by Scott Sadil
Mention to most serious fly anglers, anywhere in the world, the name Tierra del Fuego, and the famous and fabulous Río Grande immediately comes to mind.
And rightfully so: You’ve seen the Argentine pampa, the vast treeless windswept landscape, the wide waters etched in whitecaps and, of course, the fish—oh, the fish—sea-run brown trout, heavy as salmon, a two-hand caster’s dream come true.
But across the border, on the Chilean side of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, where the Río Grande begins, the traveling angler can expect to experience more, much more, than the relentless pursuit of those illustrious sea-runs, no matter their pull on one’s hopes and imagination.
Spring creeks, hidden lakes, vast beaver ponds where resident brown trout grow bigger by the year. Or how about a day trip to the southwest edge of the island, about as close to the end of the world as you can travel, for a day of wilderness adventure on the Rio Sanchez, fishing for both resident and sea-run browns, coho salmon, and even steelhead?
Are you up for it? Getting there at all demands a willingness to travel a route outside the mainstream of most anglers headed to this remote part of the world, where the camel-family guanaco seem to far outnumber the human residents in the region.
Fortunately for traveling fly fishers, longtime guide to these remote and varied waters, Rafael Gonzales, has created a warm and welcoming lodge, Magallanes Fly Fishing (https://magallanesflyfishing.com/), within easy striking distance of both the Río Grande and the wealth of other fishing opportunities available in Chilean Tierra del Fuego and even points beyond.
Rafa’s full-service lodge will open the door to more adventure than you can hope to experience in a week, even two—especially if you want to include the time some of us might need to hone our two-handed casts to adequately cover, in the famous Tierra del Fuego winds, the distant lies of sea-run Río Grande browns.
Fishing, like weather, of course, lies beyond any host’s control. But Rafa has put together a team of dedicated guides and kitchen staff who help provide as much comfort and all but decadent fare as one should ever hope for in a fishing lodge, especially in a place situated so far from any genuine population center.
Still, by the time those sea-run browns arrive, days can bring frost, even snow—and that wind you’ve heard so much about is all but a given. Nevertheless, a big part of Rafa’s services include his access not only to a variety of unique fishing opportunities, but his knowledge of that wind and how it plays on different runs or pools throughout the Chilean reaches of the Río Grande and its important tributary headwaters.
Better still, Rafa is a skilled and patient casting instructor, willing to spend the time it takes to help you master your next snake roll or other two-handed cast. Does it matter? Absolutely. A pretty cast is a good cast, and good casts catch fish.
But in Chilean Tierra del Fuego, you can be sure those fish will not only be sea-run browns.
Gray’s angling editor, Scott Sadil, hopes to find a few more good fish before the Chilean autumn send him back to the northern hemisphere spring.