the places we travel to target these formidable fish, Tierra del Fuego stands out as remarkable due to the size and power of its record-breaking fish.
Sea-run brown trout (salmo trutta) were introduced to the rivers of Tierra del Fuego by British expat John Goodall in the 1930s. Long story distilled, those industrious imports eventually discovered the Atlantic, attracted by its rich food supply. They packed on the pounds during their oceanic sabbaticals and upon re-entering freshwater to propagate the next generation, they had reached otherworldly proportions. Fly fishers have rejoiced ever since.
Tierra del Fuego has been described as the end of the earth. Which is an apt characterization. The island archipelago marks the southernmost extreme of the Americas; where human development has come at a glacial pace, mostly thanks to its utter remoteness. Area rivers are formed in the Andes, where they are propelled by mountain gradient toward the flat rolling steppes, finally fanning out into the brackish estuaries of the South Atlantic. And in the Río Grande, the largest watershed on Tierra del Fuego’s Isla Grande, you’ll today find the greatest population of sea-run browns anywhere—an annual return of tens of thousands of wild trout.
Similar to steelhead in the northern hemisphere, the anadromous browns of Tierra del Fuego enjoy a cult-like following. And for good reason. Savvy anglers build their fishing schedules around run timings in order to hit the migration during its peak. By January, chrome fish push into the river and through mid-March fly fishers are targeting—and catching—sea-run brown trout that average in the teens, but break the 20+ pound mark regularly. In fact, the Río Grande boasts more world record sea-run brown trout than any other river.