This is arguably the single most sought after fishing experience of its kind on the planet. Few angling destinations on earth compare with the sea-run fishing on the Rio Grande.
Most fly fishermen rate the trophy sea-run brown trout on this river the ultimate angling experience. On any other river in the world, the average brown on the Rio Grande would be considered the fish of lifetime. The best of the season begins in January and extends through early April.
La Villa, at the entrance to the 275,000-acre Estancia Maria Behety, was once regarded as among the most beautiful ranch mansions in all of South America. Its guests brought fame to the Rio Grande, and their stories and laughter filled the villa until it was gutted by fire in the late 70’s. After painstaking restoration by local craftsmen and the addition of every modern convenience, the Menendez Family Home is once again welcoming angling guests.
La Villa de Estancia Maria Behety is the most deluxe lodge on the Rio Grande. Guests share more than 102 pools with Estancia Maria Behety Lodge and enjoy old world charm in the beautifully restored, historic mansion.
There is no finer lodge in South America, and no lodge in Tierra del Fuego that’s more appropriate for non-angling companions. Amenities include a 9,000 bottle wine cellar, private rooms, Jacuzzi tubs and a very talented team of guides.
La Villa can accommodate a maximum of six anglers each week of the short Tierra del Fuego summer and advance reservations are a must.
Tierra del Fuego is more than 1,800 miles south of Buenos Aires. Getting there from the states requires at least one overnight en-route. It’s a bit more trouble than Alaska, but is definitely worth the extra effort.
Sea-run browns on the Rio Grande average 10 – 14 lbs, and experienced fly rodders usually hook about a half dozen per day. Trophy fish in excess of 20 pounds are not uncommon and about one in 50 is a monster pushing 30 pounds!
2022 Weeks & Rates
Seasons at La Villa de Maria Behety
The big sea-run brown trout start to return to the pools of the Rio Grande in significant numbers around Thanksgiving.
Less than a month later the river is loaded with fish and it is estimated that by the first day of each New Year, nearly 80% of the escapement has reached their annual family reunion. That translates into more than a thousand monster trout per river mile. The fish initially herd up in the
best lower river pools, though hundreds more of the silver sea trout continue to pour into the Rio Grande on every high tide, twice a day until sometime in May. The most sought after dates are February and March, the center and most pleasant part of the short, near-Antarctic summer.
Because the most productive week of the season shifts ever year and can't be consistently targeted on the calendar, the best time to be on the Rio Grande is unpredictable. But it's all good! Consider that thousands of these huge fish are caught each season, yet when population studies are compared to accurate catch records, it's clear that a surprisingly small number of the fish present (which don't actively feed after they return to the river) actually end up being hooked. What triggers their aggressive behavior and when it happens is arguable, but what can't be challenged is that every week on the Rio Grande can be, and usually is phenomenal.
Time your Trip for January, February, March, or the first two weeks of April.
While mid-season offers the most pleasant weather, the best weeks ever recorded have been the last weeks of the season. Randy Berry and his friends from Teton Valley Lodge once averaged 53 fish per rod during what some consider to be the most difficult week of the Tierra del Fuego summer.
Early season fish are very aggressive, full of fight, and acrobatic. They move readily to dries, and three of the largest sea trout ever recorded were caught and released in January. The most productive weeks of the season shifts each year and can't be consistently targeted on the calendar. The best week to be on the Rio Grande is whichever best suits your schedule. In fact, when the weather cooperates, nearly every day of the season is good!
Geography of the Rio Grande:
Though most of the Rio Grande is on the Chilean side of the border, nearly 80% of the prime spawning habitat and all of the Rio Grande's best fishing is on the Argentina portion of the island, much of it in the first 45 miles above where the river enters the sea.
The fences of Maria Behety surround hundreds of square miles of grazing land and this huge estancia borders nearly 32 miles on the north bank of the river. The estancia alternates daily the use of more than 50 kilometers (102 pools) with the three lodges on the opposite side of the Rio Grande in a friendly and well-organized rotation that insures a quality, private fly fishing experience for everyone.
