Destination Recap - Casa de Campo, Argentina 2024

Jake Crawford April 29, 2024

After three days of hiking, horseback riding, and wet wading beautiful spring creeks stalking trout, we made it to the Caleufu River to begin our multi-day float, which served as the perfect capstone to complete our Patagonian adventure.

Our trip officially began after flying into Bariloche and we were greeted by the guides with SET Fly Fishing who took us along the national scenic driveway through the Ruta de los Siete Lagos “Route of the Seven Lakes” to our main base for the week, Casa de Campo Lodge in northern Patagonia outside the small town of Alumine, Argentina.

While starting from Bariloche added a little extra driving time, it was worth it to explore an additional part of Patagonia. This scenic drive wound us through several national parks, stopping for a quick lunch and to dip our feet in the cool waters of Lago Falkner.

We spent the following days exploring the vast area on a multi-adventure itinerary. Over the week, we rode horses, hiked through an old-growth forest, wet-waded a lush spring creek, and floated nearly 40-miles on rafts, concluding each day of fishing with an overnight at a deluxe riverside camp.

Where did you fish?

Casa de Campo is a simple, understated northern Patagonia lodge that specializes in sight fishing for large wild fish on spring creeks and smaller freestones. For anglers that appreciate simple pleasures and the challenge of true trout hunting on foot, this is the place. It's operated by SET Fly Fishing. SET Fly Fishing in an Argentina outfitter that owns and operates 6 lodges across the country, including 3 trout lodges in Patagonia: Casa de Campo, Spring Creek Lodge, and Chochoy Mallin, and 3 lodges for golden dorado in northern Argentina: Jetu'u Lodge, Itati Lodge, and La Alondra'i. I was thoroughly excited to be back on these waters to experience this remarkable part of Patagonia.

We fished two distinctly different fisheries. The first was an intimate walk and wade fishery called the Malalco Spring Creek, which is fed from Lanin National Park. The creek sets up nicely with pocket water, riffles, and pools that we approached as a team to identify, stalk, and pursue individual fish with dry flies. We fished with a 1:1 guide/angler ratio, and leap frogged different sections of the creek to provide ample fresh water for each angler.

Second, we fished the Caleufu River, which runs over 40-miles long. We floated and fished this system for three days with two anglers and a guide in each boat. We also had two gear boats with a helpful crew that floated ahead and set up our deluxe camping spots as we fished our way downriver each day. Here our fishing was focused on casting large attractor dry flies tight to the banks to find opportunistic rainbow and brown trout. The upper Caleufu River is surrounded by spectacular basalt rock outcrops and canyon walls that gradually open into a lower-gradient desert environment. It was very reminiscent as smaller versions of some of the waters I fish in Eastern Oregon like the Deschutes and John Day rivers.

What was your experience like?

A true highlight of the week was hiking nearly 18 miles out and back through an old-growth Monkey Puzzle tree forest. Officially called the Araucana, Monkey Puzzle trees are a culturally important tree to the indigenous tribes there. These amazing native trees have bark structured like that of armor, which is fire resistant and able to withstand the impacts of the considerable volcanic activity in the region. Some specimens we visited are more than 1,000 years old. During the entire hike, the only other person we saw was an elderly gaucho slow cooking an asado in the middle of a valley next to a small river.

We rode horses through a lush forest and crossed a lake outlet to arrive at our glamping set up for the evening. Riding horses along the Malalco Creek that we would later fish gave us a unique perspective and appreciation for the interesting topography of the area.

We caught our fair share of nice fish along the way and felt fortunate to have great weather conditions for wet wading. Even though we experienced good fishing overall, the focus of this trip was to have an active adventure-filled itinerary that blended fishing with camping, rafting, horseback riding, and hiking. Taken in total, the trip was an excellent and well-rounded adventure.

What was your go-to tackle setup for the destination(s)?

My go-to set up was a 9’0” 5-weight Sage R8 Core, with a Sage Trout Reel, and matching RIO Grand and Rio Gold lines.

For the Malalco Creek, we switched between larger terrestrials like the Ground Beetle and EMMA’s Stone, with more insect specific may fly and caddis patterns with a smaller profile were needed, such as the Morrish May Day and X-Caddis.

For the Caleufu, the top producing fly was split between my favorite Patagonia patterns the Parachute Madam X, the Ninja Cicada, and the Morrish Hopper. These flies were dead-drifted through riffles, tail outs, and cast towards the bank under the trees. With a little twitch they would cause an enticing disturbance that often-triggered aggressive takes.

What was your accommodation and meals experience like?

Casa de Campo offers a quiet retreat overlooking the Alumine River and below a nice rock outcropping. Even from a distance, you could see the white staining of the rock face from the condors that stage there seasonally. This simple homespun lodge is hosted by Marissa and Daniel, who are wonderful hosts that took great care of us with their excellent traditional homemade family-style meals and graciously accepted our efforts to practice our elementary level Spanish skills.

Our first night of camping included a true glamping experience with double occupancy canvas wall tents with beds and fresh linens, a covered open-air outdoor dining area, and running water bathroom with flush toilets and hot water shower. We arrived there by horseback and that evening enjoyed a traditional asado, a classic Argentina meal with various meats cooked over an open fire.

On the river, we stayed in one of SET’s deluxe camps with private tents, cots, sleeping bags, a covered eating area for breakfast and dinner, and a fire pit situated under the shade and protection of the tree canopy. Each day after we launched our boats, the camp was deconstructed and moved by a team of gear boats, which they set up camp again downstream prior to our arrival at the end of the fishing day.

One of my fondest memories was playing with my 6-weight Spey rod in the evenings. The guides really liked working on their skills and we caught some nice fish in the process. The guides all speak excellent English and it was a real treat to spend that time together, casting and laughing on the side of the river. Getting to know them all individually over the course of these special three days was a real treat.

At the conclusion of the multi-day float, we returned to San Martin de los Andes to overnight, and SET had us set up with accommodations and dinner at a fantastic restaurant, Casa Chola, where the owner/Chef came out to greet us and go over his menu for the evening. Dinner and accommodation were included in the package, and it was a great touch to not have to plan that portion of our trip. San Martin de los Andes is a beautiful mountain town with a great feel. As we wandered the streets, we felt very welcome and it wasn’t too much of a shock to re-engage after a week of not seeing anyone while we camped, floated, and fished our way through this part of Patagonia.

Casa de Campo and SET Fly Fishing

A year before this trip, I visited Casa de Campo on an official visit for Fly Water Travel, and I knew immediately that I would be back. What I had underestimated is how fulfilling the trip would be with friends, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to spend a week with. I’m grateful for my friends in the U.S. that joined me, to Daniel and Marissa at Casa de Campo, and the great team of guides and crew that SET Fly Fishing put together for us.

I think one aspect of the trip that really stands out to me is the intimate nature of this SET Fly Fishing program. It is particularly well suited to smaller private groups like ours, and we were able to truly customize our itinerary to meet each of our interests. While the pursuit of fish is what brought us together, we ultimately got an adventure-filled, multi-faceted Patagonian experience that we’ll not soon forget.

Jake Crawford, South America Destinations Manager

Author Jake Crawford, is also our South America Destinations Manager. Send Jake an email below to find out more about this amazing destination or to inquire about availability at Casa de Campo, Argentina.

Casa de Campo, Argentina

Sight fish for brown, brook, and rainbow trout in the 16-to 23-inch class in remote Northern Patagonia. Casa de Campo is a premier Patagonian walk and wade fishery focusing on spring creeks and small freestone streams in Argentina.