Northern Patagonia

Work demanded that I go to the southern hemisphere during the wettest March on record in Seattle, so following two weeks being responsible in Buenos Aires, I played hooky and caught a flight to Bariloche in northern Patagonia, where I rented a car and spent a week revisiting some familiar waters and exploring some new ones. The third week of March there, is equivalent to late September up here, so the rivers were all low; perhaps lower than typical if some of the comments of the local fishermen I encountered were interpreted correctly.

I stayed most of the time in the Hosteria Chimehuin in the sleepy town of Junin de los Andes, about 150 km north of Bariloche. It is the classic guest house for visiting fishermen, with many of northern Patagonia's finest rivers close at hand.

Hosteria Chimehuin cafe.jpg

En route from Bariloche to Junin, I stopped to fish the lower Rio Caleufu, and from a base in Junin, I fished the Rios Malleo, Chimehuin, and Curruhue. From there, I made a foray north for two days to fish the Rio Alumine and Rio Quillen.

The low water meant some rivers were too low to fish, with most of the larger fish having migrated downstream to the larger rivers, but it also made some of the larger rivers much more accessible to wading.

The weather ranged from cloudy, WINDY, and cold, to sunny, calm, and warm. Perfect "September" weather. I fished 5 and 7-wt rods, the latter mostly for the wind, but also to chuck big streamers for large browns in a few places.

This is my third trip to this region. I noticed a few things that have changed since my last trip in 2010.
1) The Rio Malleo is probably the most popular river in the region (and justifiably so), but I was still surprised to see cars at just about every pullout along river; I thought I was in Montana!
2) There were many more established fishing access points along major rivers, especially the Rio Alumine, which has not been heavily publicized in the past (I didn't see many other fishermen there, however).
3) There are new hydrograph stations along all of the rivers. I couldn't find an online system for checking river levels similar to what the USGS maintains here, however.
4) Warnings about Didymo on the Rio Quillen indicate how important fly fishing tourism is to the local economy.

Here are a few pics to wet your whistle.


The famous Ruta 40 used to cross the Rio Caleufu, but the highway was rerouted long ago and the road abandoned after the bridge was washed out.
Rio Caleufu old bridge 1.jpg

You can still drive to the old bridge and fish up or down from there. However, the river is broken into many braids in this region and the low water meant that the fishing wasn't very good.
Rio Caleufu.jpg

Rio Malleo from the famous Puente Amarillo
Malleo from Puente Amarillo.jpg

Lunch stop on the upper Malleo
Lunch stop Volcan Lanin N.P. 1.jpg

Rio Malleo and the ever-present Volcan Lanin rising above it.
Malleo & Volcan Lanin.jpg

I fished the confluence of the Malleo (coming in from the right) and Rio Alumine (left), one of the places that was more accessible due to the low water. The pool at the confluence yielded several nice rainbows to big streamers and one Patagonian "perca," a native fish, which I had not seen before.
confluencia Malleo y Alumine.jpg

Persichtys colhuapiensis aka Perca.jpg

The Rio Alumine may be my favorite river in the region, even though it isn't as popular as some of the others. On this trip it accounted for my biggest trucha marron (brown trout) at 23" and my biggest trucha arco-iris (rainbow) at 18". The road parallels the river for ca. 70km.
Rio Alumine below Rahue 3.jpg

R. Alumine monster brown 6.jpg

Rio Alumine arco-iris.jpg

I fished the Rio Quillen, a tributary to the Alumine, that is reputed to have good dry fly fishing. A beautiful stream - it reminded me of northern Idaho rivers - but mostly small fish for me (and a dunking o the coldest day of the trip!).
Rio Quillen access .jpg

Rio Quillen from breidge up.jpg

On my last day in Junin, I fished visited the small gem, Rio Curruhue
Rio Curruhue & Volcan Lanin.jpg

and the Rio Chimehuin, right in town the last evening in Junin, where I caught this beauty.
Chimehuin brown 5.jpg

On my way back to Bariloche, I paused to fish the famous Rio Traful, famous for a history of growing large landlocked salmon, for a couple of hours. Alas, the salmon are mostly a thing of the past, but I managed a few rainbows.
Rio Traful 1.jpg

The end.
Lucky SOB! Sounds like an awesome trip! I've always wanted to make it down to Patagonia but haven't yet...still young though so plenty of time. Hopefully it stays fairly wild for decades to come.
Most Americans who go to Patagonia to fish stay at destination lodges and fish with guides. That's great, if it is what your style demands and bank account permits, but if you have a little facility with Spanish and a sense of adventure, a do-it-yourself trip is a lot less expensive and can be a lot of fun, and maybe a bit more fulfilling, if being self-sufficient is in your blood.



Active Member
Thanks, awesome pics. Do ou have to worry about any certain critters, snakes? spiders? in thosw neck of woods?
Thanks, awesome pics. Do ou have to worry about any certain critters, snakes? spiders? in thosw neck of woods?
Porter -
Insects don't seem to be a problem. It is mostly pretty dry in that part of Argentina. From what I understand there are no poisonous snakes in that part of Argentina. However, it seems like every shrub has sharp spines and thorns, so walking through the Patagonian steppe requires that you take care.

I did a similar trip around eight years ago. One of the most amazing trips of my life. Beautiful country. The Montana of the southern hemisphere. The great steaks, wine, and pasta...I really need to go back!
Thanks for sharing. 11 months and counting till I re-retire and Chile/Argentina are on the priority bucket list. The way you did it is my plan; Getting to know the culture and people is part of the experience IMHO and with my Pocho Spanish I believe I can get by and Save some $.May contact you as dates get nearer.

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