Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Fly Fishing Patagonia Argentina: Collon Cura Upper Section

Collon Cura...where does it begin?
  1. Technically, the Collon Cura begins at the confluence of the Alumine and Catan Lil rivers. 
Unofficial 'Local' Nomenclature
  1. The Alumine ends either at the Rinconada bridge or the confluence of the lower Chimehuin river. 
  2. Amongst Junin de los Andes guides and other local fisherman, anything above the Rinconada bridge is considered as the Alumine.  

Rio Collon Cura Facts:

Location: Approximately 1.0 - 1.5 hours from Junin de los Andes.
Province: Neuquen
Fishing Season: Generally, November 01 till May 31st.
Licensed Required: Yes. General fishing license only.
Floating: Yes.  
Entrance Fee:  No.
Camping: Yes, only on float trips
Length: 70 Kilometers or  44 miles.
Origin: Lago Alumine (third major lake tributary to the rio Alumine).
Termination: Alicura reservoir system and Piedra del Aguila dam. 
Fly Rods: 9ft/5-8wt. Switch 11ft 5-7wt.
Fly Lines:  Float - Sink.
Flies:  Sorry, but we only share this information with our guest.


Overview

An hour outside on Junin de los Andes, heading East, and just beyond the mountains called Sierra de Catan Lil, you find the Alumine/Collon Cura river valley.  This water system begins in Lago Alumine and runs in a true North to South direction.  Ultimately all tributaries to the west and east will flow into this system and end in Collon River and finally the Alicura reservoir. To the angler, this means big water, up to 10,000 cfs.  Given this information, once would conclude that the Collon River is only fish- able by floating.  This is not true, but floating this large river will give the angler many more opportunities to place his/her fly in spots that may hold trophy fish.  On a later date, I will post more about floating the Alumine and Collon Cura, but for now I would like to focus on DIY walk-wade fishing.  

If your coming to northern Patagonia, to fish the waters surrounding Junin de los Andes, I am betting that you will not DIY walk-wade the upper or lower Collon Cura.  Why?  On both sides of the lower section, the land and access points are private property, some of which is owned by Ted Turner.  So, despite the lower Collon Cura holding an outstanding reputation for BIG fish, especially when migratory browns swim up stream from the Alicura reservoir, the lower section is not DIY walk-wade territory.  On the other hand, the upper Collon Cura, which offers great fishing is accessible, but this is not your ordinary walk-wade river.  

Throughout the season the DIY walk-wade fisherman can access the upper Collon Cura at the following locations:

  1. La Rinconada Bridge (public access for anglers, float trips, campers, picnics, etc).
  2. Balsa Vieja (public access for anglers, float trips, picnics, etc).
  3. A select few pull-offs from ruta 40.

NOTE: during low water flows, you might be able to cross the river, accessing either side. But, regardless of the high/low water, PLEASE be extremely careful.  If you are not a strong wade fisherman, and in good physical health, I would not recommend walking-wading the upper Collon Cura, at any time of the season!

1A.  La Rinconada:  the actually spot, just under the bridge, is a heavy use area.  Be prepared to be face with human pollution, over night campers, guides & clients, cars, and constant noise due to steady transportation traffic.  As of 2013, the province is in the process of building a new two lane bridge, directly next the existing bridge (even more humans and heavy equipment usage).

1B.  Fishing La Rinconada:  if we fish this area, which we rarely do, we park on the west side of the river and walk downstream for up to an hour.  The quality of fishing is good, but this area receives a lot of pressure from drift boats...FYI, the upper Collon Cura float trips begin at the La Riconada bridge, and there are quite a few of them in high season.  Plus, this are gets fished hard by fisherman using lures.  This stretch of water is best fished early or late season (when float trips are non existant and the lure fisherman's summer vacation is over).

1C. Fishing La Rinconada: upstream from the bridge, there are few runs that hold good fish. Your ability to walk beyond the first run is severely limited and for most sane people, not worth the effort.

2A. Balsa Vieja: the upper Collon Cura float trips that started at La Rinconada end here.  Also, any lower Chimehuin float trips end here.  By these two facts alone, this place can get pretty busy at the end of the day.  But, parking and walking upstream offers one of the most accessible DIY walk-wade spots.  Just keep in mind, easy access also means more pressure from everyone, including summer vacation lure fisherman.

2B. Balsa Vieja: walking directly downstream, on the ruta 40 side, is impossible.  Wading across the river at this location is one option, but thus far, I have declined and I refuse to put any of my clients in a dangerous situation (and I am a strong wade fisherman!).  To access H2O downstream of Balsa Vieja you could walk up stream to find a safe crossing.  The last option might technically involve walking on private land, only for a few minutes.

2C.  Balsa Vieja (downstream): if the conditions are good, we spend a lot of time.  Why? this is a wild place that receives little pressure.  Plus, aside from the river itself, there are a series of back channels offering a truly unique experience.  For example, three years ago, a client was being followed by a Puma!  Accessing this area is not for everyone.  First, you must be in good physical health and willing to walk up to an hour (to get the the final honey hole) on loose rocks that make me even stumble like I am drunkard! Second, you must be able to muscle/wade across H20 (a wading staff is a BIG help).  Lastly, be prepared for a very long day!  Personally, for their own safety, and on other easy walk-wade rivers, I only take anglers here after watching them for a few days.

3. Pull-Offs: for about 10km, and from La Riconada bridge to Balsa Vieja, there are several pulls, along ruta 40.  Simply park your vehicle, walk-in and start fishing, either up or downstream.


How to Fish the Collon Cura...DIY Walk-Wade?

Rods:

Back in late January of 2013, I broke my middle right finger, on my casting hand.  As a result, I have spent the rest of the season fishing entirely with my TFO Deer Creek 11ft 5wt switch rod.  The end result; on all rivers and especially on the Collon Cura, I found the switch rod to be extremely versatile, in all water and weather conditions!  If you're a single hand caster, and if I were predominantly fishing streamers and nymphs, I would opt for a 9 foot 6 inch rod, with medium-fast action.

Technique, Flies & When:

We don't share specific info with the public, but keep it basic and you should do just fine.  The Collon Cura fishes well throughout the season.  Early season, be mindful of very high-fast water!

How is the Fishing?

U.C.C.B = Upper Collon Cura Brown.  Caught in a very special place that regularly produces BIG fish.  

We are not kidding when we say 'wild.'  Puma's live in this area and a former client ran into the water to avoid further contact.  

Late in the season, you'll see lots of European Red Stag, German wild boar, and Puma paw prints. 

Big or small, the Collon Cura holds Rainbow and Brown Trout, and native Perca and Pereje.  


Final Word:

There are lots of DIY walk-wade rivers/lakes to fish in the Junin de los Andes area.  The upper Collon Cura, for the right angler, could be a dream adventure.  Personally, we love to target this river in April and May.  Water is low, walk-wade is safe/easier, and big fish are on the bite!

Fishing the Collon Cura with FCFF

From Junin de los Andes (by car), and depending on which part of the river you would like access, it will take 1.0 to 1.5 hours to drive.  We are in the process of updating our fly fishing services and prices, so for more specific information, please contact us via email

We hope you enjoyed reading this post.  If you have questions or comments, please feel free to do so. Many thanks and hope to see you next season in Patagonia.

Gone Fishing,

Mark


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