Monday, February 18, 2013

DIY Fly Fishing Patagonia Argentina: Rio Limay

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.

Day 01: Middle Limay

After running a few errands and Junin de los Andes, filling the truck with diesel and buying some food, I headed to the middle Limay. From Junin, to Piedra de Aguila (middle Limay) is 1.5hrs -2.0 hrs drive. As you leave Junin, you immediately ascend high into the mountains (technically not the Andes).  From Junin, to the top of the mountain pass, only takes about 10 minutes, but during this drive you may have a chance to see horses, wild guanacos, and cattle; grazing in the mountain pastures.  At the top of the mountain pass, you may see several condors flying high above.  In fact, as you descend into the rio Alumine valley, off to the left, there is a high rocky cliff where the condors make their home. If you're not familiar with condors, all you need to do is look up at the rocky cliffs and look for the white spots. These white spots are the condor's poop. An interesting fact about condors, they do not have a nest...when not in the air, they live their entire lives resting, sleeping, and and raising their chics on the rocks.   Last note on condors, if you ever see a condor in a field stop your car, walk out to the condor, and be sure to take a few pictures.  Why?  Condors on the ground is a tell-tale sign that the condor has just recently eaten and his/her belly is so full that he/she cannot fly...other than at a zoo, this is your best, and probably only chance to see a condor up close!  Once you have descended to the bottom of this valley you will come to the rinconada bridge, which spans the rio Alumine (this is a single lane bridge).  From the bridge, simply follow the signs to PDA. You'll be driving along the Alumine river valley for about 45 minutes, before vering towards PDA.  FYI, during this stretch of road/river, there are some very good fishing spots. To access the spots, you'll have to park your car, and walk to the river (there are braided channels and small ponds, filled with fish that receive little or no, several years ago, we had a mountain lion encounter). By now, if you're fisherman, you probably want to know more about the spots. Unfortunately, it would be very difficult for me to describe how to access the spots (best if I showed you), but be prepared to do a lot of walking. Also, along this stretch of river/road, either during early morning or early evening, you will have a strong chance to see red stag deer, wild boar, guanacos and a variety of birds (flamingos, ducks, geese, hawks, eagles, etc).  Bottom line, this is a very pretty drive and a great place to see wild Patagonia animals. As you leave this fertile river valley, following the signs to PDA, via route 237, and you'll soon find yourself in the sleepy, dusty desert town of Pierda de Aguila.

Bienvenido a Piedra de Aguila
Even though the town is called the eagle of the rocks, don't expect to see wild eagles...but, do expect to see the above! Before fishing the middle Limay, PDA is a good spot for gas, bathroom, food, etc.

Okay, enough logistics, and now for the fishing details...

I arrived late at Campo de Martinez, probably about 12 o'clock.  It was a beautiful day, with bright blue skies, but the sun was very intense and it was very hot, dry and windy.  Nano, the head guy at Campo de Martinez, suggested that I drive my truck to the end of the dirt road and park underneath a giant willow tree. Truth be told, as I have said before, there's not much shade at Campo de Martinez. In fact, I believe there are only two trees that offer good shade for camping and leisure.  Anyways, I decided to use my new switch-rod from Temple Fork outfitters (Deer Creek 11ft/5wt).  I chose to use this rod for two reasons: One, I wanted to practice more; And two, it was a very hot day, so I wasn't expecting the fishing conditions to be all that why not practice. I decided to use a classic Patagonia set up; a dry fly and dropper.  As I approached the water, close to the shoreline, I could see fish feeding, just below the surface, but no signs of a hatch.  Given this information, I knew instantly that my dry-dropper would probably not work, but I did my best to entice the feeding trout.  After an hour, with no strikes, I decided to head back to the truck, to take my afternoon siesta.  As I took my siesta, I began to think about how to best approach the next round of fishing.  As I said before, it was very hot, and very dry, the fishing conditions were not good, but a few fish were feeding subsurface.  Based on what I saw, I could tell these were smaller fish...time to go deep! So, I decided to switch to a rod-reel system that I have more experience with. I switched from my new switch, to my 9ft/6wt ECHO3.  I have two reels for this rod, both Orvis reels...a  Battenkill Barstock-2 (lined with WFF only) and an Orvis Access mid-arbor (lined with a multi-tips: floating, intermediate, class 3 and 5 sink tips).  I chose the Access mid-Arbor reel because I needed to go deep. So, I added the class 3 sinking tip to the running line, and and then I began to prepare my leader and flies. Thinking about where I was going to fish and how I wanted to fish (based on current conditions), I added a Gartside minnow, followed by nymph dropper (emerger pattern).  I stood knee-deep in water, and casted far into the middle section of the river.  It only took a few seconds for my line to swing through the run and into the deep pool, just below me.  At the end of the drift, I paused for about three seconds, and then began stripping-in my fly line. Seconds later, I had a strike and a fish on!  I could feel that this fish was pretty big, however, as I brought the fish closer to me, I soon realized that it was not a trout, but a Perca (Perca's = native fish in Patagonia). The Perca, went for the Gartside minnow... a fly made by the late Jack Gartside, a native of Boston, Massachusetts.  You can keep two Perca per day, but I decided to release this fish, and continued my quest for a large trout.  To make a long story short, cast after cast, I continued to catch large Perca (like the one in the below photo).  Then, on one cast, I had a powerful strike, the kind you feel in your lower back! The fish was deep, and he began to turn downstream at warp reel was instantly whistling a sweet melody, that all fishermen love. I soon realized that this fish had the best of me, and if I recall correctly, I was about to go into my backing...FYI, Perca tend not to rocket away, this fast!  At this point, I had no choice but to start following the fish downstream, while trying to apply light pressure to the drag/reel. Well, sure enough, my ability to apply a light pressure was rusty.  This large powerful fish, quickly snapped my line and all efforts were lost.  In this situation, most fishermen would probably be very upset with themselves. Well, I'm not most fishermen...I take pleasure knowing that my game plan was perfect, the equipment used was correct, but my execution was slightly flawed. In other words, my execution can be fixed with just a little bit more patiences (just need to show it more love next time).  All in all, at this pool, I probably caught about 10 Pecas, and had a good time.

