Welcome to Kau Tapen Lodge!
Now in its 28th year of continuous operation, Kau Tapen is the first and most luxurious fishing lodge on the Rio Grande…likely the most luxurious lodge in sport fishing. Kau Tapen means “house of fishing” in the ona language, and here, at the very heart of the rio grande, you’ll find the best pools on the river, all close to the lodge, and you’ll fish most days with the winds over your shoulder rather than in your face. Short walks and shallow wades are typical and single-handed rods are usually just right. Skate a bomber over a resting lie, or float a nymph next to a cut bank for sea-run trout you’ve only seen in your dreams.
Reasons to choose Kau Tapen Lodge
- In the heart of the Rio Grande – the world’s best Sea Run Brown Trout river.
- The first lodge on the Rio Grande, over 27 years ago, and the standard of excellence by which all other lodges, worldwide, are measured.
- Five world records have been set at Kau Tapen. 27-35 pound trout are caught each season. 20 pounders are caught every week.
- The most pools per angler per day– only two anglers and their guide per beat and 4 to 8 pools per beat- different beats every morning and evening—lots of water to cover each day!
- The best service and hospitality
- 80% repeat guests.
- The easiest river you’ll ever wade, with a gravel bottom and an even flow.
- Easy to read pool and riffle sequences on each beat.
- Kau Tapen can easily be fished with a 7 or 8 weight rod or with a two hander.
- Fish are generally easy to reach within casting range.
- It’s not just the Rio Grande that Kau Tapen overlooks, but also the Menendez River, which hosts its own run of Sea Trout with over 22 river miles. This river offers some of the best floating line fishing for sea runs, many of them over 20 lbs. Here, technical fishing is the norm.
- Each week starts with an evening warm up session–most anglers will catch a trout or two the first night they arrive
- The world’s best guides, local and international, to make sure we combine local knowledge with world class technique.
- A la carte menu, true five star accommodations.
- Excellent equipment is provided so that you can fish in both style and comfort.
The lodge is located on the banks of the Rio Grande, in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.
The success of the fishery on the Rio Grande is a modern-day fisherman’s Cinderella story. In just a decade, through access control and the diligent promotion of catch and release, average catch results have risen remarkably from less than a fish a day in the early ’80′s, to multiple fish per day, per person.
In the modern era, starting with the opening of Kau Tapen Lodge in the early ’80s, the Rio Grande became the most productive sea-run trout fishery in the world. However, trout numbers fluctuate with conditions at sea, tides, water levels, and a host of other natural factors.
The Rio Grande flows from West to East, from the Andes to the Atlantic Ocean, through 70 km of Argentine territory.
The landscape of Tierra del Fuego is reminiscent of Wyoming or the Scottish flow country. It is a sparsely populated wilderness.
Large sheep farming estancias share this land with herds of wild llama-like guanacos, red foxes, and condors.
The first brown trout were stocked in Tierra del Fuego by John Goodall in 1935. Shipped from Puerto Montt in Chile, 60,000 ‘salmo trutta’ eggs survived the arduous journey to be planted on the Candelaria and McLennan rivers, both tributaries of the Rio Grande. These fish eventually found their way to the sea, possibly attracted by the rich nourishment of the estuary.
These sea-run brown trout now complete the yearly migratory cycle of salmonids, spawning during the fall (late march, april and may) in freshwater. Salmo trutta trutta remain in the river for a period of time which ranges between 1 and 4 years until their first migration to the sea, where they will feed and grow for about 6 months before their first return to freshwater, weighing approximately 3 to 6lbs. Researchers have found trout which had spawned more than 6 times. A trout which has completed 4 cycles of returning to freshwater can weigh over 20 lbs. The frequency with which they return to freshwater is also an indicator that the fish face very few threats. Whilst also providing a very real example of the benefits of Catch and Release.
The fly-fishing and equipment suggestions that follow are drawn from over two decades’ experience fishing the Rio Grande under a wide variety of conditions.
