Single-handed Fly Rods

For those anglers that like to use a single handed rod, the Rio Grande is best fished with a 9’ or 9’ 6” graphite rod (4 piece) designed to cast an 8, or 9 weight fly line. An 8 weight is the most common choice. Each angler should have two rods available for the trip. Each rod should be rigged with a different fly and fly line combination. This saves time changing reels, spools and lines, maximizing your time on the water. All the vehicles at the lodge have rod racks on them and once you put your rod together upon arriving, you won’t break it down until the last day of your trip. Some rods to consider are Scott Fly Rod’s S4s or S4 • Sage’s Xi3, One or Method series • R.L. Winston’s BIIIx or BIIMx.

Single-handed Fly Reels

Most modern high quality fly reels are appropriate for the Rio Grande. The reel should be equipped with a smooth, reliable drag system that is not compromised when it gets wet. Reels should be filled with a minimum of 100 yards of 20# backing. Reel models to consider might include: Hatch Finnatic 5+ or 7+, Galvan Torque 8 or 10 and Ross CLA # 5.

Single-handed Rod Fly Lines

The proper collection of fly lines is more important than the rod, reel or fly you choose for the Rio Grande. You need three lines or line systems to effectively fish the Rio Grande and adjust to the constantly changing conditions.

Floating line

Preferably a weight-forward fly line like Scientific Angler’s GPX (textured) Floating Taper or Rio’s Steelhead and Atlantic Salmon floating fly line. When conditions are right a floater really comes into play when skating dry flies or fishing a small wet fly just under the surface.

10’ – 15’ sink-tips

This is an important line for covering the different water levels on the Rio Grande. A Type III or Type IV is just fine. We a simple to use system we recommend the Rio VersiTip® Lines. This line gives you five 15’ interchangeable tips: floating tip, Aqualux clear intermediate, Type-III, Type-V1, and Type-VII.

24’ sink-tip

Don’t leave home without them! The most important fly line system in your arsenal is shooting heads in different grain weights and densities. We can custom make these heads for you in 27 foot lengths and suggest an appropriate running-line to compliment the heads.

27 foot (T-8) (216 grains)
27 foot (T-11) (297 grains)
27 foot (T-14) (378 grains)

Double-handed Fly Rods

Having grown rapidly in popularity over the past 10 years, 75% of Rio Grande anglers are now fishing double-handed Spey rods. Advantages in casting distance, line control, and placing the fly accurately in wind make it the most efficient tool on the river, especially for those with shoulder or elbow problems. Many people coming to Spey casting for the first time are intimidated by it and think that it is a difficult discipline to learn. This however, is a myth.  In fact, it is much easier to become proficient at an intermediate level than it is with a single handed rod. You already know how to cast a fly rod, you just need to learn to handle a longer one with both hands. Taking a day or two of formal lessons prior to your trip, you will be able to fish the Rio Grande with great success with a spey rod. Plus, they’re downright fun to cast and fish with. When considering a double-handed rod, don’t automatically go for the longest and strongest rod on the market. Get together with a casting and rod expert, and test several different weights, lengths and manufacturers until you find the rod       that best fits your casting style, as well as the type of water and lines and flies you will be fishing. Some rods to consider are: With this in mind we suggest 12 ½’ to 14’, 7, 8, or 9 weight rods. Scott Fly Rod’s T3H double handed rods are great tools, very castable, light in the hand and high quality. Sage offers the One and Method models. Probably the best all-around two handed rod for the Rio Grande for someone new to this type of fishing is a 13’6” (8-weight) rod.

Double-handed Fly Reels

Most modern high quality fly reels are appropriate for the Rio Grande. The reel should be equipped with a smooth, reliable drag. Reels should be filled with a minimum of 200 yds of 20 or 30 lb. backing.

Spey Reel models to consider might include: Saracione Mark IV 4”, the Galvan Torque 10 or 12, Hatch Finnatic 7+ or 9+, the Abel Super 12 or Ross CLA#5 or CLA#6. Gary Borger Pro Spey Reels size 11/2 are great choices and very affordable, sub $300.

