By Justin Pickett
“So much water, no one person would ever be able to cover all of it, but I’d sure like to try.”
At the beginning of the year I was afforded the opportunity to travel to Argentina for a week-long fishing adventure in the Patagonia region with Andes Drifters. It was relatively short notice (less than 30 days), and my typical schedule doesn’t really allow for that, but over my dead body was I going to miss out on an opportunity like this. I can still remember the phone call I received from Louis. I was standing in the paint section of Home Depot mulling over my list of needed stuff for household projects when he asked me if I could rearrange my schedule in order to make the trip. I was so consumed with making it work that I completely spaced out and left the store without buying a damn thing on that list. It took some scrambling over a few days, but I was able to work it out. Less than a month later I was on a flight to Buenos Aires, and let me tell you it was one amazing trip.
Let me first say that, yes, the fishing is the reason why I was so excited to come to Argentina, and it did not disappoint. When I stepped off of that plane, it was all I could do to keep myself from stringing up a rod and throwing a double-haul down the terminal. What I didn’t realize was that by the time I left, I would have a huge appreciation for the people and the culture of Argentina, and the endless opportunities for travel and adventure, whether you’re going stag, or traveling with your family. Not to mention the guides’ enthusiasm for wanting to share everything about their world with you.
Once arriving in Buenos Aires, we hopped on a two hour flight west to Bariloche, which is a major hub for those traveling into the Patagonia region. We were met outside the terminal by a few of the guides and tossed our gear into their HiLux’s (which are awesome!) and headed for the lodge. It would be another two hours before we would make it to the lodge, and at first I couldn’t stand the thought of two more hours of travel. However, once we made it out of the airport, the concept of time was lost to me. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the scenery. Everywhere I looked, as far as the eye could see, was unmolested beauty. The bluest skies, snow-capped volcanoes, soaring condors, rivers and streams flowing everywhere, and mountain ranges reaching towards the Pacific filled my view from the passenger seat, and before I knew it we had arrived at the Spring Creek Lodge.
Here, again, the scenery is second to none. The lodge sits in a valley alongside the banks of a small tributary of Rio Chimehuin, with the main flow just 200 meters from the lodge. Surrounding the main lodge are the well-appointed, two-bedroom guest cabins. Looking out the front door of your cabin, you’re greeted with an in-your-face view of the Lanin Volcano, just beyond the rolling hills and towering mountain range. Meandering through the property is a small creek which drains into a small pond full of big Brown and Rainbow trout, which are introduced as pets and are off limits to any hook harassment, but fun to watch nonetheless. The service and the friendliness of the staff at the lodge are amazing. Nothing is out of the question, and they make sure that you have everything you want and need. Gustavo Hiebaum operates the lodge and is a wonderful host. He and the staff make sure to interact with each and every guest on a daily basis, making sure everyone is stress-free and having a great time.
A typical day with Andes Drifters consists of waking up early to find a generous spread of fresh coffee, fruits, cereals, juices, pastries, meats, eggs and anything else you could ever desire for breakfast. I wanted for nothing. Oh, and don’t forget the dolce de leche. It’s present, in some form or fashion, at just about every meal, and you’ll want to bring home a jar of it for yourself! While at the lodge, I made sure to take the time to enjoy a cup of coffee on the porch every morning so I could relax, wake up, and admire the view. By seven-thirty or eight, the guides had arrived and began packing the trucks with our gear and got everybody ready to depart for the river. We were usually on the water by 9am, which is late by my standards, but what you may not know about this region is that summer days here are LONG. The sun rises around 6:30am and doesn’t set until nearly 10:00pm, leaving plenty of light for fishing so there’s no need to rush. Once we arrived at our put-in and got our rods strung up, we hit the water and got to fishing. And fish hard we did.
We would stop at a nice shady spot for lunch every day with enough time afterwards to recharge the batteries with a short nap. Lunch was another great experience. No corners cut. The meals consisted mainly of cold meats, pastas, salads, as well as other local fare, and were outstanding. Once lunch was broken down it was back to the fishing for the rest of the day until it was time for the row-in beer. Once back at the lodge, there was enough downtime to relax and clean up. In the lodge, wine and spirits flowed and hors d’oeuvres were laid out for everyone to enjoy. Dinner was always special. Not only was the food spectacular, but Gustavo arranged some sort of entertainment for every evening, such as tango dancers and musicians, adding to the enjoyment had by all. Truly, a day that could only be described as rewarding and awe inspiring.
Spending a week on the water with the guides from Andes Drifters was a treat in itself. These guys work their butts off to make sure their clients are safe, have fun, and catch fish. They were the first up every morning to make sure we were ready to hit the water, and the last to go to sleep, and they do it all with a smile. I’ve never heard so much fun and laughter come from a group of guides sitting around the lunch table, or a campfire. It’s obvious the Andes Drifters’ guides truly love to be on the water with their clients. And not only do these guides love their job, but they are damn good at it! Our guide that week, Eduardo, could row a damn boat and knew his water like the back of his hand. Open minded, and full of knowledge, tips, and tricks, it was a pleasure being on the boat with him that week.
