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Limay River - The River of Monsters

Category: Fly Fishing Destinations | Author: Chip Drozenski

If you want a trip of a lifetime with a chance for a trophy and memorable experiences then the “RIVER of MONSTERS “should be on your list!


Big Brown

In Argentina, the mighty Limay River, once flowing freely for about 300 miles from its source Lake Nahuel Huapi near San Carlos de Bariloche until it joins the Neuquen River to form the Rio Negro River on its final destination to the Atlantic Ocean, has its flow now interrupted by five dams.

It is the stretch between the Pichi Picún Leufú Dam and Exequiel Ramos Mejia Reservoir that is called "Middle Limay" or "Limay Medio".

As a result of the dam, the Reservoir is a big source of freshwater crabs ‘Pancora’, some that look like trout steaks and minnows from different species creating a great environment for brown and rainbow trout to grow fast and reach unbelievable sizes. These two things combine to make every fall, March - May, a time when big quantities of migratory lake fish swim up into the river joining a very good resident population. They chase schools of bait fish providing exciting action. It is amazing to see such wide color variation fish to fish and how fast they grow making it hard to believe they are all coming from the same place.

It is for these large migratory trout as well as resident specimens, some exceeding 15 to 20 lbs. These are the stars of the Limay Medio. Trophy brown trout some of them competing with the famous sea run brown trout in the Rio Grande of Tierra del Fuego. When you combine this with bows up to 5 kilo that rip line like a speeding bullet train then you start to see why this is a special fishery.

Fly into Chapelco, the airport serving San Martín de los Andes or to Bariloche where the journey begins. You must then drive about three hours to a hotel in the town of Piedra del Aguila. The first night is a fun night that I always enjoy…… a great dinner, a good argentine Malbec wine…..excitement and anticipation ……as the river awaits.

The first 20 km (12.5 miles) down stream from the Pichi Picún Leufú dam is easily accessible and more crowded. Many locals fish this section. The logistics for this section is easy and therefore more fishermen.

Beyond the first sections a six day float trip is the best way to fish this water as many parts are otherwise unreachable. Each day ends with overnight camping on islands along the 40 mile trip.

Each days float is different in duration and interest as the river’s landscape changes.


Targeting Big Brown

Although many target the brown trout, the Middle Limay has hard fighting rainbow trout that will put to test a fisherman’s ability to land them. Considering river sections vary between 100 to 200 meters (300 to 600 ft.), long casts are required, many times against the wind and one should be able to double haul.

There are evenings, when the wind dies down and good dry fly action can be had but the Limay Medio River is a "streamer river". Typical tackle consists of a 9ft 8 wt. rod, 27 – 30 ft. shooting heads (in Type #4 to #6 sinking rates) plus a running line like Rio Slick Shooter or Amnesia 20/35 pounds test with 200 yards of backing.

The flies used mostly imitate the two different minnow imitations "pejerrey" and "Puyen" and the pancora crayfish. Saltwater deceivers and flies with slim profiles are very productive.

For me the quest for big fish is always exciting as each cast can bring a trophy fish but the most exciting type of fishing that gets my adrenalin flowing is the minnow blitz. I call them glass minnows because of their translucency. Fish busting on minnows is so visual and when they really get going nothing is more exciting. A floating minnow pattern that moves water as it is stripped gets the trout’s attention and then hang on. Fishing the shallows into the drop offs is the patrolling area where bait meet predators. At first I was surprised to see such big fish in very shallow water cruise and nail the minnows but I have learned the hard way to always pay attention because on each strip the big boys can come attacking and the takes are vicious.

Many lessons can be learned on this river due to the number of big fish and the amount of feeding one can actually see. Flies with slim profiles, pulsating material and minimal flash seem to produce the best. Immediately get the fly swimming and keep it naturally swimming with good line mending, long slow strips at the swing and probing shallow water where minnows gather make the difference between a fish and many fish. These big fish move great distances to attack.

I have fished many of the world’s great rivers for big fish but for numbers and size the Limay Medio is hard to beat. If you want a trip of a lifetime with a chance for a trophy and memorable experiences then the “RIVER of MONSTERS “should be on your list!

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