We had decided early on to combine exploring Buenos Aires with our fishing in the interior. Deciding to recuperate and sightsee for a week after the long flight, fish for the next week and then explore BA for that last week seemed reasonable. After all, how often do you visit Argentina during your lifetime so maybe you should try to make the most of the opportunity. We had secured lodging through a popular vacation rental site for both weeks that we were to spend in BA and it ended up working well for us. We had great accommodations, ate at world class restaurants in the Soho Palermo district which were within walking distance from where the apartments were located, and enjoyed excellent shopping and night life where the locals hung out.
To get to Carileufu River Lodge you take a short flight from BA to Esquel – BONUS! Sports equipment travels free! Gear bags, rod tubes, wader bag etc. are no charge on the flight. The next bonus is your firstglimpse of the Andes! A van ride of about an hour after landing and you arrive at a very special place – the kitchen staff has soft drinks, beer, snacks and warm smiles waiting, and the view of the Andes out of the floor to ceiling windows featuring the three snowy columns of Tres Picos is stunning. You will soon navigate the area using Tres Picos as your guide. A bit later other guests arrive. Guy from England and his friend, some Connecticut Yankees and a tv writer from Pasadena, and eventually several Argentinos from BA. Drinks and local snacks ensue until dinner promptly at 9:30 in the Argentine manner. Heavy on grilled grass fed beef, Malbec vintages and brands which are consumed in country and are too low production to export.
That evening we met our guide Quancho and talked briefly about fishing. Gortex waders, sun screen (it was February which is their summer), 5 and 6 wt. rods with floating lines and tapered 9ft. leaders, one rod with 200-250 grain sink tip for streamers, a wading jacket to block the wind (oh yes, there is wind) and to protect us if it rains. He brought most everything else including Malbec, coffee makings, and a tablecloth.
We chose to fish the Carileufu River from its beginning at Lago Cholila through the first two reaches and the Riadavia River. Each main section and River begins as effluent from a Lago and is the same water from beginning to where we ended. It took the week to gain at least some familiarity with the new names and moods of the different stretches of water. The rivers and terrain in the area greatly resembled Montana, parts of Idaho and Wyoming and which is understandable since they both straddle the 45th parallel, one area being in the Southern Hemisphere and the other in the Northern hemisphere. The fish and fishing tactics are the same too – rainbows and browns on dry flies or streamers. One delightful difference in these rivers are land locked Atlantic Salmon! Gwen caught a nice example on a dry, and I hooked two very good fish on dry flies and one using a streamer, but could not land any.
One major difference between the fish in Patagonia and the Western U.S. is size. You see huge dark shapes holding in feeding lanes or leisurely moving away from the boat. We estimated some of the Browns were 10 to 12 pounds or more, and rainbows at least 8 pounds or better. They were also well educated and had not gotten that big by being stupid. Hooking one might be an all day exercise for someone, but if you did connect it was a good day! My personal all time best trout on a dry was there, a Brown of above 3kilos – the only fish for either of us that day.
Most days were filled with twenty plus takes each on dry flies with fish to 20 inches or more. We usually fished a large dry – Fat Albert, hopper or stimulator and a dropper about 18 inches back – almost always a size 12 or 14 parachute Adams with a grey or brown body and white post. Obviously, larger fish went for the size 4 or 6 big bites with smaller fish taking the Adams. It made for a very fun filled day withvariety and some wind knots as diversion – did I mention the wind? About 4 pm the wind picks up. Some evenings we had stretches of lake to cross to reach the take out and that was thrilling. Sometimes the wind came up the river and would push the raft gently upstream no matter how hard you rowed.
Each evening at the Lodge was filled with good conversation, snacks by the kitchen staff and all you had to do was ask to receive whatever was within their ability to provide. Meals at 9 or 9:30 were heavily focused on grilled grass fed beef and one night including lamb spitted by an open fire outdoors, potatoes, and even a good pasta night. All was accompanied with wines, sides, salads and desserts. Wildlife we saw included the famous Argentine Kingfisher which is one of the largest Kingfishers in the world, Crested Caracara, large wren like birds, parrots one morning, and unidentified birds each day. The scenery around you is always filled with mountains, rocky hills and abundant trees and grassland. All together we had a very pleasant experience.
We would like to thank Carrileufu River Lodge for their generous donation of this trip to the International FFF and especially Pancho, Quancho, and the whole staff for making this a very special time in our lives. Also, as a Life member, thanks to the IFFF for giving us the opportunity to bid on this trip at the 2014 Fly Fishing Fair! Another unsung benefit of membership is being introduced to experiences like this and to have them available to attendees. We also bought time at a private fishing ranch and some equipment at the same event while having fun with our friends. Life is good!