Welcome to Villa María Lodge!
Anglers at Villa Maria get first crack of the whip at newly arrived sea-trout. On Villa Maria’s pools, you’ll see seagulls whirl overhead and smell the estuary salt. Just above the tides, the fish arrive fresh, with fins clear and scales silver.
You’ll fish both banks. Big pools and double-handers are the norm. There are big fish here, 20 pounders jump and leap and tear up and down the huge pools, while “fish of a lifetime” are landed each week. The lodge itself reminds many of the world’s best salmon camps, warm, cozy, with cuisine and service at a very high level. Guides know the pools, the fish and the fishing; days are spent on the water, with classic “huts” for midday breaks.
Reasons to choose Villa María Lodge
- Space for only 6 anglers and private access to 20km of the best fly water on the lower Rio Grande, an exclusive haven for small groups of discerning anglers.
- Villa Maria is a spey anglers paradise–long flat pools means less casting and more fishing.
- The longest pools with Sea Run Trout fresh from the sea.
- The most pools per angler per day–Only two anglers and their guide per beat-and 3 to 7 pools per beat-different beats morning and evening.
- Extensive beats make it possible to find a pool where wind is a help–not a hindrance.
- Each week starts with an evening warm up session–most anglers will catch a trout or two the first night they arrive
- In order to maximize your time on the river, there is a cabin on the river bank for lunch and siesta, a stunning setting in the wilds of Tierra del Fuego which allows angles to fish more and drive less.
- The best service and hospitality
- Over 80% of our anglers are repeat guests.
- A la carte menu, true five star accommodations
- Excellent equipment is also provided so that you can fish in style and comfort.
- The world’s best guides, local and international, to make sure we combine local knowledge with world class technique.
The lodge is located on the banks of the Rio Grande, in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina; Just a few miles above the tidal influence.
In the modern era, starting with the opening of Kau Tapen Lodge in the early ’80s, the Rio Grande has became the most productive sea-run trout fishery in the world. While trout numbers fluctuate with conditions at sea, tides, water levels, and a host of other natural factors–the fact is–we release 20 pound trout at Villa Maria each week of the season. A fish or two a day is the norm given average water conditions–but 6-8 fish days happen all the time!
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 low 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, and the area is vast and beautiful.
The first Brown Trout were stocked in Tierra del Fuego by John Goodall in 1935. Sixty-thousand ”salmo trutta” eggs survived the ardous journey from Puerto Montt, Chile, to be planted on the Candelaria and McLennan rivers. Both of these rivers are tributaries of the Rio Grande. After approximately 15 years, these fish began to find their way to the sea, possibly attracted by the rich nourishment of the near-by estuary.
These Sea-Run Brown Trout now complete the yearly migratory cycle of salmonids, spawning in freshwater during the summer months. “Salmo trutta” remain in the river for a period of time ranging from 1 to 4 years before their first migration to the sea, where they will feed and grow for about 6 months before returning to freshwater weighing approximately 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 these fish face very few threats. This indication also provides 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.
For a single-handed rod, we’ve found a 9-10 ft. rod for a No. 8 line to be 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 wt. helps you to drive your line into a contrasting wind, when necessary. Given the Rio Grande’s moderate flow and generally even gravel bottom, you’ll find an 8 or 9 wt. capable of doing battle with even the river’s largest Sea Trout (20 to 30 lbs.), while it ensures the most action with smaller Sea Trout (4-9 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 two-hander. We encourage you to bring a 13-15 ft., 9-11 wt. rod. If you are new to two-handed rods, our expert guides can instruct you and will help you learn quickly. Among rod makers Sage, Thomas & Thomas, Scott and G Loomis are excellent choices for Rio Grande fishing. It would be wise to bring a back-up rod as well.
There are quality fly rods available at the lodge for you to use if needed, however we request that you advise us of your need for a rod prior to arrival to ensure availability. A US $100 deposit per rod will be requested as a guarantee that the loaner rod will be returned in the same condition that it was issued.
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 yds. of 20 lb. backing.
Appropriate reels include Abel, Tibor, Hardy, Lamson, Scientific Anglers, Ross, Etc.
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 near the surface. 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 a must-bring item. Sinking tips and sinking poly-leaders are also used a lot. Intermediate lines are also effective in some conditions.
Even experienced anglers often find their running line snarls when buffeted by wind. Prevailing southwest winds can be “harnessed” by roll casting or spey-casting, which eliminates the need to backcast –difficult to do with a trailing wind. We found that a simple roll cast carries even large streamers 35 to 50 ft. across and downstream, or far enough to cover the holding lies. Weight forward lines can be roll cast effectively by stripping and shooting line during the cast.
Experience on the Rio Grande indicates that Sea Trout are not 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 lb. test weights. While fishing sinking lines, made-up leaders are not 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! While fishing, be sure to check your mono regularly for casting knots and abrasions. After each fish caught test your leader knots. For floating lines it’s good to have knotless tapered leaders from 9-12 ft. with 0X tippets.
Plan to bring a good selection of flies, however, some fly patterns, as well as a modest supply of back-up tackle, will be available for purchase at the lodge. Sea-Run Brown Trout are mysterious fish. The only constant in their tastes seems to be a penchant for black. The trout that accepts 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 commonly used. In low water conditions, more large Sea Trout are taken on smaller wet flies, nymphs, and dry flies. We suggest packing a range of flies in various patterns and sizes, and urge frequent changes when one combination isn’t working. These combinations will be determined based on light conditions, water levels, and especially on your guide’s advice. Barbless hooks are strongly encouraged. 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)
Bunny leech, Zonker, Woolly Bugger (black/olive), articulated string leech types, with electric blue flash, on #2-4 hooks
Peacock (now a staple on Rio Grande, tied on #2-4 hooks)
Girdle or Yuk Bug rubber legs (#4-12)
Bitch Creek nymphs (orange and black for preference, #4-12)
Bead head nymphs (Prince, Hare’s Ear, etc. #10-14)
Traditional Atlantic Salmon flies
Bombers or other waking dry flies (natural deer hair, black & green on #4-8 hooks), for use drifted or with a Portland hitch Include 1-2 inch tube flies if you have them, as tubes can be very effective on the Rio Grande.
