Patagonia: Trout Mecca

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A couple of years ago, my brother Greg and I made the voyage down to the southern hemisphere to experience first hand, the legendary trout fishing of Argentine Patagonia. As this was the biggest fishing trip we had ever been on, you can bet that plenty of time was spent finding the right outfitter to guide us along the way. In the end, we decided that the guys from Fly Fishing Patagonia were the right fit for us. Co-Owner Justi Campa was there from the beginning to answer the many questions that we had, and to help make this an unforgettable experience. I have written about FFP before as they are now guiding trips in other parts of the world, many of which are on the bucket list. They have a truly incredible operation and I would highly recommend them to anyone thinking of making the trip to one of their destinations.

Just as plenty of time went in to planning the trip, the same was the case for getting all the gear ready as the trip got closer. The gear list looked something like this:

-9 ft 6 wt rod
-Floating and sink-tip line
-Leaders: 1-5X (7.5ft and 9ft), plenty of them
-Tippet: 1X-6X
-Waders, Boots, Vest (basically cram all fly gear in one bag)
-Large assortment of flies from big streamers (Beadhead Woolybuggers of all colors, Leeches, anything else big and flashy), to Nymphs (Hare's Ear, Pheasant Tail, Prince Nymph, ...), to dries (ants, hoppers, dragon flys, elk hair and goddard caddis, Royal Wulff, midges); to name a few
-Clothing for every type of weather
-Headband flashlight (must)
Our trip had us leaving Austin in mid January which was the heart of their summer. We traveled from Austin to Atlanta, Atlanta to Buenos Aires, and BA to Bariloche. Bariloche is a gateway to the Patagonia region in Argentina and a cool little town with a great vibe. Greg and I were able to spend a night in Bariloche before heading to the river and we had a blast. The people are friendly, the scenery is beautiful and there are a lot of fun restaurants and bars. I would love to get back there with Liz during their winter as I hear the skiing is great as well.

                  Nahuel Huapi Lake in Bariloche                              

Day 2 had us amped up as it was time to fish. Our guides for the first part of the trip, Martin and Juan, picked us up early and we made the two hour drive from Bariloche to our let out area. Our trip was basically split into three parts with the first part (Days 2-5) spent fishing and camping along the Caluefu River. The Caluefu is a really fun river with a wide variety of terrain. Along the float, we experienced everything from mountains to a much flatter, almost desert like landscape. It was really neat to wind your way through such beautiful and ever changing countryside. 

A typical day on our float part of the trip was waking up and having breakfast by the fire. We would ease our way into the day, never being in too big of a rush. We came to realize there was really no need to be in a rush as the fishing was great all day long. After we ate and un-packed camp, we would load up the two boats (both pontoons) and head out. One boat would have all of the camping gear, food, supplies, etc… and would go out ahead towards where we would stop and have lunch. Our boat though was all about the fishing. We would fish all morning, slowly drifting our way down river. We would stop at sections that were good to wade and that we really wanted to fish thoroughly. Then we would load back up and keep heading down river. When we stopped for lunch, we would have a great meal, pop open a Quilmes or bottle of wine, and take a little nap. When done, the first boat would again go ahead and find a spot to start setting up camp for the night. We'd fish all afternoon loving every minute of it. When we got down to camp for the night, we would make a drink and kick back. Juan would grill up some amazing Argentinean steak, lamb or sausage and we would sit around the fire and talk about the fishing. Pretty sweet set up!

As far as the fishing itself, it was pretty amazing. We would generally catch about thirty or so fish a piece each day, ranging from browns and rainbows to their local perch, which looked somewhat like a largemouth bass. Most of the trout averaged around 17-18 inches with some getting much bigger. The fish of the trip came on the second day when Greg hooked into a behemoth. After a ten minute battle, he pulled in a seven plus pound brown that was a beautiful fish. There is no photo evidence though because ole buttery hands dropped the fish as he was raising it up for the picture. The fish landed on the boat and somehow squirmed its way to the only opening and slid ever so smoothly back into the river. To this day, I still tease Greg about that. Luckily, we did get it on video which you can view below. Sorry about the picture quality, I know it's not the best.

The patterns we used would depend on the conditions, structure, and time of day. When the wind was calm in the morning and evening, we would throw dries. As the wind picked up (it can get very windy in Patagonia), we would either drift nymphs, or more likely switch over to sinking lines and strip streamers. The fish seemed to love them all. 

                                                                          Argentinian Perch 

One of the most memorable hookups of my life came on the third day of the float. We were drifting and a good sized fish took the dry, it was off to the races from there. I'm not exactly sure how big this fish was as I never saw him, but he was a fighter. He headed down stream and just about spooled me before I could finally get some back on him. We pulled the boat off and I jumped out and started fighting him from shore. I got him within about twenty yards of me before he decided this time to head straight up river. Once again, he got well into my backing as I gave chase. Finally, I got him to the point where I thought I had the upper hand but he had other ideas. He spit the fly and was gone. I was pretty tired at that point as this had been going on for a while. Even though I didn't catch the fish, I had a huge smile on my face, what a battle! I knew I was going to remember that one.

The first part of the trip was such an amazing experience. Fishing all day long, camping beneath the Southern Cross each night, not seeing another human being for four days, really just a perfect escape. Part two would be just as fun, but with a whole different feel to it.

More to come...



Andy Barclay said...

Great write up and pics Brad! I think we need to quit or real life jobs and become professional fly fisherman!

Brad Neff said...

I'm in!!!

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