Fishing Report- Kau Tapen Lodge Weeks 1-7, 2023

Kau Tapen Lodge 2023 Fishing Reports
Weeks 1-7
 Max Kantor – Kau Tapen Guide 2023

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 Kau Tapan Lodge – Week 1
Dec 31- Jan 7, 2023

We were excited to welcome guests from the USA, UK, and Argentina for the opening week of the Kau Tapen season.  Almost all had never fished the Rio Grande before and had ventured to see if they could connect with some of our early fresh arriving sea-run brown trout. This was a smaller group that started with only 7 rods and then had a few late arrivals halfway through the week.

Early season fishing often involves a lot of searching and while scouting showed that sea trout were present throughout our beats, concentrations of fish are moving around while we wait for the bulk of the run to arrive. That being said, both the upstream and downstream beats of the main river were consistently producing hookups. We say to expect around 2 fish a day on average, although savvy rods can take advantage of opportunistic fish at times, as hookups often come in numbers as the fish switch on. This is anadromous fish angling at its finest, comparable to swinging flies for the famed Atlantic salmon or the elusive steelhead.

Weather conditions for the week started on a tough note but improved as time went on. The first few days saw high winds lasting into the evening session paired with low water. Sea-run browns are temperamental fish at times, and these factors mixed with bright sunshine are not optimal for many hookups. Our anglers persevered, however, braving winds well over 100kph at times and connected with their desired quarry thanks to insight from our guide team.

A few days into the week there was a noticeable change and as the wind quieted for Tuesday’s evening session, significantly more fish were hooked and landed. This flurry of action was followed by a rainy period and a slight rise in the main river. From this point on, fishing became more consistent across our beats and some sessions produced great numbers. The river did drop to its previous level, but small bouts of rain kept it stable for the rest of the week.

Many of these early run fish were fun-sized between 5 and 12 pounds, although guests did tangle with a few of the larger specimens. These giants know where the structure is and will try their best to get back into the grass clumps along the Rio Grande’s winding cut-banks. The fish of the week- a well-earned 19-pound male in beautiful shape, was landed by Frans.

We did venture to fish the lower Menendez River as well with mixed results. One session produced a solid number of chances for early run fish in the tributary, but changes in water clarity made for some difficult fishing as well. Fish were observed in some of the pools as early as late November, so they are certainly present throughout the lower section. The Menendez is a great alternative to the Grande providing some of the most exciting single-hand fishing anywhere. This river will test your tackle and angling skills in a close-quarters scenario with the same plus-sized sea trout that venture into the Grande River.

Altogether, it was a fantastic week to kickstart the season here at Kau Tapen. Compared to previous years, fish numbers were quite good for the starting week and the river looks promising for the arriving guests. All of us here at Kau Tapen could not be more excited for guests to once again visit our waters from around the globe.

Kau Tapan Lodge – Week 2
Jan 7-14, 2023

As the season continued into January, we were excited to welcome guests from the USA, Poland, and Norway. All but one were newcomers to the Rio Grande and some were picking up a fly rod for the very first time. As fresh fish continue to make their way into the river, the action was had all around despite some unfavorable conditions to start the week.

We are transitioning from our early season fishery, composed of lots of searching for the first arrivals to what is typical of mid-January- fresh fish entering both our upper and lower beats. These fish alternate between moving and resting, the former making it very difficult to feed them a fly and the latter being preferential to some of the exceptional fishing we witness on the Rio Grande. These fish, like all anadromous species, are not feeding out of necessity when in the river, but instead out of instinct or aggression. We witnessed a number of fish moving between pools both during the day and the evening which was a great spectacle, although they proved hard to hook. When they decide to stop, however, bites can be almost electric when one chance into a pool full of happy fish. Just like swinging flies for any other type of migratory fish, the motto is to keep casting and presenting the fly for success and the takes will materialize.

Weather conditions for the week were not easy, to say the least. After last week’s slight rise, the water level dropped steadily but now remains stable and a bit higher than at the start of the season. The toughest factor was the wind, as it blew consistently from both the North and the East. These are not our prevailing winds and while there are some pools that can be fished in these conditions, the angler is often fighting the wind rather than using it as an aid for casting. For new anglers, this is quite the challenge when picking up a two-handed rod for the first time.

