Fishing the Rio Rivadavia in Patagonia

Fishing the Rio Rivadavia in Patagonia will bring you to the light.

Every once in a great while, the gods just decide to throw me a bone; and from the moment I wake until I lay my head down for the night, I’m blessed with good food, good friends, good weather, and epic fishing. This was one of those day.

I drove south from San Carlos de Bariloche with casting and rod building legend, Willy Ricigliano, to a favorite destination for the streamer fanatic fly fisherman, The stunning Rio Rivadavia.

fishing the rio rivadavia with local guidesWe were joined on this trip by friend and guide, Diego Raimondi; another local who has spent his life exploring these waters, and often guides with Carrilieufu River Lodge, and was eager to get in both some rowing and casting time of his own; and given my love of ripping big streamers, he was pretty excited about running the fast water of the Rio Rivadavia.

Like all of the rivers in this area, it’s a beautiful combination of gin clear and emerald green; and due to the vast arboreal forests along its borders, it has plenty of fallen structure in the shallows. Many people come here and take the easy float, and drown nymphs along the way; taking a few nice fish as always. But this river rewards the bold.

After the first hour of floating at a tranquil pace, it shows it’s true nature. Fast water, twisting curves, and steep cut banks with over-hanging trees and shadowy leviathans lurking under the cover.

The name of the game here is, big streamers with fast sinking fly line; shooting at the banks through key holes in the tangled tree limbs, and ripping as fast as it hits the water.

From the first minute after launching the raft, and through the remainder of the day; we were into fish almost non-stop. I’ve moved beyond the stage of counting fish, and I couldn’t have counted that high anyway, but it seemed like we were raising fish every fifty feet down the river. And as happy as I was at that moment, out in the sun with friends and plenty of fish; it got better. As in, really huge brown trout better.

Fishing the Rio Rivadavia always makes me happy, and I was lost in my own little happy world, pulling a big olive sculpin off the rocky shore, when all of sudden it just stopped. Dead in the water, no movement, no pulling, no nothing; just hooked-on-a-rock stopped. I had instinctively set the hook, but was convinced it was an immovable object; when the rod jolted to life, and the beast on the other end came to the surface and rolled up for a look at his attacker.

I stood in stunned silence, and Willy jumped into the air and yelled, “That’s a Record Brown for this river; don’t lose it!” which of course raised my anxiety level a bit.

brown trout fishing the rio rivadavia in PatagoniaI was using a dependable old 5 weight this trip, but it was really too light for this fish. It held its own, and after a very long battle and several failed attempts, we finally brought him to net; but I’ve learned a lesson about being armed for bigger fish with a more powerful stick.

We needed several minutes to carefully revive the trout before we captured his image for bragging rights, and returned him safely to the river. It was a crowning moment in an otherwise spectacular journey; and I could have stopped right there and been completely content. But we still had a few more hours of river ahead; so I had to man-up and continue casting.

Another hour down river, and the fish-gods delivered a second gift; a chromed Rainbow that would make any fisherman’s year. It certainly brought an emotional end to my day, as it just wasn’t going to get any better. I cut of my fly (which had been the only one used for the entire trip), handed my rod to Diego, and popped open a cold beer. I was content to be a tourist and photographer for the remainder of the day.

fishing the rio rivadia in PatagoniaA few days later, as Willy and I came back through the town
of Cholila, we passed by the old homestead of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; a simple ranch house, still standing and looking rather common in this beautiful landscape.

It struck me that, given the lack of bountiful banks and railroads down here; Butch and Sundance surely came here for the sole purpose of fishing the Rio Rivadavia.