Guests fly into Buenos Aires, Argentina, and typically overnight there, with a day to spend touring this wonderful city. Arrival day at Kau Tapen is set for Saturday, so the following morning guests depart Buenos Aires for the flight south. Commercial airlines fly from Buenos Aires to the airport of Rio Grande (3-hour flight), where a lodge representative will meet you. The transfer from Rio Grande airport to the lodge takes 50-60 minutes. On arrival at the lodge, guests are welcomed with cocktails by the entire Kau Tapen staff.
Sea Run Browns in the Land of Fire.
Located on the banks of the Rio Grande, in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. A fishery that is a modern day Cinderella story! By practicing catch and release and limited access regulations, the average catch rate has gone from one fish to multiple fish per person per day. The Rio Grande is known far and wide as the best sea run brown trout fishery in the world. As the fish are sea run, there are variables how many fish may be in the river, things like tide, run off, and ocean conditions all have an impact on numbers of fish in the stream
Flowing from West to East the Rio Grande, flows from the Andes to the Atlantic Ocean, through approximately 60 miles of Argentine territory. The scenery of Tierra del Fuego is similar to Wyoming or the Scottish low country. It includes sparsely populated wilderness, large sheep farming estancias, and wild herds of llama-like Guanacos, as well as plentiful red fox populations and condors.
Built in 1984, Kau Tapen Lodge was designed to offer rods maximum comfort during their fishing trips, as well as easy access to the best pools on the world famous Rio Grande. It accommodates up to 10 guests (and occasionally 12) in en-suite single rooms to ensure privacy and comfort. The lodge has Ten en suite single rooms; some offer a king bed, while some have one queen, and others are furnished with two doubles.
A large living room opens up to peaceful vistas of the Menendez and Rio Grande valleys and includes a roaring fire and a well stocked bar. The lodge also boasts a tackle shop with an excellent selection of Sage rods, quality fly reels, flies, lines, Patagonia clothing, and other fishing essentials. In addition, guests have full use of the lodge’s fly-tying table and equipment. Additional Kau Tapen highlights include two wading/fly gear rooms, a full spa with jacuzzi, a sauna and Finnish steam bath.
kitchens come to life through the use of fresh and regionally representative meats and produce. By combining these elements, we create delicious flavors and varied textures that harbor hidden stories and package traditions on each plate. A top-notch team of experienced national and international chefs, trained in both classic and avant-garde culinary techniques, execute our food. With an artisan’s touch, chefs prepare every dish by scratch to be served at a minute’s notice.
In addition, our inspired lunch and dinner menus are paired with some of Argentina’s—and the world’s—best wines; Bodega Catena Zapata. In addition to our focus on fresh food with organic origins, we also celebrate our Argentine heritage with a wine partnership that brings truly world class wines to our lodges. We feel that the food we present and the wines we serve should mirror the sporting opportunities we offer—and be the very best available. While our vast country offers many options for traditional activities such as riding, hunting, eating good meats, and drinking good wines, we have chosen to blend fine food and outdoor activity at an even higher level.
We feel our offerings from Bodega Catena Zapata blend perfectly into our harmonious niche in the sporting environment. Boasting many accolades from the wine community at large, a Bodega Catena Zapata wine recently received a “number four in the world” icon ranking from Wine Advocate. These are truly great wines that compete on the world stage and in addition to enjoying your sporting holiday and our excellent menus, we also hope you will also take note of our wines. They hold a special place in our culture and we are proud to serve them to you. At Kau Tapen and Villa Maria lodges our kitchens are characterized by both classic preparations and contemporary flavors. Enjoy fresh pastas and fire-roasted meats like our famous Patagonian lamb, roasted gaucho-style over charcoal embers, alongside ocean-fresh flavors such as King crab and savory sea bass or black hake. And don’t forget to save room for dessert. From homemade ice creams to classic sweets and pastries, we have you covered.
About the sea-run brown trout:
The first Brown Trout were stocked in Tierra del Fuego by English angler John Goodall in 1935. Shipped from Puerto Montt, 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 sea, likely attracted by the rich nourishment found in the brackish estuaries. Sea-run brown trout now complete annual migratory cycles similar to salmonids, spawning during the fall in freshwater. Juveniles remain in the river up to four years until their first ocean migration, where they will feed and grow for about 6 months before their first return to freshwater, weighing approximately 3 to 6 pounds. Researchers have found searun brown trout that have spawned more than 6 times. A trout that has completed 4 cycles of returning to freshwater can weigh more than 20 pounds. The frequency with which they return to freshwater is also an indicator that the fish face few threats. It’s also an example of the benefits of catch and release.
Rods: The Rio Grande features a natural design an instream architecture perfectly suited for Spey rods. Mending and controlling line is also easier with a 2-hander. Use 7- to 9-weights from 12 to 15 feet long. If you’re new to Spey casting, our guides are expert instructors and will help you learn quickly. Lighter switch rods are increasingly popular and allow anglers to cast a comfortable line with less effort, particularly on windy days. Single-handers in 7- to 9-weights—and up to 10 feet long—can also be effective in light-wind conditions on the Grande or for technical, close-range nymphing on the Rio Menendez tributary. Longer rods make casting easier with the normal downstream southwest wind, while an 8- or 9-weight helps you to drive your line into or across the 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+ pounds), while it ensures the most action with smaller sea trout (4 to 10 pounds). Sage produces many of the best rods we use regularly on the water. In addition to a stalwart lifetime warranty, the company engineers several high-performance options perfectly suited for this fishery.
