Although volcanic eruptions in Chile continued to send ash-laden air into Argentina from time to time, we still had a great time on this year’s January trip. Luckily, the fishing was not affected, and we all caught rainbow and brown trout just as large and just a feisty as in past years.
We started out the adventure with a three-day camping trip on the Alumine and Collon Cura rivers. High winds drove us off the water and into camp, one afternoon, but a few hours later it was so calm that the bugs were biting! The staff made us a wonderful dinner over a fire pit they dug into the ground to avoid sending sparks into the air, and we told our day’s fish stories over exquisite Argentinian wine and beef. The fish were glad to see us back, and came to the flies eagerly.
After a hot shower and some tasty appetizers on the afternoon we came off the water and headed to the lodge, we set out to organize the rest of our week. It included fishing from the rafts on the Chimeuin (pronounced “chim-a-ween”) River that flows right in front of the lodge and wading perfect runs on the Malleo (pronounced “Ma-j-ho” River as well as more days on the Collon Cura (pronounced “kojon-kura”). We were also lucky enough to experience a “no-wind” day when we ventured to a wonderful small lake a two-hour drive away that was just teeming with large rainbows. We hooked them on both streamers and large dry flies all day long!
Everywhere we went, the fish were cooperative, and the water was as clear as cellophane. Large dry flies such as PMX, Stimulators, and Fat Alberts provided the floatation for a dropper with tiny pheasant tail, prince, or copper john nymphs during most of the trip. This rig offered the fish two different choices, with some taking the dry fly and others focusing strictly on the nymphs. Some of us also fished a short-line rig with two nymphs. While on the Malleo River, one of the successful nymphs that always seemed to produce was a black stone-fly nymph imitation. Streamers included various sizes of olive and brown woolly buggers with a cone head and lots of flash.
One of everyone’s favorite day floats is always the trip that begins in the nearby town of Junin de los Andes on the Chimeuin and takes place on the middle section of the river. It seems to produce fish of all sizes all day long to all of the anglers! Some large foam-decorated back eddies are popular places to linger and to target the rising fish, most of which seem attracted to the nymphs. Casting directly to an obvious rise usually brings the best results.
Just as in years past, we sighted lots of Argentinean wildlife. The famous, camel-like guanacos are usually the hit of the trip, and this year we saw them taking a drink right at the water-line as we floated by. Raising their head on their long neck to see who we were, they seemed un-perturbed by our presence. The flamingos also made an appearance every day we fished the Collon Cura. As usual, the parrots were everywhere. Flocks of them flew over us nearly every day, and we also got a big thrill when passing the huge cliffs on the Collon Cura where they nest by the hundreds.
This year, for the first time ever, we saw an Argentinean armadillo scurrying up the bank after getting a drink, as well as a huge scorpion on the bank where we stopped for lunch. Several different kinds of lizards were also sunning themselves at the same location. The red deer were spotted in many of the same areas as we had seen them in years past, and so were the many ducks, birds, and eagles.
By the second week, we had settled down to some great fishing nearly everywhere we went. We had been hoping for an appearance of the “greened-weenie” worm that falls from the willow bushes that line the river-banks and attract the fish to the feast, but had only seen a few scattered instances of them from time to time. We frequently substituted a “weenie” for the nymph on our dropper to test the waters and found a few spots where the worm was happening. In fact, one morning I hooked a large rainbow that up-chucked at least 30 worms as we landed him. Later in the week, one of the gals got a very large rainbow as well as a very large brown trout, both on the worm in a back channel where their raft had stopped for lunch.
The worms are a phenomena that happens about every fourth year, apparently, and, while this would have been “the year” for it, the “hatch” of worms wasn’t yet in full swing, as it had been on one of our previous trips.
We also were lucky enough to get to fish Lake Tromen again this year. It is a very scenic body of water, surrounded by the jagged peaks of the Andes Mountains and crowned by an up-close view of Lanin Volcano, the symbol of Argentina. The lodge has one raft with a motor that can tow the other rafts to the far side the lake where winds aren’t such a problem, and that is what we did. The fishing was slow in the morning, but when we changed flies and began stripping faster, the fish took notice. The wind had also come up, however, which made it difficult to keep the raft at the proper distance from the bank. The afternoon was blustery but exhilarating and we ended the day with the largest fish we had hooked wrapped around a submerged log. Unfortunately, we never did get him loose in spite of lots of trying.
Due to the airport closures because of the ash, we had to return from Neuquen, a different airport than we usually use. It required that we take the morning flight back to Buenos Aires in order to make our later connecting flights. So, we found ourselves at 3:30 a.m. on a bus driving along a highway with both deer and horses crossing the road in the morning darkness. It was quite an end to our adventure.
We’re already looking toward the 2013 trip to Argentina and Chime Lodge, and we are booking now. Dates will be January 6-12, 2013. Give us a call to go along! The lodge is willing to work out a payment plan with you so you don’t miss out!
Adios for now, Pudge