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One Out of My Bucket List-Fishing Argentina-Patagonia

By Larry E. Stefanyk
 

The seed for trip started about 30 years ago when I wrote on my bucket list- Fish Argentina for brown trout. 2013 was the magic year to remove it. It all started by a chance meeting with a women working in a trade show travel booth. As I walked by she called out, “Where in the world do you want to go”, “Argentina I replied without hesitation”. Turns out she was born in Argentina and was kind enough to mail me some information. This started the seed of adventure quietly sprouting.
 

In Las Vegas last July at the ICAST show, I met Jamie Rios, Adventure and Sportfishing Coordinator for Argentina Tourism, along with Fernando Sosa, president of the Guides Association for the Province of Neuquen. Wow, this must be some kind of a sign for sure. During our conversation Jamie said, “If I would cover the flight to Buenos Aires, he would host me”, then Fernando said, “If I could make my way to San Martin de los Andes by the 7th of December he would host me for a week’s fishing in Patagonia for rainbow and brown trout”. I couldn’t believe my luck, it was a no brainier decision on my part, as the prime fishing months in this region are from November to April.
 

My Dec 5th trip started well before I left Canada, the first week of November I started to tying flies, and packing. It was a challenge, as I had to pack and repack until my waders, boots, rods and flies were tucked neatly in place with a little room left over for my clothes. My bag weighed less than the required weight 50-pound, I was ready to go. Two weeks before I was scheduled to leave I was invited to fish in Northern Argentina for Golden Dorado. I had to rearrange flights and re-pack yet again. Finally I was done, with just my wading boots going as carry on.
 

I left home on Dec 5th, after a 22 hour trip I arrived at the Buenos Aires Airport where I was met at by a driver and taken to the, El Conquistador hotel right down town. That evening I walked across the street to have dinner, Steak, French fries, desert and a ½ bottle of Argentina red wine. The meal wasn’t just good, it was excellent, what I had heard about the beef and wine was truth, the meal cost $43 Canadian.
Day one, I was driven to the Jorge Newbery Airfield Domestic Airport where I boarded a hour flight to San Martin de los Andes. Fernando Sosa was there to meet me at the airport. After a quick stop at the tourism office so I could purchase a 7-day Non resident fishing license for $540 pesos -$90.00 Canadian. We headed north for the two hour drive to our first destination, Estancia Los Cachorros Lodge.
 

The Lodge is located on the banks of the Rio Quillen River. Our hosts Paula de Larminot and her husband’s farm house can accommodate six guests at a time. We were greeted warmly and treated to a wonderful lunch. After lunch I quickly headed to the river with Fernando as my guide, for my very first try at fishing Argentina waters. What an exhilarating feeling when I started casting out that dry fly, I was living my dream. My first trout was a rainbow, not to big, but a huge thrill nonetheless. I spent an amazing afternoon, fishing, the largest trout I landed was an 18-inch brown. As night falls, and we head back to the lodge where we joined Paula, and her daughter for a wonderful dinner complete with red wine. Martin Pescador, our guide for tomorrow’s fishing on the Rio Alumine arrived after dinner with his drift boat in tow.
 

Day two, we traveled a short distance to the river, where we began our 15k drift downstream. Excited to get started, I cast out as soon as we launched. Using a floating line with big buggy dry fly, I was rewarded with fish after fish. Next I tried using a two fly rig, with Elk Hair caddis and a small nymph for the dropper with just as much success. Time passed quickly, and before I knew it, it was lunch time. Martin had prepared a shore feast for us, homemade sandwiches, crackers and cold cuts, red wine, beer, pop, fresh fruit and chocolate bars. After a great meal, we spent the afternoon happily catching and releasing too many fish to keep track of. I tried, but no luck, I did remember the biggest fish of the day, a 20-inch rainbow. Day 2, wow!

Day three, our next destination the San Huberto Lodge owned and operated by Carmen and Carlos Olsen and family is located on a 25,000-acre ranch. The main lodge located on banks of the Malleo River can accommodate 16 guests. Their self-imposed policy limits their fishing guests to just twelve rods at any one time in order to insure low angling pressure on the river, helping to maintain the highest quality fishing experience for everyone.

