Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fly Fishing Patagonia Argentina: What Month's are Best To Fish?


Patagonia Post Card.  Upper Collon Cura Brown.

Almost every angler traveling to Patagonia, comes to catch BIG wild fish.  As a result, the number one question posed by anglers is, "when is the best time to book a trip so we can catch big fish?"  We sincerely wish for everyone to catch BIG fish, but unfortunately, there is no easy answer to provide. From our experience, many folks do not like this type of reply.  In other words, people want a specific week, and a guaranty of catching a +30" Brown Trout.  Truth be told, with climate change effecting Patagonia and so many areas around the globe, it can be challenging to predict the best periods to target BIG fish. So, rather than BS you to death and make false promises, this post is intended to give you a realistic expectation of your future fly fishing trip to Patagonia.  By explaining current weather conditions in Patagonia, hopefully this will allow you to pick the best time frame that meets your specific needs, not ours.


What Month is the Best: Let's Talk Reality

Most people travel to destinations that offer the best weather conditions for their chosen recreation. Specific to Patagonia, 98% of all fly fisherman visit during January and February (Patagonia summer). The remaining 2% anglers will visit Patagonia during December, March, or April. So, where am I going with this? The reality is that most people, regardless of what I say or how I answer the question stated above, will travel after the holiday season (e.g. Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year's, etc). Rather than give you a specific time frame, allow me to give you an overview of the entire Patagonia season.  This way, you can select the time (week/month) which best meets your needs.

November:  Early Spring

Rainbows are spawning and brown's are on the bite.

The fishing season opens early November.  I have spent two seasons fishing in November.  During this time, I have yet to meet another American, Canadian, or European fisherman.  Why?  The water is bloody cold, the air temps are cold, wind can be punishing, and water levels can be high.  Add it all up, for most anglers, November is not the best weather month to travel and fish northern Patagonia (especially for the DIY walk-wade fisherman).

Advantages

  • Fish have not see a fly in 6 months.
  • No Tourist.
  • Due to weather conditions, and low tourist season, float trip pricing may be discounted.
  • Slight pressure from local guides and Argentina clients floating (yes, like anywhere in the world, opening day is popular in Patagonia).
  • If you love streamer fishing, perhaps with a sink-tip, big fish are on the bite.

Disadvantages

  • Poor Weather Conditions (cold temps, constant wind, chance of snow and rain).
  • High Water.
  • Extremely cold water for DIY walk-wade.
  • Virtually no dry fly action.  Conditions favor streamers and nymphing.
  • Conflicts with USA holiday (Thanksgiving)

December:  Late Spring


Arguably, due to climate change, December is becoming one of the best months to target large fish.

With climate change, the predictable transition between the Patagonia spring and summer has become abrupt. For example, in past years you could expect November (spring) like conditions to last well into December, if not till the beginning of January. These days, by mid-December, you might find water levels below normal, and weather conditions summer like. Overall, the month of December is becoming one of the best month's to target big fish.  Add it all up, with summer like conditions now frequently occurring in December, fishing might be tempting for anglers who don't have holiday family commitments.  

Advantages

  • Fish have only seen a fly for one month.  Some have not seen a fly in 7 months.
  • Large hold-over fish (e.g. brown trout) are aggressive, and plentiful!
  • Rainbows are spawning.  
  • Weather conditions are increasingly erratic (one day warm, the next day cold). 
  • Water flow/level is good for targeting large fish.
  • December to mid-January is one of the best times to take a float trip and target large fish.
  • Towards the mid/end of December, DIY walk-wade becomes increasingly more accessible.
  • No Tourist (Americans, Canadians, and Europeans)
  • Before water levels drop, big fish are on the bite!  The use of dry flies, nymphs, streamers all work; and usage depends on weather, water flow, and water temps.

Disadvantages

  • Unpredictable/Erratic Weather Conditions (could be summer like one day, and the next day, horrible fishing conditions).
  • Extremely cold water for DIY walk-wade.
  • Conflicts with holidays and seasonal festivities.

January & February:  Summer


Time for big, hard fighting bows on dry-dropper rigs. 

