Sunday, January 20, 2013

Fly Fishing Patagonia Argentina: First Day in Junin de los Andes

Before I start, I would like to mention that you may experience a few format and grammatical errors.  I am doing my best to put my best English forward, but I simply do not have the time to thoroughly edit/review everything I would take too much time.  In advance, thanks for understanding.

In my previous post, I was labeling each post, i.e. Day 13 and 145 Days left.  When I decided to do this, I realized that once I got to Patagonia, I would probably lose track of days-time-weeks, etc.  For the reader, this may be an issue, but for me, it's a sign that my life now revolves around fishing and the daily cycle of Patagonia living...something that feels very natural to me.  So, regarding this subject, days in, or days before leaving Patagonia,  I am no longer going to bother myself with such details.

Listening to the occasional dog bark, and the melodies of the Rio Chimehuin, we awoke at 8:30am.  I noticed immediately that the skies were clear and it was going to be a hot, dry day in Junin de los Andes.  I also noticed a decent hatch and watched wild torut began to rise.  I could probably watch such poetry all day, but like the feeding fish, it was time for me to find my morning hatch (desayuno).  After a breakfast of media lunas (croissants) and tea, Nico and I were in the Officina de Tourismo, buying my fishing license (notice the order of priority = 1) Food 2) Fish).  If you're not from Argentina, the cost to fish in Patagonia is as followed:

  • Full Season = $480 Pesos or $95 USD
  • One Week = $360 Pesos or $72 USD
  • One Day = $120 Pesos or $24 USD
  • Full Season Boca de Rio Chimehuin (the mouth of Chimehuin) = $100 Peson or $20 USD
  • Per Day, Boca de Rio Chimehuin = $20 Pesos or $4 USD
  • License Plastic Lamination = $5 Peson or $1 USD (highly recommend for long term)

To purchase a license, all you need is your passport, and if you arrive on a busy holiday, lots of patience, while waiting line.  Many times, to avoid lines, and for FCFF clients, we can purchase your license in advance (see welcome brochure).  Once you purchase is complete, you will be given a fishing regulation handbook.  The handbook is both in Spanish and English.  But to save you time here are the general fishing rules:

  • In all rivers = catch and release trout and salmon, only.
  • In all rivers and lakes = you can keep two Percas, a native fish, known to tip the scales at 15lbs or less; and pretty tasty on the BBQ.
  • In lakes = 2 fish per species.
  • Rio Malleo is fly fishing ONLY.
  • The Boca de Chimehuin is fly fishing ONLY.

Pre-Trout Stocking, Perca was one of two native fishes in all Patagonia waters!

OK, I have a funny little thought to share with you.  Since August of 2012, I have only caught 2 fish!  Why? between buying a new apartment building, teaching/guiding, and preparing for my trip, I did not have much time to fish for myself (even with all the great fall stocking done by  So, as you can imagine I was eager to get on the water ASAP; however, Nico suddenly stated that he wanted to buy a fishing license and asked me if I could teach him how to fish.  I thought about his request for a few seconds.  I realized that he helped pay for half the gas from Santiago to Junin de los Andes, so I quickly said, "yes, of course, but I think it's best to teach you how to fish using a standard rod/reel set-up."  He said, "no problem, but can you help me buy the proper equipment."  Within 15 minutes, for the grand total of $300 Pesos or $60 USD, Nico  owned his first rod/reel (6.6ft telescopic, w/12lb line) and 4 lures (cucharas = spoons).  Add another 15 minutes, and I  found myself guiding, yet another beginner fisherman, on the middle section of Rio Chimehuin. It's official folks, FCFF is now a global fishing school!  

Nico is a city boy form Athens, Greece.  Back in 2000, he graduated from college in England and found himself working for Andersen Consulting.  Now days, as the result of several economic crisis, he finds himself workng as a cook, on a small Greek Island.  My easy as using a conventional rod/reel can be, I assumed I would have my work cut out for me.  But the blessing, a very good blessing, Nico showed tremendous patience. For example, when he got his lure stuck in a tree or rock, which was not often, he would stop, think, and then proceed to gently remove the lure (he had a little help from me, as well).  The lure that Nico was using was a standard 02 Mepps Spinner, with a treble hook.  I pinched the barbs down and as I did so, he ask me why would I do such a thing.  After explaining barb vs. barb-less hooks, he fully understood, but he still found it odd that humans would do such a thing (catch and eat is an unmistakable part of our human DNA).  The next question from Nico..."how long does it take catch a fish."  Within 40 minutes Nico had his first fish on and as he reeled the fish in, I said, "about 40 minutes!"  The fish was small and during the epic battle (not) the fish broke free and swam off.  Immediately, Nico showed both elation and disappointment.  It's at these moments, after only catching 2 fish in the last five months for myself, is why love to guide...I love the real/raw emotion that fishing brings out of people, I love being able to watch this in real-time.  We continued fishing for the rest of the day, putting in about 5-6 hours.  We were tired and hungry, plus it was freaking hot (+90 degrees).  So, as the locals were doing, we went swimming and then headed back to the truck for a siesta.  Once we got back to the truck, as you see in the photo below, our camping spot was over-run with locals and tourist (it's all about the shade, not the truck). 

