THE GEAR ROOM:
We awoke to a beautiful partly cloudy day that first “fishing” morning, full of excitement and anticipation for the day ahead. Being a mostly saltwater angler, I was nervous about my skill set transferring over the “smaller” freshwater fish. After a delicious breakfast of “eggs made to order”, Jeff and I wandered over to the “Gear Room” to get suited up and get our marching orders for the day. Now, I have traveled quite extensively to lodges across the globe and I have never seen a better-equipped gear and equipment room. Stacks and stacks of Hatch Reel with both floating and sinking lines, tubes and tubes of Winston rods, Simms wading boots and waders in every size and all capped off with a Simms boot bag and dry bag hanging in each personalized angler’s locker.
While this was all extremely impressive, then PRG’s head guide, Esteban, opened “ the drawers” opened and my mouth fell open. PRG has more flies than I have ever seen in largest fly shop. We are talking boxes and boxes of just hoppers and then boxes and boxes of just streamers. It took my breath away, but I had not seen anything yet. One of our fellow anglers, Eric Dovkin from NYC, heard me commenting on the number of flies in PRG possession, there was a moment hesitation and Rance and Eric exchanged a weird look, that said “should we show her?” and low and behold, Eric opens up his “taco” Simms gear bags and has a personal supply of flies that easily rivaled PRG’s. Eric proceeds to tell me that he never travels to any fly fishing destination with anything less than 2000 flies. Apparently both of his suitcases, weighed in at over 100pds EACH.
Once the 10 PRG guides and the assistant guides have their morning “pow-wow”, clients and rivers are assigned. For many anglers, this is unusual and some-what frustrating to get the day’s agenda 15minutes before heading out. Honestly, though, it makes sense. Unlike salt water, where you can read the tide and weather forecast, freshwater it is a little bit more difficult to judge which beats and rivers will be fishing the best. Especially with the winds that often rip through Patagonia, “game time” decisions are often made by the pros: Rance, Travis and Esteban.
DAY 1: RIVADIVA
That first day, Leo was assigned to fish and float Jeff and I down the Rivadavia River located in the Los Alerces National Park of the Providence of Chubut. So off we went in one of PRG’s Toyata Tundra’s with gear in the back bed and waders on. We arrived to base of Lago Rivadiva within an hour and 15min, a beautiful gin clear bay that feeds into the river. While the guides got our rods rigged up, the Asst. Guides quickly set up pop-up chairs so that we could comfortably sit and get our wading boots on. Then once the rafts were inflated (10 minutes flat) and gear loaded, we were off to the races. I was rigged with a black rubber streamer, while Jeff was fishing a dry. We started fishing right away in the bay and on my 2nd cast – bam!! Fish on. Unfortunately, my salt water background of “really” setting the hook, left my hungry rainbow with some ripped lips. On the 4th cast, another one hit and this time I set the hook a bit more gently and landed the gorgeous 17” rainbow, but still Leo was laughing away, saying I was going to scar all his fish. Jeff, a dry fly angler determined to stay pure, finally decided to diversify and put on a dropper, after 4 were brought in on the streamer. The fish were on the bottom. We fished both droppers and streamers and several caught on both.
Leo was a great guide (his 4th with PRG), very upbeat and chipper, always in perfect English giving Jeff and I helpful hints and instruction. We caught abt 10 fish that morning (should have been 20 if we had been setting the hooks correctly- Jeff is a salty angler like me) and were rewarded with a delicious, table-clothed, wine accompanied lunch. We ended the day with over 16 fish averaging about 16-18″ and a 21″ brown being the biggest.
DAY 2: RIO GRANDE
With renewed confidence in our step since Leo’s helpful instruction the day before, Jeff and I set out on this mild and windy day. After our breakfast, we were excited to find out that we were blessed again with Leo as our guide/teacher. Our target: The upper section of The Rio Grande: a much wider larger river, beautiful turquoise water with its gravel bottom and green willow-ed banks. Matt Jones captured some gorgeous “aerial” shots from climbing up on the bank hillside and shooting down at us. Jeff, again, a believer in dry only, started with just a dry fly, but added a nymph/emmerger quickly and caught 3 right off the bat. It was an amazing start to the day. I fished streamers and dry with a dropper and did well on the dropper, though had a few slow eats on the dry which was awesome. By midday, the winds had started to howl upriver and Leo had to fight his way down over the 3’ white-capped waves. There were lots of rainbows and browns averaging 15-18″, 3 nice rainbows over 20″ and one nice 23” brown that I caught on a black rubber legged streamer. Overall, we had a great day and manage to boat over 30 fish.
