Sunday, January 11, 2015

Fly Fishing Patagonia: Beginner Anglers Beware

How to use this blog?  Use the blog search engine and type in key words such as Float Trip, Walk-Wade, Float Tube, Lessons, Pesos, Fy Rods, Flies, Best Months, etc.  The search engine is located on the right side, just below the weather.  FYI, there are over 100 post about fishing Patagonia...the information you are looking for, is probably on this blog.  Thanks.

This might be the hardest, most difficult post I have ever written.  Why? I suspect a few anglers, mainly past/future clients, might think that I am being an a-hole for the information I am about to share.  I am not trying to scare anglers away, but from my personal experience, most anglers underestimate how challenging fishing can be in Patagonia; especially for inexperienced, beginner anglers.  In the interest of being helpful/honest, especially to beginners/advance beginners/intermediate anglers, wishing to fish Patagonia. Let's review some facts:

  • It's windy in Patagonia!  Almost every day, by mid-day or sooner, you can expect steady winds at 10-20 mph.  Add wind gusts between 40-60 mph.  With this constant wind, you have to ask yourself one question, can I cast proficiently, and can I utilize multiple casting techniques?  
  • We are fishing for WILD trout.  Folks, this is not your local, backyard river filled with hatchery, pellet fed fish.  If you are a beginner (advance beginner/intermediate angler), expecting to catch tons of fish, your are sadly mistaken.  Further, when you do hook a fish, even from the smallest, expect to take a thorough thumping!
  • Can you control your body movement and breathing?  The water is crystal clear and trout can be extremely spooky.  Can you de-stress and be ready?
  • Even if you can't cast a mile, good line and fly presentation is a MUST! 

Guide says to client,"we have 20 minutes left until the sun goes down, I need you to cast your fly an inch from the bank."  Proven/Proficient angler says, "you mean like that!"


To enjoy your fishing experience in Patagonia, I suggest being proficient with the following casts.  If your not proficient in these casts, you'll need to re-adjust your expectations (we are guides not miracle workers). 

  • Roll-Cast, both static and dynamic.  At the very least, I would hope that you can roll cast a fly at lengths between 40-60ft; and put your fly exactly where you need to (i.e., no blind casting). FYI, when we walk-wade, there are spots that only a good roll-cast will do.
  • Water Haul or Tension Cast.   I am always surprised at how many anglers do not know what this cast is.  In my opinion, it's one of the most efficient casting techniques and it's pretty easy to learn. This casting technique is not designed for long distances; a maximum of 40ft will do, and done correctly, is deadly accurate.
  • Single/Double Haul. In order to punch line efficiently through the Patagonia wind, these techniques are a MUST! This is one of the most awkward techniques to learn.  Spend ample time practicing and test your skills in the wind.
  • Shooting Line:  When you walk-wade, there will be many spots where you can not do what most beginners do.... attempt to false cast 60ft of line; with the wind, you'll be in the bushes every time and encounter wind knots on your leader.
  • Reach Cast.  Currents can be fast, so line presentation can be the difference between catching fish and not. 
  • Assuming your right hand dominant.  Left Handed: can you do all of the above lefty?  If not, start practicing.  At the very least, you must be able to do all the above, with your right hand, across your body/left side.

Guide says to client, "if you want to catch a large brown, you must cast 40ft, use an aerial mend, and then mend your ass off...and do it with a nymph rig."  Proven/Proficient client says to guide, " you mean like that!" 


Back home in the USA, I regularly tell my students the following: "take an ugly cast and turn it into a good presentation." If you can master this mantra (technique), your catch rate will go up.  It's nice to be able to cast between 40ft-100ft, but truth be told, if you are proficient with the above mentioned casts, between 40ft - 60ft, you'll be fine, anywhere in the world.  If you add perfect presentation, you'll catch more fish.  Here are my thoughts/suggestions:

  • Aerial Mend.  Can you do it?  If not, start practicing. Why? You may see a monster trout feeding on the other bank,  but you have several currents directly in front of you.  If you utilize a standard cast, when your line hits the water, your line will be forced downstream immediately, and your fly will have horrible presentation.  Remember, these are WILD trout and they do not fool easily!
  • Mending: not to pick on anyone, but in Patagonia, I have worked with clients that do not know what line mending is.  This is a critical technique and is extremely difficult to describe.  My best suggestion is to visit YouTube and watch some video's, then practice-practice-practice. The ultimate goal is to manage your line so that the current does not rip your fly downstream. Sloppy line mending will kill your chances at catching a fish, and possibly put down the entire pool.    