 

The most famous 32k section of this spectacular river, runs entirely within the lodge’s property. That first morning I caught four 19-inch rainbows on dry flies in the first pool. We fished serveral locations where I fooled many a trout on the dry fly, again I failed to keep count. Our last stop was an open field with the Rio Malleo wandering through it, the water, only ankle deep. Under-cut banks shaded by overhanging willows provide a perfect place for the trout to hide. After coaxing a rainbow or two, I took a moment, as I stood in this shallow water to gaze in awe of the view. The 12,300-foot Lanin volcano in the background and crytal clear water in the foreground. I felt blessed to be there, living my dream.

We returned to the lodge for lunch. After a bit of time out of the 35 degrees afternoon heat, we returned to a spot on the river a mere two minutes from the lodge. I was soon in to a number of fish, the largest an 18-inch brown trout . Our Day was topped off with an excellent barbacued dinner accompanied by no shortage of red wine. Perfect ending for perfect day.
 

Day four, we headed toward town to meet up with Andres Hermosilla, my guide, for the 20k drift on the Rio Chimehun. It was a full day of fishing, I hooked and lost a lot of trout, the largest a 20-inch rainbow we kept fishing right until dusk. Andres then delivered me to my hotel in San Martin de los Andes were Fernando was waiting. A quick change of clothes and we were off to dinner at Alferedo C. Bernhart restaurant, where I enjoyed a relaxing dinner and made plans for the following day on the Lower Malleo River. This river is located on an Indian Reservation, where we were charged 40p for access. My first cast produced fish, and the day just got better. Here I fished with streamers, nymphs and dry flies and caught many large trout in the shallow riffles near shore. We enjoyed a lunch of sandwiches with a rice/corn salad, sitting on the side of the river swapping stories. Back to wading and casting, I hooked my biggest fish of the trip todate, a 21-inch rainbow. That evening Ferando and I went back to the same resturant where he again treated me to another wonderful meal.
 

Day five, I was picked up early by Gustavo Hiebaum, Managing Partner of Andes Drifters, my guide to drift the Rio Caleufu. Starting with a series of rapids, it twists it’s way through mountain canyons and stunning rock formations for about 20k before transitioning into high desert mesa for another 20k.
As soon as we started down the river, I had my first fish on. We stopped at a riffle shortly after the launch, and I took my first brown trout of the day. As I set the hook, the fish catapulted into the air, a scene that was repeated many times that morning before we stopped for a riverside lunch. We were joined by Bruce Dancik (their Canadian Representative), John Spence from Edmonton, Alberta along with their guide Gonzalo Flego we all enjoyed a wonderful lunch.
 

We switched guides after lunch and Gonzalo took me the rest of the 64k drift. Normally this is a two day drift but due to my time frame we did it in one. Gonzalo got me into a 19-inch rainbow and a 18-inch brown once again on big dry flies. We shared a great time on the water, lots of fish and wonderful stories told. We wrap it up around 8 or 9 pm and floated into the shore to our camp where the camp crew, was waiting for us with a gin and tonic in hand. A great way to end the drift.
 

The camp crew had arrived earlier that day with a raft loaded with supplies, equipment, rations, all of our excess gear and clothing stowed away in dry bags, to set up our home for the night. Large tents dotted the campsite, there was a mess tent set up alongside a makeshift wet bar, complete with snacks. A shower tent, chemical toilet tent, and generator for light, we were at home in the wilderness. The crew had prepared a traditional Argentine meal, Asado (whole lamb barbecue) cooked over a fire in a stone enclosed pit. We enjoyed five star dinning in a big tent in the middle of the Rio Caleufu on a small island sharing plenty of local wine.
 

After a great meal we all retired to our separate tents set up with cots and sleep bags, no need to worry about mosquitoes or black flies, because Patagonia does not have them.

Day six, we were awoken by smell of freshly brewed coffee and Mata (a traditional South American caffeine-rich infused drink). We were spoiled once again with a full spread for breakfast; French toast with hot fruit spread, bacon and eggs, muffins and fresh fruit. With breakfast done we are back on the river for the last 27k of the drift. The day was a carbon copy of the day before with an 18- inch rainbow the largest catch. Our fishing ended with another great lunch, chicken breast, quiche, beet salad and bread pudding for dessert. Hard to believe it’s all so, so good. My last day fishing for trout in Patagonia behind me, but the adventure for Golden Dorado lay ahead….