Reels: choose a quality reel with a powerful, adjustable drag. Reels (and spare spools) should have enough capacity for your fly line and 100+ yards of 20-pound backing. We recommend reels from Sage that produce several options perfectly suited for the Rio Grande.
Lines: To be well prepared for Tierra del Fuego, anglers should include at least three lines to accommodate varying water levels and wind conditions. Weight-forward fly lines are generally used on the Rio Grande. Floating lines are most useful during low-water conditions and in the early morning and evening hours, when sea run brown trout feed near the surface. Integrated sinkingtip lines also work great, while intermediate lines are also effective in some conditions. For Spey rods, we’re mostly using shooting heads, from floating to fast-sinking (S4). Most shooting head can also be used with sink-tips so you can target different depths. RIO AFS are easy to cast and effective, whether fished floating or sinking. RIO offers sinking poly leaders for those lines. If you’re fishing a Skagit-style set-up, also check out RIO’s MOW Tip system in varying weights and sink rates. Fish Skagit heads for easy rod loading, for casting larger flies on heavy tips, and for effectively casting into the wind.
Use 400- and 700-grain heads, depending on your rod. 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 back cast—difficult to do 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 rolled effectively by stripping and shooting line during the cast.
Leaders: Experience on the Rio Grande indicates that sea run brown 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 10- to 15-pound test weights. While fishing sinking lines, a few feet of straight (not tapered) monofilament will do fine. Maxima Ultra-green is a good choice as it has plenty of stretch, a factor worth considering when the sea run 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 to 12 feet, with 0X tippets.
Flies: 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 drys. 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. Catch-and-release is mandatory.
Rentals: There are quality fly rods available at the lodge for you to use if needed. The cost per day is $25 and it includes the rod, reel, and line. Please advise us of your need for a rod prior to arrival to ensure availability. A charge of $150 will be billed to you in the event a rental rod is broken. This covers the cost of shipping and repair.
Clothing: The summer climate of this southern region of South America includes a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions. We recommend layering, so you can add or remove garments during the day. Pack fleece jackets, thermal underwear, polar neck warmers, wool or synthetic socks, and a wool cap for cold weather. Flannels and Polartec shirts are ideal for the river, but you’ll inevitably change to something lighter back at the lodge. Also take a reliable windstopper/rain jacket. Exceptional outerwear is a key ingredient to comfortable fishing. And for everything from layering essentials, waders, boots, and storm proof jackets to fishing-ready accessories, and more—Patagonia produces some of the best.
Waders: 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. Capilene fleece pants are a must wear under Gore-Tex waders, given that water temperatures can be in the 40s (degrees F.). Thick wool or capilene fleece socks are also a must, and warm long johns might also be necessary. Bring a good pair of wading boots with felt or rubber soles (with 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. We strongly recommend new Patagonia Waders that has proven to be extremely successful among guides and guests.
Although most of their lives are spent in the ocean, sea-run brown trout 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-run brown trout may demand that a fly be fed to it on the bottom one hour but rise to a skating fly the next. Water levels can change from week to week and they generally drop as the season progresses. Vary your presentations in each pool fished until you find the right formula of fly, line, drift or swing, and retrieve. Also heed the advice of your guide, whose primary aim is to recommend methods that will help you hook and bring more fish to the net.
Generally, the Rio Grande’s sea-run brown 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. They typically move into these areas 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. On sunny days, one theory holds that sea-run brown 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.”
Guests will leave the lodge around 9 o’clock after breakfast, fishing till around 1 o’clock. Following lunch and a siesta (the duration depends on the season), guests return to the river in the late afternoon and fish until dark. Fishing hours will change slightly depending on the time of year.
Guides and Vehicles:
Kau Tapen has a team of experienced, professional international and local guides. They all speak English, and are experts on single- and two-hand casting, presentation and techniques, and fly choice. They are there to make your fishing more productive and enjoyable. Don’t hesitate to ask them for advice. Guides will transport you to the river in comfortable 4WD vehicles. All are equipped with rod racks, first aid equipment, and VHF radios.
Catch and Release:
Kau Tapen abides by a strict catch and release policy, which has over the years helped increase the numbers of returning fish. The mortality rate of released fish is almost non-existent, and these fish do not die after spawning. Catch and release hugely increases the chances of fish returning to the river. We ask that all fishermen to de-barb all flies. Not only do barbless hooks penetrate more readily, allowing for more successful hookups, but they are also more easily removed, should a cast go errant. Guides are equipped with large nets featuring built-in scales. They are trained to land your fish, weigh it and measure it, and release it unharmed. If you are landing and releasing your own fish, hold it facing the current, and avoid moving it back and forth in the water. You may have to hold it in this position for a good while. Be patient, only when a fish is thoroughly rested should it be allowed to swim away.
Best Times as recommended by DCA: December to April, with the longest day of the year falling on December 21st.