This is the story of the second half of my trip to Patagonia this past December.
When we rolled into the hotel in San Martin, we were exhausted from having our minds blown and rods bent for two days. The next two days were Christmas Eve and Christmas and we had a few days to re-charge the batteries, so to speak. We wandered around town checking out the local businesses, farmers markets in the park and doing some of your typical tourist things. The evenings were set around great food and even better company.
Christmas for me is usually set in plenty of snow and low temperatures. Growing up, I always associated Christmas and winter. It was a little different lounging around the pool in shorts in 75-degree weather, but I could get used to it.
The morning after Christmas we were met by the guides again after breakfast on our way to another adventure. This time we would be fishing the Chimehuin River for the majority of the trip and then take out on the Collon Cura River. This was a much different river than the previous experience. It was a much narrower river, but still had good depth and an abundance of medium sized trees that were heavily foliaged overhanging the water. It was tricky sneaking your fly under branches and close to the well-protected banks.
Once again, a minimal arsenal of flies was needed to ensure success. There were only a few slow times here and there during the day. My guide, Shaggy, suggested we try a nymph rig. Stopping in a small little riffle with a nice, deep drop off, I hooked three fish in five casts. "So much for the slow fishing," I thought to myself. After landing a few more trout under on indicator, we decided to continue floating into camp, throwing dry flies and trying for the large brown trout on the surface. I was successful in finding some nice brown trout up to 21 inches the remaining few miles of the float.
As we anchored at camp with the other boat in our group, we stowed our fishing gear and headed to the fully set up camp to relax and swap stories about the day. After a hearty Argentine meal we climbed into our tents and sleep came easily.
The next morning after breakfast and coffee we set off to see what the day brought. To be honest the fishing was a carbon copy of the previous day. Plenty of fish ate our dries in the right fishy spots. Lunch was another great meal paired with a bottle of great Malbec. As my adrenaline had worn off a bit from day one and two, I took the opportunity for a quick siesta after lunch and was fully recharged after a 30 minute nap. Soon after lunch the guides pulled over and explained that they were going to have to do some logging. It was apparent that in high water this year that the river had changed course and some branches needed to be removed to insure safe passage. After about 30 minutes they returned and we continued floating downstream. A few hundred yards we witnessed the 8-10 inch branches that were cut to allow the boats to pass. With a small hand saw I was quite impressed in the work that the guides had done in a short period. Soon we were back standing in the boat and catching trout. Near the end of the day we came to the end of the river where it joined a much bigger river, the Collan Cura. We fished nearly a mile of the Collan Cura and the fishing never slowed. Then we hit the boat ramp where the guys were waiting with the trucks. It wasn’t long that the boats and gear were packed in the rigs, and we were on our way to the town of Eagle Rock or Piedra del Aguila.
The town of Piedra del Aguila reminded me of on old western town. There was one way in and one way out. All the side streets were unpaved dirt roads and the main drag had many B&B’s and restaurants. It was a very small town, but it serviced people traveling through or fishing the Limay River, which was to be our final destination. When we arrived at our hotel we cleaned up and headed to the “guides quarters” for empanadas and cold beer for dinner. We filled our bellies and listened to Ron explain what we were in for the next three days. We had three days of fishing left and this was the river known for its giant brown trout (over 30+ inches is possible). I could hardly sleep in anticipation of what might happen.
Early the next morning we headed to the Limay River and dropped the boats in. This tailwater river is the biggest river I have ever fished. It made the Missouri River here in Montana look small. I would describe the scenery as “High Desert.” Very scenic in a different way than we had seen previously. The water was slightly up according to the guides but still gin clear. Your could see all the way to the bottom of the river in 15-20 feet of water.
There was a good caddis hatch for a few hours and we fished dries to pods of rising fish. The rainbows averaged 18 inches and the brown trout were larger (18-25 inches). Once the hatch dissipated we switched over to big foam attractors and beat the banks. All I can say is that I have never seen so many brown trout aggressively try to kill our flies. They would miss our flies as they cartwheeled out of the water three feet in the air. They would slash and miss our bugs and swirl around to eat it again. Some just set up, waited and sipped it in like a mayfly, while others would chase it down as you went to pick up for a cast. We didn’t catch them all, but the ones we could keep hooked were great fish in anyone's book. They screamed out line and jumped multiple times. Having both anglers hooked up at the same time wasn’t common but I witnessed enough of them to know that this doesn’t get a lot better than what we experienced.
At the end of the day we headed back to the hotel to be treated to another Asado (Barbecue). The gear guys had been preparing appetizers and keeping a close eye on the lamb over the fire. What a great end to a super day of fishing.
The next few days were almost carbon copies of the first day on different stretches of the river with different fishing partners and guides. The last day after lunch, a storm was moving in hard and quick. The guides suggested we wait it out for a little but. After about an hour the storm, which looked like it was only a mile away, turned south and the blue skies reappeared. We jumped back in the boats and the change in atmospheric pressure did something to those trout. For the next few miles we had a some incredible fishing. I have only witnessed this phenomenon like this a few times in my career, when a storm comes through and then the fishing is off the charts. I was glad I got to fish instead of row this time. I didn’t get a 30 inch plus brown trout, but I know they live there. I will be back to try again.
The following day we loaded up all our gear and headed to Bariloche to catch a flight to Buenos Aires and then back to Montana. Even though it was a 4 hour drive I had my camera pointed out the window capturing the last of the spectacular scenery and taking in my last taste of Argentina.
In conclusion, I thought this was an amazing trip with an amazing group of guides. Ron and his guys were first class all the way. Fishing Patagonia is a lot like fishing Montana. Rivers of various sizes, great scenery, and plenty of eager trout. The main difference between Montana and Patagonia is the fishing pressure. In seven days of fishing we saw three other boats (two in one day). You get the feeling that you are fishing un-pressured water. I felt like the river was all ours and we could fish and enjoy it at any pace we wanted to. If we wanted to take a siesta after lunch, no problem; if you wanted to fish a certain piece of water, it was waiting just for you downstream. Not to take anything away from Montana, but there is a certain amount of a more leisurely pace when you know that the trout have not seen any artificial flies in a day or weeks. At least that is how I felt.
Chocolate Lad Expeditions offer many trips for different budgets, wants, and needs. You can stay at first rate Estancias (ranches with private water), camp out in very comfortable accommodations, stay in various costing hotels, or a mix of all. Our group was more on a budget and stayed in nice clean hotels (but nothing fancy), camped quite a few nights on the river, and were blown away with the level of service and professionalism.
Thanks for reading about my adventure.