Fly Fishing in Argentina at Rio Manso Lodge
Fly fishing in the heart of Patagonia is a unique experience. Imagine casting to big, healthy trout in crystal clear water without seeing another person all day. There are miles of still and moving waters throughout Nahuel Huapi National Park with very little fishing pressure. Our waters offer a complete variety of different types of fishing, from big dry flies and weighted streamers to tiny emergers, nymphs and spinners. We fish both floating and sinking lines, dry and wet flies at different times of the season and throughout the day.
When fishing the Manso River, much of your fishing will be with streamers and sinking lines. Hatches on most of the river are sporadic and the biggest fish are best drawn out with streamer patterns. There are several sections where nymphs are especially effective, and a tiny spring creek where sight casting to cruising fish can be a delightful change of pace.
One section of the river markedly different is the channels of Lago Hess. Justly famous for their unique blend of big fish and technical fishing, the channels smooth currents provide a great dry fly challenge to any angler. Similar in nature to a big spring creek, large fish often cruise this area or setup along the banks making this a required stop for any Rio Manso angler. Even though the fish can be selective, for some of our guests this is their favorite section. Some of the largest fish in the watershed live in this area.
One of the jewels at Rio Manso Lodge is Lago Fonck. This four mile long lake offers big rainbows, browns and brook trout. Depending on the time of year, we fish streamers and dry flies on the lake, often both during a typical day. Dragon flies, damsels, and caddis flies all hatch on the lake and the trout cruise the lakeshore weed beds in search of a meal. We fish the edges from one of our Carolina skiffs, working the structure where rainbow and brook trout lay, with the occasional brown as well. With the added bonus of spotting an Andean Condor circling overhead, and beautiful Mount Tronador in the distance, a day on Fonck is always a special day.
The fishing season in Argentina runs from the beginning of November until the end of April. It is the exact opposite of the North American season, with our longest day of the year falling on December 21. Rio Manso Lodge is open for the entire season. Here’s an idea of what to expect:
Early Season: Early November – Mid January
These months are often marked by high water, which gradually recedes in December. We’ll start the season fishing lots of weighted streamers on sinking lines. Mayfly and caddis hatches beginning in November will intensify in December providing increasingly better dry fly fishing. Early to middle December will see dragonflies hatching on the lakes and rivers bringing up the biggest fish and providing exciting dry fly action. Dragon fly nymphs and wooly buggers are very effective at this time.
Summer Season: Late January - Mid March
Excellent evening dry fly action continues into January. The river channels near the lodge feature multiple mayfly and caddis hatches that bring the fish up, especially early and late in the day. As temps warm in February, day time fishing can slow down on both the river and in the lakes. Terrestrials play an increasingly important role in the daily diet as summer progresses.
Fall Season: Late March - End of April
As Fall approaches, water temperatures begin to cool and the fish become more active. Evening fishing is characterized by a brief flurry of activity right before dark while most daytime fishing is with streamers or large attractor dry flies. Big rubber legged dries work well in the lakes. April is when the big browns become aggressive prior to spawning season.
The Rio Manso Day
f you’ve fished with a guide, outfitter or lodge in North America, our daily schedule will feel quite familiar. Unlike most lodges, however, we are usually out on the water for 9 -10 hours. If you really like to fish, you’ll love the length of our fishing day. For those who consider fishing just one part of a great Patagonia experience, we’re happy to bring you in whenever you’re ready.
While there is no such thing as an ordinary day at Rio Manso Lodge, we do have sort of a routine that begins most days with breakfast at 8am. After hot coffee, eggs, cereal, fresh fruit or whatever else you need to get going, you’ll meet your guide in the wader room around 9am. With the exception of a trip to the Pichi Leufu, or a horse ride into Lago Los Cesares for big brookies and bigger browns, none of our waters are more than 20-25 minutes from the lodge which allows you to spend more time fishing and less time riding around. When departing for the Pichi, or Cesares, you will have breakfast at 7:30am.
We fish until mid day, then stop for a streamside lunch which can be either hot or cold, and might include such items as steaks, quiches, sandwiches, salads, cheese, and fresh bread. Some of our guests like to take a siesta after lunch, but we’re not surprised if you want to get right back on the water!
After fishing through the afternoon, you would normally get off the water by 7-8 pm or so, and return to the lodge to clean up, take a sauna, or perhaps get a massage. We serve drinks and hors d’oeuvres before dinner in front of the fireplace. Dinner is usually served between 9 and 10 o’clock, although we’ve been known to eat much later if the fish are rising and you just can’t tear yourself away.
We are very flexible when it comes to arranging your day. If you have a special request, just let us know and we will do our best to accommodate you and give you the best experience possible.
Fly rods: You should bring at least two fly rods: 5-7 wts for streamer fishing and windier conditions, and a 4-5 wt for evening dry fly fishing. We strongly recommend bringing a third 5 wt as a backup. There are a limited number of rods at the lodge in the event you break one.
Fly reels: Reels should be high quality, preferably disc-drag models loaded with a minimum of 80 / 100 yards of backing. The occasional 8-10 lb fish will test your gear to the limit! You may want a backup reel or extra spools for your reel. Having two rods rigged, one with floating line and one with sinking line will maximize your fishing time.
Lines: Floating and sinking lines cover the fishing at Rio Manso Lodge. Weight forward or double taper floating lines are fine for dry fly and small streamer fishing. We recommend that you bring a 30 ft 150-250 gram fast sink line for your reel. The fast sinking lines are especially effective in the lakes and the faster, deeper stretches of the river. Most of our lakes have abrupt drop offs along the edges and the sinking lines get the fly down to where the fish are. If you have not cast a fast sinking line before, we recommend you get a little practice in before you come. It’s not difficult to learn, but it will increase your fishing success and pleasure if you already have this technique down.
Leaders: 7 ½ to 9 foot 2x-5x leaders will suffice for most fishing. We like to use fluorocarbon for tippets for its added abrasion resistance and low light reflectivity. Bring some extra spools of tippet in the 2x – 6x range. Evening fishing in the channels near the lodge can become very technical at times.
Flies: Much of our fishing during the day is with streamers or large attractor pattern dry flies. See the separate fly list for complete recommendations. We do carry a full assortment of productive patterns at the lodge.
Waders: Breathable waders are the best way to maximize your fishing experience. You can layer poly-pro or fleece underneath in cold conditions and turn them down during hot weather.
Wading shoes: Sturdy shoes with good felt or rubber soles. While the footing is good, the Manso has many stretches of fast water with strong currents. Please be sure your waders and wading shoes are clean and dry before visiting to prevent the spread of invasive species like whirling disease, zebra mussels or didymo. We recommend the new rubber soled wading shoes and waders.
Clothing and Gear
The climate in our part of Patagonia is very similar to the northern United States. You can expect temperatures to range from the mid 40’s early in the season, to the 80’s during the summer months of January through March.
Clothing: Layering is the mantra when fishing. Light cotton sweaters, short and long sleeve shirts and trousers, long underwear, heavy wool sweater, windbreaker, wool socks, swim suit, gloves and heavy wool sweater (for November and April only) We recommend neutral colors. Big temperature changes can occur in a matter of hours in the mountains, so make sure you are prepared.
Rain Jacket: Gore Tex or similar. 100% Rain proof, seam sealed and breathable, with hood.
- Small day pack or tackle bag
- Fishing Hat
- Polarized Sunglasses
- Digital Camera
- Sun screen and chapstick
- Insect repellent – Buzz Off clothing is very effective