We’ve tested many rods on the Rio Grande throughout the seasons.
We recommend bringing double handed rod as that’s what our guests use the most, as well as single handed rod. The single handed rod is used to fish when the wind is not too strong and also a good option for good casters as the river is not so wide and big on Kau Tapen water. As we fish the Rio Menendez (the biggest tributary of the Rio Grande and very good spawning ground too), a single handed rod from 7 to 9 weight is a good idea.
For a single-handed rod, we’ve found a 9, 91/2 or 10 footer for a No. 8 to 9 line to be about ideal for covering the water and for optimal sport. A rod of this size makes casting easy with the normal downstream southwest wind, while an 8 or 9- weight helps you to drive your line into a contrary wind when necessary. Given the Rio Grande’s moderate flow and generally even gravel bottom, you’ll find an 8 or 9 capable of doing battle with even the river’s largest sea trout (15 to 25 plus lbs.), while it ensures the most action with smaller sea trout (4 to 10 lbs.).
Light two handed rods are increasingly popular and allow anglers to cast a comfortable line with less effort, particularly on windy days. Mending and controlling line is also easier with a 2-hander. We encourage you to bring one of 13 to 15 feet for a 8 to 11 weight line. If you are new to 2-handers, our guides are expert instructors and will help you learn quickly. Among rod makers Sage, Thomas & Thomas, Scott and Loomis are excellent choices for Rio Grande fishing. It makes sense to bring a back-up rod as well.
We have at the lodge the new collection of SAGE rods, as the TCR series as well as the Z-AXIS series, and the new TCX series,… Feel free to ask to try them on the river or used them if you prefer their use instead of your personal gear.
However we request that you advise us of your need for a rod prior to arrival to ensure availability.
However we will charge you 150 USD is you break it for shipping the rod to dealer and have it repaired.
Reels can also being loan if need with our selection of line.
A quality reel is crucial for playing big sea trout. A strong, smooth drag is a must. Reels (and spare spools) should have capacity for the fly line and 100 yards of 20 pound backing.
Appropriate reels include Abel, Tibor, Hardy, Lamson, Scientific Anglers, Ross, SAGE, Etc. We have a good selection here at the shop if you want to buy a brand new one.
To be well prepared for Tierra del Fuego, anglers should include at least three lines to accommodate variance in water levels and wind conditions. Weight forward fly lines are generally used on the Rio Grande.
Floating lines are typically most useful in low water conditions and during early morning and evening hours, when sea trout are inclined to be nearer the surface.
We use very often floating line with polyleader as intermediate to extra fast sink tip. A good range of polyleader is a must. For single handed rod, 5 to 10 feet are the best, and 10 to 15 feet for double handed rod. Also a sinking shooting taper is very important. The Teeny T-200 and T-300 lines have proven to be excellent, and at least one or both of these lines should be considered as must-bring items.
Rio also makes since couple of year the Rio Outbond line. From floating to Type 8, they are very easy to cast and use.
For double handed rods, we are mostly using shooting head line from floating to fast sinking heads (S4). All those shooting head can be used also with a polyleader at the end of it so you can play on many different depths.
Rio AFS are very easy to cast as well as effective to catch fish on floating line to fast sinking. Rio makes also Rio polyleader for those lines (10 feet).
We are also using more and more Skagit line of Skagit head. Their pros are that they load the rod very easily and are also very effective to cast big flies, or casting in to the wind.
Depending on your rod weight you can find different density to load properly your rod (from 400 and 700 grains).
Even experienced anglers often find their running line snarls when buffeted by wind. A good running line is a must and we recommended Rio running, Guideline, Loop,…
Prevailing southwest winds can be "harnessed" by roll casting or spey-casting, which eliminates the need to backcast – difficult with a trailing wind. We found that a simple roll cast carries even large streamers 35 to 50 feet across and downstream, or far enough to cover the holding lies. Weight forward lines can be roll casted effectively by stripping and shooting line during the cast.
