What we knew for a fact before we departed for the Rio Grande, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina was the following:
- It was at the end of 26-grueling-hours of traveling from Johannesburg to Sao Paolo, then on to Buenos Aires and then a final leg down to the town of Rio Grande.
- Our hosts for the week were going to be the team from Nervous Waters at their Villa Maria Lodge
- The river is known for BIG Sea Run Browns, double-handed rods are mandatory and the wind blows like nothing we have ever experienced…at 60km/h the guides start calling it a light breeze.
Instinctively we wanted to pack 4 – 6wt outfits, our usual weapons of choice when chasing Browns; sensibly we closely inspected the pre-trip briefing document that completely obliterated this potentially erroneous decision. Water levels were much lower than what is deemed ‘par for the course’ this time of the year which meant this called for an array of techniques and gear – Double-handers for the bigger water and when the wind was at Jet-engine level and Single-handers when stealth and a more delicate approach was needed and, to be brutally honest, when Spey-virgins like us start fluffling our casts.
A 7wt is considered light for the Rio Grande and 8 & 9wts to were to be our work-horse outfits.
Tierra del Fuego sits on the southern tip of Argentina; the next south stop being Antarctica. This should immediately tell you that the terrain is stark and unforgiving, survival out there is out of need not want and the water is understandably icy – all the things you forget about when latched onto a double-figure Brown that is.
We needed a selection of fly-lines that were not going to harden and coil, remain slick and shoot with precision all whilst enduring a week of brutal punishment by both anglers and fish.
On top of this it was crucial to be able to bounce between lines as we fished varying currents, depths and size waters. Always being able to rely on our mates and the design team over at Scientific Anglers, we explained our anticipated conditions, identified requirements and rods we would be pairing the lines with and in a snap they had a selection of their latest lines in our hands.
VBF NOTE: This is by no stretch of the imagination a technical review on these lines, but more an anecdote of how these put us in contact with the fish of our dreams – monstrous Sea Run Browns – and that is what it should all be about.
The Pairing Menu
Scott T2H 12’6” 8wt rods with a Nautilus CCF-X2 8-10 reel and a Hardy Fortuna
All reels were spooled with close on 300yds of Scientific Anglers 50lb XTS Gel Spun Backing.
Scientific Anglers SONAR Titan – Hover / Sink 2 / Sink 4
The SONAR Titan – Hover / Sink 2 / Sink 4 is part of their triple density sinking lines that afford you a more predictable sink rate coupled with less/no belly to keep you in touch all the time. Often we were faced with narrow but deep channels with a slow upward sloping bottom. A full sinker would simply see the belly of the line dig into the mud and an intermediate line would just not get down to the fish fast enough. The Hover running-line section of this epic fly-line meant that we stayed off the bottom but below the wind-blown and choppy surface with the Sink 4 tip putting our flies right on the noses of those fresh Sea Run fish.
The Sink 2 section ties it all together and made sure of the seamless connection between the tip and running line ensuring we (almost) never missed a bump.
We would cast slightly upstream, throw a long mend to allow the line to get down and then wait for the tension of the current before we attentively but gently swung our flies through the zone with short sharp pulls to make our flies bounce just off the bottom.
Especially on the smaller #10 nymphs the takes would be no more than a pronounced bump or a sudden stop but all gracefulness would disintegrate as soon as the hook was set. These fresh fish still chrome from their stint in the ocean would burn into your backing with frighteningly violent headshakes, their jumps gave them enough time to eyeball you before they drop in a frothing splash and tear off taking line, backing and angler with them. No one could fake the smiles and passionate high-fives we shared as close mates with EACH fish landed.
Scientific Anglers Mastery Anadro
If we could marry a fly-line the Scientific Anglers Mastery Anadro would be it! The Anadro casts with very little input from the angler; it cuts through the wind with jaw-dropping agility whilst delivering long casts to the opposite bank regardless of what is attached to its tip – long leaders and small flies or stout tippets with big pieces of ‘meat’.
It doesn’t float, it doesn’t hover, nope it glides over the surface of the water making the longest of mends feel effortless and your onlookers go (in a Trevor Noah voice),” I want to be like him!!!”
During the last evening session of the trip we convinced our guide Alejandro Bianchetti to let us try some upstream indicator fishing. We looped on a ThingamaBobber with a tandem rig of super heavy nymphs tied on a 12ft section of 10lb fluorocarbon. Basking in familiarity, we waded waist deep to the edge of a fast current where it pumped into a long pool creating a deep and prominent cut against the opposite bank. The wind was pumping downstream but with the Scientific Anglers Mastery Anadro we were able to get our loops tight enough to allow the line’s head to cut through the wind and drop the flies in the zone without a hitch. Rippling surface s currents required constant mending whilst not taking our eyes of the indicator as it bobbed downstream riding the waves throughout the drift.
The takes did not pull the indicator down, no, for a split second there would be the slightest pause in the drift and if we were fast enough to respond a solid strike meant “fish on” every time! Because the line floats so high we were able to lift it off the water and instantly connect with the fish.
Pieter caught his personal best fish from this trip using this technique – a stunning hen just short of 18lb.
Scientific Anglers TC Skagit Kit (Float) + Shooting Line
Let’s put it out there – We Don’t know shit about Spey! Though we arrived fully armed and ready with the required gear we had zero idea how it all strung together. Fortunately for us the guides at Villa Maria specialize in all Double-Hander matters and had us ready within minutes. Looped onto our 50lb Gel Spun backing came the Shooting Line paired with the floating head of the Scientific Anglers TC Skagit Kit – Float. Neatly tucked into a tip wallet, the kit comes complete with 4 TC Tapered tips that turn-over with ease and are of varying sink rates that we regularly switched out to be at the exact depth the fish were holding at. The Guides made it all seem pretty easy & textbook and once schooled on the system we found the welded loops throughout the entire rig made it super easy to make any changes or adjustments.
At the waters’ edge it smacked us that there was certainly extensive tuition required and this came in the form of one of the best casting instructors we have ever had the privilege of looking over our shoulders – Jason Jagger (@troutknows). In little over two hours he not only had us well versed in ‘Spey-Talk’ but we were actually able to showoff Snap-T’s and Cack-Handed techniques…Like a Boss!
Still rough around the edges but a lot more confident than before we arrived we took on the Double-Handers as often as possible. Being able to cast over 30 meters in a single effortless stroke and the ability to repeat the exact same drift cast after cast with alarming precision had us sold. Swinging big streamers at the end of our lines the strikes were violent and with the intention to kill – on the Spey rods we could subdue these fish mush faster as very little of the actual fly-line would be in the water with the big arching curve of the rod serving as a massive shock absorber. We still struggled landing fish with the 12’6” rods without putting the tip in danger but we are amped to put it to work back in South Africa on an array of both fresh-and saltwater species.
These Trips only come around once
One destination. One river. One species of glorious gear busting Chrome. A selection of lines that were essential to our overall success and ultimately the enjoyment of a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Being able to select the right line for the conditions and situations you might/will be facing can sometime be a baffling task but Scientific Anglers has managed to not only simplify their range of lines, but packaged these so that the process is intuitive.
This trip has fundamentally impacted our understanding of and focus on fly-lines; the right rod will deliver your line and flies but the correct line for the job is that bit of magic that makes it all come together and your reel scream with affirmation!