The majority of the fish continue to be fresh fun-sized fish between 5 and 9 pounds, but towards the end of the week, there were a couple of noteworthy successes to be mentioned in addition to the fish stories of the monsters that got away. Tom from Norway landed a fantastic hen of 20 pounds and Tricia from the United States landed one of 18 pounds. Both were healthy fish in great shape, packing on pounds from feeding in the ocean and putting on a battle to remember for each happy angler. Tricia’s fish was chrome bright and took her well into the backing. Not bad for one’s first time using a fly rod!

It was another week in the books at Kau Tapen, filled with smiling anglers both on and off the water. Good numbers of fish were seen moving throughout the week, signaling great things to come here on the Rio Grande. All of us could not be more excited for guests to once again visit our waters from around the globe.

Kau Tapan Lodge – Week 3
Jan 14-21, 2023

We were visited this week by a small multinational group from Switzerland, the USA, the UK, and France, which allowed us to take advantage of the best-producing sections of water all along the Rio Grande and Menendez.

It was very much a teaching week, as most fishermen and women were picking up a fly rod for the very first time. The rest were new to spey casting and anadromous fish, but all were eager to learn. The first warm-up session was spent as a group, with all of the guides individually working on the points of the spey cast one-on-one.

At Kau Tapen, we fish from both sides of the river and in a variety of different wind directions, so being able to cast on either side is critical. With at least a roll cast or double-spey for everyone, we were ready to begin the week.

The weather and conditions for the week were characterized by dropping water in both the Grande and Menendez. There was a slight rise on the graph for the headwaters of the Rio Grande, but it was negligible downstream. On the bright side, rain was present for the last couple of days of the week with a bit more on the horizon at the moment. The wind was variable and very light throughout the week. We began with one day of gusts, but all from the West. Temperatures were hot, exceeding 20 degrees Celsius for a few days, and a number of guests even chose to enjoy a rare mid-afternoon swim in the Rio Grande.

Guides witnessed moving groups of fish throughout the beats and a mix of fish were caught between those that had just entered the river and ones that had been in for a few weeks. Fishing picked up later in the week, as guests had time to hone in their presentation and conditions became more favorable.

The big fish of the week was 16 pounds, joined by a number of fresh ones in the 14-pound class- quite the accomplishment for a first-time sea trout and spey angler!

The week was unique in that guests were able to take advantage of other attractions Tierra del Fuego has to offer including horseback riding outside Ushuaia. The wild landscape of Tierra del Fuego never fails to impress and all had a fantastic time both on and off the river. All of us could not be more excited for guests to once again visit our waters from around the globe.

Kau Tapan Lodge – Week 4
Jan 21-28, 2023

This week at Kau Tapen we welcomed a group of new and return guests from Norway, South Africa, the and UK put together by longtime friend Mark. Most rods were quite experienced salmon anglers and ready to take on the challenge of Rio Grande sea trout. At times these fish display behavior quite similar to that of a fresh Atlantic salmon, but there are minuscule differences in the presentation that define sea trout angling. It was not long before casts were being fired out and the first fish hit the net for this week’s group.

The weather and conditions for the week were difficult, as the water in both the Grande and Menendez dropped to extremely low levels. On the first day, there was a slight 2 cm rise that brought decent fishing for a few sessions along with it, but last week’s rain was not enough and both rivers steadily dropped throughout the week. It is safe to say that this is among the lowest water levels we have seen in both the Grande and Menendez, but all anglers were up to the challenge. Low water tactics were employed by the guide team, targeting concentrations of fish in their prime lies with extreme stealth.

However, with the gauge for the river well below its minimum level, fishing remained difficult for the latter part of the week. Temperatures were quite cool compared to last week’s, especially at night, and this led to water that was cold during the morning session. Fish would become active later in the day, but the large temperature swings often meant we were using a variety of different flies and tips to produce takes and fish.

Throughout the beginning part of the week, many fish were witnessed moving in and between all beats, but this activity seemed to stall for the final few days. It is not as if they were not hooked and caught, as the final day was quite good, but less seemed to be showing. On the bright side, the final evening was filled with heavy rain that lasted for a few hours, both down by the lodge and in the mountains above. It is to be determined if this will cause a significant rise, but any water at the moment is much appreciated.