Double-Handed Rod Fly Lines

There has been more development and subsequent progress with double-handed fly lines in the last few years than in any time before. For fishing on the Rio Grande the logical way to go is an interchangeable shooting head/tip system.

Running Lines

Behind any of these shooting heads you will need a separate running line. Attach the head with a loop to loop connection to the running line. There are many different running lines, and a few to consider: Varivas Shooting Line, Rio Slick Shooter or Grip shooter and Trilene Big Game (these are mono style). Also Rio’s Connect Core running line (factory style, feels and looks like fly line).

Skagit and Scandi Lines – Modern 2-Handed Rod Shooting Heads

These revolutionary new short-belly lines are easy to cast and the logical way to go when fishing sink tips and big flies or even skating dries. What’s more, these lines are relatively easy to learn and are ideal for the often windy conditions found in Tierra del Fuego. It is critical that you match your specific rod with an appropriate grain weight Skagit and Scandi line. Skagit lines are designed to cast interchangeable sink tips made from varying lengths of T-14 (17) (11) (8) (tungsten level-line) to get the fly deep. Scandi’s are full floating versions of the short belly shooting heads and designed to launch dry flies and shallow presentation wet flies. Both Rio and Airflo make great Skagit and Scandi heads. AirFlo Fly Lines: Skagit Compact head (for sink tips) and the Scandi Compact (for floating line work). Rio Fly Lines: Skagit Max Head (for sink tips) and the Rio Scandi heads (for floating line).

Tips and shooting heads

Stock your tip wallet with at least 6 tips in varying lengths of T-8, T-11, or our favorite T-14 tips in 5’, 7.5’, 10’, 12.5’, 15’ and 18.5’ to achieve different depths depending on the run. The Rio MOW Tip Kits are great up to 12.5’. The Fly Shop will build you custom tips in 15’ and 18.5’ lengths for those situations where you have to dredge. Mow Tips: Rio’s expert staff (McCune/O’Donnell/Ward) developed the MOW Tip system. These new tips, designed for Skagit lines, use a formula of consistent length by integrating varying lengths of floating and sinking sections. Gone is the need for complicated cheaters. The new Skagit MOW tips are the fishiest, easiest casting, user-friendly sink tips ever made. They’ll allow anglers using Skagit lines to cover every likely fishing situation and condition and are appropriate for all spey rods. The MOW tips are the absolute ultimate in versatility. Heavier tips use more dense versions of seamlessly connected sections of Tungsten line. One kit covers all the bases for your rod.  Simply put MOW tips make casting sink-tips much easier without having to change your casting technique and execution.

Double Hand Rods Outfit examples

Rod: The Fly Shop S2h20 13’ (7-weight)

Reel: Gary Borger Pro 9/10 (20 or 30 pound high visibility backing) Ross CLA #6

Lines: AirFlo Skagit Compact 540 grain, AirFlo Scandi Compact 510 grains, Trilene Big Game 47 lb. mono


Rio MOW Tip Kit heavy T-14 (1 each of the following):

Length              Grains              Description

10′                    575 Gr.             10′ Floating

10′                    575 Gr.             7.5′ Floating/2.5′ T-14

10′                    575 Gr.             5′ Floating/5′ T-14

10′                    575 Gr.             2.5′ Floating/7.5′ T-14

10′                    575 Gr.             10′ T-14

12.5’                  575 Gr.             12.5′ T-14


Additional Sinking Tips: 15’ T-14, 18.5’ T-14 Custom built by The Fly Shop

Rod: Scott T3H Rod 13’6” 7-weight

Reel: Saracione Mark IV 4” (20 or 30 pound high visibility backing)

Lines: AirFlo Skagit Compact 540 grains, AirFlo Scandi Compact 450 grains, Trilene Big Game 47 lb. mono)


Rio MOW Tip Kit heavy T-14 (1 each of the following):