The lodges on the opposite, southern riverbank are Despedida, Kau Tapen, and Villa Maria (part of Kau Tapen). The upstream estancias separating Maria Behety and Kau Tapen from nearby Chile border increasingly shallow pools, more marginal spawning habitat, and fewer and fewer sea trout.
Resident brown and rainbow trout fishing in the tributaries and the Rio Grande headwaters is excellent.
The maximum combined occupancy of all the Rio Grande lodges between the Atlantic Ocean and the Chilean border is about 50 anglers. That's an average of nearly a mile of private water for every single fisherman.
Meteorologists officially classify the island of Tierra del Fuego as a subpolar oceanic climate. Summers in Tierra del Fuego are short, dry and relatively cool while winters are long, wet, and moderate. The northeast, where the Rio Grande resides, is characterized by strong winds and little precipitation while the south and west (Ushuaia) it is very windy, foggy, and wet for most of the year, and there are very few days without rain, slush, hail or snow. Regions in the world with similar climates to southern Tierra del Fuego include the Aleutian Islands, Iceland and the Alaska Peninsula.
Getting to La Villa de Maria Behety
Getting to Argentina these days is relatively simple and painless with a wide choice of convenient, daily flights from Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas, Miami, and New York.
Most flights are direct departing the States in the afternoon or early evening and arriving early the next morning. Airlines that service Buenos Aires daily include American, United, Continental, Delta, LAN Aerolineas
Argentinas, Air France, British Airways, Canadian Airlines, Lufthansa and Varig.
Flying Times to Buenos Aires from; Los Angeles: 13 hours, Dallas: 11 hours, Houston: 10 hours, Miami: 9 hours New York: 11 hours, Chicago: 11 hours.
Almost all the international flights into Argentina arrive at the Ministro Pistarini (Ezeiza) International Airport of Buenos Aires, 35 Km from the Federal Capital. You are required to fill out a customary arrival form, which will be handed out to you on your flight down. First you will clear Immigrations (Passport Control) then you will retrieve your luggage, and clear Customs. The entire arrival process in Buenos Aires should take between 1 and 1 1/2 half hours.
Specific flight details for La Villa de Maria Behety
Arrive Buenos Aires, Argentina, transfer to hotel of your choice. Arrive Ezeiza International Airport; clear Immigrations (Passport Control); retrieve luggage, and clear Customs. Auto transfer from the Ezeiza International Airport to your downtown Buenos Aires hotel. The rest of the day and evening is at your leisure to explore the old-world city center of Buenos Aires.
Remember, there are two airports in Buenos Aires, Domestic & International. The domestic airport is about 20 minutes from the downtown area, and the International is about 45 minutes. You will need at least two hours for auto transfer between the International Airport "Ezeiza" and the Domestic Airport "Jorge Newbery" Domestic airport taxis are about $25-$30 from your downtown hotel.
Arrival Rio Grande or Ushuaia, transfer to Estancia Maria Behety Lodge: You have two options for traveling to Estancia Maria Behety Lodge; flying from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia and transferring by auto to the lodge (3 hour drive) or flying to Rio Grande and driving to the lodge a 45 minute ride. There are several daily flights from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia that make this routing extremely convenient, albeit the 3 hour drive, which traverses some spectacularly beautiful country. The advantages of the Rio Grande routing is the short drive from the airport to the lodge, however this is a once a day flight with a very early departure out of Buenos Aires. Either routing, we will coordinate meet and greet at the airport and auto transfer to the lodge.
After arriving at the lodge, you'll be shown to your private room, given a brief orientation and tour of the facilities, guides will be assigned, and you'll have a chance to organize your tackle for the fishing day planned to start the next morning. There is no fishing on the first day or evening.
Sunday – Friday:
The Fishing Week: Each of the angling days is spent fishing in both the morning and evening. The beats are rotated, and normally anglers will not have to repeat any pools during their stay. Fishermen return to the lodge in the heart of the ranch to enjoy a mid-day meal, and have the chance to relax for a few hours. The lodge is only a short distance from the river, no more than half an hour to the most distant beat on the huge ranch.
