A September 2006 trip
to Termas de Río Hondo by Robert Raymond Ingledew
Quote: Fishing, travelling, and photography have been my main hobbies for over fifty years, and I want to share some fishing experiences. My last fishing tour was to Río Hondo, where you can fish dorados all the year round. It is a non-expensive destination.
I will start with Río Hondo, one of the least known fishing destinations in Argentina. True, you will catch larger dorados in Concordia on the Uruguay river, at Guarapo, Empedrado or Paso de la Patria in Corrientes, or at the Isla del Cerrito in the Chaco, and even larger dorados in the Bermejo river in Salta, but this is the only place where I am aware that dorado fishing is allowed all year round. The climate is extremely warm, but the warmer it gets, the more chances you have of catching a nice dorado. A lot has been said about the contamination of the lake due to the sugar mill wastes that come down the Sali or Dulce river, and lately due to the wastes of the gold refining process in Tucumán or the production of the Bajo de la Alumbrera gold mine in Catamarca. Contamination does exist, but you will hardly notice it, it reduces oxygen in the lake, but does not affect the fighting capacity of the fish, nor the quality of their meat for eating. I was there a couple of weeks ago, weather was mild and fish were not eager to bite, but one dorado cut my 40 pound test nylon.
I was so eager to take a photo of the dorado after I saw it jumping in the water, that I set aside my fishing rod for 3 seconds while I was looking for my photo camera; that was fatal, the dorado ran away violently and cut my nylon line... I promised to go back, I may go any of these next weeks. It is only 7 hours away from Córdoba by bus. Río Hondo has been known for years due to the quality of its thermal waters, and has the most renowned thermal water center in all Argentina. It is a winter vacation center due to its mild and dry weather. In summer it gets as warm as Houston, or even more... Average record high temperature for January is 93 degrees Fahrenheit... while average temperature for that month is 68 degrees... Being so near Tucumán (less than two hours from bus) you can combine it with a beautiful trip to Tucuman and Salta, since there is very little to see here, but very nice fishing in the lake. There are frequent bus services from Río Hondo to Tucumán, Cordoba and Buenos Aires.
I was eleven years old when I fell in love with trout fishing, and that was 55 years ago. The most delightful years of my life I went fishing to the Percy river in Trevelin, where I used to spend 30 to 45 days in the farm of my friends, Gueyrid Ial Jones and his family. Those Welsh settlers were a rare blend, they spoke Welsh most of the time, but were more "gauchos" than many Argentinians. There I learnt to enjoy sipping the mate, having mutton for breakfast (I have never seen that in other parts of Argentina), drinking milk at the foot of the cow and going on the sulky to the village... Those were fascinating years.
I went there seven summers in a row... and went back a number of times since then. Year after year my fishing abilities improved. The first year I only fished two trout in fifteen days, but after that I became a real predator. I had no idea that I was literally destroying the possibilities for future fishermen, and there were no fishing regulations at that time outside of the National Parks. Once I came home with 67 brook trout. We had to bring them on bags on horseback and then gave them out to the neighbours. That was a real opportunity for a teenager to brag about his fishing skills. Now that I have grown up, I am no longer interested in quantity but rather in quality. I really enjoyed fishing a nine and a half pound rainbow trout in lake Llanquihue in Chile with a 4 pound nylon (although I was scared to death that I was going to loose it; the timely help of the fishing guide brought it into the boat for that night's dinner).
The largest trout of Argentina are caught in the río Grande (Tierra del Fuego) and in lake Fagnano. Although I never caught trout of more than 5 pounds in that area, I have seen some huge 20 pound brown trout caught by other fishermen. I may give the Río Grande another try before this year ends... What can I add? I have fished trout in Río Grande and Lake Fagnano (Tierra del Fuego), in the Río Negro Valley (Senillosa in the Limay River, Barda del Medio in the Neuquén river, in the Codihue river north of Las Lajas, in the Catan Lil river half way between Zapala and San Martín de los Andes). I have also fished in the Chimehuin river in Junín de los Andes, in Bariloche (Limay river and lake Nahuel Huapi at Puerto Blest), in El Bolsón (Quemquemtreu river and lake Puelo), in Trevelin (Percy and Corinto rivers and lake Futalaufquen, and Nanty Falls and Fontana streams) in Sierra de la Ventana, in the Atuel, Grande and other rivers in Mendoza. I have even fished very small trout in the province of Córdoba. I will be delighted to give you separate reports on each one of these areas.
