One of the most often asked questions that I get asked from clients traveling to South America to fish for trout is “what flies do I need to take on my trip?” There is no doubt that you could take a dozen boxes of flies with you covering wet and dry flies, but with airlines charging a fortune for extra baggage paring down your selection is more important than ever.
For argument’s sake, if I could only take five flies to South America to target trout I would pick the patterns listed below. This list is based on my experience on the rivers in Chile and Argentina and I am sure that some of you will have a differing opinion on some of my selections. Lively debate on fly patterns can fill online message boards as quickly as those who debate the merits of Ford or Chevy, the Whopper or the Big Mac, or Winchester or Remington. There is no wrong answer, only personal preference.
The five flies that I would take to South America to fish for trout would be in no particular order:
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1. Wooly Bugger
This pattern can imitate something in nature or nothing at all depending on the color that it is tied. I have used it in different sizes, but a weighted #6 dressed in white, olive, or black is what I have found to be the most effective. On my first trip to Argentina, while floating the Collon Cura River in late March, I boated over 30 trout one day using only an olive wooly bugger. It was the right fly for that river that day, but more often than not it is the right pattern for just about any river on any day.
This dry fly imitates a number of mayfly insects and while I am sure that we all have used it effectively in the Northern Hemisphere it should be known that it also produces in the Southern Hemisphere. I prefer the parachute version of this iconic pattern because I like it sitting lower in the water film. Sizes vary from month to month, but #14 – 18 should cover you, and get the fish rising.
3. Foam Hopper Dry Fly
Grasshoppers abound in the grasses of Chile and Argentina in the summer months. This attractor produces well in different sizes and colors. I have thrown tan colored hoppers toward the banks of the Limay River and gave them a strong twitch and then watched brown trout come up and smash them. Packing some black foam hoppers can produce well for you in Chile. This is due to the fact that they could also imitate one of six black beetles found in the country. I fished with Magic Waters Patagonia and this pattern was all that we needed because the trout could not leave it alone.
4. Elk Hair Caddis
This dry fly pattern is a no-brainer when it comes to being in your fly box. Caddis flies are seemingly everywhere and I have fished this pattern effectively on the rivers in Argentina from the Rio Collon Cura south to the Rio Pico and in Chile from the Rio Petrohue as far south as the Rio Navarino, which lies just north of Antarctica. Sizes and colors will vary throughout the season and on each river, but I would focus on #14 – 16 in tan or olive to get me some strikes.
5. Pheasant Tail Nymph
This is by far my go-to nymph on any river and in fact, I have used this pattern in Iceland where there are no mayflies and caught trout. My favorite is tied with a black bead head with a flashback in size #14 – 16. I have caught trout in both Chile and in Argentina using this pattern. A few years ago I was fishing with Jorge Trucco, owner of Patagonia Outfitters, on the Rio Malleo in Argentina. On this particular day, there was no hatch coming off on this renowned dry fly river so I tied on a flashback pheasant tail and caught 20 fish in two hours working the riffles and faster runs. Again, it was the right fly for the right time but this fly pattern has never let me down.
My honorable mentions would be the #14 Copper John, a Black string leech, and a #10 Stimulator.
If you have any gear or tackle questions do not hesitate to contact me.
By: Ben Hoffman