Tourism Argentina
www.turismo.gov.ar/eng/menu.htm

San Huberto Lodge
The all-inclusive price ($680 per person per day, $100 extra for singles) covers your fishing guide, wines and meals.
www.flyfishinginpatagonia.com/san-huberto-lodge

Andes Drifters
$3.750 for six days, fully guided, all meals, transportation and accommodation and licenses.
www.andesdrifters.com
 

Huxley’s Run: 

This story started when I guided my friend Brent to the second fish registered in the 2013 Tyee Club of British Columbia tournament. Randy Killoran had guided the first fish and he met us at the dock that day, all enthusiastic and well-meaning. Brent’s fish weighed the same as Randy’s guest Fred Gerl’s fish — 34.5 pounds — and both were caught on a spoon. Randy congratulated us and then left.
It was the next tide that things changed. I saw Randy heading into the pool with a guest in his boat, tipped my hat in a ‘hello’ and all of a sudden — it was a flash like a hummingbird, there and gone in an instant — he flipped me the bird. And smiled. Or had he?
On the next tide I happened to row near Randy, who was set up on the south corner of the Tyee Pool, intently watching the rhythmic beat of his guests’ rods. His right hand left the oar in a blur, not missing a stroke, and — he flipped me the bird again! I blinked and in an instant Randy was oaring softly and slowly again, as if I didn’t exist.
It went on, tide after tide, but I kept my silence. Then one day, a beautiful sunny one, into the middle of a flood tide, I had Brent out again. We were in a nice spot and Randy was just to the side of us, but had not ‘made his aquaintance.’ It came so quickly, so suddenly that his smile took longer to form than it did for the flipping of the bird.
A few seconds passed and then Brent turned slightly in the boat to look back at me and said, “You know, Randy just flipped you the bird?”
“I know,” I said. “He’s been doing that every tide.”
Another fews seconds passed. Brent: “So, why’s he flipping you the bird?”
“I have no idea,” I sighed, thinking it was soon time to broach the subject with Randy. Instead I became stubborn and decided to ignore it entirely.
Unfortunately, when rowing in the Tyee pool, one must look at other boats to see if a turn can be made, or if you’re impeding someone else, the list is endless. And every time I would try to ignore Randy, there he was in my line of sight, with his little bird.
Inspiration came when I had a couple of guests who knew a lot about tyee fishing, even though it was their first time out. “We should have our lines out deeper.” “Should we try a different lure?” “I heard the Gage(62.5 pounds) fish was caught near the Argonaut Wharf, maybe we should go there.”
I was holding north of the south corner, and neither guest was paying as much attention to the rods as I rowed as I wished. I happened a glance behind me and luckily saw Randy setting up for a drift that would pass right by me. Inspiration came to me.
“You ever heard of Randy Killoran?” I asked my guests.
“He’s one of the best, isn’t he, leading the tournament so far too?” said one. “He’s all over the record books,” said the other. “Really knows what he’s doing.”
I smiled to myself.
“Yes, well don’t look, but Randy is drifting down towards us with a guest in his boat,” I said. My guests and I were facing south, Randy was coming from the north. Out of the corner of my eye, avoiding the bird, I knew he was catching a bit more of the flood than I and would pass us in seconds.
“He is going to be so pissed of at me, he will probably flip me the bird,” I said, hoping someone would take the bait. “Tyee guides don’t yell at each other because of etiquette, we just flip the bird.”
“Why would he be pissed off at you?” asked one guest.
“Because I am on his exact spot he wants to fish,” I said. “This is HIS spot. This is where he catches most of his fish and we beat him to it.”
The guests looked around at the vast expanse of ocean around us and started in. “You’re joking?” “Seriously?” “There’s lot of room.”
I gave a few strokes on the oars. “Well,” I said, “if you don’t believe me, I’ll prove it. When I say ‘now’ I want you both to look to the left and watch Randy.”
Seconds passed, Randy’s boat came into my periphery vision and I said, “now” turning my head to Randy just before they did. The bird came out and disappeared just as quickly.
There were a couple of gasps from my guests, but I had their undivided attention for the rest of the tide.
Footnote: When I asked Randy about it all, he said he was just imitating the character South Park, and thought I ‘got it.’ I didn’t get it until I actually googled it and finally understood.

 

 

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