Trout fishing in Argentina is not what it used to be. On the Chilean side fishing is better because there are trout farms on barges in the lakes (Chile is the third trout and salmon exporter of the world), and each time there is a storm in the lake with large waves, the larger salmon and trout break out of the cages and go up the rivers. Also because there are generally not more than 50 miles from the lakes to the ocean, giving the salmon the opportunity to go down to the sea, fatten and come back up the rivers). But there are still a number of places in Argentina where you can catch huge trout, especially in the lakes that pour their waters into the Pacific Ocean (Lake Mascardi, Guillelmo, Fonk and Hess, and the Manso river in Bariloche; lake Puelo and rivers Quemquemtreu and Azul in El Bolsón), lakes Futalaufquen, Verde, Menéndez, Cisne, Situación, Rosario and others, and rivers Futaleufu and Percy in Esquel... and the list continues).
This Summer I am going back to Ushuaia after twenty two years. And if I have enough money left (Ushuaia is expensive) I intend to go back to do some fishing in the Río Grande, that boasts the largest brown trout in the whole world... Lake Fagnano is a prime place for fishing huge brown trout, especially where the Turbio river runs into the lake. This is now an area reserved for fly-fishing, but if you go 500 feet away you can do spinning. After many years of fishing, my preferred areas are Puerto Blest in Bariloche, Lake Puelo in El Bolsón, Lake Llanquihue in Chile and Río Grande in Tierra del Fuego. I have never been yet to Corcovado (100 miles southwest of Trevelin) and just daydream about catching some huge Pacific Salmon.
Keep tuned, I intend to give you a good insight of sportive fishing in Argentina. Regards from Villa Carlos Paz, in the foothills of Cordoba, Argentina.
I only know of one trout fishing pond in the province of Buenos Aires, at Puerta del Abra, near Mar del Plata. Fishing is allowed there all the year round, and it is located under the foothills of Balcarce, only 30 miles away from the city of Mar del Plata. The Quequén river in Necochea has been stocked with rainbow trout, but the fish culture station has two serious problems: their budget (they are a Municipal agency) and the abundance of herons in the area that eat the little trout if they are placed in the river while they are small. In any case, some 4-pound trout have been fished in the Quequén river, but the chances that you will catch one are minimal. In any case, there is good loach fishing in the Quequén river, and this fish is really a game fish, let me tell you.
People that are acquainted with loach fishing say that if you put something red on the hook or lure, your fishing chances will improve. The Sierra de la Ventana / Villa Ventana / Tornquist / Peralta area has been for many years a prime rainbow trout fishing area. I started fishing trout there in 1958 and went back many years later, really doubting if there were still trout in the area. I found it as good as ever, and I have met fishermen that visited the area during the past five years, and they told me that it is still a good fishing area. The person I spoke to had caught a 4-pound rainbow trout in the Loro river. All these rivers have large pools, fed by a trickle of water. You have to avoid being seen by the trout and this might oblige you to detour from the stream bank and come back down the stream, but it is a good area for fishing.
The main streams where you can fish trout are: RÍO SAUCE GRANDE (it is the largest, but nearly always is a small stream). I have caught trout just upstream from the Balneario Municipal in Sierra de la Ventana, behind the Golf Club, next to where the stream bends nearly against the railway track between Sierra de la Ventana and Saldungaray, but mostly downstream from the Highway 76 bridge over the river. If you want to fish near Sierra de la Ventana, go early in the morning, before the traffic noise starts.
ARROYO SAN BERNARDO: You will have to enter into private property, so check at the hotel front desk if this is still possible. I never requested authorization and never had any problems, but that was years ago. ARROYO NEGRO: Upstream from the fish culture station there are nice pools and good fishing. I used to go on the train to Peralta, come walking down the earth road towards Sierra de la Ventana to the first bridge over a dry stream, went down the dry stream and found the Negro stream after walking about one thousand feet. Then I just went all the way downstream until I reached Sierra de la Ventana (11 miles away on the road, it will take about a full day). In this area there are pit vipers, I never ran into any, but watch your step. Avoid walking through tall grass, it is better to wade the river.
RÍO LORO: Between Villa Ventana and the Highway 76 bridge on the Sauce Grande river. It has some very nice pools. RÍO SAUCE CHICO (Tornquist): Downstream from highway 33, and at Fortin Chaco, that boasts the record of the area with a nine pound trout. ARROYO VENTANA (Tornquist): Estancia La Ventana (or Estancia Chica) is the best place, but you will have to request permission. I once had a wonderful fishing day there at the beginning of the fishing season (October). There are other places, but difficult to get to. Probably the Sauce Grande and Sauce Chico rivers will be the best options, since the traffic vans can leave you fairly near. I will be writing soon a separate report on fishing in the Province of Mendoza. And if you are not patient enough for fishing trout, you will find catfish in abundance in the Sierra de la Ventana area (up to two pounds in weight).
