Steffan Jones Shares His ‘Flies for Argentinian Sea Trout’
I started travelling to Tierra del Fuego back in 2000, returning each and every year since as the draw remains as true nowadays as it did all those years ago. For anyone looking to target big sea trout then there is an obvious draw, especially the run sizes and consistency – when you appreciate that sea trout of over 20 lbs are caught each week and sea trout of over 30 lbs are caught most seasons you understand the reason to travel half way across the world.
During the early years of visiting the island it was exploring different rivers and sleeping in a tent. As a result, I have now fished around ten main rivers or so on the island, along with a myriad of tributaries and lakes. The island has so much to offer and I have no doubt there are still some hidden gems – it’s a difficult island to explore, so the remoteness creates sanctuaries.
Sea trout have always been the main focus of my trips, but steelhead, sea-run-char along with resident species have also been encountered, adding to the attraction of the place. However, none has a greater draw than the sea trout of the Rio Grande – it truly is the place to visit in terms of size and consistency of the sea trout fishing.
I have been fortunate to fish the Rio Grande from almost the very top to almost the very bottom, and the majority in-between. The character changes a lot and different areas hold different charm and appeal.
The flies utilised on the river are intriguing in their own right; certainly not the usual suspects one becomes accustomed to closer to home. This is largely as a result of tradition and also who first explored these waters. The early visiting anglers and the ones that set their stamp on the local tradition were steelhead anglers, bringing with them their homegrown patterns, which seduced the sea trout in equal measure. This is largely where rubber legs and so forth spawned from, very much still utilised to great effect nowadays.
However, over the last decade or so an international flavour got injected into the guide team at many lodges, bringing with them their home influences. As a result of this, yet more transformations occurred and patterns that are perhaps more familiar to a European audience became commonplace. Sometimes these became amalgamations, blending traditions and tastes.
My patterns and boxes have changed dramatically over the years, too. I used to carry a ridiculous array of patterns, but always ended up leaning towards the tried and tested favourites, honed over years of travel to the island and river. What I have passed onto Fulling Mill are a handful of patterns that I would never travel without and ones that I would always fish with the utmost confidence. Not only that, but I made sure in the design process that little – but massively important – factors were taken account of, as quality control when targeting such leviathans was essential. Hook quality, doubling braid etc. everything to make sure that if that fish of a lifetime is hooked then you have everything stacked in your favour to land it.
RG GREEN MACHINE
This is a strange little pattern, but ignore it at your peril. It started life as a more traditional green machine, as utilised by steelhead anglers and also Atlantic salmon anglers on the east coast of Canada. The remnants remain, hence why the name stuck. This is a tried and tested pattern on the river that will appear in every guide’s fly box – I would question those that didn’t carry it! It is a great pattern when the river is low, clear and even on windless days. Usually fished just subsurface. However, it can also be fished and ‘popped up’ almost booby style on faster sinking lines or tips with great success.
RG COPPER PRINCE
I am certain this pattern started life as a Copper John. It is loosely based on a pattern that was showed to me many years ago on the Rio Irigoyen, which is based to the south of the Rio Grande. In my first afternoon of fishing this pattern I landed a 16 lb’er and a 20 lb’er. Needles to say I did not need much convincing of the pattern’s validity following that.
There is a revered Estancia that owns two lodges on the middle and lower reaches of the Rio Grande named Estancia Maria Behety (EMB). This pattern emerged from this Estancia and has served anglers well on the river for a very long time. This pattern is a tangent, but one I would never be without. A simple but very effective pattern and one that accounts for numerous sea trout every single season.
Sea trout on the Rio Grande behave very much like our sea trout at home, there just tends to be more of them and they’re bigger. Their habits, however, are pretty much the same and when darkness begins to fall the sea trout become more active, often emerging from underneath banks and slipping out of deep pockets and pools. You would never dream of heading into the gloaming without a leech pattern of some description. Unless the water was very high or carrying a lot of colour, then this would be my go-to pattern. I would then venture to the ‘Gato Negro’ for the last few casts when something a lot bigger will often be the ticket to success.
Translated literally means black cat! A nickname I was ‘proudly’ given one year on the Rio Grande due to the size of the leech I was throwing around. Basically, it looks like you are trying to throw a black cat around for the sea trout! It is a long fly, but it is light and the profile makes it easy enough to turn over. Sometimes they want it big, it is that simple. When they do, make sure you reach for this pattern – I have lost count of the fish I have landed on this pattern. It is such a consistent producer when the session is almost at an end and you have to rely on one pattern to produce the goods when every cast counts.
There are many other patterns that should form your armoury when heading to the Rio Grande, including small traditional doubles and also sunray shadows, to name a couple. However, the above would form a sound basis to your collection and are patterns that I am happy to put my name to.
Steffan Jones has fished for sea trout for as long as he can remember and has guided anglers onto them on the rivers of Wales for some 25 years now. He recently released a book on sea trout, which is definitely worth checking out if you’re looking to expand your knowledge and understanding of the species. ‘Sea Trout Tips, Tricks & Tribulations’ can be found on Amazon, Ebay along with a myriad of angling shops or through the author himself at email@example.com.
If you’re interested in visiting the Rio Grande please check out www.aardvarkmcleod.com