Experience on the Rio Grande indicates that sea trout aren’t particularly leader shy. While reasonable stealth should be exercised, your chief concern is to bring monofilament in sizes that will turn over the array of fly sizes and patterns you’ll be using. Spools of monofilament should include 15, 12 and 10 lbs breaking strengths.
Whilst fishing sinking lines, made-up leaders aren’t necessary since a few feet of monofilament will do fine. Maxima Ultra-green is a good choice as it has plenty of stretch a factor worth considering when the sea-trout of a lifetime hits your fly! Seagar is a good choice as a fluorocarbon leader.
While fishing, be sure to check your mono regularly for casting knots and abrasions, and after each fish caught test your leader knots. For floating lines it’s good to have knotless tapered leaders from 9 to 12 feet with 0X tippets but you can also do a two pieces leader out of Maxima.
Some fly patterns as well as a modest supply of back-up tackle will be available for purchase at the lodge, but plan to take a good selection. We have at the lodge everything you can need and what works on the river.
Sea run brown trout are mysterious fish. The only constant in their tastes seems to be a penchant for black, and the trout that accepted your small salmon patterns today may demand flies with white rubber legs tomorrow. Historically, most Rio Grande fish were taken on large streamers, perhaps because those were the patterns most used. In low water conditions, however, more large sea trout are taken on smaller wets, nymphs and dry flies. We suggest packing a range of flies in various patterns and sizes, and urge frequent changes when one combination of line and fly isn’t working, depending on light conditions, water levels, and especially on your guide’s advice. Barbless hooks are strongly encouraged for both the fish and your safety in high wind condition. Double and Treble hooks are not permitted.
Basic working fly list:
Collie Dog tube flies (3½-4½" long, both aluminum and copper bodies, with hard plastic tubing and #4 wide-gape hooks)
Sunray shadow in different size.
Bunny leech, Zonker, Woolly Bugger (black/olive), articulated string leech types, with electric blue flash, on #2-4 hooks
For the last hour of fishing the black, purple are the best color pattern for your leech.
During the day, if the water is cold or high, or muddy, leeches are the most effective. You can bring a wide range of different colors. Black, purple, black and yellow, black and red, black and silver, black and chartreuse, chartreuse, orange, white,…
Peacock fly (now a staple on Rio Grande, tied on #2-4 hooks) is working very well on fresh fish. When nothing works is a very good option, stripping it very fast on a sinking line or sink tip.
Girdle or Yuk Bug rubber legs (#4-12)
Rubber legs pattern, wonder bug (weighted),…
Bitch Creek nymphs (orange and black for preference, #4-12)
Bead head nymphs (Prince, Hare’s Ear, etc. #10-14)
Traditional Atlantic Salmon Flies as the Green Highlander, Blue char, Temple dog,…
Hitch tube (Iceland) are very effective is you want to give it a try on full floating line and waking a fly.
Bombers or other waking dry flies (natural deer hair, black& green on #8-12 hooks), for use drifted or with a Portland hitch Include 11/2 2 inch tube flies if you have them, as tubes can be very effective on the Rio Grande.
The Green Machine is a killer using it skating with a hitch knot, or on an intermediate polyleader, or even on a sink tip or sinking shooting head.
Also, take any large, dark trout or salmon fly in which you have confidence. Fishing a fly that has worked for you in the past, and in which you have confidence, is half the battle.
Note: Larger streamers should be weighted and all should be tied on heavy hooks with good gapes. Double and Treble hooks are not allowed on the Rio Grande.