Length              Grains              Description

10′                    575 Gr.             10′ Floating

10′                    575 Gr.             7.5′ Floating/2.5′ T-14

10′                    575 Gr.             5′ Floating/5′ T-14

10′                    575 Gr.             2.5′ Floating/7.5′ T-14

10′                    575 Gr.             10′ T-14

12.5’                  575 Gr.             12.5′ T-14


Additional Sinking Tips: 15’ T-14, 18.5’ T-14 Custom built by The Fly Shop

Leaders & Tippet

While Rio Grande sea trout are not leader shy, leader and tippet material made from fluorocarbon is recommended because it does not degrade from exposure to UV light (very intense in Patagonia!) as monofilament does. When compiling your leader selection, keep it simple. You will need four 9’ – 16 lb. knotless tapered leaders, preferably Seaguar Fluorocarbon. In addition to the tapered leaders you will want to bring fresh spools of 10 lb., 12 lb., 15 lb & 20 lb. Seaguar Grand MAX or equivalent. For Spey rods also remember to have long 14’ to 15’ Spey leaders for the floating line work. Rio mono Spey leaders or AirFlo Poly leaders are perfect. Off of the sink tips, your guide will direct you to what they prefer in terms of length. Usually 3’ to 5’ lengths of strong tippet is all you will need for a leader off of the sink tip, unless your guide instructs otherwise.

Rio Grande Flies

Sea-run brown trout on the Rio Grande are much more concerned with presentation than with exact imitations. Swinging nymphs and streamers occupies the vast majority of the fishing. A selection of two to three dozen flies is adequate. When water levels are low and clear, small nymphs, #12 – #8 are the rule. When water levels are up, and clarity of the water off, bigger is better, sizes #6 – #2. Bright colors like chartreuse work well in dirty water. Dry fly fishing, especially when the wind lies down, is exciting, a handful of skaters is plenty. Make sure all of the flies you bring to TDF are tied on heavy wire hooks, especially the smaller bugs. These fish are big, and will take advantage of weak hooks

Wet Flies

● E.M.B. Rubber Legs, size 10

● Green Machine, size 8

● TDF GBRL Prince, size 6 and Fastwater Prince size 6

● Red Butt Bomber

● Bitch Creek sizes 8 – 4,

● Montana Nymph size 8, and other white rubber legged flies

● LGB size 2

● Yuk Bugs in black with white rubber legs in sizes 6, 8 and 4

● Sizes 8’s, 10‘s 12’s (on stout, forged hooks), Dark Stone, Prince Nymph (beaded & non-beaded)


Wooly Buggers and Crystal Buggers! Black, Olive and Purple in sizes 8 – 2 with and without white rubber legs

Bunny Leeches: Black, Olive, Purple, and Brown in sizes 2, 4, 6

String or Articulated Leeches (Sleeches and Skagit Minnow) up to 4” in length: Black, Purple, Olive

Most Steelhead and Atlantic salmon flies have proven to be highly effective

Dry Flies

In TDF “dries” are larger dries, fished steelhead style, with riffle hitches and skated across the surface.

Steelhead Bomber (green)

Muddler Minnow

Paulson’s Titanic


Rio Grande Fly Selections available at The Fly Shop

Our experienced staff will gladly (in fact, we recommend it!) put together a specific Rio Grande custom fly selection for you based on the weekly reports we receive from the guides.

These selections contain exactly the flies you’ll want to have to be successful, and are packaged at a savings to you.

The Sea Run Trout Fly Selection (Order Code: #3559) retails for $94.95, with a fly value of $135 (savings of $40!).

Give us a call 800.669.3474 or send us an email we are happy to help.

Tube Flies

This style of fly is tied on plastic or aluminum tubes in varying lengths and weight.

Temple Dog – Black & Silver, This is a great fly for the last hour of fishing, various lengths can be productive

Editor – Good fly for fading light

Collie Dog Variant – Original is all black. This can be tied with all gold or black with gold body for colored water.

Cascade – Great pattern for Atlantics and Sea-trout, very useful for colored water

Lune Special – Black, silver and blue are good colors. Can be fished on the surface or sunk

Cone Head Trailing Tube Fly – Black/Blue, Purple

Sunray Shadow – A very productive fly, do NOT show up without them!

