I have just returned from a spectacular trip to a destination I have wanted to visit for many years. Patagonia has been on my bucket list and this December I had an opportunity to visit and fish in this great country. This was a fully guided expedition and the trip was organized and set up by Ron Sorenson (www.cleflyfishing.com). I have known Ron for many years as he splits his time between guiding in Montana and Argentina for the past 20+ years. He builds custom trips to for his clients based on their wants and needs. We have had many long talks on his deck during the summer about fishing in Argentina and I knew I had to visit.
My trip started from Bozeman, MT. With snow on the ground and temperatures hovering in single digits, I couldn’t wait to visit the southern hemisphere where it would be their summer. After losing a day in Denver due to weather I arrived in Buenos Aires at the international airport. My original plan was to spend two days checking out the city before continuing on south to the town of San Martin De Los Andes. With now only one day before I departed I made the most out of time in Buenos Aires. I had made previous arrangements with a local company to provide me with a transport from the airport to my hotel and for a short walking tour around the city. This service ended up being indispensable.
First of all driving in Buenos Aires is like nothing I have ever experienced. The interstates are much like LA or any other major city, with the exception that no one pays any attention to the correct lanes or using turn signals. Seeing seven lanes of traffic traveling 70 mph on a five lane interstate is the norm. Through the city, the same issues exist with traffic moving just a little slower. As my guide explained, “Traffic lanes are just mere suggestions here in Buenos Aires.” I was glad to have a guide and driver to get to my destination.
We arrived at my hotel and made arrangements for an afternoon tour of the city. After getting cleaned up and refreshed I met my guide Gaia in the lobby and we set off on foot to see a little bit of the city. Unknown to me, my hotel was about a 10 minute walk to the “Pink House” (Argentina’s version of the White House). We stood in the plaza as Gaia gave me an abbreviated history lesson of the last 100 years of Argentina’s past presidencies. We walked around the immediate area and she was a wealth of good information. We made our way to Buenos Aires oldest and very historic cafe named Cafe Tortino. We had a nice lunch and called it a day.
Early the next morning I was on a plane headed south. As we made our descent for landing, I looked out the window and you thought you were landing in Bozeman or Jackson Hole. The scenery was identical with lush mountains and lots of water. Ron was there to pick me up at the hotel and after a brief stop off at his house to drop of my bags we headed to his boat shop to check out his operation.
Ron also runs and owns Ro drift boats Argentina. Most guides in Argentina use rafts to guide out of. Ron, his guide staff and a few other outfitters know the advantages of a fiberglass drift boat for guiding and taking care of their clients. Ro Argentina is a smaller operation than what we have here in Bozeman, but he provides the same high quality product and service that Ro drift boats are known for. I helped them pop out a brand new boat out of the mold and as it is in the states, the atmosphere was electric. You can sort of relate it to the movie Frankenstein. Since the boats are made in molds, you never know how it is going to come out until the final step. A perfectly clean, sharp looking boat appeared with minimal work to release it from it’s mold. High fives and man-hugs were in order and we decided to call it a day.
The following day the rest of the crew was arriving from various destinations. Joe G. was arriving from the states, Holly (Joe’s wife) and Robert were arriving from a week fishing in Esquel. We all met up late in the afternoon and checked into our Hotel in town. We found a nice restaurant in town and preceded to kick off our trip with a great meal of the local fair.
Early the next morning Joe and I met Shaggy our guide and headed to the Filo Hua Hum. The drive was a little more than an hour and was a medium sized river between two lakes. The scenery was unbelievable on the drive and since the Lupine was in bloom I was busy snapping pictures from the back seat. We were the only anglers for the day on the river so we had the entire place to ourselves. Red stag ran abundant and I was overwhelmed the first day I slipped into waders. Between the mountains, gin clear waters and the trout I spotted in the River I was on sensory overload. It was even hard for me to put the camera down and fish. That was how impressed I was with this country. Shaggy took Joe upstream and within 15 minutes had him tied into a 22” brown that they landed downstream in front of me. I soon had a nice brown trout on myself. The day was made in my mind. We worked our way up and down the river moving in the truck. We probably only covered 3 miles of river, but I felt we saw the entire 15 miles of river and all the characteristics. Joe ended up having the day of days and according to our guide caught many more trout than usual and was hard to handle on the way back to the hotel. I fished by myself most of the day and was pleased with my success. It was Joe’s birthday and his wife had purchased the trip for him so I spent much of my time taking pictures, finding dead ending paths and catching my share of trout here and there.
The next morning the entire group, me, and the guides had our dry bags packed for a three day two night excursion in drift boats on the Rio Caleufu. We put in near where we fished the previous day and expectations where high. Within sight of the boat launch Robert, my boat partner for the day, landed a 20” beauty. As we neared our first set of rapids I looked at our guide to check his confidence level. Diego (our guide) politely asked us to sit down for a minute and gently weaved his way through the boulder field. Not the path I would have picked looking at the rapids from the top, but definitely the only way to get through after the experience. Not that I had any doubts in his skills but this definitely gave me confidence in his skills after we came through this sketchy part of the river with ease. Diego is Ron’s number one guide and has been with him for a long time. His english is excellent and his sense of humor is even better. We laughed all day long as he worked hard on the sticks positioning the boat perfectly for Robert and myself.
When we rolled into camp we were in awe. The camp site was perfectly set up. Tents for sleeping were set up with cots, pads, sleeping bags and pillows. There was a dining tent, a big fire pit, and a nice lamb on the cross cooking slowly. Rueben and Nico (the gear and camp guys) had set up a perfect spread to accommodate the group. In Argentina, dinner is served at about 10 pm. So there was a few rounds of hors derves. A few rounds of cocktails and we sat down to what I would say was a feast. Reuben and Nico put on a show that might have been better then the fishing, which was awesome. We over did ourselves and washed it all down with some great wine. We then sat around the fire and told lies and watched the fire light up the night.
In the morning we set out with new boat partners and continued to beat up on the locals. The legendary winds of Patagonia hit us at around 4pm and we decided to quit fishing and enjoy the float into camp. With winds gusting downstream 30-50 mph Diego made it into camp within an hour. Nico and Rueben were trying to put up the last tent in the gusts but decide to wait for things to calm down. Within another hour the winds laid down and another night of delicacies were on prepared in front of us. What I would call tri-tip, stuffed bell peppers, and chorizo (sausages) were all cooking on the fire before us. Another night of great food and company.
The following day of fishing was spectacular and we all had sore arms as the boats were loaded and we headed back to a hotel in San Martin for the night and hot showers.
To be continued...