You can also consider the Chasico area north of Tornquist, and the Sauce Grande lagoon in Monte Hermoso for silverside fishing (these are two of the prime silverside fishing areas). Enjoy your fishing.
Fishing from the shore is not what it used to be. Fish used to come near to the shore to eat clams, that were abundant. But people started to gather them, and most beaches do not have any clams left... Fishing from piers can be good at some places, like La Lucila del Mar, near San Bernardo, also at Villa Gesell, but very poor in other Atlantic beaches. Shark fishing has two prime places for fishing: one is north of Pinamar, where the sea is pretty deep near the shore, but you have to go into the water with your fishing rod, and you would not like to have a shark biting your bait before you cast it, as once happened in Pinamar. This guy got the fright of his life. Even though no cases of attacks by sharks have ever been reported in Argentina, you could die of a heart attack. You can also fish sharks from the coast at Bahía San Blas, in the southern part of the Province of Buenos Aires, but you need to be an expert in casting your line well into the sea. There is however another alternative, that year after year has more fans: Fishing well inside the sea on a fishing tour boat. These are some places where I know you can do it:
MAR DEL PLATA: Motorboats leave from the Torreón del Monje and take a maximum of 3 fishermen. Live bait is used. I have taken that tour, and fishing is abundant. Four hours in the sea are more than enough, and the cost is moderate. At the Fishermen's Harbor in Mar del Plata you have more sophisticated (and more expensive) tours that take you really into the sea, where you can fish tuna and other fish, and not only meagers, like the tour I mentioned above. These are generally full-day tours, and although I do not know the prices, I would guess that they cost some 50 dollars per person.
PORT OF NECOCHEA: There are also fishing tours here. If you go to Necochea, check with some local travel agency or at the front desk of the hotel.
PEHUEN CO: I know that there are fishing tours here, because I was offered one, nearly next-door to the Casa Barco(an unmistakable place to identify, a house that seems a real ship).
LAS GRUTAS: I was offered a tour here that costs some 50 or 60 dollars, plus a small additional if you have not brought your own fishing rod. In this area, like in Puerto Madryn, you can fish sea salmon. Fortunately there are no nearby seal colonies, or you could have a seal swallowing your hooked fish. That sometimes occurs at Puerto Pirámides (Península Valdez) where in any case tours are far more expensive. The tour at Las Grutas is a full-day tour (something like 12 or 14 hours) so rest well the previous night, and take a good sunscreen... I would say, in this case, go without the children, unless you are sure that they will enjoy fishing so many hours.
Finally, there are many Atlantic beaches where you can fish meagers from the coast. There is very good fishing in Spring in Mar del Plata if you go some 10 miles into the sea. If you are interested in this type of fishing, call Aquafish, phone (54-223) 154-001335/ 4923007. I have never used their services, but have just read an excellent fishing report of a friend who went with them, including the catch of a 35 pound sea salmon. I have just checked their rates via e-mail and a 6 hour trip 3 miles into the sea costs some 67 dollars, while 10 miles into the sea (8 hours) costs some 83 dollars, per person. This includes breakfast and lunch on board, and all required fishing gear. Come with your fishing rod to Argentina. You will have a great time.
There are many roads to the Ibera Marshes, but some become real marshes when it rains. Although you can come in from Paso de los Libres or Gobernador Virasoro, the best road is the one that connects Carlos Pellegrini with Mercedes and the paved road from there to Bella Vista, that is located on the paved highway from Parana to Corrientes. Most buses to Mercedes come along that highway.
Bella Vista is a beautiful spot on the Paraná river, where dorados (of the salmon family) and surubis (very similar to pikes) can be fished. Bella Vista is located between Empedrado and Goya, two other excellent fishing destinations. From north to south I may mention the following fishing paradises: Paso de la Patria and Isla del Cerrito (near Corrientes), where the Paraguay river runs into the Paraná. You can go from Paso de la Patria on the regular motorboat service or (if it is not running) on the regular bus services from Resistencia (Chaco) that take about an hour and a half to get there. Buses from Corrientes to Resistencia run about every 20 minutes (one hour travel). You will do better fishing at Isla del Cerrito (and reduce your costs) if you cross the river on the motorboat that runs twice a day to this island, since there you can fish dorados from the shore. The Paraguay river (nearly a mile wide) runs into the Parana (two miles wide at this point) forming a huge whirlpool where dorados are waiting for their food. Live bait is allowed, mainly morenas (morays) or even eals, although the Paraguay river, unlike the Paraná, generally brings clear water, so you could use fly-fishing (not the tiny flies you use for trout, some flies for dorados are six inches long) or large spinners. You will need a steel leader, because those dorados have sharp teeth and otherwise they will cut your nylon. Also, where both rivers meet, there are many submerged trees, so you should always fish with a floating line, and if you use live bait, without any sinker. You will loose many yards of nylon, many leaders, many hooks, so go prepared.