Wading isn’t difficult on the Rio Grande. However, we recommend chest waders for warmth, to get to that occasionally fished cut bank, and to
manage deeper water when crossing the river. Fine choices would include Simms Gore-Tex Guide model or Simms new G3 wader, and Patagonia SST+ Breathable Waders. Capilene fleece pants are a must worn under Gore-tex waders, given that water temperatures can be in the 40′s (F). Thick wool or capilene fleece socks are also a must, and long johns might also be required. The river’s gravel bottom isn’t mossy but you might find that the security of felt soles (or rubber boots with studs) aids in concentrating on casting and playing fish by keeping your mind off your feet. So a good pair of wading boots are a must, with felt soles or rubber cleats. Use gravel guards and be sure to bring a wading belt. A wading staff is optional, but can come in handy during very windy days.
The summer climate of this southern most region of South America is extremely changeable, and a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions should be expected. We recommend layering clothing, enabling you to add or subtract garments during the day.
Pack Polar fleece jackets, thermal underwear, polar neck, wool socks and a wool cap to be prepared for the extreme. Flannel or chamois cloth shirts and Polars are ideal for the stream, although you’ll no doubt change to something lighter while in the lodge. Also take a reliable windstopper/rain jacket. Gore Tex is excellent. Its waterproof yet breathes and so is comfortable on sunny, windy afternoons. Simms Gore-Tex and Patagonia SST wading jackets are popular.
Most first-time visitors are surprised at how dry this region is, more reminiscent of Wyoming than of Scotland. Attire in the lodge is casual. Neat but casual is also the dress style in Buenos Aires.
Laundry service is available at the lodge.
Although most of their lives are spent in the ocean, the sea run brown seem to retain more of the eccentricities of resident browns than, for instance, steelhead do of resident rainbows. Moody fish, they must be shown flies the way they want to see them at the precise time that they’re ready to take. The Rio Grande isn’t a big river. Thus, it’s compatible with a wide range of techniques, critical since a large sea trout may demand that a fly be fed to it on the bottom one hour but rise to the Portland Hitch the next. Water levels can change from week to week and the water generally drops as the season progresses.
Vary your presentation markedly in each pool fished until you find the right formula of fly, line, (see Lines) drift or swing, and retrieve. Pay close attention to the advice of your guide, whose primary aim is to recommend the methods that will help you hook and bring your fish to the net.
Generally, the Rio Grande’s sea trout seem to lie near cut banks during the middle of the day, though in low water they will also lie in the faster necks of pools. Naturally, they move up primarily during early morning, evening and nighttime hours.
Generally, "tails in the morning and heads at night" is a good rule. Also look for fish distributed throughout pools on calm, overcast days. Therefore, try to begin each fly drift or swing as close to a cut bank as possible, whether the presentation is upstream and across, straight across, or downstream and across. On sunny days, one theory holds that sea trout will take best if they don’t have the sun in their eyes, although this theory, like others, is often affected by the number of fish in a particular pool and the number of "takers."
About the Sea Run Brown Trout
The salmon….that isn’t a salmon. Brown trout (Salmo trutta L.) are one of the most widely distributed non-native fish introduced to Patagonia. They were first stocked in Tierra del Fuego by John Goodall in 1935. Shipped from Puerto Montt in Chile, 60,000 ‘salmo trutta’ eggs survived the arduous journey to be planted on the Candelaria and McLennan rivers, both tributaries of the Rio Grande. These fish eventually found their way to the sea, attracted by the rich food supply located just offshore.
Today, sea-run brown trout complete a yearly migratory cycle just like atlantic salmon and other salmonids that also spawn in freshwater. Sea run browns remain in the river for a period of time which ranges between 1 and 4 years until their first migration to the sea, where they will feed and grow for about 6 months before their first return to freshwater, weighing approximately 6lbs. Researchers have found trout which have spawned as many as six or seven times. A trout that has completed 4 cycles of returning to freshwater can weigh over 20 lbs. The regularity with which these trout return to freshwater indicates that the fish face few threats. Regardless–catch and release fishing still rules the day.