DAY 3: RIO FREY
While Jeff went solo with Leo to a spring creek that enabling him to wade all day using his favorite: dry flies and catching tons of fish, I got the pleasure and privilege of being going Rance and angler Eric Dovkin (Fly Guy) to the infamously beautiful Rio Frey. It is streamer river with apparent huge browns that live in the depths and is absolutely incredible as far as beauty goes. Eric and I had a blast casting sinking lines into the depths, hoping and waiting for the “big boy” to hit. And while it was not on its game, we did catch some nice fish over 20”, with the largest being 23″ brown and 22″ rainbow. Eric caught one nice 21″ that was the fattest fish I had ever seen for that length, as estimated 7-8lbs. It looked like a football.
What I was not prepared for was the way the day ended. Rance and the other two boat guides on the river with us that day, had to row us all the way back upstream to speed boat that would then take us back to the public dock located on the lake. Of course as luck would have it, the wind picked up down river right as the row began. Tough stuff for those guides; it was an act of love and commitment to this awesome sport and in particular to this river. They say, “it is usually worth the row.”
DAY 4: “TROUT BASEBALL” ON A SPRING CREEK
So looking back, if I had a favorite day, this would have been it. All anglers at Trevelin headed out with their assigned guides to fish a 17km stretch of spring creek located on a secluded desert ranch. Matt and I set out with PRG owner, Travis Smith to this amazing slice of heaven. The landscape was simply dramatic and baron, unlike anything I had witnessed thus far. The winds whipped over the plains, but the temperature was a good 15 degrees warmer there in the desert than at the lodge.
The greatest thing about this creek is that it was small, intimate and the perfect hopper fishery. For the half of the day, I worked on my steeple cast and really setting the hook in the proper “trout” fashion. By lunchtime, I had caught dozens of trout, not a lot of big ones, but just fun. I love seeing the aggressiveness of 5-6” trout hitting a 2” long hopper as it punches along the clear, clean surface. After another delicious lunch and bottle of wine, we headed back to the creek’s side. I had caught enough, and wanted to give Travis and Matt both a chance to fish as well, as they rarely get the chance.
As a constant gamer and competitor, I asked Travis if he had ever played “Time-out” – the fishing game, in which he looked at me in total confusion. After explaining the rules, he helped me to realize it was NOT called “Time-Out”, but “Trout Baseball”. The game was on.
THE RULES: “TROUT BASEBALL”
– Each angler gets 2 minutes to catch as many fish as he can.
– If during his/her time, he/she sets the hook unsuccessfully a strike is made, three strikes and your turn ends early.
– Also during the allotted time, if an angler snaps off or loses a hooked fish before the pre-scribed 10sec it is minus one point.
– Now, the trout are scored by size.
– 1 point given for a 6”-12” fish
– 2 points for 13”-16” fish
– 3 points for 17-20” fish and
– 4 points for any fish over 20”
– If the angler breaks off his fly on the surrounding obstacles and can tie on a new fly before his 2 minutes are up, he can keep fishing.
The game started off immediately with a lot of harassing and false cries of “SET” in attempt to get the angler to strike out by making false sets. Matt and Travis were hilarious and over the next several hours, lots of laughter and beer was shared as we broke off flies and struck out. It started as a tight game between Travis and I at 3 and Matt stuck on zero, when out of the depths of a little pool came a brown beauty. It amazes me that fish of this size can exist is such small water. Well with that gorgeous fish, Matt took the lead. At one point during the racing around, casting, and unhooking from annoying thorn bushes that seemed to reach out and entangle your hopper, Travis was busily trying to free his fly when all of the sudden disappeared from sight right into the water. Unfortunately, the peninsula that he had been standing on had given way and he slid chest high into the cold creek. But did that slow him down? Heck no! While then trailing, went on to win the game in the final hour with another gorgeous brown. It was a day I will never forget and one that helps me to remember at the end of the day why I love this sport so much: Camaraderie, laughter and big fish and awesome eats.