I usually take a small fishing rod for fishing bogas (similar to shads) and found that salami is an excellent bait for bogas (that weigh normally two to four pounds) because it does not rot. You fish them near the shore, and fishing them is pure fun. Then you cut the boga in pieces of 3 to 5 inches long, and use those pieces for fishing the dorados. I have fished dorados weighing 22 pounds from the shore using this modality.
Itati and Ita-Ibate: These have been two traditional fishing places, but after the construction of the Yacyretá dam (the largest hydroelectric project in Argentina) that also has navigation locks, fishing possibilities are unpredictable. There is also intense commercial fishing on the Paraguayan side that has reduced drastically fishing possibilities. And there have been some cases of "pirate" stealing in the river from the Paraguayan side, that in most cases have consisted in stealing the motor of the boat. There is a Coast Guard in the area, but how effective it is, nobody knows. When the cruising ships go up the river from Corrientes to Iguazu, the locks are first opened and then closed, modifying substantially the flow of the river and therefore the fishing possibilities. I would no longer recommend this area. Flow is more steady at Paso de la Patria and Isla del Cerrito, because there are no dams on the Paraguay river, and there will always be a constant flow of water, specially at Isla del Cerrito.
Newspapers always inform the flow of the river and if it is swelling or decreasing its flow. For example, this site will tell you if the level of the river is increasing or dropping: http://22.214.171.124/alturas/. Generally speaking, if the level of the river at Corrientes is under 300 centimeters (10 feet) , fishing possibilities increase. Empedrado: a beautiful fishing spot, but you will need to hire a fishing guide (a normal boat will cost far less than a motorboat). There are very nice riverbanks eroded by wind and water where you can take some photos. I had my first Parana river fishing experience there in 1970, and was really thrilled. There is a very nice hotel for tourists (Hotel de Turismo) overlooking the river. It is not expensive.
Bella Vista and Goya. I have never gone fishing to these two places, but have read fishing reports and fishing is excellent. The Guarapo lodge is reasonably priced, offers an all-inclusive deal including transportation from the airport, navigation to the lodge, sleeping in tents and all meals. Check their site: www.guarapo.com.ar I find their deals interesting. Esquina: the Corrientes river, that comes down from the Iberá Marshes, meets the Paraná at Esquina. There is good surubi fishing in this small river; dorado fishing depends on the time of the year. Normally dorados are up north in the winter (Isla del Cerrito and Paso de la Patria) and will come down the river by September/October. The dorado fishing season ends in October, while surubis can be fished during the summer months. I have gone fishing in Esquina, and my results were poor, but the sons of a friend went at the right time and enjoyed beautiful fishing of dorados up to 30 pounds both in Empedrado and Esquina. Check at the hotel’s front desk who are the best (and affordable) fishing guides in the area. But I feel that the Guarapo deal is interesting, you fish inside a private property, catch and release, and are exposed to less hazards, since they are experts in this.
Another page you might want to consult (if you understand Spanish) is www.tumejorpesca.com. This service belongs to Florida Travel Service of Buenos Aires, they have fairly low prices and visit the main fishing destinations from Concordia, all the way up to the Amazon in Brazil. Just now they are featuring a fishing tour to Esquina for 330 dollars (3 days and 2 nights, including transportation from Buenos Aires, 2 nights at a lodge, all meals, motorboat and gasoline). By what I read, fishing dorados in Esquina is allowed all the year round. As a general rule, fishing is better when the river is shrinking, because the dorados wait at the outlet of lagoons for their prey. The city of Corrientes is another nice place you will want to visit. Fishing possibilities there are minimal, but you are only half an hour away from Paso de la Patria, an hour and a half away from Empedrado, two hours from Bella Vista, and a longer distance from Goya and Esquina.
Corrientes is a provincial capital, and has some 150,000 inhabitants. The pacú is a delicious fish to eat. It may seem curious, but the best bait for this fish is fruit... And bogas can save the day. It is real fun to fish them. They are generally near the coast and I prefer to fish them if possible from a pier. If you use a floater, it will start popping up and down. Do not try to hook them at that time, they are only sucking the bait but they have not swallowed the hook. Once they sink the floater, hook them firmly, remembering that they have a very delicate mouth, that could break and you would loose the fish. If you are fishing with a 3 or 4 ounce sinker, you will feel the bogas if you keep a finger on the nylon. But wait until the line takes a 30 degree inclination before hooking the fish. Keep the line at all times away from the pier. These rascals turn around the beams of the pier and if they are successful, you will hook the pier, not the boga. Average size of bogas is some 2 pounds but 4 to 6 pound bogas are very common in the upper Parana river. I believe you will find this information very interesting.
