Catch a Trophy Trout on Patagonia’s Malleo River

Isais Miciu Nicolaevici

Fishing the Malleo, with the Lanin volcano in the distance.

From tumbling Andean streams to the windswept steppes of Tierra del Fuego, the trout-teeming waters of Argentina’s Patagonia lure fly fishermen from around the world. The prime fishing months, from November to April, are summer in this region, inviting an escape from cold weather elsewhere. Discerning anglers revere few rivers as highly as the Malleo, a 100-foot-wide swath of snowmelt fed by central Patagonia’s dominating peaks, including the 12,300-foot Lanin volcano.

The Fishing
The average rainbow trout here measures 20 to 22 inches. The rarer brown trout is the real distinction, especially a possible 30-inch prize. Thanks to the river’s almost constant hatch of insects, fish feed on or near the water’s surface, making the Malleo ideal for sight fishing with dry flies. Considered the ultimate angling experience by many fishermen, this challenging technique involves stalking feeding trout—spotted by a flash under the surface or a shadow breaking the water’s gleam—and casting an imitation insect just upstream.

Where to Stay
For exclusive access to 23 miles of the Malleo, book one of 10 rooms at the San Huberto Lodge, located on a 24,000-acre ranch. The all-inclusive price ($680 per person per day, $100 extra for singles) covers your fishing guide, wines and meals.

My Trip’s Highlight
On my first two days, Ronnie Olsen, 40, who is head guide at the family-owned lodge, helped me combat gale-force winds for a steady haul of 20-inch-plus rainbows. On my third and final day, the wind died down and Olsen—who’s fished the river since he was 5 years old—promised a “perfect day on the Malleo.” I caught several more rainbows before a big brown finally rose to my fly. The fish charged deep into the rapids as the hook set, and I braced for the fight. When I reeled my quarry within a rod’s length, the 23-inch fish leapt clear of the water, its copper-and-gold flanks glistening in the sun.

Pack a five-weight rod, floating line, and nine- to 12-foot leaders with 5x tippet, which connects the leader with the fly. Favorite dry flies are size 14 to 18 Parachute Adams, Blue Wing Olive and black foam beetles, plus an assortment of nymphs to fish just beneath the surface.

How to Get There
The flight from Buenos Aires takes two hours. San Huberto will arrange a complimentary 45-minute ride to the lodge.

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