Andrew samples famous Jurassic Lake, then finds some wonderful if lesser-known fishing elsewhere in Argentina.
My mate Nick Reygaert has been travelling to Argentina to fish and film at Jurassic Lake for many years. Late last year, the opportunity finally came up to join him. Airfares were well-priced, so I locked it in. Then a month later, Nick called asking if I wanted to do some brook trout fishing after Jurassic. Great, a chance to tick off another must-do trip. Maybe I’d had a good week at work – or maybe I’d had a bad week! Whatever the case, I said yes and immediately set about changing my flights. Of course, the bargain airfare vanished as soon as I made the alteration, but minor details like that can’t get in the way of a good fishing trip. My new schedule even allowed a few rest days in Buenos Aires before flying home. As it turned out, this would prove to be valuable spare time! But first to Jurassic…
Jurassic Lake (Lago Strobel)
Argentina’s fabled Jurassic Lake is has been featured in FlyStream before; however it’s so good, it’s worth revisiting. Anglers talk Jurassic up as perhaps the Holy Grail of rainbow trout lake fishing, and with good reason. On this trip, everyone in our group caught a trout over 10 pounds on the first day. Naturally, your perspective on what constitutes a big fish changes fairly rapidly here!
Jurassic Lake was always well up the list of places I wanted to fish, although for some reason, I had the sense it was primarily about blind searching with wets. This couldn’t be further from the truth. On our trip, the guides wouldn’t have us casting until a substantial number of fish were polaroided in a particular area. In short, Jurassic is very much a sight fishery, with one of the most effective strategies being casting to sighted fish.
We stayed at Estancia Laguna Verde and this ranch basically owns or leases much of Jurassic Lake and the Barrancoso River (the lake’s only major inflow). The ranch also has a number of other trophy fisheries on its various properties. The only other major lodge at Jurassic is at the river mouth, with a limited fishing area. In that location, perhaps there is mostly blind fishing and maybe that explains the misconception I had about sight fishing overall.
In any case, if you stay at Estancia Laguna Verde, there are three main fishing options.
1) Lago Strobel (Jurassic Lake)
Naturally the main drawcard, this lake is massive and resembles an ocean more than a lake. This is where you will probably catch your biggest trout during a trip (or during your life!). Rainbows with weights in the high double-digits are expected, with a trophy around 20lb a rare possibility. You can walk for miles if you like, polaroiding and casting to fish as you go. If you’re feeling lazy, get the guides to pop you in a hotspot and just wait for the fish to come to you. If you don’t have great vision, fish blind and you’ll still catch more big trout than you probably ever have in a day. All flies work but you’ll need heavy tippet and strong hooks. Outfits in 7 or 8 weight are best for coping with the wind and casting larger streamers.
2) Small lakes and tarns on Estancia Laguna Verde
Some of these smaller stillwaters are deep, while others are shallow enough to wade through. All of them are stunning to fish, with the clearer ones providing better sight fishing. If it’s too windy for you at Jurassic, you might get a chance to fish a lake called Ocho, where sight fishing is virtually guaranteed in even the worst conditions. Picture the Nineteen Lagoons area of the Tasmanian highlands and then raise your expectations! Most fish are in the 4-6 pound range with some bigger. A 6 weight is plenty of rod for these waters.
3) Barrancoso River and Moro Creek
The Barrancoso is always an option, although as its level rises and falls, so do the number of trout in the system. While Glo Bugs are popular flies here, nymphs work well too. If you crave running water, this is where you’ll spend the majority of your trip. The landscape is much less barren than the around the other locations, and the water has all the character you get from a top New Zealand river. Fish size is the same as the lake: huge.
Moro Creek is more seasonal but when it’s flowing it can fish really well. Down and across streamer fishing is best here and it’s also a good place to try a mouse fly. On the Moro, a 6 weight outfit is ideal.
Clearly, there’s more than one reason to visit Jurassic Lake. Honestly, I’d travel to the other side of the world for a chance to fish any one of the above locations, and to have all of them on offer in one trip is incredible.
Route of the Spring Creeks
There aren’t many fishing packages tailored to chasing trophy brookies on fly and so when Nick mentioned this as an option after Estancia Laguna Verde, it really piqued my interest. If you’ve seen ‘Trout Bum Diaries – Patagonia’ and you’re looking for a taste of that, then this is the trip for you. The spring creeks we fished were crystal clear and loaded with browns and brookies. As far as fish size was concerned, we were brought back to reality somewhat, although the spring creeks certainly weren’t overshadowed by Jurassic.
