Written by: Mike Dawkins, WorldCast Anglers
It is no secret that anglers are infatuated with Patagonia. The monstrous Andes mountain range provides ample cold, clean water to the region that, in-turn, creates some of the greatest trout rivers and watersheds on the planet. Enjoying the famous Malbec wines served at almost every meal, world-renowned Argentine beef, and genuine over-the-top Patagonian hospitality, trout anglers quickly feel comfortable and at home at the bottom of the world. Most importantly, Patagonia’s enormous trout readily eat large foam fly patterns and attack streamers with vigor and gusto! Imagine the Rocky Mountain West a century ago. Explorers brought trout to Patagonia in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Little did they know, they would be creating a trout-angling utopia!
Fishing in Patagonia is not easy, by any stretch of the imagination; however, it is simplistic. On few occasions, a match-the-hatch mentality and specialized equipment is required, but for the most part, Patagonian trout are opportunistic feeders that don’t see much angling pressure when compared to their Northern Hemisphere counterparts. In my experience, the flies recommended below will cover many angling situations you will encounter in Patagonia. Save room in your luggage to bring home some yerba mate and a couple bottles of Malbec. You’ll need them when you arrive back to the United States and reflect up your adventure to the land of guachos and one of the greatest trout fishing regions in the world!
1. Fat Albert
(black and tan; sizes 4-10)
If you are traveling anywhere in the Patagonia Region of Argentina or Chile, this fly should be in your box! The region is full of tasty beetles, ants, and other flying insects that keep trout looking up in an opportunistic fashion to consume large foam patterns. Be sure to include some tan versions of this pattern to cover hoppers and some stonefly species. This pattern is great for dry-and-dropper rigs, as well.
2. Rance’s Gypsy King
Created by Patagonia River Guides owner, operator, and guide, Rance Rathie, this fly is constructed of foam, elk hair, peacock, and rubber legs that bounce and move with the most subtle movement. It is deadly in multiple different angling situations in Patagonia. It floats like a cork and can hold up even the heaviest tungsten-bead dropper plunging to the depths. Not too flashy and not too drab, the Gypsy King grabs the attention of trout in large rivers and lakes but doesn’t spook those in smaller and more intimate environments.
3. Purple Haze Parachute
A purple-bodied variation of the classic Parachute Adams, the Purple Haze Parachute is a popular pattern found in most fly shops across North America. Its thin profile allows it to be fished in those occasional technical “match the hatch” situations. Its attractor style allows it to be used during any mayfly emergence you may encounter. Don’t believe in purple? Don’t worry: soon you will become a believer. The Purple Haze Parachute is a hands-down winner and true utilitarian pattern for any Patagonia angling adventure.
4. Hi-Viz Beetle
(black and peacock; sizes 12-16)
Patagonia’s spring creeks are loaded with beetles, ants, aphids, and terrestrials. The famous Patagonia wind pushes these protein snacks into the water during all times of the day with the trout continually looking up to inhale their next meal. Simply stated, beetles become a very important food source during the Patagonia summer months. Plop this pattern down in the middle of a pool, cast one tight to the bank, or toss one in front of a feeding fish and wait for the chomp.
5. Dali/Dolly Llama
(black/white, black/olive, olive/white, and white; sizes 2-8)
Originally tied to target Alaska’s large and carnivorous salmon, char, and trout, this pattern rings the dinner bell for Patagonia’s monster trout. Ironically named after the famous leader of Tibetan Buddhism and preacher of happiness and peace, the heavy conehead, lateral-line flash, and flowing rabbit-strip body trigger sheer destruction and consumption! Tie this on a 200-grain sinking line and hold on!
6. Black Sex Dungeon
(black; size 2)
A monster fish producer throughout the Western United States, this jointed Kelly Galloup pattern is now one of the most well-known articulated streamers of all time. A mixture of lead eyes, deer hair sculpin head, hackle, marabou, and rubber legs, it dances through the water in an aggressive but seductive motion. Big fish just can’t resist it. It simply does the job in triggering the “kill strike”!
7. Sparkle Minnow
(sculpin; sizes 2-6)
Sometimes you just need to get a trout’s attention, and the Sparkle Minnow does just that. A mix of gold, white, olive, brown, and copper, its color scheme is a perfect imitation of little trout and other baitfish that big bruiser trout love to eat. Stripped and twitched in a traditional streamer fishing method, this pattern can get even those wary trout to commit. Try it dead-drifted or on the swing, and it is equally effective. Don’t leave home without it.
8. Girdle Bug
(black, brown, and olive; sizes: 4-10)
Known throughout the trout-angling world, the Girdle Bug is a classic and deadly stonefly nymph pattern. While Patagonia doesn’t experience large stonefly hatches, its trout love this weighted pattern when fished as a dropper in many of its rivers and lakes. Don’t let it fool you! There is something that a trout just can’t resist when a buggy, lifelike profile floats by with goofy moving rubber legs. Just ask Patagonia’s monster brook trout.
9. BH Power Worm
(red, purple, merlot, and brown; sizes 6-10)
Love it or hate it. Believe or don’t believe. Embrace or exclude. The Beadhead Power Worm puts some serious numbers of fish into the boat in Patagonia. A twist on the classic San Juan worm, the bead head allows the fly to sink faster and stay in the strike zone longer. Its vinyl or v-rib body adds segmentation, sparkle and durability and bright color attracts fish from near and far. A recipe for success! Fish it near weed beds and you too will see the power of the Worm.
10. BH Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail
Simply one of the best and most functional nymph patterns created, this pattern thrives in Patagonia. The soft hackle gives this pattern lifelike movement and pulsating action in all water types while the Pheasant Tail body mimics a plethora of aquatic insects present in the Patagonia river systems. Equally effective as a mayfly or caddisfly imitation, the application of this pattern is vast while the beadhead sinks the fly quickly and efficiently. It can be stripped on lakes, fished as a dropper under a dry, or swung on a 45-degree angle to imitate rising insects in the water column.
Mike Dawkins is a guide/partner in WorldCast Anglers in Victor, Idaho and Jackson, Wyoming.