At the conclusion of the angling day, fishermen return to the lodge for a hot shower, cocktails from the fully stocked bar, hors d'oeuvres, and a wonderful Argentine meal accented by fine Argentine wines and desserts that will add a marvelous finishing touch to each day.
Saturday Return Home:
The Estancia Maria Behety will provide auto transfer to Ushuaia or Rio Grande to start your trip home or continue your travels in South America.
Make it easy on yourself. Alicia Regueiro and her expert staff at Holdy Tours (800) 446- 1111 or firstname.lastname@example.org are a full service travel agency. They've been our first choice for ticketing for years because Holdy professionals are intimately familiar with the intricacies of travel to Chile, Argentina and all South America. Holdy gets rave reviews from us for arranging reasonably priced flights as well as city tours, hotels, transfers, and optional add-on travel packages to our fly fishing trips. They know the best routes and connections for even the most complicated Patagonia angling destinations and they've teamed up with LAN to offer the best airfares and service to South America. Make it easy on yourself and contact Holdy Tours for your flight accommodations.
Lodging at La Villa de Maria Behety
La Villa has to be considered one of the most luxurious fly fishing lodges in the Americas, perhaps the world and is exclusively limited to six anglers maximum per week.
Make no mistake, or be fooled by the charm comfort and amenities of La Villa, this destination is a fishing lodge – first and foremost. Everything at La Villa centers around the finest sea-trout river on the planet and is
custom-tailored for serious trophy trout fishermen who will settle for nothing but the best.
Guests at La Villa will enjoy a very meticulously built and finished single level lodge that is comfortable, warm, inviting and efficient; designed exclusively with anglers in mind. The architectural style inside and out at La Villa is turn of the century Patagonian with the addition of every modern convenience available. All the rooms at La Villa are private, single occupancy rooms; elegantly decorated featuring a spacious private bathroom with a glass walk in shower, Jacuzzi tub and large vanity and sink area. During non-angling times between double daily fishing secessions, guest will gather in one of two living areas where fishing tales are told, cocktails enjoyed and the next fishing sortie is anticipated with the warmth and comfort of a crackling fire burning in the fireplace. The dining schedule at La Villa is determined by the fishing program and every consideration within reason is given to the most productive times to be on the river. All meals are served in the formal dinning room; creations of talented Argentine chefs using fresh ingredients from the greenhouse and meat raised and processed on the estancia. A fully stocked 9,000 bottle wine cellar featuring some of the finest Argentine varietals and full open bar add to the experience. Other amenities at La Villa include radiant floor heat, 24 hour internet service, wader/equipment room, designated fly tying areas and gift and tackle shop.
Fishing at La Villa de Maria Behety
Hooking up with a big sea run brown is an emotional fishing experience that defies accurate description.
Most fish grab a streamer or nymph on the swing and your first notion is you've hooked a snag. But there are damn few snags in the Rio Grande. It's about this time when the three-foot long "snag" starts violently shaking its head, and its time to plant your feet and get ready for a fight.
After weighing and measuring the length and girth of nearly 6,000 sea trout for three years in a row, University of Montana biologists have developed a very accurate formula for estimating their weight, without the use of a Boga or other accurate scale.
Weight (lbs) = 64.16 x (fork length (m) x girth (m)) 1.4676
These big brown trout are much like Pacific salmon and steelhead, in that they're most active in low light conditions. The scientists call them nega-phototropic, and as the sun gets higher, fish retreat to the deepest parts of the pools. Perhaps it's because they're used to the deeper sea, or they feel exposed to predators in bright sunlight, but it's a fact they're more aggressive and much more likely to strike a fly in the early morning, late evening, or when it's overcast. In mid-day, when the sun is at its highest, they're unlikely to respond to even the most perfectly presented fly. One of the reasons so many photos of the Rio Grande mega trout look like deer caught in the headlights is that most are caught early or late in the day.