Ah, the meat and potatoes… The fishing.
Andes Drifters offers numerous options when it comes to fishing the waters around the northern Patagonia region. Names like Chimehuin, Melleo, Alumine, and Limay are mainstays in this area, and with Andes Drifters you can fish them all within a week’s time. Most are accessed by raft, yet some smaller waters offer wading as well. Overnight floats are a favorite among many of their clients also. Our particular itinerary consisted of one day on the Chimehuin, a two-day overnight float on the Alumine, one day wading the Malleo, and a three-day overnight float down the Limay. The fishing was amazing at each location. Numerous eager fish were found all along the banks of each of these awesome rivers, but each offered something a little different.
The larger rivers such as the Alumine and the Chimehuin gave up big numbers of 16-18” brown and rainbow trout. The Chimehuin’s claim to fame is its trout population, which is the densest of any river in the northern Patagonia region. Its willow-line banks allowed for some sight fishing opportunities and non-stop dry/dropper action. The Alumine offered much of the same as the Chimehuin when it came to numbers and dry/dropper action, with one stark difference. The Alumine has an inchworm hatch every year, typically occurring around January and February. This time of year the trout focus their attention along the banks, underneath large willow trees where the inchworms congregate and feed upon the leaves. They cruise these slower flows looking for any inchworms that have fallen from the trees above. This allowed for tons of sight fishing opportunities to feeding trout and was an absolute blast!
The Malleo River…. What a gem! The upper section of this river more resembles a southern freestone stream than an actual river, though the lower section does get quite large. The Upper Malleo, set just downstream of the Lanin Volcano which provided for some breathtaking views, is full of hungry, wild rainbows and browns. Described as a more “technical” piece of water, any properly presented dry fly or dry/dropper rig at least got a look, but more often than not was inhaled by one of its wily residents. I have to say that this was my personal favorite piece of water that we fished, I think mainly because it reminded me of the freestone streams that I grew up on, but on steroids. The majority of these fish are smaller, ranging from eight to sixteen inches, but there is the chance of hooking up with much larger trout as well. I myself lost a gorgeous, male brown in the 20”+ range, and Louis hooked into some monstrosity that we never saw, took Louis downstream into his backing, and then popped the tippet. It was a pleasure to fish, to say the least.
The Limay River was the last leg of our trip and would consist of a three-day, overnight float covering over forty river miles of the middle section of this river. The Limay Medio is a big, wide beast with tons of large rainbows. The only tailwater in the region, it is famous for its minnow run that occurs late in the summer, bringing large, lake run brown trout from the reservoir where the Limay Medio empties. We were a little early for the minnow run, so the streamer bite was hit and miss, but the dry fly action was KILLER! If you like the idea of throwing big dries and attractor nymphs at 20”+ trout all freakin’ day, then this my friend is where you want to be. Each cast gave you the high likelihood of hooking up with a big, strong rainbow, as well as the occasional resident brown trout. The takes were more subtle most of the time, so it was imperative that we kept a sharp eye on our fly at all times. These days were long and full of excitement on the water.
The last night of the trip is typically spent in Bariloche, as flights back to Buenos Aires typically begin departing early. Our last evening spent in Argentina was a ton of fun, walking the busy streets of this gorgeous ski resort town. We found the typical touristy gift shops, local ice cream (with dolce de leche!), ate some of the best damn chocolate I’ve ever had, took a selfie with a mime, and even stopped at a concert that was happening in the center of town.
What else is there to say about this region of Argentina? It’s amazing! The fishing is beyond compare! There’s so much water, no one person would ever be able to cover all of it, but I’d sure like to try. Not only that, but Andes Drifter is more than just a trout fishing operation. They are also offering some killer trips for Golden Dorado in the more northern regions of Argentina. The experience that I had fishing these waters with Andes Drifters has been, by far, the best week of fishing I’ve ever experienced to date. It would sure be tough to beat, though I welcome any other destination that I visit to try!
From beginning to end, the trip is focused around your having a carefree trip, and being successful as an angler. Add Andes Drifters’ amazing customer service, the awesome people and culture, the new friendships, and the memories to the mix, and you’ve got yourself one incredible package!
Gink and Gasoline will be hosting a repeat of this awesome trip Feb 20-27 2016! Reserve your spot today.
We will also be hosting a week of fly fishing for Golden Dorado Feb 13-20 2016. Do either trip or both and save air fare!
Get all the details HERE!
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or to reserve a trip.
Justin Pickett Gink & Gasoline www.ginkandgasoline.com email@example.com Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!