Rio Grande Seasonal Breakdown

Jake Crawford May 08, 2023

While there are many quality sea trout rivers in southern Argentina, the Rio Grande’s popularity is due to the strong returns, straightforward and approachable fishing, easy wading, and consistent catch rates throughout the season.

Sea-run brown trout, also referred to as “sea trout,” are among the most sought-after anadromous species. They are smart, strong, acrobatic, and sometimes very moody and mysterious. They are great fun to fish for and can be targeted through various approaches, from floating lines with dry flies to sink tips with nymphs and streamers. Sea trout are native to much of northern Europe, Scandinavia, and Iceland. With that said, the resident brown trout introduced to southern Argentina and elected to try their luck at sea have spawned the most robust return of sea trout in the world today. Similar to Atlantic salmon and steelhead, sea trout can travel between the ocean and freshwater multiple times and can grow to considerable sizes from three to 20+ pounds over their lifetime.

Of the many rivers sea trout return to, Tierra del Fuego’s Rio Grande is widely regarded as the most consistent and rewarding. While there are many quality sea trout rivers in southern Argentina, the Rio Grande’s popularity is due to the strong returns, straightforward and approachable fishing, easy wading, and consistent catch rates throughout the season.

Each year, from January - April, anglers from across the globe are drawn to Tierra del Fuego in their pursuit of sea trout.  Understanding the subtleties of the seasons within that window may help inform the time of year that you choose to visit the Rio Grande and to best meet your individual goals and fishing preferences. With that said, their entire 3+ month season is remarkable, and taking advantage of any open spots is typically well worth the effort.

The River:

The Rio Grande flows 150 miles from its headwaters near Lago Blanco, Chile, east across the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego into Argentina. In Argentina, it grows in size and travels east through several large estancias before it eventually enters the Atlantic Ocean near the city of Rio Grande.

Fish begin entering the Rio Grande in November, and by January, some sea trout have already reached the uppermost reaches in Chile. Fresh sea trout will continue to enter the river through April, providing a long season to chase these migratory fish.

Most Rio Grande fishing operations concentrate the fishing season in the peak months from the first week of January through the first week of April.  Within the 13-week season, each week is worthy of fishing and provides an opportunity to catch a fish of a lifetime.

Month by Month:

January dates tend to have fewer numbers of fish, but the fish encountered are the strongest and brightest fish of the year. You likely won't find fish in every pool, as there are lots of moving pods of fish but when you do find them they tend to be aggressive, more willing to take larger flies, and they will be bright and hot! We feel that January fish fight as well as the finest steelhead and Atlantic salmon. Water levels can be variable based on snowpack, rain, and weather events, so you can expect to fish a range of tactics anywhere from floating lines with long leaders to 15+ feet of T-17 sink tips depending on the specific pool and conditions on the water. During this time of year, it is midsummer in Patagonia, and the days are long this far south, so you tend to fish late to take advantage of the low-light conditions when sea trout are most active.

February tends to have more of a combination of bright fish and those that have started to take on a bronze hue on the way to their more familiar brown trout coloration. These dates tend to be the most coveted and hardest to come by for newcomers due to repeat anglers returning year after year.  Catch rates tend to increase, but not dramatically enough to warrant only fishing this month. If there was a downside, it is that during drought years, February can have lower water levels and require more stealthy techniques that include longer, lighter leaders and smaller flies.

March offers solid catch rates with the bulk of the run having already entered the river. Anglers’ catch in this window consists of more colored fish than earlier in the season. Despite shorter days and colder water temperatures, these fish are still great sport, and showcase their beautiful brown trout colors, while chrome fish are still available but comprise less of the catch. Late-season rains can bring the water levels back up, which tends to improve fishing, and you’ll often fish heavier tips slowly across the deepest pools. It is possible, but rare, to have the river blow out for a few days but hitting the river on the drop can lead to some of the highest catch rates of the season. Often the largest fish of the season are caught in March as the males get aggressive, and their hormones start raging as they prepare for spawning.

Booking the Rio Grande:

A final note about booking spots on the Rio Grande. The premier lodges all operate on a first-right-of-refusal booking process, meaning that we cannot book spaces in future years until each angler returns and decides whether they intend to head back to their same week for the following season. All lodges have a consistently high return rate, so spaces are limited, and we do not know all of the availability for the future years until May, after the season concludes.

For more information about the Rio Grande, current availability, and to talk more about the different lodges we work with, please contact Jake Crawford, our Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego Destination Manager.

Let's Get You Ready to Experience the Rio Grande

Our Patagonia Destination Manager is Jake Crawford