The rivers of Argentina welcomed us back this year with higher water than we'd experienced in 2009. But, that was just to test our mettle and challenge our fly fishing skills. After a 10-year high water year, the heavy flows were still receding when we arrived. "Not as much dry-fly fishing as last year", Gus and the other guides old us, and they were right. "Just wait," they said, "Even though there might not be as many fish, the fish you catch will be larger." Right again!!
Luckily, we'd been able to add several additional days to the week we had planned because of cancellations during the week before our scheduled time, and we took full advantage of it. Martin Carranza, the owner of Chime Lodge and Andes Outfitters was able to be at the lodge at the same time we were, and we had a ball fishing with him.
Our first day everyone was pretty jet-lagged, so they made a fairly short wading day of it on the lovely Chimeuin right in front of the lodge. I, however, was tucked in bed with bronchitis and a bad cold. But, they told me all about it during one of Pato's special dinners that night, so I wasn't too disappointed. .
I mustered enough energy to get rigged up the next day when we waded and fished the wonderful Malleo River, not too far from the town of Junin de los Andes. The fish were definitely larger there, but the catching was predominantly on large streamers. We looked frantically for the little chartreuse worms falling off of the willow trees that had made our 2009 trip so much fun, but, alas, they were nowhere to be found. The temperature was just too cool for them to be hatching. So, instead of dropping them off the bend of the hook of a large dry fly, we substituted bead-head pheasant tails, which seemed to work just fine! The wind came up late that afternoon, however, and toward the end of the afternoon, Gus and I found ourselves nearly knocked into the water by gusts as we were landing a nice bow on a black, rubber-leg fly.
All but one of the other days we set-up the rafts so we could drift the Alumine River and the Collon Cura (pronounced cojon cura) Rivers. The lower Alumine is a river we fished last year that everyone loved because there seemed to be rainbow under ever bush. But, this year it was rainbows holding along current seams not too far from the banks. Julie and I caught six fish between us in one pool, all on the pheasant tail! That night over wine & dinner, Sandy reported her first brown of the trip on one of the large, ugly dry flies that we were using as an indicator for our nymphs. These are one of her favorite fish and she was delighted. Lesley had also connected big-time that same day, but most of her fish were rainbows. Julie managed once again to be the brown-trout queen of the trip. It seemed like every day she had at least one big brown to report, mostly all on dry flies, surprisingly.
Another day Lesley and Gus and I sat frustrated in the raft at a secluded pool with fish rising all around us, but without a fly that they would take consistently. Gus said that the fish were after spinners, but we just didn't have anything small enough. A tiny parachute Adams took a couple of fish and so did a very small caddis emerger, but we obviously didn't have the correct match. We moved on to more productive water where pheasant tails were really producing.
We relied heavily on large rubber-legged streamers of one sort or the other, but one day I set up a two-nymph rig and proceeded to catch fish with great success. A dark brown stonefly nymph with two black bead-heads, paired with a green brassie on the dropper had the fish going nuts when the bite was on for a couple of hours in mid-afternoon.
Absolutely perfect weather and glassy calm water enabled us to fish Lake Tromen in Lanin National Park this year within sight of the volcano. Although the wind came up in the afternoon it didn't seem to affect the fishing much. It was just difficult for the guides to row against. We'd all been looking forward to the brook trout that the lake is reported to have, and I'm delighted to say that we all caught at least one! They were the fat, spotted beauties we'd heard so much about. It was the rainbows, though, that really put on a show that day. Julie alone caught five bows over 20-inches in the afternoon alone. We also got to fish the lower Chimeuin, which we hadn't had time for last year, and that was quite an adventure. The first few miles of the river are very narrow and very, very brushy and pose a real challenge for the guides and the rafts. Rainbows tucked themselves into the fast-flowing water around every corner, but we often weren't fast enough to set the hook as the raft sped along. It seemed like a roller-coaster ride to me. Sandy was the top fish-catcher that day. She just kept rolling out a large Chernobyl ant with a dropper and picking up fish after fish.
I ended up in bed sick for another couple of days during the trip, and was lucky enough to miss the one rainy day we had. The others braved the weather like troopers and caught a lot of fish. We had a fire in the fireplace, wine ready to pour and appetizers waiting for them when they arrived back at the lodge. We cozied-up on the comfortable couches for the day's fish report and photos and then moved right on to a roasted chicken dinner that was some of the most delicious I think I've ever had. Pato spoiled us even worse this year. Her unique lunches of her special quiche, pasta salads, special little pastries and the ever-present hard-boiled egg (which I gave to Gus every day), were something we all looked forward to. We ate like queens under the spreading branches of one of the huge willows where the guides picked a perfect spot beside the river every day.
We also enjoyed the improvements in the lodge (in its second year of business). The gorgeous new decks were completed around the entire outside of the lodge, and we could sip our wine or drink our morning coffee on deck chairs overlooking the river. New storage for the rafts and equipment made our daily forays to the river much more convenient, and the wind turbines generated electricity for us (except for a brief spell when the wind died and it the men working on the new staff cabin inadvertently drained the storage batteries). Then all enjoyed the candlelight dinner.
We also got to see the guanacos several tunes this year as well as the flamingos, the flocks of parrots, the condors flying high overhead, and the wild pigs in the grasses beside the river. One morning we all trekked into delightful San Martin de los Andes for a little shopping and lunch before heading back to fishing in the afternoon.
In my 2009 trip report I said, "The guides were great! They put us on fish, they entertained us, they picked perfect, shady spots each day for lunch, they poured the wine, they told us fish stories, and they helped make sure we caught many, many fish." Well, that goes double for this year. Another toast to them!!!!