You have made it through the holidays, and now you face the thought of either a long fish-less winter, or a fly fishing trip to Patagonia.  If you decide to fish Patagonia in January or February, you are fishing during the peak summer months.  As such, you should expect to encounter cool nights, and warm temperatures during the day, with no humidity.  In fact, as we mentioned before, climate change has brought above average temps to Patagonia and erratic weather patterns. Specifically, throughout the summer months of January and February, we are seeing more days in the low 90's.  As well, water levels each year are continuing to drop, making wet-wading now possible in late December!  If you want to dry fly fish 24/7, this is the time to do it. Overall, when you add it up, it's hard to beat Patagonia in January and February.

Advantages


  • Patagonia summer mountain and desert weather = very hard to beat.
  • Always, plan for nasty weather, but expect plenty of short and t-shirt days.
  • Long days, with lots of sunlight.
  • It's time for DRY FLIES and dropper NYMPHS.
  • The Patagonia wind can be strong and steady (especially mid-day till sunset).
  • Fish have only seen a streamers for two months = dry fly action is very good.
  • Water levels are low and water temps are refreshing = DIY walk and wade access is very good!
  • For the early A.M. and late P.M. DIY fisherman, you'll be rewarded while much of Patagonia sleeps in! 
  • Excellent month for float trips, including over-night camping.

Disadvantages


  • High Season = School is out.  It's summer vacation for the locals (Argentine's and Chileans).  
  • Tourist from all over the globe will visit Patagonia.
  • Travel rates increase (e.g. air travel, hotel, rental car)
  • Americans, Canadians, and Europeans flock to Patagonia to fly fish.
  • More pressure on fish.
  • Consistently good weather, but expect a brief thunder/lightning storm (this could muddy, and make some waters not fishable).
  • Day time temps and UV rays can be intense = fishing can shut down, and BIG fish become harder to find.

March:  End of Summer, Pre-Fall


Late evening DIY walk-wade dry fly mission on the Malleo.  Caught on #16? and with 5wt.

Many anxious fisherman are led to believe that March is the best time to target large brown trout. Perhaps +25 years ago this was true.  We believe this perception is driven by guides, outfitters and lodges who desire to attract end of the season clientele (or, more $$ and profit).  In our opinion, March is a good month for fishing, but it's not the best month to target large brown's.  If you choose to fish Patagonia in March, expect the following:

Advantages


  • Low Tourist Season = school is back in session.  Summer vacation is over for Argentine's and Chileans.
  • Only a small handful of Americans, Canadians and Europeans in all of Patagonia.
  • Prices drop (air travel, hotel, rental car)
  • Water is cooling off, but it's still time for dry flies and lots of nymph fishing.
  • The Patagonia wind can be strong and steady (especially mid-day till sunset).
  • Water levels are very-very low = large fish are in deep holes or highly oxygenated runs.
  • DIY walk and wade access is EXCELLENT! 
  • Excellent month for float trips because pressure drops off dramatically.

Disadvantages


  • Travel during March conflicts with 98% of fly fisherman work/life schedules.
  • Some business, restaurants close down for the season or change to off season hours.
  • Mid-March; expect cooler temps so wet wading is no longer an option.
  • Weather may prevent over-night camping trips.

April: Peak Fall


A DIY walk-wade hunting mission produces a Malleo brown trout.  Caught on a dry fly with a 4wt.

Beside December, April is our favorite month to fish Patagonia!  Why?  You have the entire place to yourself and the weather is almost perfect!  For some reason or another, April is arguably the least windiest month of the year.  Skies are typically blue and sunny.  The air is cool and fall colors are in peak form.  As for fishing, April is amazing for nymphs, dries and streamers.  Big fish become more active and during the last two weeks of April, the brown trout action is very-very good!  

Advantages


  • Low Season = School is back in session.  Summer vacation is over for Argentine's and Chileans.
  • No Americans, Canadians and Europeans in all of Patagonia.
  • Prices drop (air travel, hotel, rental car)
  • It's time to start hunting large brown trout.
  • Water levels are very-very-very low = large fish are in deep holes or highly oxygenated runs.
  • DIY walk and wade access is EXCELLENT! 
  • Excellent month for float trips.