The rest of the day (before dinner), was spent casting large streamers with the same rod and reel, but used a class-5 sink tip line.  Why? I was wading in fast water, and was hoping to find a large brown trout, but nothing doing.  I finished my day by having dinner in the kitchen of Campo de Martinez (seen in previous post).  My dinner was to be a pizza and wine; however, I met two Argentine fisherman and they were kind enough to share their asado (BBQ flank steak) with me.  In return, I was pleased to share my wine with these two fishermen and we had a good time talking about fishing. I asked them if they have finished other parts of the middle Limay and they said they had; however, they said that this spot is probably one of the best spots for DIY fisherman. They also said, "if you want to catch large brown trout, come back in April and May."

Day 02: Middle Limay

Based on my previous day fishing experience, and my general experience fishing in Patagonia, I had a feeling that if I wanted to get into some trout, that I would have to get up early.  Well, not to put the cart before the horse, I did get up early and I did get into some very good trout.

I was up around 7AM (that's early in Patagonia), and I was on the water fishing by 7:30 AM.  Once again, I was fishing with my ECHO-3 9ft/6wt.  This time I decided to use my Battenkill Barstock-2 reel, lined with Orvis Hydros WFF.  Back at the truck, I decided to put on a double nymph rig, with a self-made adjustable nymph indicator...a what?  To make the adjustable nymph indicator, I use 4-5 feet of 40 lb test line.  I then make a nail on the line by using/adding old fly line...that's right, I put a nail knot on the 40lbs line with the old fly line.  I then add an Orvis Thingamaboober.  I then add another nail knot with old fly line.  I make perfection loops on either end, and I now have an adjustable nymph indicator.  You could easily add the thingamamboober to your leader, and be done with it.  But, I find that the indicator slides too much and causes deep bends in your line/leader. The only cautionary note to this system: if you use loop to loop connections, you will have to make the loop larger enough for your Thingamabobber to pass through.  I didn't createt this...take a look at the video.

I chose a double nymph indicator rig because I was going to walk up-stream, towards the dam (dique), and fish the left side of the river...the day before, while driving in to Campo de Martinez, I noticed several deep pools, just below the road, and I could see large bows.  If I had to pick a word that would help you know where I was fishing, it would be "rocks." Find the rocks on the let side, only a 10 minute walk up-stream, and you'll find the pools.

