7 days in rio pico with hemispheres unlimited
Last December I had the opportunity to experience Hemispheres Unlimited's Trout Bum Rio Pico program, which turned out be 7 days of some of the best trout fishing of my life. While I've written about a few of my adventures on the region's rivers (links included below), I have not previously discussed the region's FANTASTIC stillwater fishing opportunities or the logistical details of the trip for those considering a trip of their own. I highly recommend Hemispheres Unlimited's Rio Pico Trout Bum program and would love to help you plan a trip, and/or host you on a trip, at no added cost to you. Get in touche with me if this is something you might be interested in!
Stillwater Fly Fishing Opportunities:
The Rio Pico region has over a dozen lakes, including the famous "numbered" lakes (Lago Uno, Dos, Tres, Cuatro, and Cinco). The stillwaters in this region are some of the finest in all of Patagonia. With clear cold water, abundant food supplies, and little fishing pressure the trout in these lakes are some of the largest in all of Patagonia. While fly fishing these lakes can be somewhat grueling (think long casts, big flies, and heavy wind), it is also some of the most exciting fishing I’ve ever experienced.
On our first day fishing one of these numbered lakes we started out fishing some dragon fly nymphs and 4" articulated black streamers. I was fighting my 2nd or 3rd rainbow trout in the 17"-18" range after about an hour of fishing when a 2-foot brown emerged out of nowhere and started chasing the rainbow! As you can probably imagine, I immediately cut off my fly and tied on a 8" long rainbow trout-style streamer that I had in my box. For the rest of the day, and the other day we fished this lake, we proceeded to absolutely hammer massive brown trout in the 24"-27" range!
It’s hard to describe the experience of watching your 8" streamer dance through these crystal clear waters and then seeing a 24” brown rise up off the bottom to absolutely destroy it. The following video shows a few of the highlights from these days and should give you a sense of the excitement this fishing can create. This video is even more impressive when you consider it was filmed over only 2 days of fishing and my camera lens was fogged up for half of one of those days... On my best day I caught numerous browns and rainbows in the 20"-24" range and 2-27" browns!
Patagonia River Side Channels:
It had been an OK day up until this point. We had a slow morning on the lake before being blown off by 40-50mph winds. On the river we had caught some decent fish but had mostly been struggling with high water levels in the main channel and the larger fish we had been spotting in side channels were either in impossible to cast to locations, solely focused on eating tiny midge emergers (I didn’t come to Patagonia to fish size 24-26 emergers), and/or very spooky. Thus, as we approached the last side channel of the day, I had already written off any hope of finding (let along catching) a larger fish and my mind had started to focus on the cold beers waiting for us back at the truck.
In the middle of the night I awoke to the sound of pouring rain. I had expected to encounter some rough weather during this trip and it seemed that it had finally arrived. Expecting a cold and wet day of fishing ahead, I closed my eyes, thought about how thankful I was for my warm bed, and let the rain lull me back to sleep. To my surprise, when I finally reopened my eyes several hours later, I realized my room was filled with bright sunshine and not the grey darkness I had been expecting.
Wet and Wild Streamer Fishing:
When we set off to go fishing that morning I thought we would be in for a warm and sunny day of fishing. However, as we got closer to the mountains, I could see that they were engulfed in clouds. By the time we got to the town where we were going to pick up the gate key for the water we were going to fish, it was just starting to rain. As we crossed the river and got closer to our destination, it really started to come down and I was glad that I had packed my rain jacket (always pack your rain jacket!).
Rio Pico is located several hours south of the small town of Esquel, which is where you will meet your guide. The best way to get to Esqual is via a 2 and a half hour flight from Buenos Aires Domestic Airport (AEP). Beware that you will be flying into Buenos Aires International Airport (EZE) but all domestic flights are based out of AEP. The transfer between the two airports should take about an hour. When you include time for deboarding, clearing customs, collecting your luggage, and any unexpected disruptions or delays you should allow for at least 4 hours between your landing at EZE and your departure from AEP.
If you have the time, I highly recommend you plan to arrive in Buenos Aires a day early to allow for any potential delays, cancellations, lost baggage, or other issues that could pop up on your flight down. You will not regret spending time in the city to see its many historic and cultural sights, eat an amazing steak, drink some Malbec, and (if you're feeling adventurous) experience the vibrant late night scene. Just know that people there don't typically eat dinner until 10-11 pm, the clubs don't get going until 2 am, and most people stay out until 6-8 am.
I spent 4 weeks in Buenos Aires prior to my trip to Patgonia. During this time I took 3 weeks of Spanish classes, which I thought would come in handy considering that I knew exactly zero Spanish and was about to embark on a several months journey across some of the most remote regions of the country where I was unlikely to encounter many English speakers. A somewhat unexpected benefit from my classes were all the amazing friendships that I made with other travelers from around the world. Buenos Aires is a fantastic city and the time I spent there with these new friends is something that I will always remember fondly.
For my journey to Esquel I decided, against pretty much all advice, that I would take a 27-hour bus ride across the country to Esquel instead of the 2.5-hour airplane ride. The cost was about the same but I figured the bus would be an interesting experience, would provide me the opportunity to see more of the countryside, and I wasn't in a rush anyway. These also aren't your standard buses. They have two levels, lazy-boy style reclining seats, a bathroom, and serve food and drinks. I also was able to secure a seat in the front row up top, which my research indicated was the best seat in the house (i.e. less swaying, best view, less noise, not near the bathroom, etc).
Depending upon what time your flight arrives in Esquel, your guide will either pick you up at the airport or at your hotel/hostel the next morning. If you arrive a day early, it's possible you may be able to get an extra half day of fishing in. At the end of the week your guide will drop you back off at the airport or your hotel/hostel.
I would highly recommend the Rio Pico Trout Bum program to anyone seeking a more adventurous, no frills fly fishing trip that is well off the beaten path. I think we saw only 2 or 3 other groups of anglers during our entire week in Rio Pico, which is significantly less than you are likely to see in many of Patagonia's more accessible and well known regions. In addition, while I generally consider myself to be a DIY angler, I can safely say that without a guide I NEVER would have discovered, or been able to fish, many of the incredible waters that we did. These guides know all of the regions best waters, have keys to locked gates, and have the boats needed to properly fish most of the region's lakes. I simply am not aware of a better value in all of Patagonia than the Rio Pico Trout Bum program. If you are interested in this trip, or having me host you on this trip, please contact me! I would be happy to book or host you on this trip AT NO COST to you.