Disadvantages


  • Travel during April conflicts with 100% of fly fisherman work/life schedules.
  • Some business, restaurants close down for the season or change to off season hours.
  • No more wet wading.
  • Weather may prevent over-night camping.

May: End of Fall, Pre-Winter


A rare warm, sunny, windless day, produces a May brown trout.  Caught on a streamer.

As though a wall switch has been flicked, a few days into May brings cold windy weather.  By now most sensible anglers are back home fishing their home waters.  Although we have fished northern Patagonia in May, we don't recommend it.  Unlike April, you'll experience almost an entire month of wind, cold, and rain.  If you're a crazed brown trout hunter and determined to fish in the month of May, expect the following:

Advantages

  • Low Season = School is back in session.  Summer vacation is over for Argentine's and Chileans.
  • No Americans, Canadians and Europeans in all of Patagonia.
  • Prices drop (air travel, hotel, rental car)
  • You'll see more rain, and in higher elevations, snow.  
  • DIY walk and wade access is still EXCELLENT! 

Disadvantages


  • Weather can be very challenging.  Expect +30 mph winds and rain. 
  • Depending on casting experience, can be extremely difficult to fish (either from a float or land).
  • Freezing cold water + wind chill = numb feet-legs-hands...might be worth it...might not?
  • Some business, restaurants close down for the season or change to off season hours.

Patagonia Brown Trout Monsters: Q's & A's


They do exist, but very difficult to catch.  

For the average angler, the time needed to 'exclusively' target/hunt for monster sized brown trout, is not the best use of your 7-10 day stay in Patagonia.  As alluring as this endeavor may be, the success rate for monsters is very low.  In other words, you could fish for 7-10 days and quite possibly get nothing!  The people that regularly catch these monsters, are local DIY fisherman who sleep in their cars (next to the water), wake up every day at 4am, endure harsh weather conditions, and fish for an hour in the A.M. and P.M.  That being said, we don't want to discourage you from fulfilling your dreams.  We just want you to be completely informed.

The below questions and answers are not meant to be highly informative.  If you are a serious brown trout hunter, and understand what it takes to land a monster, then we should speak directly with each other.

Q: In northern Patagonia, where is the best place to target HUGE brown trout?
A:  From land, and given our experience, and understanding the effects of climate change currently happening in Patagonia, we believe wading the mouth (la boca) of the upper Limay is the best area (FYI, this area closes April 30th).  Lots more details to share, so please contact us for more info.

Q: What about fishing the Middle Limay River, I hear there are HUGE brown's there?
A:  This is the second best area to DIY fish for HUGE brown trout.  This section of the river stays open till the end of May, but we have many reservations regarding this area now.  Lots more details to share, so please contact us for more info. 

Q: What about the fishing the mouth of the Chimehuin River?
A:  Another well known place for brown's, and it stays open till the end of May.  This not our favorite spot and truth be told, it's been years since a HUGE brown trout was caught/released here. That being said, we still fish it and we do catch large brown trout.  Lots more details to share, so please contact us for more info.

Q:  When and where do you catch your big brown trout?
A:  If I have to pick a month, where we catch more big, not HUGE, brown trout, it would be April.  During April, the very best floating option to catch big brown's is on the lower Collon Cura.  For DIY walk-wade anglers, we target select spots that we know produces big browns (either on dries or streamers).  


Final Word
  
So, what's the best time to come to Patagonia to catch large fish?  With so many fishing opportunities available during the season, and with so many different types of anglers out there (e.g. die hard dry fly, nymph or streamer), it's really hard for me to pin down a time period that meets your specific needs.  As I stated above, you can't go wrong with March, and even more so in April.  But, I will leave you with this...whether you want to float or walk-wade, sleep under a tree or in a cozy bed,  if you're a rainbow fanatic or brown trout hunter, we are here to meet your needs.  So, don't be shy, contact us and ask as many questions as possible.

We hope you enjoyed reading this post.  Many thanks and hope to see you next season in Patagonia.

Gone Fishing,

Mark


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