Wednesday, March 20, 2013

From Canada to Patagonia: DIY Fly Fishing Argentina

Before I start, I would like to mention that you may experience a few format and grammatical errors. Due a broken right finger, I have limited use of my right hand and I am now using a pre-installed Mac voice dictation application. So, 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.

About 5 months ago, I received an 'out of the blue' email from Ross and Daralyn Hodgetts, of Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada.  Initially, I thought Ross was a fellow that I met on a DIY steelhead trip Terrace, British Columbia.  As it turns out, Ross and I have never met.   As the story goes, he and his wife had been researching Argentina travel and fish options for some time, but just could not find what they were looking for. They were planning a five week trip starting in snowy-cold Canada, and then touring Patagonia, Mendoza, Cafayete, Salta, Buenos Aires and Iguazu falls Argentina.  Ross said that when they came across my blog, they instantly became interested because of my ability to customize their fly fishing trip to Patagonia.  You see Ross is a retired professor from the University of Alberta; a PhD specializing in fruit flies.  Given this information, I suspect Ross and Daralyn could easily afford a two week stay at a Patagonia fly fishing lodge. But, this would easily have cost them well over $10K USD...and that does not include airfare and all the little extra things that add up to a sizable bill.  Further, Ross has been a DIY (Do It Yourself) type of guy since early childhood.  For example, his family owns a large summer boys camp on lake Ontario (Canadian side) and he and his wife have canoed two dozen arctic rivers...pretty amazing stories, I tell ya!

I can't remember all the details but I do recall Ross sending me a list of things he wanted to see/do/accomplish in Patagonia; in seven days!  In addition, he was adamant about not wanting to stay at some froofy, expensive fly fishing lodge...he wanted a genuine Patagonia fishing experience!  I remember it was a lot and my reply back to him was, "you may not like my reply, but I am being's impossible to do all these things in 7 days." I explained why it was impossible, and suggested that if he really wanted to see it all, at a sane travel pace, that he would need at least two weeks (minimum).  We swapped a few more emails, answering each other's questions, then he sent an email stating that he and his wife would like to book two weeks with me.  WOW,  a person who I have never met, who does not know me from Adam, and after simply reading my blog and swapping a few emails, was now my top customer for the season 2013 fly fishing season!  I still can't believe the power of the Internet and how my blog is coming up on search engines such as Google...thank you technology and a big THANK YOU to my new friends from Canada!

I could probably write a novel about the Hodgett's adventure, but I am still nursing my broken finger.  So, I think I will simply post photos with brief comments.

Day 01: Upper Rio Limay, conveniently located just down the street from San Carlos de Bariloche, is a very challenging river to fish...even for the pro's! The day before Miguel (expert brown trout fisherman and guide seen in red shirt on right) caught an 8lb brown trout at the mouth (he caught the fish at 6:30am).  Unfortunately for Ross, though he and his wife enjoyed the float and commented on how great the stream side asado (BBQ) was, he finished the day with no strikes.  I always hate hearing this but this is always part of the equation, especially on one tough river like the Limay.

He may not have landed a fish on the Rio Limay, but he soon forget the days results after I took him to the best pasta restaurant in Bariloche.  A meal for two, including wine, bottle water, salad, and the very best pesto lasagna in all of South American, cost him $35 USD.

Day 02: Travel day to Esquel and a quick stop in El Bolson to visit the outdoor market (Feria).  El Bolson is an artsy-hippie type town with a summer outdoor market on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  If you are in the area, don't miss this market, it is the best, in all of Patagonia.

El Bolson is known for their wood carving products

El Bolson Wood Carving

Crazy psychedelic flies man...only in El Bolson, which stands for "the bag." 

The Hodgett's first Empanada de Carne... they tried one and went back for more!

El Bolson:  A gelato before we hit the road...the right choice after a few empanadas

Day 03:  Welcome to Esquel and Arroyo Pescado...a private estancia with a spring creek loaded with trout and perca.  The cost to entire is $100 per person, each day.  They limit the amount of anglers to 4 per day.

Arroyo Pescado: Ross getting ready.  We had the entire place to ourselves and the registration book showed that the creek had not been fished in over 3 weeks (another great reason why to visit Patagonia in March).  The only thing in our way of catching dozens of fish, the relentless Patagonia wind!

If you are dead drifting a nymph or streamer at Arroyo Pescado, you must learn to be very, very patient with your drift (light strip, if any!) is rather difficult to truly understand, but once you get it, you'll start catching things like...

Huge Native Perca

Arroyo Pescado: Heading into prime trout water =

Last cast of the day at Arroyo Pescado with Brad Bohen's Chronidc Leach = One Happy Canadian!


Day 04: Los Alerces National Park. Home to 12 lakes, numerous rivers and breath taking scenery.
Los Alerces National Park...amazing views!

Cozy lodging at Hosteria Cume Hue.  Great Location to all the best fishing waters and hiking trails...not to mention the  lake views from your window.

Los Alerces National Park hidden jewel = The Spring Creek...bring your 'A' game! The creek holds browns, bows and brookies...all very healthy and extremely difficult to catch.