The quality of the fish cannot be understated this week, and some truly impressive specimens need to be mentioned. First was Morten’s 24-pound male guided by Gaston early in the week. Morton was diligent all day and eventually, the fish of dreams found his fly, and after a lengthy fight, all went well for the angler before the fish was returned after a couple of pictures. This fish is the largest of the season so far, but we have witnessed a number of similar fish moving throughout our pools as well.

Also to be noted was Calix’s 23-pound fresh male sea trout guided by Colo, which displayed incredible girth and put up a similar fight. Any week that we land one of these larger fish is considered a success, but two fish of this size class within a few days is phenomenal. Not all battles with oversized sea trout are won, as these fish know where the structure is and will do everything in their power to free themselves of the hook. If the angler is lucky enough to win, it is a fish to remember and most regular guests can recount stories of one of their monsters over the years.

Overall, in spite of low water and what would be challenging fishing conditions, it was a great week among persevering anglers who managed to keep the rods bent with a smile. There was a significant increase in the number of fish hooked during the same week last year by this group as well. Hopefully, the rain on the final day was enough to bring a rise to both the Grande and Menendez for the next group, although historically, this takes around a day or two to arrive, which should be right on time.

Kau Tapan Lodge – Week 5
Jan 28- Feb 4, 2023

We were excited to welcome guests from the USA, the UK, and Ireland to Kau Tapen this week. It was a great mix of familiar faces and those visiting the Rio Grande for the first time. Whether a first-time spey caster or a lifelong anadromous fish angler, Kau Tapen is a truly special place as any cast has the possibility for the fish of a lifetime. In the past weeks we have been privileged in putting a few of these in the net and watching them swim away, which overall is one of the most rewarding experiences fly fishing has to offer.

Weather and fishing conditions for the week continued to get more difficult, as the rain from last week was almost negligible in its effect on the river. Fishing was steady for the few days following this, but a significant push of fresh water is needed to invigorate our system of both the Grande and Menendez. That is not to say that fresh fish are not arriving, but both rivers are in need of water. Once again, low water tactics were employed by the guide team, fishing light, long, and stealthy in all prime lies.

The wind was steady throughout the week, picking up briefly the last few days but remaining from either the prevailing West or Northwest. What made this week more difficult to fish than the last was the temperature. Mid-week, daytime temperatures reached over 22 degrees Celsius (72 degrees Fahrenheit), and water temperatures ranging between 11 and 18 degrees throughout the week. Low water is more susceptible to change simply because there is less of it. Once 16 degrees or over, sea trout fishing becomes difficult as it is harder to induce a take. Steady is always best, but a rise in air pressure can do wonders for the fishing as well. The magic spot regarding temperature seemed to be right around 13 degrees this week, but providing that it is not too hot, the best thing to do is keep the flies in the water, as a fish that is happy to take a fly will often do so.

The first success to be mentioned is that despite the difficult conditions, everyone hooked up and landed sea trout, and for many, it was their first. A first anadromous fish of any type, whether a salmon, steelhead, or sea trout is no small feat in fly fishing and is usually the cause of a lifelong obsession. Overall, we hooked well over 100 fish for the week, showing that perseverance does indeed pay off, coupled with the guide team’s tireless efforts to keep guests on fish and fishing in an effective way.

Once again, we have continued to see some quality fish both in our upstream and downstream beats. Clemens landed the fish of his life on his first visit to the Rio Grande- a 24-pound male that alternated between scorching runs and a series of half-body jumps before it could be netted. It has been amazing to see fish in this condition for the last few weeks. There was also a pair of 19-pounders landed for Chris and Mark and plenty of fish in the mid-teens meaning many “largest sea trout of one’s life.”

Looking forward, there is rain in the forecast in the mountains and further down in our area, but it remains to be seen what effect this will have on the river. For the water level, there is a good concentration of fish spread throughout our water, but this coupled with the spring tides at the moment could change the condition of the river on a dime.

Kau Tapan Lodge – Week 6
Feb 4-11, 2023

This week we welcomed guests from the USA, the UK, and Austria. As usual, it was a mix of old and new friends with varying experiences with anadromous fish and spey casting. Although everyone arrived to see a low river, heavy rain in the mountains and on the Rio Grande during the first day caused an immediate bump that we looked to with anticipation.