So, I get to my spot, a frothy pool, with a slight back eddy; and I start fishing.  It's early, I am still in the shade. About 30 minutes pass, and no strikes...nothing.  The hatch starts, it's a small caddis hatch, and the next thing I see are fish feeding just below the surface.  I am close enough to see dorsal fins and backs...very wide backs! I immediately switched my double nymph rig for a dry-dropper system.  I chose a #18 caddis, followed by a #20 purple haze emerger-midge.  It was not instantly, but within 10 minutes I was hooked-up to a rainbow.  I fought this fish for 5 minutes, and during this time, and although I could not see the trout, I could feel the strength and size of this fish.  Just as I was beginning to win this battle, by bringing the fish closer to shore, she turned on me and jetted out into current and started to head downstream...sound familiar?  This time I let her run a bit.  I followed her down stream and just when I thought I had her turned back towards the shore, she launched herself out of the water and spat the hook.  In a milli-second my emotions went from, "wow, this trout easily is +25...I can't wait to take a photo," to "shit, I lost another one."  While laughing at myself, I know noticed two other anglers, just upstream from me, taking notice.  One came by and asked me what I was using.  I gladly told him and he went downstream from me.  So, I went back to the pool, put on another purple haze, though this time, I used a stronger tippet (3X).  The hatch was still on.  Trout were still feeding.  For the next 45 minutes I stuck it to a few rainbows, but not as big as the one that got away (we have all heard this line before!).  I decided to give this pool a rest.  The sun was up, it was shortly after 9AM.  The hatch was slowing down.  I walked up stream, following the rocky shore.  As I approached one of the two anglers, I could tell that he was fishing a nice spot, but then again he really wasn't fishing.  I did not want to crowd him, so I made a few cast in his direction, to see what his reaction would reaction.  So, I picked a small piece of foamy slack water, just behind a submerged boulder.  My little #18 caddis dropped in just as planned; without a ripple.  A half second later, a trout exploded onto to my fly and without thought, I set the hook faster than lighting.  I moved upstream quickly to better position myself to fight this trout.  My goal was to keep the trout from entering the main current and then, possibly run downstream (been there-done that, already).  Lucky for me, this trout had some kick, but I was able to counter every move, and after about 15 minutes, I safely beached her.  By now, the angler who was within a short casting distance of this trout, was assisting me.  He was kind enough to take a few photos.            

Early A.M. Rainbowow caught feet from the shore on a #18 Caddis.  Patagonia desert light is just horrible to capture true colors.

I thanked the fish gods, released the trout, and then I turned to the angler and said thank you for taking the pictures (FYI, it's pretty hard to take a decent fish photo when you are by fact, 95% of the fish I catch, small or big, are released without photos).  We began to chat a bit, and as we did so, I noticed that he had two severe cuts in his fly line, near what appeared to be a botched loop to loop connection.  Naturally, this caught my attention, and upon further inspection, I could see many more flaws in his leader, tippet, and fly. Everything I saw instantly told me that this guy was a beginner.  I explained to him that I was a guide-instructor, and that I would be happy to help him fix his set-up.  He said he was a beginner and would welcome any/all help.  Well, I made a new nail knot, a new leader butt, gave him a new leader and tippet, and a donated two #18 caddis.  He did not know that casting upstream with a dry fly, rather than downstream, was the better technique. I repositioned him and in my best Spanish possible, I began teaching him how to fish using a dry fly. Teaching folks in English is hard enough, but Spanish...come on!  But, I love teaching and was determined to help this man catch a was the least I could do since I stole his fish away from him, and then asked him to take a photo of it!  After several failed attempts, I was able to teach him the proper drift, mend, and stripping-in of the line.  Then it happened...he had the perfect cast, the perfect drift, the perfect mend, and what do you know, he caught his first trout, with first cast fly fishing!  I was so happy and was anxious to take a photo for him.  But, the fish spat the hook because we had not thoroughly discussed the need to keep tension on the hook, despite me trying my best to communicate this while he had the trout on (need to practice more Spanish!)   So, we were back at it and he was able to catch three more rainbows, but all three either spat the hook or were SDL's (short distance release).  I was sad that we did not get a photo, but I was truly happy to be helping another beginner angler.  We shook hands, said our goodbyes and as I walking back to camp, I passed his buddy.  I took a quick look at this fellow and knew he was a beginner, as well.  How could I tell?  He was casting downstream, into a strong current, with a huge dry fly.  By now, I was hungry and ready for a break, but I also felt that I could not leave this poor fellow.  In the end, I told him that I just helped his buddy catch three trout, so go talk to him, but do yourself a favor..."cast up stream and switch to a smaller fly."  He immediately thanked me and quickly walked to his friend.  Where ever these fellows are today, I hope that I helped them along their fishing life-journey; and more importantly, in the future, I hope they help some one else...this is what our sport needs the most...people helping people, and not charging a small fortune to do so!

The rest of the day?  The day turned out to be very hot, and windy.  Every time I opened my mouth to speak, and then closed it, I could feel the tiny particles of sand grinding in my teeth.  By mid-afternoon,   I was ready to get back to the mountains = Junin de los Andes.

Folks, gott a wrap this up, but please remember, whether you are a beginner or advance fly fisherman, First Cast Fly Fishing welcomes the opportunity to work with you.  We work with all sorts of people, from penny pinching DIY trout bums to deep pocketed full service lodge folks.  Please feel free to look at our standard rates, posted on the Global Trips tab.  Many times our rates end up varying because we create a custom package specifically designed to meet your needs...that's what FCFF is all about.  For example, we have had anglers pay less than $1,000 USD for a 7 day tip!

Here is an example of what not to expect from FCFF...


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Gracias y Hasta Luego,