Tierra del Fuego, at the tip of the South American continent, is the southernmost land mass on the planet, with the exception of Antarctica. Though the archipelago's southern and westernmost reaches are mountainous and wet, Tierra del Fuego's largest island and eastern half is covered mostly by arid plains whose enchanting, austere landscapes are sparsely inhabited.
Flowing through Tierra del Fuego's arid plains is the Rio Grande, which originates in the mountains of Chile and flows eastward across the Patagonian plateau to the Atlantic Ocean. The Rio Grande is widely regarded as the world's finest sea-run brown trout (also known as seatrout) river. More world record sea-run brown trout have been pulled from the Rio Grande's waters than any other river on earth.
No fewer than five different fishing lodges line the remote Rio Grande between where it crosses Argentina's border with neighboring Chile and where it dumps into the Atlantic Ocean, giving anglers hoping to ply the waters of the world's most famous seatrout river a bevy of options to choose from. But Villa Maria, one of the oldest lodges on the river, has an advantage over them all: it's first. That is, Villa Maria's lodge and its beats on the Rio Grande are the lowest on the entire river. In other words, fresh-from-the-salt, electric sea-run brown trout swim through Villa Maria's waters before any others.
Though some anglers opt to fish single-handed rods, two-handed rods—spey and switch rods—are the coin of the realm on the lower Rio Grande, where they provide anglers big advantages when dealing with Tierra del Fuego's stiff winds. Another advantage when dealing with winds is Villa Maria's extensive beat system—which spans over 20km of the Rio Grande—offering anglers myriad opportunities to fish pools where the wind is your friend (read: at your back) instead of your enemy.
As a "big fish" fishery—seatrout over 20 pounds are caught every week at Villa Maria—anglers often arrive expecting long casting days with low catch rates, only hoping for a trophy or two over the course of an entire week. On the Rio Grande, however, multi-fish days are standard fare (1-2 fish days are the norm) and days where anglers catch 5-8 fish happen with regularity.
LODGING: Villa Maria Lodge, in truth, isn't one but two lodges. The main lodge, where you'll lay your head at night, is a cozy and refined and sits amongst the working heart of Estancia Jose Menendez. Complimentary single rooms for all anglers surround the lodge's great room, where a roaring fire always seems to be burning in defiance of the howling Tierra del Fuego winds outside the door. An intimate dining room adjacent to the lodge's great room hosts breakfast and dinner. Villa Maria's "day house," which sits a few kilometers into the estancia's ranchlands, perched high above the Rio Grande, hosts guests for lunch—even offering sleeping quarters for afternoon siestas.
FOOD/DRINK: It's no longer uncommon to find fine dining at remote fishing lodges. Lodges from one corner of the globe to another are turning out impressive fare, some of which stands up to that served by metropolitan eateries where reservations book up months in advance. But even amongst this now crowded field of lodges offering notable, chef-prepared meals, Villa Maria is a standout. Expertly crafted dishes pair with beautiful wines from Bodega Catena Zapata ensure every meal is an event to be remembered.
CONNECTIVITY: Reliable WiFi is available both at Villa Maria's main lodge and its day house.
Arrive by late afternoon to Villa Maria's main lodge. After you've settled in, venture out to explore the grounds of the estancias, head to the bar for a cocktail or a glass of wine, or take up a book by the fire in the lodge's great room while you await dinner, the first of many eventful meals you'll experience while at Villa Maria.
Gear up and take a short drive (typically 5-15 minutes) through the ranch to your beat on the Rio Grande. Just miles from the ocean, Villa Maria's waters represent the first chance anglers have to encounter sea-run brown trout as they migrate up the river from the turbulent waters of the south Atlantic.
"If you're tough enough" — that's the mantra uttered at Villa Maria. This is no place for sissies. The famous winds of Tierra del Fuego conspire with chilly temperatures to make each outing a challenge. But with that challenge comes immense reward. If, that is, you're tough enough.
Each day at Villa Maria is split into a morning and afternoon session. After a morning spent plying the river for its early movers, the day adjourns to Villa Maria's "day house," perched high above the river with expansive vista. A full-fledged lodge in its own right, guests are greeted with fine wines and a chef-prepared lunch that put dinners at most lodges to shame. After lunch, break for a siesta in the day house's 4 bedrooms, where you just might have the best nap of your life before heading out for the afternoon session.
Don't let Tierra del Fuego's austere landscapes fool you. Despite the extreme latitude, ever-present winds, and seemingly barren landscapes, the island is alive with life. In addition to the sea-run brown trout you've come to chase, flamingos, red fox, guanaco (a camelid closely related to the llama), countless species of birds and more all call Tierra del Fuego home.
To those that are willing to make the trip and brave the conditions, the river offers an amazing bounty. Even the river's "small" fish are trophies anywhere else on the planet, and 20 pound fish are taken regularly.
- Ground transportation Transfer from Rio Grande airport to Villa Maria Lodge
- Guided fishing Fully guided walk-and-wade fishing
- Lodging Your stay at Villa Maria Lodge
- Meals Chef-prepared Argentine classics
- Beverages Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are included
- Equipment Don't want to bring yours? High-end Sage rods and reels are available for your use.
Anglers visiting Villa Maria will fly into Buenos Aires (EZE), where they'll connect through the Buenos Aires domestic airport (AEP) en route to the city of Rio Grande (RGA) in Tierra del Fuego. Lodge staff will greet you at the airport for the short transfer to Estancia Jose Menendez, the home of Villa Maria lodge.