Sea run trout are not geese, and they were not “supposed” to migrate really. The role of environmental factors versus genetics on the ‘decision’ of sea run trout to migrate is still unknown. While genetics likely play an underlying role in the development of migratory populations, studies of other fish species fail to differentiate genetically between resident and migratory individuals within a population, and in fact indicate that interbreeding often occurs between the migratory and resident individuals. In some rivers they migrate, in others they don’t. That is just the deal, but we are sure glad that the salmo trutta migrates on the Rio Grande and Rio Gallegos.
Built in 1983, Kau Tapen lodge was designed to offer rods maximum comfort during their fishing trip, as well as easy accessibility to the pools.
It accommodates up to 12 guests. It has 5 ensuite bedrooms with 2 queen size beds each and 4 double bedrooms with king size beds.
A large living room area opens up to vistas of the Menendez Valley and Rio Grande valley. A large roaring fire and well stocked bar will welcome you after every fishing session.
The lodge has a tackle shop with a good selection of Sage rods, good quality reels, flies, lines, and clothing equipment, especially selected to suit the needs of your trip. In addition, guests have the full use of the lodge’s fly tying table and equipment.
The lodge has 2 wading rooms, a sauna, Finnish steam bath and Massage room.
A la Carte Menu
Kau Tapen offers an A la Carte menu of wonderful cuisine, based on local meats, fresh vegetable and delicious deserts. A traditional Asado (BBQ) will be held once during your stay, and you can sample different cuts of meat and wonderful salads.
“All aspects of my Kau Tapen experience were excellent. I cannot come up with anything to complain about, and I will remember Kau Tapen for a long long time… Especially I am grateful to Matias and Gaston, my guides. Just spending time by a river like Rio Grande with true fly fishing enthusiasts like them… And if you then add the monster trout and the atmosphere of the “House of fishing” I could not get closer to my fly fishing heaven.”
Bjorn H., Norway.
“Our stay was fantastic in many ways. Kau Tapen certainly was the culinary highlight of our weeks in Argentina, far better food than we could have ever expected. The lodge was comfortable and well decorated. Service was, of course, top notch and warm. The fishing was tough as we were there early in the season, but we all caught fish of a lifetime. Being out fished by my wife was the highlight of the trip, though my 20lber was a close second!”
“Overall, the experience was an excellent one throughout. I caught my biggest ever brown trout! (18 lbs)”
John S., UK
“It was a great privilege to fish Kau Tapen. The lodge was excellent and a great treat to be there”.
Ann C., NY,
“The conditions for fishing are the Rio Grande were challenging- that is one of the reasons we enjoy fishing for these beautiful Sea Run Brown Trout!! Kau Tapen is a lovely Lodge, your staff and guides are excellent. We look forward to our next trip to Tierra del Fuego.”
Janet P., California.,USA.
“A wonderful lodge with wonderful people in a wonderful country. Another trip of a lifetime. We will be back!”
William J., Colorado.,USA
“Really excellent. The staff was delightful. The gourmet meals were exquisitely presented and delicious. The staff accommodated every need”.
“A lovely lodge, very well run. Perfect staff, outstanding guides and excellent food and wines.”
Jacques M., France.
“Just had a great week at Kau Tapen. Fish, food, wine and lovely people – the Lodge staff and Guides were terrific. The chef excellent. The guides have a great tradition of seeing you to the airport at the end of a week-that means a lot. They are really passionate about their jobs”
Jamie Oliver, UK.
Sea Run Brown Trout Fly Fishing in Rio Grande, Tierra del Fuego.
Giant Sea Run Brown Trout landed on the Rio Grande
Pre Trip Requirements
Please take a moment to download and read through the following information well in advance of your departure. It will help answer most questions concerning your stay.
If you are a group leader, please make sure to share this information with the rest of your group. It is vital that everyone in your group is fully prepared, understands the trip cancellation policy on refunds, and have the opportunity to purchase travel protection insurance, (especially anyone with a health issue.)