Seeking the big browns! (Flyfishing in Argentina)
Part of the draw of fishing is sharing the experience with friends. Probably more in flyfishing as it is more focused on the experience than about the catch. So this post is to share with my fishing buddies that were not able to go to Argentina with me, I missed you guys out there, and also to my new fishing buddies of Bariloche. I realize landing a trophy brown trout seems uneventful if I am not able to share the moment with you guys.
With not much of a guidance than a childhood dream of flyfishing the Patagonia and a guidebook written over 20 years ago, I packed up my rods and headed for Northern Patagonia for 5 weeks. The guidebook “Argentine Trout Fishing” stated that the northern area is the most accessible in terms of roads and most popular with the town Junin de Los Andes as the Capital of flyfishing in Argentina using Bariloche as a starting point to rent a car and get familiar with the area. I arrived on a Saturday afternoon after about 24 hour bus ride from Buenos Aires. The shops were closed already and will be closed on Sunday also. But I was lucky enough to find an inexpensive car rental for about $600 for a month. After asking around, I could not wait to get on the river first thing in the morning on Sunday. The closest river was the Limay which as just out of town about 10 miles. The author of the guidebook mentions that the river is popular with locals but he has never caught anything after numerous tries on the river. I surely would have more luck. Sunday, I arrived at the river to find one that is perfect—crystal clear, good flow from a large cold mountain lake. I immediately looked for fish in the river being able to look right to the deep pools to the rocky bottom. I fished the river for about 10 hours with everything, nymphs, streamers, stimulators and a variety of terrestrials. The excitement grew to frustration..how could such a beautiful river be so difficult, or maybe the river has been recently polluted recently that is not mentioned in an obviously outdated guidebook. I casted endlessly to a seemingly perfect river but not seeing any fish at all. I went back to the hostel that night wondering that I have just traveled across the globe to be skunked thinking is this how my fishing for the month will be like, maybe I should make a early reservation for a flight back.
Monday morning, I went to flyshop and asked for information. They showed me a picture of a huge 10lb brown saying that someone recently just taken this fish from the river that I was at. I asked for advice, they were unhelpful saying that it all depends on your skills and fish activity. I was surprised how a fellow fisherman could be so unhelpful. But he did mention that I needed a sinking line as the fish are down deep taking large streamers. Desperate, I bought a new sinking line and a new reel and headed out to the river mouth that afternoon. I was relieved to find about 3 flyfishermen on the river, and desperate, I approached the first guy and asked how the fishing was – hoping for some insight into this river, as I was worried that the fish for some reason have all been killed. The guy looked like a Japanese tourist. We chatted in broken English for a few minutes before realizing he was a local Japanese Argentinean. Once we switched to Spanish, he poured on the advice. Alex, started mentioning that you have cast far across the river and fish deep and walk down river after a few cast. Looking at how they were fishing, it seemed like salmon fishing, casting large streamers, far across the river and striping fast. We did not get any hits despite the encouragement. However, Alex sensing my frustration, offered to take me to lower part of the river. We ended that day with him hooking up to a couple nice rainbows but still I got nothing. Again, Alex offered to show me another part of the river, for a full day of fishing the next day. The next day, he showed up with another guy, Sebatian, and we fished the Traful river. Another crystal clear river, they hooked up a few and I ended up getting a Argentinean Perch.. My first fish and it had to be a perch, funny thing is that it was hooked in the tail no less!!
To summarize, fishing in the Patagonia is amazing! I was lucky as Alex and I became good friend, basically meeting up everyday or at least calling to chat about how the fishing went. He showed me around and introduced me to Willy, a renowned flyfishing guide. Willy told me I had to a shooting head line with fast sinking at the mouth of the Limay to get at the big browns. Desperate to try anything, I invested in a second line. With that I landed a 10lb brown! It jumped out of the water a couple times, at first it scared me for a moment as it seemed like a shark to me at the time when it first jumped out of the water and when I realized how big it was. I never imagined a trout can be so big at the end of my line. Unfortunately, it was close to dark when I landed him, and alone with so much adrenaline, I did not get a picture nor get to really appreciate it much. The next night, I landed another one about 8lbs but again was alone. A week later, I fished it again, and hooked into one that was huge, and started striping line down to the backing, following him down the river but also hoping to catch up with someone down river to take a photo for me; I was so excited (as you only get like one hit a day) that I did not pay attention to the fish to what it was doing, next thing I know, my line was caught up on a rock in the middle of the river and the fish was gone. I swear that fish was probably over 12 lbs!!
I can go on and on about the fishing stories, but the fishing is definitely awesome and I am already thinking of going back. The conditions are ideal. The mountains are filled with glacier lakes keeping the countless rivers filled with fresh cold water. Everywhere you go in the region, there are perfect rivers and lakes, and they are all filled with big fish. The challenge is that the variety of river and locations to fish are endless, way to much for one to learn them in a lifetime. In my short time, I fished mostly the Limay, but we were able to go south and camped 4 nights in national park Los Alerces. We fished the River Rivadavia where the fish were lined up within a few feet feeding but very selective, I could not hook anything until the hatch a dusk. The hatch was amazing, the most intense I ever seen, large trout jumping out of the water taking caddis everywhere. But again, very selective, within the ½ hour hatch, I was only able to take one fish each time. Luckily, there was a spring creek close by that we fished most of the time, water only a few feet deep but filled with trout of average 3lbs taking midges. That was awesome, fishing size 18 spinners, I casted long and softly hooking into numerous nice browns and rainbows.
The fishing in Patagonia is totally different than the states, something that I have not fully understand. The fish are huge, and they are very selective. The hatch on most rivers are not regular nor as intense. And since the rivers are huge and crystal clear, there are specific holding pools which it was typical to walk for miles to get at the best pools.
I was lucky to have met Alex on the second day, otherwise, I think the trip would have been totally different probably very disappointing-frustrated trying to figure out how to fish. We ran into someone, who traveled from northern Argentina to fish the area for 10 days, he literally got skunked the for the trip. Not only Alex was helpful, but he is a good friend, just as crazy about flyfishing as me if not more. He introduced his fishing buddies and I became part of the local fishing group of friends. We would organize the day, hike out to the rivers, and fish intensively for hours only to return at 9:30 into town, when we would often go into a beautiful restaurant owned by Tato to enjoy his wide selection of wine and food while sharing the stories of our day. How good can life be?
Although, I totally enjoyed fishing with these guys and feel fortunate that they accepted me into their circle, I often wished that you guys were there to enjoy the experience with me as I know that you too would have enjoyed the fishing and meeting these great guys. Sitting at home now, I keep thinking of how I did not get my fill and want to go back. The fishing is challenging and the scenery dreamlike. This all makes me want to go back as soon as I can. So we have to all plan a trip back together. The funny thing, I did not even get to go to Junin, supposedly the best fishing in Argentina, with like 20 rivers with 2 hour drive. And of course, further down south you can go for the sea run and salmon, and this is not to mention just over the border is Chile which is supposed to be amazing also.
So let’s put our heads together and plan for a trip back but the ideal trip is if you all can go with me next time.