Typical Fishing Day:
Fishermen start each morning with a light breakfast of fresh fruit, cereals, yogurt, toast and coffee, as well as a full American Breakfast (if they have the room), followed by a full morning of fishing. Each two anglers share a guide and vehicle. Their beat usually consists of two to four pools, all for themselves. Fishermen typically return to the lodge by 1 o'clock in the afternoon where a delicious midday meal, perfectly complemented by local wines, is served, followed by a well-earned siesta.
Anglers, well-fed and rested, fish the evening session right up to (and sometimes beyond) the brilliant Tierra del Fuego sunsets. They'll then return to their respective lodges, in time to regale each other with tales of giant fish, then sit down to yet another meal that would put many five-star restaurants to shame. By this time you have been ridden hard and put away wet, only to rise the next morning and start it all over again. What a wonderful way to be treated... EAT, SLEEP, FISH, EAT, SLEEP, FISH, EAT, SLEEP...
Fishing and the Wind:
Much is said about the winds of Tierra del Fuego and it is seldom that any of it is good. The truth is that the Rio Grande isn't super wide, casts are seldom seventy feet, and almost never directly into the wind. Competent casters have little difficulty adjusting to the almost constant gusts and even those that struggle agree quickly that the results are worth every effort.
Tackle and techniques on the Rio Grande are not very complicated. Anglers choose from a broad range of lines, tips and terminal tackle according to the water conditions. Experienced steelhead and Atlantic Salmon fishermen immediately feel "in their element." Quartering downstream with streamers or dead drifting nymphs are the most common methods used, and skated dry flies are terrific when the conditions are right.
The Rio Grande is one of the easiest streams to wade in the Americas. The river is seldom more than thigh deep, and can be easily crossed between pools. There's no moss on a bottom made of nothing but perfect spawning habitat ranging in size from pea gravel to golf ball sized rocks. Leave your studded boots at home because there isn't a rock big enough on the Rio Grande to trip over.
What Makes This Destination Special and Unique?
• The Rio Grande offers the finest sea-run brown trout fishery on earth – with a run that exceeds 70,000 fish on average each and every season – January through March.! That translates into 1,000’s of sea-trout in every pool to swing your fly through, looking for the “grab”. Every cast you make, has the chance of hooking the fish of a lifetime.
• Our sea-run brown trout average and honest 12 pounds and one in 20 will tip the scales at better than 20 pounds. If you are a big fish-angler, the Rio Grande is the spot – these are the largest brown trout in the world, and there is no finer fishery to hook and land the largest trout of your life.
• The Estancia Maria Behety is massive (158,000 acres) and borders the lion’s share of the best water on the Rio Grande, over 50 kilometers of river and 102 named pools. No matter what the weather, river levels, or fishing conditions, this much water guarantees you will be swinging your fly over bright sea-run brown trout, each and every fishing session. No outfitter on the river has better or more productive water than Estancia Maria Behety!
• Our two lodges on the Estancia Maria Behety are the best value on the Rio Grande when compared to other lodges. You get more bang for your buck at Estancia Maria Behety – more water, world-class lodging, experienced guides, and a fishing program designed for hard-core anglers.
• Estancia Maria Behety offers a 100% Argentine Experience. The English speaking local guides grew up on the river and know every single inch of their home-waters. They’re veteran guides with decades of experience guiding anglers on the Rio Grande. Put that experience to work for you and let these pros help you catch the sea-run of your life – Argentina Style.
• La Villa de Estancia Maria Behety is a world-class fly fishing lodge that accommodates just six anglers a week featuring every imaginable amenity you could want. Single private rooms, Jacuzzi Tubs, a 9,000 bottle wine cellar, open bar, billiard room, we don't know of a finer and more well appointed fishing lodge in South America. If you want the best of the best on the Rio Grande, with no need to share a room with another angler and be waited on hand and foot, La Villa is the place for you. You won't have to worry about a thing, every facet of the trip is well choreographed and executed; you just need to fish and recharge... A perfect venue for small groups of anglers and friends.