Thursday, March 28, 2013

From Colorado to Argentina: DIY Fly Fishing Patagonia

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.

On the same day that my previous DIY client left for Chile, 76 year old Dr. Marc Richman, my new pre 30's DIY clients arrived (what a contradiction of DIY clients).  Meet Les Vance and Lysa Marquez, the youngest DIY clients on record.  Both are pre 30's and hail from Creede Colorado.  During the summer months in the USA, Les is the head guide at the 4UR Ranch, a wonderful all inclusive summer resort set in the Colorado Rockies. During the off season, Les spends his time doing DIY trips to places like New Zealand and now Patagonia. Lysa graduated from Colby College, just a few hours from my home in New Hampshire.  She works part-time in washington D.C. for a foundation specializing in HIV education and prevention, and then spends her summers working in Creede.

Les contacted me a few months ago and told me that he found my blog on the internet.  He explained to me that he was visiting Patagonia for 2 months and was wondering if I had time to work with him.  As it turns out, I had a small 5 day window to work with him and Lysa.  Also, truth be told, with my broken finger and having worked for a solid month straight with other clients, it was great to work with him because he is a professional guide and a dam good DIY fly fisherman.  So, all I needed to do was to find them affordable lodging, food, and drive them to the river every day...pretty low key and no stress at all.  In fact, working with Les and Lysa (non-traditional clients) has given me the opportunity to think about the future regarding DIY fly fishing in Patagonia.  My thoughts?  I hope some of you don't take this personally, but the traditional fly fishing client (lodge folks), due to their age, will soon be fishing in the big sky (and I don't mean Montana); or physically incapable of traveling and fishing. Sad, but true, I doubt the next generation of fly fisherman will have the money to pay the lodge bill (unless you are a TF baby).  Plus, I don't see the next generation as the lodge type at all...people and our culture has in general has lost its appeal to the youth (Fishing vs. Facebook, etc).  So, at a quick glance, most people look at what FCFF is doing and they think we are crazy, or they simply don't understand the method to our madness.  Trust me, we are not crazy and we are well aware that we do things entirely different from the rest of the fly fishing world.  But, I feel good about our not-for-profit/donation only model, and our  DIY programs that we are offering (it just feels right and I believe if fly fishing has a future, this is the new paradigm).  As we have always said, we don't want to be the 'top dog' in the industry...heck, we don't want to be part of the industry at all...we just want to go fishing and help others do the same!  And, for 5 long days, with Les and Lysa, that's just what we did!    

En route to Junin de los Andes...a quick stop at the Rio Limay Amphithreater.  As you can tell, these guys really know how to strike a pose (not)!

Lysa is a beginner, soon to be an expert fly fisherman.  So, at the request of Les, we spent the first day on the upper Malleo.  Why?  The water on the upper Malleo is super low at the moment.  This means big fish are hunkered down, but lots of small fish (6"-12") will be readily available.  I knew of several pools that would be perfect for Lysa to practice with the dry fly.  

Lysa plucked the previous pool clean.  She was now ready to test her skills in more technical spot.  Just around the corner, I knew of a run/pool that holds 12"-14" trout.  I told here where to cast her fly and as you can see from the bend in the rod, she hooked up immediately...a beautiful brownie at +/- 12".  This was super cool to watch...I think I enjoy watching people catch fish more than catching them myself. 

We fished the upper Malleo (monkey puzzle tree forest) for a 1/2 day and then decided to explore new waters, downstream.  Les and I were really happy we did so because we got into some nice fish and excellent water.  One fish hit my fly so hard it broke me off instantly and Les got into a few fish +/- 20".  Contrary to my share all policy, I am not going to share more info about these spots.  Why?  We only fished them for an hour, so I really am not prepared to discuss this water in detail. 

The follow day, we fished the lower Malleo (Mapuche Reservation).  Lysa started off with a HUGE bow that was well over 20", but just as we were beaching this beast, it spat the hook and swam off.  The same thing happened to Les, and then I laid into a brown that was worthy of anyone's attention. But, like the others, this brown spat the hook and swam off.  We all looked at each other knowing that would have been a fish worthy of a magazine cover page...oh, well.  We kept fishing and finished the day with a few more good fish.

Lysa tussling with her big bow.  We were nymphing pools and going deep.

