Monday, April 1, 2013

DIY Fly Fishing Patagonia Argentina: La Boca del Rio Chimehuin.

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 type...it would take too much time.  In advance, thanks for understanding.

I plan to write about the boca, upper, middle and lower Chimehuin river. The post will detail both walk-wade and floating opportunities.   

A sign with no buck-shot!

Rio Chimehuin Facts:

Location: Junin de los Andes, Argentina  (3 hours north of Bariloche)
Province: Neuquen
Fishing Season: Generally, November 01 till May 31st.
Licensed Required: Yes, and you will need an additional license to fish the 'boca.'
Preferred Fly Rod: 9ft Fast Action 6wt.  9ft Fast Action 8wt for bad weather and big browns.
Preferred Fly Line: Both float and sink tips
Flies: Early season streamers (Nov, Dec), Dry-Dropper (Jan, Feb, 1/2 March), Streamer/Nymphs (1/2 March, April, May)
Special Rules:  The Boca is closed November and December for spawning rainbows.  Downstream, past the "La Garganta del Diablo," is open year round. 
Length: 70 Kilometers or 43.4 miles
Origin: Lago Huechulafquen

Tributaries: Rio Curruhue and RioQuilquihue

Termination: Rio Collon Cura

Species: Rainbow and Brown Trout

Sections:  La Boca, Upper, Middle, and Lower


Overview:

During the early 1900's, European settlers began stocking local waters with salmonidae eggs.  The rainbows eggs came from northern California (I believe the McCloud River).  The Brook Trout came from northeast USA (I believe Maine), and the Brown Trout eggs came from parts of Europe.  Advance the clock several generations (without industrial or human pollution/pressure), and Patagonia quickly became one of the best unknown fisheries in the world!  That would all change when two men from Argentina, Jorge Donovan and Bebe Anchorena became wildly popular for catching HUGE brown trout (+20lbs) at the boca.  Shortly after, and following several decades, a line of who's who anglers, including Joe Brooks, Charles Ritz, Ted Williams, Lefty Kreh, Mel Kriegger, Earnest Schweibert and Billy Pate, quickly made appearances and left their mark on what is now Argentina's most famous fly fishing river.  Fast forward to the future, the Chimehuin and Junin de los Andes is now recognized as the fly fishing capital of Argentina.


Junin de los Andes, Argentina.

Today:  Chimehuin, Climate Change and Junin de los Andes

The rio Chimehuin (middle section) travels straight through the entire town of Junin de los Andes, so you can't speak of the river without briefly explaining the relationship it has to the people and local area.  Set in the foothills of the Andes, Junin de los Andes was founded in 1883, but did not become incorporated until 1950.  It's located three hours north of San Carlos de Bariloche, two hours south of Alumine, and only forty minutes to San Martin de los Andes.  It is arguably the most convenient town/place to access some of the best fly fishing waters in all of Patagonia.  It's a small growing town that has, of the 2010 census, +16,000 people living there. It still maintains a small town feeling, but you'll find a modern hospital, stores, restaurants, hotels, bars, and more. Though the community is an agricultural cattle type town, today, the primary industry is tourism, and this brings me to my point.  This places gets busy in the summer and as a result, the rio Chimehuin and surrounding waters have been long ago discovered!  Don't believe me?  There over five fly fishing lodges within the Junin area!  So, it's fair to say that the impact of climate change and people have taken a toll on all the waters surrounding Junin, including the Chimehuin.  For example, I have been told that parts of the upper Chimehuin now have Didymo; not doubt from the countless amounts of fly fisherman traveling to fish this fabled river.  So, am I saying stay home or go somewhere else to fly fish?  No, I am just saying that 1950 was a long time ago and a lot has changed here, and for that matter, around the world.  I am also about to explain that despite these changes, the Junin de los Andes area, in my opinion, is still the best option for DIY Patagonia fly fisherman, whom want to combine float trips, and walk-wade experiences!      