Recommended Clothing & Equipment

Remember, in the southern hemisphere the seasons are opposite of those in the northern hemisphere. The air temperature in Tierra del Fuego is not particularly cold, as it is their summer, but the wind blows constantly and creates a chill factor that can be uncomfortable. Much of the fishing is done in the morning and late evening hours when temperatures are at their daily ebb. And it can rain heavily or lightly at any time throughout the season. So be prepared to dress warmly. Clothing strategies should be based on the “layering system,” the idea being to trap heated air generated by your body between multiple layers of insulation. The layering system also allows you to adapt to air temperature, body temperature according to activity level, and whatever Mother Nature dishes out.  Here is the formula preferred by the staff at The Fly Shop®:

Base Layer

Start off with a synthetic fabric next to your skin (the TFS Base Layer is a good start). This often is a pair of thermal underwear (tops and bottoms) and they usually come in three weights: light, mid and expedition. According to your individual metabolism, pick what is best for you. Synthetic (non-cotton!) materials retain little moisture and “wick” moisture away from your skin. This is very important when you are walking in waders or when outside temperatures heat up.

Thermal Layer

Your second layer of insulation should match the weather and conditions you are going to be fishing in. Use lighter weight insulation for cool weather days, mid-weight for colder conditions, and a heavy weight layer for really frigid days. Fleece is an outstanding choice here in tops and bottoms, or overalls. The new merino wool is also a good choice as, like fleece, it stays warm when damp.


Stocking foot, breathable waders are the way to go. You will experience little or no moisture build-up inside the waders, even after a long hike; they wear like iron, and are comfortable to be in all day. These modern waders take up a fraction of the space in your luggage as compared to the old-style neoprene waders. For safety, we strongly recommend wearing a wading belt at all times.

Rain Jacket

High quality Gore-Tex® type products are the best. Your rain jacket should be 100% waterproof and breathable. Rain jackets must be seam sealed, multi-layered, of QUALITY construction and from a recognized outdoor clothing company. Jackets specifically designed for fly fishermen are the most comfortable and practical.

Outer Layer

Your final layer should be a breathable waders and a rain jacket when the conditions require it.


Fingerless gloves are great for cold, rainy days. Neoprene gloves are fine, but retain a lot of water when wet. We have had the best success with synthetic or wool gloves.


These are essential to any fisherman and should not be left behind

Nippers, Pliers, Hemostats, & Hook File

Fishing Hat

Look for a hat that is comfortable, relatively waterproof, and that has a good size brim to shade your eyes and face.


Anglers should bring enough socks to alternate on a daily basis. For a week’s fishing trip, three pairs should be fine.  Do not wear the same socks every day, but alternate, leaving one pair to dry and air while wearing the other set. We layer on our feet just like on our bodies. Thin liner socks to wick and keep your feet dry, thicker wool or synthetic socks to insulate. Wool and polypro is our favorite combination in for socks. Try on your socks with your waders and wading boots before you leave for your trip to insure that you have plenty of room to move your toes. Being unable to move your toes and cramping of your feet in your wading boots are the biggest reasons for numb toes and cold feet. We’ve experienced great success with the disposable air-activated heating pads available at many outdoor stores. Removal from the cellophane wrapper activates them and they then simply stick to the outside of socks for hours of cozy warmth. Simms and SmartWool make great wading socks.

Wading Boots

The Rio Grande is a very easy river to wade, with a bottom formed of non-slippery pea gravel, and mellow currents throughout. For this reason the new knobby, “sticky” rubber Vibram soled wading boots are recommended. They are also much longer lasting than felt soles, and are more environmentally friendly in reducing unintentional transport of New Zealand mud snails, and other invasive species, from river to river. Felt soled wading boots are allowed, but be responsible and clean them thoroughly. Metal or carbide studs are not necessary and not recommended. Gravel guards are a must.

NOTE: If you return annually to EMB, you might consider leaving a pair of waders and boots on-site at the lodge for your use when you are there.  We have many anglers who do this, saving the need to haul them back and forth.

Polaroid Sunglasses

Good quality polarized sunglasses are a must. Polarized sunglasses not only let you spot fish more effectively, but protect your eyes from the intense sunlight experienced in Patagonia, as well as hooks. Action Optics, Costa del Mar and Oakley make some of the best.  It is advised to bring two pair, as sunglasses tend to break, get lost, or fall into the river more often than most other gear. Chums are great for preventing this!