We spotted a small side pool, formed by a medium sized rock.  To the average Joe, this little pool did not look like much.  But, both Les and I agreed that this is prime brown trout 'beach front property.'  We were using heavy nymphing rigs, so I was concerned about spooking the fish.  But, Les casted far up stream and drifted the nymphs into the magic spot.  Really cool to watch someone who knows what they are doing.

Onto the lower Rio Chimehuin: the best of the best!  Lysa mentioned that she had a foot issue of some sorts, so walking for hours was not in the game plan.  So, we parked at the curva de manzana, walked downstream to the first pool and bingo.  This is a very deep pool, so we used heavy nymph rigs to pull this beauty.

This may not look big, but this is a chunky bow, maybe close to 2lbs...and it fights like a wild fish!  

Another chunky lower Chimehuin bow.  

We moved downstream and came across a Pancora crab...cute little buggers.

The nymphs rigs that Les was using were producing more fish. But, due to the high winds and my broken finger, I was I was using my TFO Deer Creek 11ft 5wt switch rod; swinging streamers with a an Airflo sink tip.  I had caught a few bows in the 12" range, but then hooked this little fatty.  

Last Day = middle Rio Malleo (yellow bridge).  What an amazing day of weather and fishing.  As you can see my guest are not into posing for pics.

When two guides fish together, we both have the same goal, but you always run the chance of two conflicting thoughts/opinions, on how to best reach that goal.  In this case, I brought Les to a spot that I personally knew produces fish, but he did not seem all that keen on testing the waters (don't blame hi, it does not look all that great).  He kept talking about how to fish the water (upstream vs. downstream) and I kept telling him just get your fly in the water, and get it close to the bushes.  In other words, don't focus on the cast so much, but make sure your presentation is spot on, regardless of up/downstream.   

Now Lysa, being a beginner and not overly thinking about the above mentioned, simply got into the water and started roll casting.  This produce a few fish...not bad for hot mid day action.

Within a short time, and focusing the the run just behind his left shoulder, Les hooked into a nice Malleo bow using a terrestrial dry fly

In this spot, the one that Les seemed not so hot on, consistently produces bows in this size and color.

We finally made it to the 'honey hole.' I always give clients first shot and then I come in for seconds.  Les quickly popped in the dry fly, but came up with nothing.  He was kind enough to let me take a shot and he and Lysa moved downstream.   Moments after they left, a HUGE trout surfaced directly in front of me.  I could see his gaping mouth...I could probably put my first in it!  I was using a heavy double nymph rig.  I had a couple of small bumps, but most caught algae...what a tease that big trout turned out to be.  I eventually snagged my rig and lost the entire set up.  So, I stopped for lunch and began think about my next move.  Since the whale of a trout rose in front of me, I had not seen any signs of fish/bug activity.  So, I kept thinking that I needed to try something new...something enticing...something that says, "come on in and look around...we have a one day sale offer."  I opted for a big juicy Alaska egg and a monster prince nymph.  I also decided not to fish the deep pool.  Upon my first cast upstream, in water that appeared to look too shallow, I caught a nice 14" brown trout.  Thereafter, I worked the entire area and eventually plucked about eight fish.  One in particular was a good fish, going about 20" and all muscle.  This fish took my line under a rock, pulled me downstream, and kicked/jumped like a wild mustang.  Eventually, I beached the beast and some how managed to take the above photo, with my broken finger...while holding the camera upside down.  Afte a fight like that, I was happy and I was done for the day. 

Les and Lysa have left Junin de los Andes and are headed to Mendoza...Malbec wine capital of the world.  I don't think they will have much time to explore the many wine bodegas (vineyards) because  their flight leaves on April 2nd.  That gives them the entire weekend, but to all future South American travelers, this is Easter holiday weekend!  This holiday is by the largest in South America and people (lots of people) will start traveling as early as Tuesday.  So, I wish them well and hope they can get to Santiago without issue.  In closing, I had a great time with them and I thank them for working with me. I hope they can share their experience with the next generation and tell them that DIY fly fishing in Patagonia is real and I am always here to help!

Saludos y Feliz Semana de Santa,


PS.  As a result of working with a Les (a guide), I may offer a special DIY guide program for Patagonia.  Please contact me directly to discuss details.  And if your ever in the Creede or Southwest part of Colorado, I highly recommend working with Les Vance