Problems to Avoid

Most beginners anglers severely underestimate the time, energy, and mental discipline it takes to become a good fly caster.  In short time, they think they are doing everything right, and then say to themselves, "why am I not catching fish?"  Most beginner anglers are entirely unaware that they are making multiple errors that cause them to not catch fish. Here are my thoughts/suggestions:

  • When the fly lands on the water, stop moving your rod tip up and down.  This moves the fly in an unnatural motion and will always turn fish away.
  • After your cast, do not raise the tip of your rod towards the sky.  This pulls the fly out of the feeding zone, causes drag, and spooks fish.
  • If you don't want to be in the tree's all day, simply watch your back cast.  Before casting, look behind you to ensure that you have a safe casting lane.
  • Before casting, find good footing = you don't want your body moving while casting or presenting a fly. 
  • Don't squat, as though you are taking a dump, after each cast.  Your body movement is sending vibrations in the water, which ultimately, puts down fish.
  • If you find your false casting more than two or three times, bottom line, it means you are not a proficient caster (yet).  Stay within your comfort zone and put the fly on the water more than in the air; statistics tells us you might catch more fish.
  • If you false cast a billion times and feather out line to gain length, bottom line, you are not a proficient caster (yet).  If you use this technique in Patagonia, the wind will create fly line havoc and you'll find yourself in the tree's.  The solution to this issue = learn how to create line speed and shoot the line, held in your non casting hand, for greater distances. 
  • After your cast, if you find yourself awkwardly reaching for the fly line with your non-dominant hand, your are not shooting line properly. 
  • After your cast, you MUST immediately place the fly line between your first two fingers and the cork handle. At the same time, you MUST keep your non-dominant casting hand (fingers) on the line and be ready to set the hook with a short-sharp set (not a big man pose).   
  • Man pose (raising your arm high in the sky) to set the hook and fight the fish = you will lose the fish +95% of the time. Listen to your guide and follow his/her instructions on how to set the hook and fight the fish. 
  • Ripping line off the water, to begin your cast, is a sure way to destroy a pool filled with WILD fish.
  • Ripping a dry fly out of a fish's mouth that is sipping flies = bye-bye fish and forget about catching any other fish in the feeding lane/zone.  Listen to your guide's instructions; count to three and be more patient. 
  • False casting and slapping the line on the water, both in back of you and in front of you, will undoubtedly put down fish.  Develop line speed and allow fly line to un-roll on your front and back cast, while the line is in the air (not the water).
  • Wearing bright clothes (white, etc) is a a BIG no-no. Water is crystal clear and trout have excellent vision.
  • Mirrored sunglasses and bright jewelry should stay home.  
  • If you are not catching fish, don't blame your guide for your poor skills; it's a sure way to ruin a good day on the water.  Be open minded and always listen to your guide; believe it or not, he/she is always given you tips to help you catch fish.  
  • Don't hire a guide to babysit your wife.  In my honest opinion, if your wife only fishes 1x-2x's per year, and only does so to keep you company,  you are wasting your time and money by bringing your wife along.  She may find the fishing conditions extremely challenging and as a result, frustration levels can be high. 
  • Anywhere in the world, don't hire a professional fishing guide, when it is clearly obvious that you need to hire a professional casting instructor. 

Guiding vs. Lessons 

There is a major difference between guiding a sport and teaching students; especially in the wilds of Patagonia.  I suggest reading the following  Just as a reminder, please do not come to Patagonia and spend thousands of $'s for a fishing trip with a professional guide, when it is clearly obvious you need casting lessons and much more time/experience on the water.  Plain and simple, Patagonia is not a place for beginners and is a bad investment of your time and money.  When you are a proficient caster and a proven angler, then make the investment in a fishing trip to Patagonia; you'll thank yourself.  

Final Word

Some of our DIY fishing programs are very affordable; thus, they attract a few beginner anglers. Unfortunately, some folks are unaware of their skill level, and the conditions they will face in Patagonia (they get in, way over their heads).  Kiddos, Patagonia is the BIG leagues; it's not the right place to learn how to fly fish. Back home, seek the services of a professional casting instructor, and then practice-practice-practice. When you think you have practiced enough, practice more! Even when you become a champion caster, this dose not mean you know how to fish.  You'll need thousands of hours on the water to learn the art of catching wild fish.  Bottom line, for any beginner, fishing a few times a year, will not prepare you for Patagonia, or any other highly prized fishing destination around the world (invest your time and $ wisely).

As always, keeping it real.  Thanks for reading and hope to see you in Patagonia.



PS.  For beginners, and regardless of age, floating is significantly safer and you will catch more fish. Also, many of our clients are getting old (+60 yrs).  They think they can still walk-wade, but they can't.  Spend a few extra dollars, be safe, catch some fish, and enjoy Patagonia!