Here, rainbows are off the agenda and buttery browns and big brookies become the target. These fish are so beautiful, you’ll stop for ages when you catch one just to admire it. They may be the prettiest trout I’ve ever seen. After the adrenalin of Jurassic, Route of the Spring Creeks creates the perfect environment to just slowdown and appreciate life.
Unbelievable food and the company of host Juan and his family, helped make this trip unforgettable. We were treated to true Argentinian hospitality, which can sometimes be missing at larger lodges. During our stay, we moved between the Biott family’s Estancia Rio Pelke and their ‘glamping’ setup on the Chico Sur. We all caught some brookies around 3 pounds and Nick managed a trophy around 7 pounds. One thing’s for sure; big brookies fight hard. Nick’s tussle with his fish is etched in my mind, with his rod bent over just like at Jurassic.
Most of the spring creek fishing is at close range with streamers. However, we did fish dries and nymphs with success. Because of the wind, a 5 or 6 weight outfit was ideal.
Golden Dorado River Cruiser
As I mentioned, I had a few days up my sleeve at the tail end of the trip to spend in Buenos Aires. However, while I was at Jurassic, an invitation came via Nick to fish on a boat with the promising name of Golden Dorado River Cruiser – so the city visit was cheerfully cut short!
Nick hadn’t done this trip before and so I didn’t have a lot to go on, other than knowing there’d be someone at Buenos Aires airport to pick me up and the whole thing was organised. Sure enough, when I jumped off the plane I was greeted by a friendly representative holding a sign with my name on it. We drove about three hours north of to the Paraná River, where I boarded a skiff that soon had me on the River Cruiser – a refurbished houseboat with all the mod cons you’d expect from a premium flyfishing operation. I was allowed a few minutes to familiarise myself with the new digs, before being thrust back onto a skiff to catch my first ever dorado. I liked the prioritising!
I fished with Beto Alba who, along with his son Luciano, have created the Golden Dorado River Cruiser fishing operation, and on only my third cast, I was hit by my first dorado. I was soon giggling away with every hit and hookup. The fast nature of the fishing, the aggressiveness of the takes and all the leaping dorado made this some of the most fun I’ve had flyfishing. Even the smaller dorado put up an incredible fight.
When we eventually returned to the River Cruiser and some time to relax and collect my thoughts, I reflected that I’d just travelled from the bottom of Argentina to the top in a day – and straight into fish. I don’t think it gets any better than that. The day concluded with an asado (Argentinian BBQ), washed down with a good Malbec.
The amazing fishing continued over the next couple of days. Soon I was getting the majority of fish to stick and my knowledge on where to cast improved. Mostly, the dorado would hang where two currents meet. The flies we used were big saltwater-style streamers that were easy enough to cast on an 8 weight outfit with a sink tip line.
Beto and Luciano have been really smart about the way they’ve set up the River Cruiser. Most lodges are, of course, in a fixed location. However, the River Cruiser simply moves to new water when required. Among other things, this spreads any fishing pressure over a lot of river, and thereby improves opportunities for guests. The Parana is a huge system and they will never run out of good water to fish!
Meanwhile, the River Cruiser itself is as comfortable as any lodge I’ve stayed at and the staff were unbelievably friendly and accommodating.
Estancia Laguna Verde, Route of the Spring Creeks and Golden Dorado River Cruiser, are each worth travelling to Argentina for in their own right. But if you can sample all of them in just a couple of weeks, then why not?
Such an itinerary might sound a bit exhausting, however because each operation is so well run, I arrived back at work surprisingly refreshed. If your trip to Argentina isn’t just about the fishing, then I would suggest at the very least, you spend some time on the Golden Dorado River Cruiser. This operation is remarkably accessible and easy to access out of Buenos Aires.
Footnote: Nick Reygaert of Gin-Clear Travel was a great host and organiser. Nick knows flyfishing in South America better than anyone down under, and his knowledge and contacts were what made this trip the success it was. If you’re interested in joining Andrew on another adventure to Jurassic, or experiencing the best of South America, click here for more information on Gin-Clear Travel and their incredible fishing options.