Tips for Fly Fishing Rainbow Trout at Strobel Lake Argentina
Getting to Strobel Lake
The travel to the Estancia is not difficult it is however fairly long. It is required to overnight in El Calafate the day before your trip and some of my clients decide to overnight a day in Buenos Aires as well. It just depends what type of traveler you are and how much time you have. International flights depart from Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta, New York, or Miami. The main airlines are LatAm or Aerolineas Argentinas. It needs to be noted that Buenos Aires has three airports. You will likely fly into EZE and then need to transfer across the city to AEP, which is about a 45-minute drive. From here you will fly to El Calafate and take a $15 dollar taxi ride to your hotel.
The Design Hotel is a good hotel in El Calafate with a view of Lago Argentina. There are plenty of options for hotels in the small city that range from $100-140 per night. The morning of your trip you are picked up and drive about 5 hours to the Estancia. This is a pretty drive across the countryside and as you get further from El Calafate the area becomes more desolate. You are travelling to a very remote destination.
On your departure day you will be brought back to the airport with plenty of time to catch your afternoon flight. The tourist shop on the way back has empanadas, pizza, and sandwiches that make for a quick but delicious lunch.
The Estancia is modern and overlooks Laguna Verde. Some additions have been made in the last year to include extra rooms. You will most likely have a room to yourself unless you are with a spouse, your kids, or have a fishing buddy you want to room with. The rooms are spacious and heated with private baths and showers. The lodge has two separate wader rooms and hooks to hang your fly rods. The dining area and lounge area are cozy with a fireplace in the corner and provides the perfect setting to relax and tell fish stories from the day. There is also a fly tying bench. Wi-Fi is available and is actually decent enough to check emails and news if you wish.
Each day you can expect a nice breakfast before heading out for the day. At midday you will meet the rest of the group for a hot and filling lunch in one of their shelters built around the lake. Served with wine and beer prepared fresh by your guides. After fishing we had different appetizers and drinks followed by a delicious dinner and my favorite was the desserts.
The history and beginning of fishing Strobel Lake is not that old. In the mid 90’s the Barrancoso River was stocked with eggs from spawning steelhead (which were transplants from the US) as well as trout eggs (also from the US). This was to create a source of income for the local ranchers as a commercial fishery. The feasibility of this was nearly impossible and the idea was lost. However the rainbows began to quickly grow into enormous size due to the rich food source in the lake. The main source of food is scuds for these rainbows as well as daphnia – a small zooplankton.
Soon after this sport fishing became a reality and since then roads have been carved into the rough landscape to allow for fishing the many different bays and parts of the river. Our head guide Martin has been with the Estancia for 9 years and has said since then the fishing has continued to get better with bigger fish each year. His largest to date is 26.4 pounds!!
The difference in this place from other destinations for large trout is the fact that you will catch some of the biggest trout of your life. What I witnessed is rainbow trout in the lake seem to average 10 pounds! I can almost guarantee you a 15-pound fish with chances at 20-pounders. These fish have grown to sizes unheard of with the amount of food available to them in the lake.
The fishing in general at the lake is done under and indicator or by slowly stripping flies. The presentations for these fish need to be slow; so slow you may wonder if you will ever get the line stripped all the way in. Remember they are lazy trout with the amount of food in the water all they do is slowly swim the shores eating food. When they eat the fly they take it softly and you will only experience a subtle feeling of tension on your line. Once they are hooked you will experience violent headshakes or heavy pulling runs to the deeper water. They will try to dive into the coral like rocks and break you off or pop your hook. A fast action heavy rod with 10-12 pound fluorocarbon tippet at the minimum and a tight drag is best to fight these fish. An 8wt rod with a heavy WF taper also helps to cut through the wind, as you will surely get to experience. You could possibly expect maybe one day of light and variable wind.
The estancia has the most lake and river access as well as 8 or more lagoons. You will get to experience a variety of fishing opportunities. The flies you will most often use are wooly buggers and scuds. You will need to make sure your flies are tied on heavy wire and stout hooks or these trout WILL straighten them. Even many of the heavy tiemco hooks and flies I brought got tore up by these fish. I personally like to slowly strip a bugger followed by a scud, as I liked to feel “the take”. You can also better target specific fish this way. The more effective option is fishing under an indicator and casting into the middle of the schools. Red san juans, prince nymphs, copper johns, egg patterns, mice, and large hoppers such as fat alberts were also effective flies. Your guides do have extra flies but it is best to bring a large assortment of these. The lodge has some for sale as well.
When You Should Go
There isn’t a bad time to visit Strobel Lake during the season from Late October to Early May. If you like the river fishing you will want to come during the opening weeks in October-Mid December as this is when the trout are coming into the river to spawn. Fall is also prime time for this is when the Steelhead strain comes into the river to spawn. The water flows can play a huge part in the numbers in the river during this time. These early or late dates will be colder so be prepared.
If you are more into fishing the lake the remaining season from late-December to March is a great time. This is when the most fish are in the lake and you can have really high number days. That being said this is fishing and the weather in this part of Southern Patagonia is very unpredictable. The warm sunny days are the best fishing but the weather patterns are never predicted.
The guides and staff here are great. They will really do everything they can to make sure your week is special and you get into fish. The guiding is usually done two guests per guide.
When you’ve already caught 6 or 7 huge trout and it’s past the time to go back to the lodge so you look at your guide to motion if it’s time to go and he says “nah, keep fishing I want you to catch one more” that’s the sign of a great guide who wants to be there and truly loves his profession. The staff works very hard for you and they have a long season. Be sure to tip them appropriately to show your appreciation.