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The Backstage Pass

Patagonia Fly Fishing Gear Guide: Everything You Need

August 23, 23

Patagonia stands as one of the world's greatest freshwater fisheries, spread across Argentina and Chile. The Andes Mountains stands as a dividing line between the two countries and each are characterized by their own individual landscapes and climates. However, the common denominator is remarkable fishing. With the trout in the region having few if any natural predators, fly fishing in Patagonia is something any committed fly fisherman should aspire to experience at least once. 

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Packing gear for Patagonia is fairly straightforward, though there are some vital components to packing. Below we detail the different elements one needs before beginning travel. For destination-specific fly, tackle, rod/reel setups, apparel recommendations and more for the Patagonia region, view the Patagonia Equipment List.

+ Patagonia Equipment List Video Series

What Rods Should I Bring?

When selecting a freshwater fly rod for Patagonia, the location and style of fishing you will be doing will dictate what rod you bring. More often than not, you will be utilizing a 5 and/or 6-Weight for general nymphing and dry fly fishing. A 4-Weight could work, especially when fishing a single dry on spring creeks, but will likely leave you wanting if the wind picks up. A heavier rod will allow you to cast big foam at greater distances, handle stiff winds, and throw small streamers should the situation call for it.

If you want to dedicate a portion of your trip to fishing streamers, we recommend bring a dedicated streamer rod. A 6 or 7-Weight is going to be ideal as the heavier rod will make casting larger flies easier while also casting a heavier sinking fly line. 

The fishing does vary across the region, from spring creeks a couple of feet wide to shallow, meandering streams, to massive river systems and expansive lakes. Given the size of many of these operations, some lodges have access to all of the above! The key is to know where you are heading and how you want to fish. At a minimum, we suggest bringing at least two rods: a 5 and/or 6-Weight for dry fly fishing, dry-dropper fishing, or nymphing. Then, have a dedicated 6 or 7-Weight streamer rod with a sink-tip line to allow you to easily change tactics depending on the situation. 

Selecting the Right Reel

Reel selection for travel to Patagonia is very straightforward: while it is possible for you to make it into your backing, it isn't going to happen regularly. We suggest bringing a freshwater fly reel that matches your rod size with 100-150 yards of 20# backing. 

One consideration is to bring a spare spool outfitted with a different type of line--if you don't own or want to purchase a rod for streamers, you could always bring a spare spool for your 6-Weight paired with a streamer-specific fly line. 

Choosing A Fly Line

The line you are going to use the most is a standard freshwater floating fly line. For fishing streamers, you'll want to purchase a dedicated streamer line. This is going to be utilized most frequently on big water or on area lakes to quickly get your fly deeper in the water column. 

Fly line tapers are going to come into play depending on where you are fishing. If you're fishing to picky trout in skinny water as is common in the region's spring creeks, a longer taper dedicated to casting a single dry fly is going to be better than a taper meant for turning over a heavy nymph rig. If you want to bring multiple lines on a spare spool, you can, but a general, all-purpose line with a standard taper will likely suit you. 

+ Waypoints Podcast -- Travis Smith and Rance Rathie: The Inside Information of Fly Fishing Patagonia Part 1 & Part 2

Leaders & Tippet

A couple fresh packs of 9-foot, 2x-4x freshwater leaders will be all you need over a week of fishing! 

  • 4x: Used for spring creeks or when targeting "spooky" fish. If need be, you can add a section of 5x tippet to get even smaller (though this is uncommon).

  • 3x: This will be your all-around, go to leader size for most fishing scenarios. It is stiff enough to turn over large, foam dry flies with a heavy, tungsten dropper but also light enough as to not be overkill.¬†

  • 2x: A tapered 2x leader will be for streamer fishing to ensure your streamers turn over with ease. In a pinch, you can cut a couple feet off of your 3x leader. Additionally, if needed, you could fish a straight 4-6 foot section of 2x tippet, though the taper allows for a sturdier backbone for better unrolling of the fly when casting.¬†

Anglers should bring 1 spool each of 0x-5x freshwater tippet for a week of fishing, though you may not use them all. The 0x would likely only be utilized when fishing large, articulated streamers in big water scenarios--though that may yield the largest fish you catch! For technical fish, 5x is likely the smallest you will ever go -- though you can bring 6x to ensure you are covered for every possible scenario. 