Along with the rise, we got a taste of the upper end of what the wind can do in Tierra del Fuego for the first session. Gusts surpassed 115 kph and the wind blew steady at around 100 kph. This is right on the edge of what is considered fishable and for those willing to brave the tough conditions, guides chose pools where this wind could be considered favorable or in this case, fishable. One effect of heavy wind is it often leads to dirty water, stirring up the mud and clay banks, but with slight adjustments to sink tips and flies- all anglers were in the game. That afternoon the wind dropped slightly and catches improved for all.

The next morning, after the water had cleared, the rise was noticeable throughout our pools, as the water had come up a couple of inches or about 6 cm. However, the gauge for the headwaters showed a sharp drop once again. It seemed as if we just received a short burst of water to rejuvenate the Grande system and time on the water would tell if it was enough to improve the fishing.

After the sharp rise and drop before conditions had stabilized, it seemed as if there was no clear winning pattern for success. On multiple occasions, guides returned with accounts of numbers such as “four fish per session using four different flies at varying depths.” With hard work from the guide team, we were able to search out likely taking fish and systematically work throughout our beats. Only eight rods at the lodge meant a couple of open beats, so there were reserve pools as well if needed to add to the guest’s day.

The overall size of the fish this week increased with an average weight above 10 pounds. Once again, well over 100 were hooked and while a few were lost, the catch per rod was as good as we have seen all season. There were good numbers of fish landed in the upper teens, including a 17-pounder for Brian, an 18-pounder for George, an 18-pounder for Gerald, and back-to-back 18 and 19-pounders for Tony. There were many in the mid-teens land as well.

Following the rise, the river has once again dropped to its previous level. It was great to get a push of water into the Grande and Menendez to reinvigorate our waters. While it was not significant enough to last through the week, any influx of water is much appreciated. As conditions stabilized with the low water, however, the fishing definitely improved in the last days of the week, aided by cold overnight temperatures. We are still waiting for a big rise that could happen at any point in the next few weeks. There is rain in the mountains and headwaters at the moment, but any changes to the water level are to be determined.

Kau Tapan Lodge – Week 7
Feb 11-18, 2023

This week we welcomed a full lodge of guests from the USA and the UK to Kau Tapen. While there were a few repeating guests, we have had the pleasure to share our water with many new faces this year. As an introduction to anadromous fish and two-handed fly casting, the Rio Grande is a fantastic place with a learning curve that does take a few days to get acquainted with. Practice your casting from either side, keep the fly in the water, and the results will show in dividends.

We began the week with low water once again, followed by a significant cold weather system that lasted for a few days. First, wind from the south brought much colder air temperatures than we are used to in February and that caused the temperature of the water to plummet. A few mornings showed water readings of only 5-7 degrees Celsius (41-44 degrees F). Lower temperatures paired with low and clear water is a difficult combination and guides worked diligently to find the right combinations of holding areas and tackle setups to hook fish. Air temperatures in the evening dropped as far as -1 C (30 F) for the first part of the week.

Thursday, there was a complete shift and winds moved from the north, bringing back a normal climate for this time of the year. On Friday, once all stabilized, winds resumed from the west and fishing drastically improved. West is our prevailing wind, as the river flows from west to east, and that means that in the majority of the pools, it is at the back of the angler. There are places throughout our waters that fish well from other directions, but the old saying “wind from the west, fishing is best,” is certainly present here.

This time of year is when the larger males start to wake up and become more aggressive about taking a fly and this came into fashion in a big way in the final part of the week. Even our new anglers began to hook fish in the trophy category of over 20 pounds, but it takes a certain experience to land these fish. Firstly, they are not salmon, and fighting them as such will only end in a fish story. They love to take advantage of the river’s many grass and clay bits of structure and one must keep tension at the right angles to have a chance. Listen to your guide and it just might be the fish of your lifetime. Overall, four fish were landed over that magic +20 mark, including 2 fish of 20 and 20.5 lbs for Eric, a 20lber for Mark, and a 21lber for Graeme.

Many fish to be mentioned in the high teens were landed for James, Chip, and Fred as well. It has been a fantastic year so far for Rio Grande’s sea trout with many healthy specimens and we are excited to see what the river has in store for the weeks to come. It has been a season of adapting to the whims of the weather and water, but the Rio Grande has rewarded the patient and persistent angler many times over. This week may have started on a tough note, but once all conditions stabilized and our anglers became more acquainted with two-handed casting, it turned into the most successful week so far for the season in terms of both quantity and quality.


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