Los Alerces National Park = Rio Rivadavia...bring your 'A' game and pack a lunch, these are tough waters and very picky fish!
What is an Alerces?  It's a tree.  Behind Ross and Daralyn is a 300 hundred year old Alerces.  The oldest tree's in the park are over 2,000 years old and stand 300 feet high.

Rio Rivadavia...print and frame this!
Day 06: Travel day from Esquel to Junin de los Andes. Another amazing photo of Rio Limay.  This section of Rio Limay is called the amphitheatre. 
Ross is an active birder.  I specifically brought him here so he could see Condors. Condors are the largest bird on earth.  The white spots on the cliff are guano (bird poop).  Condors do not make or live in nest, just rock.  
Day 07: Back to business on the upper Rio Malleo.  This is one of my favorite pools and generally produces small to medium fish, but on rare occasions...
This pool will give it up...Upper Malleo: Solid 20" brown trout on a #18 Caddis
Upper Malleo:  20" Brown Trout on #18 Caddis
+12,000 feet Volcan Lanin: Post Card Shot
Day 08: Alumine float trip with super guide Gustavou Sarthou.  Ross has take many floats trips throughout Canada, USA and Caribbean and he told me that Gustavou is the best g!uide he has ever had!  What else would expect from a former Argentine rowing champion.

18"-22" Rainbows all day long on the dry fly = very happy Canadians.  Another great job by Gustavou!
Day 09 & 10: Lower Chimehuin float and over night camp trip
Lower Chimehuin Almuerzo (Lunch).  We offer prepared meals or we cook a stream side asado.  Regardless the quality of the food is excellent and we offer the option of meat or vegetarian meals.
On all over night camp trips, we start with fire side appetizers and wine.  I personally select only the best wine and provide free of charge...a small token of my appreciation.
Your table is ready!  Over night camp trips are not for every one, but those brave enough to wine and dine under the Patagonia stars, it's an experience you will not soon forget.  A special thanks to Cristian Olsen who was the camper/cook for Ross and Daralyn.  

If you were counting the days, you'll notice that I ended on Day 10; not a full two weeks. So, what happened to the two days.  Day one should have been the first day the Hodgett's arrived in Bariloche.  Day one, was a half day tour of Bariloche.  I brought the Hodgetts to the famous ski mountain El Catedral.  Unfortunately, it was Sunday (Domingo) so the chair lift to the top was closed.  If the chair lift was open, this is what Ross and Daralyn would have seen...

Miles of Andean Mountains. 
Since Catedral was closed we opted for plan B, which as you can see, the view is not all the bad!  Next stop...
Drinks at Hotel LLao LLao.  I love bringing people here to see this classic Euro-Patagonian style hotel,  set against the Andes and on the ocean like lake called Nahuel Huapi.  Both the outside and inside of this hotel are wonderful and worth a quick visit/drink.
The other day that I omitted was due to a failed voltage meter in the alternator (an unexpected, no fault failure).  As a result, the (2) batteries were drained/died and we were stuck in Los Alerces National Park.  As a commitment to my clients, I ran back to the hosteria, in sheets of rain and driving wind.   The owner of the hosteria called the national park service on the VHF radio and an hour later the flatbed arrived.  We brought the truck to Esquel where a mechanic replaced the voltage meter and added a short-cut wire from the battery to the alternator = Problem solved, but too late to drive back to Junin de los Andes.  So, we lost a day, but in hindsight, it was raining hard all day, so it was the best day for this to happen.  Most companies would never put this info on their website, so why do I do so...I believe in truth and reality.  I also believe one's character is defined by his actions.  Specifically, when things go wrong, does a person take responsibility, apologize, and fix the problems?  In this case, as I always do, I apologized to the Hodgett's, took responsibility and made a gracious offer to compensate them for the inconvenience.  In turn, they appreciated my effort and responsibility and kindly said, " shit happens, and your offer is appreciated, but your apology and effort is more than enough."   

Ross and Daralyn Hodgetts are very special people. Why?  They are just good people and before we said our goodbye's Ross said that he would like to make a donation to Three Rivers Stocking Association ( Can you imagine...a Canadian who may never fish the Cocheco/Lamprey/Isinglass Rivers (all located New Hampshire, USA) will donate money...simply amazing!  When asked why, Ross said, "I believe in you and what your are doing to help save our fisheries."

On behalf of FCFF, the guides Gustavou/Cristian and their families, we thank you for working with us.   Please come back to visit and be sure to tell your friends about FCFF.

Muchas Gracias,


PS.  How much did this trip cost?  Let's say that a one week stay at a Patagonia lodge would cost $4,000 USD per person (2weeks X $4,000 = $8,000 per person x 2 people = $16,000 USD). With the FCFF DIY Hybrid package, the Ross's spent less than $6,000 USD for two weeks (including all meals, lodging, float trips, etc).  In the end, the Ross's said they would have never been able to do a trip like this on their own, and felt the service and value were well worth it!