Wading Gear

Aside from your rod and reel, good wading gear might be the single most important investment an angler can make for fishing in Patagonia.

High-quality, breathable Goretex waders are going to be vital if you want to remain comfortable. Some lodges can provide waders to clients, but the only way to guarantee a comfortable fit over a week of fishing is to have your own preferred pair. Wet wading can be done, depending on the season, but the weather in Patagonia can drastically change over a fishing day. If you would like to wet wade, discuss options with our team on the best lodges and time to travel.

For wading boots, anglers should opt for a rubber or vibram sole to offer the best support and traction. Do NOT bring studded boots as they will damage the boats used by the lodges. 

When selecting boots that will accommodate a stockingfoot wader and a pair of thick wool socks, many anglers size up. Rounding up to the next size is a safe way to ensure your boot is large enough to accommodate your layers and insulation, while also remaining functional and safe for wading. 

Building Your Fly Box

Now for the fun part. 

Selecting flies for Patagonia is fairly straightforward as the fish are not nearly as selective as those in the United States. With thats said, the timing of your trip will influence what you want to bring. If you want a hand-selected box of flies for Patagonia, check out our Patagonia Fly Selection.

For early season (November-December), having some variety in your box will be important to ensure you can adapt to different conditions. Keep in mind, the fish during this time won't have seen flies for months are generally very cooperative. A good variety of dry flies, big foam flies, streamers, and nymphs will allow you to change your approach based on conditions -- remember, winter has just ended, and water levels and flows could be changing due to runoff. 

Peak season for Patagonia falls around late December though early March , and this time of year is highly regarded as some of the best dry fly fishing anywhere. Hoppers, ants, and beetles are going to be your go-to patterns, but we encourage anglers to also have a mix of staple mayfly and caddis flies if they encounter a hatch. Additionally, some staple nymphs are a great addition to be utilized as a dropper beneath your terrestrial patterns. 

Fall fishing from March-May is still excellent, and dry fly fishing often remains the primary approach. With that said, this time of year could be your best bet for targeting trophy brown trout on streamers as they prepare for the onset of winter. 

Terrestrials 

Some tried and true terrestrial patterns in a variety of sizes: 

Dry Flies

Profile and size is the most important characteristic in dry flies for Patagonia -- the ultra technical dry fly patterns are not needed in Patagonia and anglers can stick to classic patterns. 

Nymphs

As with your dry flies, staple nymph patterns are going to be an effective dropper in Patagonia. 

Streamers

If you're traveling to a lodge where you plan on fishing from drift boats or lake fishing, you should definitely bring some streamers -- especially later in the season. 

Apparel, Packs, and Must-Haves 

  • Clothing: Layering clothing effectively is crucial to stay comfortable and focused on the fishing. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to regulate body temperature and keep sweat away from the skin--capilene and merino wool are two of the most common materials.

    Next, add an insulating layer like a fleece or down jacket to trap warmth. Temperatures can rise quickly during the summer, so removing this layer is always an option. You should approach your outer layer with the same approach you took for your waders--make the investment in a quality jacket. A Goretex, waterproof outer layer is highly recommended for travel to Patagonia.

  • Wading Pack:¬†Your pack selection should be influenced by where you are traveling and the type of fishing you will be doing. If you are going to be doing an abundance of walk-wading, a hip pack or sling pack is going to be ideal for keeping your necessities close by without adding excess weight. If you are going to be fishing more from a drift boat, a larger pack allows you the ability to bring anything you might need for the fishing day, including your rain coat, flies, terminal tackle, camera, and any essential gear. You can always bring one of each to adapt to each new fishing day as it is common for guides to mix up your week. We always encourage¬†anglers opt for a fully waterproof pack.¬†

  • Sunglasses: Bring at least one pair of polarized lenses in copper or amber, though a yellow or silver lens is going to be great for lowlight situations. Conditions and cloud cover can change regularly throughout the fishing day, so having options allows you to adapt.¬†
  • Luggage:¬†Luggage selection is directly influenced by which destination you are traveling to between Argentina and Chile. Anglers are allowed to carry-on fishing gear when traveling within Chile, but not in Argentina. Travelers should keep this in mind when selecting a rod/reel case to ensure their gear, flies, tackle and other necessities stay well-protected after they check their luggage.¬†

Contact Yellow Dog if you have further questions about fly fishing in Patagonia or our shop for questions regarding gear, apparel, packs, and more!

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