Nico, now the Greecian Fisherman, resting in the Sombra...with half of Junin.
La Cena

Day light passed and night temps cooled down to the low 80's. The time was 10pm or in Patagonia, time for La Cena (dinner).  Compared to other places such as San Martin and Bariloche, Junin has limited eating establishments.  But what it lacks in touristic quantity, it offers real Patagonia quality!  I mention this because we at FCFF go out of way to bring our friends/family/clients real Patagonian experiences.  In other words, most of the time, we eat where the locals eat.  So, as you can see from the picture above, Nico and I dined on home made empanadas, made by a mother/daughter team.  We ordered 2.5 dozens empanadas of meat (carne), chicken (pollo) and ham-cheese-basil (jamon-queso-albahaca) and the bill came to $100,000 Pesos or $20 USD. The bonus, you can bring your own beverage.  Nico and I polished of a bottle of Malbec, called Postales- Fin Del Mundo, a decent everyday wine for $30,000 Pesos or $6 USD.  Not a bad deal for $13 USD each.  

The next day, we awoke to over-cast/clouds and on/off showers.  Nico was anxious to go fishing again and to learn more. Why?  He is riding his mountain bike to Tierra del Fuego and along the way, he wants to catch som fish for food (FYI, this journey is over 1,000 miles and will take him through the Andes and then into wind swept plains of's an amazing trip and will test his mental and physical endurance, like never before).  So, off we went to fish the Collon Cura, when I decided to take a left turn and head for Rio Cantan Lil.  Why?  This is a small river, easy to walk and fish, and I have never-ever seen another fisherman there.  I would not tell you to travel 22 hours to come fish the Cantan Lil, but if you're in the neighborhood, and want to be entirely alone, and catch rainbows on a dry fly, then this river is only one hour from Junin. 

Nico's first fish, ever!.  First Patagonia Rainbow. 
I caught a fish on a dry fly and then handed the rod to Nico.  I did this so he could understand the difference between fly fishing and conventional fishing.  He got it and said he could see himself fly fishing in the future.  I am happy to teach anyone, anywhere, anytime, anyway...even conventional fishing!
Not a world record, but my first 2013 fish in Patagonia. Caught on a Yellow Humpy
Our guest for Almuerzo (lunch).
Cute little Bugger
Desert Rivers = Ants! Bottom left, you can barely see the ant highway, leading back to the mothership.  Don't forget to pack a few ant and hopper patterns.

We finished the day by having a late stream side lunch, and as you can see from the above photo, we had a guest stop by.  Overall, the fishing was excellent for Nico; however, I was really concerned how low and warm the water was (wet wading in January, in Patagonia, is not a good sign).  Typically, we don't wet wade the Catan Lil till the end of March.  We left the river, and now back in town, I ran into a friend and he said most rivers water levels and temperatures were low.  As a result, fishing has been tough in most rivers, with the exception of the upper Chimehuin.  This brings me to an important point...if you book a week at a lodge, you live and die by the local conditions (rain, wind, snow, temps, etc).  By no means am I trying to scare you off, on the contrary, I am just being realistic.  The one advantage of being a small outfitter, with a very mobile truck that can comfortable seat 3 anglers; we can travel and find cold water/good fishing conditions!  Many lodges simply do not have the resources to split groups and provide transportation to and from a variety of destination...this is one of many reasons, why lodges call their home waters,  exclusive.

Nico, suerte con su viaje hasta Tierra Del Fuego

It's now Sunday, January 20, 2013.  I helped Nico prepare his bags and he was off on his two month,  +1,000 mile adventure.  Being a former cyclist/tri-athlete, a part of me was very jealous.  I love traveling by bike; for me it's more real and keeps me close to nature, but at age 44, my days on the bike are long gone. Another part of me, the part that knows fully where he is heading, thinks he is crazy.  When and if he get's through the mountains, he'll be faced with gail force winds, 24/7.  The winds in southern Patagonia could easily blow a biker off the road...I have seen it happen (oh, the roads are 99% dirt, and bumpy).  But in the spirit of good will, William Wallace once said, "every man dies, but not every man truly lives."  Good luck friend!

It' also the AFC Championship game day, between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens.  I am currently sitting in a Confiterria- Resto Bar.  Guess what is on TV?  Yup, Futbol/Soccer...I doubt they will put the game one, but ya never know.  I'll have to come back because the game starts at 6:30pm, or 8:30pm my time, in Patagonia.

Well, for those of you who are following my daily adventures, I am all caught up.

Hasta los Campiones de Futbol Americano = New England Patriots!

PS. I am not a professional photographer, but many people ask me about the camera I use.  Within the first 2 weeks the LCD screen died, but Pentax fixed it, without charge, and since then (2 years ago), I have had no problems.   There are lots of water-proof camera, but for the time being, the Pentax W90 is my go to, on the river camera.