I lived three and a half years in Mendoza, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Being an addict to fishing, I explored all the possibilities in this province, and came up with these results, from south to north: RÍO GRANDE (Bardas Blancas). Although it is the most famous and largest river in the Province, it is not the river where I got the best results. It is located South of Malargue, and this means at least 9 hours on the bus from Mendoza, generally changing buses at San Rafael and taking the international bus service that runs from San Rafael to Talca (Chile) along the Paso Pehuenche. I usually got off the bus upstream from Bardas Blancas. An 18 pound trout fished in that river attracted fishermen from all latitudes and even in that solitary area you would find ten to fifteen fishermen in a mile of the river. Obviously, the river was overfished, and the results I got there were one or two pound rainbow trout.
RÍO ATUEL (EL SOSNEADO): This is the same river that goes through the Nihuil Dam, the Atuel Canyon and Valle Grande. Although you can catch nice trout trolling in the Nihuil dam, I found that the area immediately upstream from Highway 40 bridge at El Sosneado was the best spot for fishing. Since there is no dam upstream, water is only clear towards the beginning of the fishing season (October) or towards the end (April). Most times I went there I nearly always caught four to five pound rainbow trout. If you go further up the river, you will still have good fishing, but trout will be far smaller.
LAGUNA DEL SOSNEADO: This is a lagoon where I went only once and caught a beautiful salmon. The problem up there is that there are many reeds and it is difficult to fish in that area. If you have a spinner for fishing in the reeds, you could have excellent results. ATUEL CANYON. I walked the area many years ago. The river has beautiful pools and clear water all the year round, since water settles at El Nihuil. I went at the wrong time of the day for fishing, and came to the conclusion that there were no trout in the area. But I have been told recently that fishing is very good. Even in the area next to the Valle Grande Hotel and Resort (3 stars) you should stand a good chance.
MANZANO HISTÓRICO (TUNUYAN), ARROYO GRANDE This is a nice area where you will normally catch two-pound rainbow trout. There is a fish culture station in the area, that restocks the stream. Again, if you go further up, you will catch more trout, but they will be very small. POTRERILLOS LAKE: This artificial lake in the Mendoza river, very near Mendoza (some 25 miles away) is still in the process of filling, and it will take another ten years before it reaches its maximum level. I have never been there, but have been told that fishing is very good. 3 and 4-pound trout are being fished in the lake. MENDOZA RIVER: This river is nearly always dark-coloured and that makes fishing nearly impossible, unless you use bait, that is not permitted. Some of the streams that run into the river (Arroyo Blanco, Arroyo Picheuta) have clear waters. You can give these streams a try, but you will probably catch small trout, as I did in the Arroyo Blanco at Polvaredas.
HOW TO GET TO THE FISHING SITES:
RÍO GRANDE AND RÍO ATUEL: 9 and 7 hours from Mendoza, or 5 and 3 hours on bus from San Rafael by bus (TAC and probably other companies). MANZANO HISTÓRICO: You will need to take a taxi from the city of Tunuyan. Buses from Mendoza to Tunuyan take some 2 hours. (TAC and Expreso Campo Los Andes; the name of this last company could have changed to Andesmar, since they have the same owners.) I do not remember the distance from Tunuyan to El Manzano (maybe 15 or 20 miles) because I always went with friends that took me there. It is a very nice scenic area for taking photos. VALLE GRANDE: There are local buses from San Rafael (empresa Buitroni). In any case, a taxi there should not cost more than 10 to 12 dollars. Downstream from the Valle Grande dam there should be good fishing. Check if there is any restriction for fishing immediately under the dam. In most parts of Argentina, fishing downstream from a dam is permitted only after the half mile or so downstream. The Valle Grande area resembles the "Far West" we have seen in many films. POTRERILLOS LAKE: Buses of Expreso Uspallata to Uspallata and Las Cuevas pass in front of the lake. Buy the ticket to Potrerillos and tell the driver you want to get off at the lake. Possible fishing restrictions: The same comment is valid regarding fishing downstream from the dam. I trust that this report will give you some insight regarding trout fishing in Mendoza. Enjoy your fishing in Mendoza.
Robert Raymond Ingledew
Villa Carlos Paz (Cordoba), Argentina