Personal Experience:  La Boca and Upper Chimehuin

During the 2010/2011 Patagonia fishing season, I managed a lodge, located just outside of Junin de los Andes. To be exact, the lodge was located on the upper Chimehuin, and only 8 kilometers downstream from the mouth. By no means am I claiming to be the local expert, but it's fair to say that I know parts of this river system more than any other DIY Patagonia fly fisherman.  For example, from the mouth heading downstream for about 15 kilometers, while walking-wading, I have fished both sides of the river.  I have also floated the upper Chimehuin and as far as floats go in the Junin area, it's second only to the lower Chimehuin!   Both options, either floating and walking-wading the upper chimehuin provides excellent fishing opportunities, but it depends on the time of year.

Aside from the defunct hotel, now a private home, the views from the boca are spectacular.

La Boca:

The boca is about a 40 minute from downtown Junin de los Andes.  It begins at the outflow of Lago Huechulafquen and extends past the ruta 61 bridge, around the bend, till you enter a small canyon called the La Garganta de Diablo (the devils throat).  From the lake to La Garganta de Diablo is less than 2 miles.  The boca is a famous place because in 1961 Jose 'Bebe' Anchorena caught a 24.5lbs brown trout with a six inch blond streamer. This monstrous fish stood as a world record for several years.  Back in the '50's and '60's the 'Boca' was a wild place, literally!  Traveling to the boca from Junin was an adventure, and I suspect most anglers camped out for several days.  However, today, the boca is easily accessible by car or public bus, and it's banks are slowly being developed with summer homes and rental cabanas.  Frankly, I find it rather disappointing that such a beautiful and historical place is being developed.  Regardless, if you're willing to share the boca, fishing can be very good.


Blind casting is an option, but flip a coin and put your buddy on this side of the river to spot fish!

La Boca heading downstream and Ruta 61 bridge.  

When: 

  • November/December: Don't expect too many anglers on the river, because the boca is closed till January 1st.   On the other hand, the lake is open for fishing, so you welcome to brave the frigid waters of Lago Huechulafquen.  If you visit the boca before January 1st, stand on the ruta 61 bridge and try to count the rainbows.  In the past years, I have lost tack after 200.  
  • January/February: Expect to encounter a fair amount of fisherman and people picnicking...remember this place was discovered a long time ago and is very popular tourist spot.  Water levels are generally good and there are plenty of fish to be had.  You can access the boca on both sides.  My advice, move around, hunt, find fish, so don't stand in one spot.
  • March: Water levels are very low.  I rarely fish the boca during this time!  During this month, many anglers believe the browns start moving in...wishful thinking, but not true.  
  • April:  This is the best chance to catch a trophy brown trout!  Serious brown trout hunters generally begin fishing the boca starting the last two weeks in April till the end of May.  There is always a chance to get lucky throughout the day, but your best shot is early AM or PM...typically at the change of light.  Note: during the brown trout spawn, the nastier the weather, the better the boca fishes.     

How:

  • You can not float the boca = DIY walk and wade only.
  • There are two foot (goat) paths on either side.  The one path on the south side will follow the river for many miles downstream.   

Final Word:  

Year after year, I buy a full season fishing license for the boca.  Why? It's cheap money; however, due to the amount of pressure the boca receives during peak holiday season (January and February), I stay far away.  In fact, each year I find myself fishing the boca less and less.  I just don't like fishing with lots of people, and the quality of fishing is no where close to what it use to be.  That being said, if the moment is right, I still take clients there to enjoy the views of + 12,000ft volcan Lanin and to pluck a few bows and browns.  And, if your in town for the last two weeks of April, then the boca will definitely be on our list of rivers to fish!    


March water levels can be extremely low, but if you...
walk/hunt for fish, chances are you'll hook into a nice brown.

At the boca expect wind, lots of wind! As such, there is a growing number of anglers using two handed rods.
I was not kidding when I said expect wind!
Get in line!  Early AM April anglers in search of...
Far from the 1961 24.5lbs word record, but if you put your time in at the boca, you'll be rewarded. 

Thanks for reading.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to do so. The next post will focus on DIY walk-wade vs. floating the upper Chimehuin.  The upper Chimehuin river is second only to the lower Chiemhuin, so be sure to follow the post.

Muchas Gracias,

Mark






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