Tierra del Fuego
I was greeted by a welcoming rush of balmy air as I exited the customs area in Buenos Aires, Argentina having left a mild but winter season in Virginia. It was the 17th of February. I had completed my first segment of my annual trip to host groups to Tierra del Fuego. I return for specific several weeks each year during the prime summer season at the Despedida Lodge on the Rio Grande River. I was returning for my fifteenth year to bring groups to fish the spawning run of the legendary Brown Trout there.
I enjoyed the ride into center city with the other fishers headed to a local hotel for the necessary overnight. We chatted about puffery reports broadcasted by E mails by lodges desperate to fill empty still spaces. This hype is normal and often is embellished overlooking the true conditions on stream. We all had other adventures completed since we had seen each other.
We gathered in the lobby after freshening up and some members napping to go our choice of the many wonderful restaurants Buenos Aires has to offer. I suggested as always that all make it an early evening as we must again gather in the lobby at 4:00 A.M. the next morning, transfer to the domestic airport for a 5:00 A.M. flight to Rio Grande city 1500 miles to the south on the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego. Argentina is a very long country! Most enjoy a three hour nap on this segment.
Danny Lajous, the owner of Despedida Lodge had arranged for a small bus to transfer our group to the lodge. Our driver was welcoming and after checking to make sure all the luggage had arrived asked if anyone needed anything from town before we were to leave for the forty minute drive to the lodge. We went to a local super market that had a good supply of spirits and of course foodstuffs then we were off to the lodge! Spirits were high!
We continued towards the lodge through pasture like rolling small hills. During the journey where we some saw the many geese that had migrated in the south for their summer nesting and Guanacos, the camel family animal of the pampas. These graceful creatures are cousins to the Llama ,Vicuñas and Alpaca and have become a nuisance eating the grasses that the estancia (farm) owners want for the beef industry. Their invasive numbers have swollen as our Virginia Whitetail Deer population becoming a menace to safe driving and deleterious to home gardening. In this area of Argentina they have no predator.
When we arrived at the lodge Danny ushered us to the comfortable living room while the driver unloaded the bus stacking the luggage and rod cases in the vestibule of the lodge.
Danny was as animated as I ever seen him…downright giddy! He made a huge mistake of talking non-stop about the successes of the week past, size and numbers of fish we dream about for the individual weeks. You know what is coming I feel sure.
But, he explained, the Rio Grande River is the lowest and coldest I have ever seen it in my thirty year of fishing the river. I was not aware that one of these conditions would impact the strike percentage…the cold. I found over the next ten days that a few degrees Centigrade as from 3 to 9 made an enormous difference. These fish are not feeding. In fact, their alimentary system has closed down as they entered the fresh water river for the more important activity of the spawn.
Spey and Switch rods 9 foot at a minimum with rare exception are the favorites for this river. They are easy for most than to fight the winds of the area with a single handed rod. I have never observed a situation personally where the two handed rod would make a difference in the strike numbers; however; I have observed when a fisher’s limited knowledge of the correct single handed cast was aided by the extended length of the two hander…somewhat like giving an aspirin to a dying man ( couldn’t resist this comparison )!
The methods of fishing sometimes called for skating Bombers, Stimulators and Wulff style dry flies across the bottom of the pools late afternoon. Also, the dead drift of Copper Johns, Princes, and Hares Ear nymphs sometimes adorned with bead or cone heads. These were impossibility small flies. Size 16 and 18 were used successfully. Dropper rigs were popular producers with long Fluorocarbon leaders at a minimum of twelve feet.
The casting of large, articulating black and olive streamers, size 4 the last hour of the island’s extended sunset have always consistently been effective and were this season as well.
The fly lines one normally used this time of year here with sinking tips of 300 gr. and heavier were useless in all but few pools. Most were urged by guides to use floating lines and made individually effective in each pool by the adjustment of the terminal tackle .
The pools controlled by the lodge are named and assigned so that under normal conditions a participant will fish different waters every morning and afternoon of the week. These low water conditions caused adjustments to schedules as well as tackle.
The words you have read were about my arrival and the first of three weeks that I control each season. I returned to Richmond, Virginia in the United States on 3 March and shortly received an E from the lodge that the following week the river warmed ever so slightly and the fishing vastly improved, “you should have been here last week”. A list of clients had caught fish over 20 pounds with the top fish a lovely 25 bright chrome specimen.
Pools change, come and go each season, on this river’s serpentine route under the jurisdiction of ice flows, winds and the snow melt from the Andes within sight to the south. The river always has her nature’s armor but releases the bounty of fine sport to those who do their homework, have proper tackle and persevere. This location undoubtedly still reigns as the premier sea run Brown Trout fishery in the world.
If you have an interest in getting details concerning joining me on this adventure in 2013 I shall be booking between 16 February through 9 March on a Saturday to Saturday basis. I can be contacted on my Website:
( www.hanoverfly.com )