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 that larger streamers should be weighted and 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 or any good 3.5 mm neoprene wader.
Capilene fleece pants are a must wear 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 necessary.
The river’s gravel bottom isn’t mossy, but you might find that the security of felt soles aids in concentrating on casting and landing fish, by keeping your mind off your feet. Bringing a good pair of wading boots with felt soles or rubber cleats is a must. 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 southernmost region of South America is extremely variable, and a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions should be expected. We recommend layering clothing, enabling you to add or remove garments during the day.
Pack polar fleece jackets, thermal underwear, a polar neck, wool socks, and a wool cap to be prepared for the extreme weather. Flannel or chamois cloth shirts and polars are ideal for the stream, although you’ll undoubtedly 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 very popular choices.
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. Near 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 Trout seem to retain more of the eccentricities of resident browns than, for instance, steelhead do of resident rainbows. They are moody fish and must be shown flies the way they want, and see them at the precise time they want them.
The Rio Grande isn’t a big river, thus, it’s compatible with a wide range of techniques. Using different techniques is 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 hour. 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 retrieval method.
Pay close attention to the advice of your guide, whose primary aim is to recommend the methods that will help you hook and land your fish. 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 and late nighttime hours. Generally, “tails in the morning and heads at night” is a good rule of thumb. Also look for fish distributed throughout pools on calm, overcast days. 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. One theory holds that on sunny days, Sea Trout will take best if they don’t have the sun in their eyes.
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 off shore.
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.
The lodge is situated in one of Patagonia’s biggest and oldest working estancias. It has four spacious, perfectly furnished bedrooms featuring a cozy dining and living area, as well as a bar, well stocked with local spirits that 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 4 wading rooms.
A brand new cabin will be your home for lunch and a nice siesta before the afternoon session.
Our staff, composed of our host, chef, maids and professional guides will assist you during the week in all your needs.
The house will accommodate only 6 anglers per week and is available on a limited basis, due to high demand by repeat parties.
A la Carte Menu
Villa Maria offers A la Carte Menu with 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.
A full cooked breakfast is available, together with fresh fruit, yogurts, home baked breads and jams and a selection of cereals.
Villa Maria’s cellars feature a wonderful selection of fine wines from the Luigi Bosca Bodega, which will be served during lunch and dinner.
“Our stay at Villa María was most enjoyable. Great atmosphere in the lodge, food the best ever, the hosts did and excellent job managing the lodge”.
“A trip I will never forget and some really nice people guiding and working at the lodge”.
“We had a very satisfactory experience. Incredible fishery, great accommodation and service from entire staff, terrific food and wine, extremely competent guides.”
Jean B., France.
“Finally I have a chance to sit down, look at my photos of Eddie and my trip, and reflect on what great hospitality you and the rest of the team afforded us. You all gave us a very comfortable stay at the lodge, nothing was too much trouble. And Zeke outdid himself both at the Lodge and on the river…..I’m sure we all gained two kilos apiece! Jaime and Paul, as well as yourself, were excellent, knowledgeable, and proficient guides… A wonderful adventure and such a pleasure to see the river again after so many years and to observe how the health of the fish stocks have improved under proper management. Again, many thanks and un abrazo to all of you.”
Ed S., USA.
“Villa Maria was spectacular. One of the highlights of my fishing, if not one of the highlights of my life. Certainly one to be repeated.
Tim P., London, UK.
“I just wanted to say that after a number of years fishing at Villa Maria, it has been tough to not make it this year. I would very much appreciate if you would thank Villa Maria’s team for the brilliant guiding, excellent company and general attention to detail at the lodge. Having fished often in canada, russia, new zealand and iceland i can honestly say that Villa Maria – and his guides and house staff are the highest calibre anywhere I have been lucky enough to fish. The size of the gin and tonics is much appreciated as well. Looking forward to seeing you all next season.
Aaron C., USA
“I am so happy to have done this in my life! I’ll make sure I recommend it to all my friends.”
Kent A., Canada.
“As you probably heard, our arrival at Villa Maria Lodge coincided with very high water levels and an off-colored river. Conditions then improved steadily as the week passed and the fishing became much better.
From the outset it was very apparent that this was not simply a fishing trip but rather a life experience! We cannot begin to tell you how tremendous all the staff were and what an absolutely outstanding experience we had. Fishing is fishing and the tough conditions made us better fisherpeople by the end of it. We caught fish every day and the guides, Gaston and Pelle, were truly wonderful professionals. Nothing was too much trouble and they looked after us well.
The lodge staff – Ben, Alejandra, Paula, Conna and Nicoles – all managed expertly by Analia, were some of the best and most attentive crew we have ever experienced. The food was the most exquisite and delightfully presented compared to any fine restaurant that we have ever visited. And you must remember – we are in the travel business and have been to some incredibly nice places. At Villa Maria we simply could not have been looked after better. The lodge, the food, the estancia, and of course, the river and its fish, made it one of our most memorable travel experiences ever. You can count on it that one day we will return.”
Shirley M. Peter H. WA., USA
Sea Run Brown Trout Fly Fishing in Rio Grande, Tierra del Fuego.
Giant Sea Run Brown Trout landed on the Rio Grande.
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.
NOTE TO GROUP LEADERS: 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).