Lago Roca – 12/07/2013

Time: 9:30AM – 5:00PM

Location: Lago Roca

Fish Landed: 7

Lago Roca 12/07/2013 Photo Album

Fog Over Lago Hess on Saturday Morning

Fog Over Lago Hess on Saturday Morning

Saturday would be my last day of fishing in Argentina, at least in 2013. At dinner on Friday night Diego asked me if I’d be happy to return to Lago Roca with Todd, and I replied in the affirmative. Monte and Nikki planned to do the horseback fishing venture that Todd and Mary enjoyed on Thursday. I didn’t want to hold up Todd, so I woke up a bit earlier than normal, ate breakfast and emerged from the wader room ready to fish by 9AM. Todd was also ready to go, so we threw our rods and dry bags in the truck, and Santiago drove us the short distance of less than a mile to the beach along Roca where the small boat was moored.

Unusually Smooth Surface on Lago Roca on Saturday Morning

Unusually Smooth Surface on Lago Roca on Saturday Morning

Saturday was shaping up to be the warmest fishing day of the week, and it didn’t take long for me to remove my layers and get down to just my fishing shirt. The temperature probably peaked in the 70’s in the afternoon. Todd began in the front of the boat, and I took my place on the rear platform in front of the motor, and we agreed to swap places after lunch. Diego spotted a mayfly on the water before we began, so he took one of my parachute hoppers and clipped off the legs and suggested I cast it as a mayfly imitation. This is how we began along the grass bed right next to the boat ramp, but after ten minutes or so, my fly wasn’t producing so Diego switched it for a deer hair dragon fly.

Dave's First Fish on Saturday on a Deer Hair Dragonfly

Dave’s First Fish on Saturday on a Deer Hair Dragonfly

The three of us moved away from the boat area and drifted to the lower shallow end of Roca where there were numerous areas with tall clumps of grass rising above the water. I connected with the first fish, a nice 22 inch rainbow and then followed up with a 20 inch brook trout, but then I didn’t see any action for an hour or so. There was a period where quite a few fish were rising, but Todd and I were getting refusals so Diego experimented with a few different versions of the dragon fly imitations to no avail. Finally we left the shallow grassy area and moved to some new shoreline, and Diego converted us both to sinking lines with a small olive streamer, and using this approach I landed another fine brook trout and rainbow trout. These fish were the typical 20 inch strong and colorful fish that I was used to catching in the Rio Manso drainage.

Another Huge Brook Trout Later in the Morning

Another Huge Brook Trout Later in the Morning

I’d experienced a fine morning when we stopped for lunch at a spot where a small creek entered the lake; and while Diego set up, Todd and I fished the inlet area. I continued casting the beadhead olive streamer in the drop off on the left side of the current and landed a 20 inch brook trout and a 15 incher as I lifted the streamer just beyond the drop off. This fishing was similar to what I experienced on Friday, but after landing two fish, I was unable to entice further action. I was curious if I could repeat the success of the previous day with my articulated damsel fly, so I tied it on for a short while, and discovered it was not the hot fly on Saturday that it had been on Friday. I did see numerous dainty damsel flies and in fact more than I’d observed on Lago Fonck.

Olive Matuka Fly Yielded the Brook Trout

Olive Matuka Fly Yielded the Brook Trout

A Fat Brook Trout Landed Near Inlet to Lago Roca

A Fat Brook Trout Landed Near Inlet to Lago Roca

 

After lunch with the sun bright in a blue sky and the wind beginning to kick up, Diego decided that we would drift the weed beds. I remembered doing this briefly on Tuesday at the very end of the day when Jane and I were with Matias. Roca contained numerous weed beds, but we approached the largest one that stretched across the lake roughly 1/4 of the distance up from the launch area. From a distance the weed beds looked like wide brown ribbons in the clear aqua colored water. A dense cluster of long aquatic plants with wide leaves grew from the bottom of the lake to within six inches of the surface, and the fish seemed to congregate along the edges.

Todd was having some success with a Fat Albert foam fly with rubber legs, but Diego rigged up my four weight Orvis Access rod with a different foam attractor. Todd and I had switched our positions as planned after lunch so I was now in the bow of the small boat, and we began drifting over the weed beds. Diego positioned the boat upwind and beyond the part of the weed bed that extended furthest away from the shore and then allowed the boat to drift on a diagonal over the widest section. There were open spaces and troughs throughout the widest part of the vegetation. As the boat approached the weeds, Todd and I would throw 30-40 foot casts in front of the boat, and we were aided by a significant tail wind.

It didn’t take long before Todd began to experience some hot action on his Fat Albert, and he was having a great time fighting the hot fish with his five weight and pressuring them to keep free of the weed stalks. I meanwhile wasn’t seeing as many rises to my fly, but I did have my opportunities. Over the course of the afternoon we probably drifted over the weed bed area ten times; and each time that we’d finish, Diego would man the oars and row against the wind until we were once again above the weeds. As mentioned, I had my opportunities as I hooked but did not land five fish. One got off after being hooked for five seconds, so I didn’t feel too bad about that, but the others dove into the thick aquatic vegetation and wrapped the line around the subsurface vines.

The four weight just did not have the backbone to pressure these large fish and prevent them from entering the weeds, nor was it strong enough to horse them out once they made the dive. Toward the end of the weed fishing period, I decided to exchange the spool on my six weight from the sinking line to a floating line, and I began to cast a deer hair dragonfly on the heavier rod. I hooked a hard fighting fish on the bigger rod, but the increased leverage didn’t matter as another nice fish worked its way free of the fly in the weeds.

Finally in the late afternoon in the last 30 minutes before quitting I hooked and landed a 20 inch rainbow above the weeds. It was a fairly frustrating afternoon due to the lost fish, but I finally managed to overcome the vegetation and land a decent fish. It was now approaching 5PM, and Diego radioed the lodge so a pickup truck appeared, and we climbed on to shore, gathered our gear, and returned to the lodge.

Argentine Asado

Argentine Asado

The owner of the lodge, Roberto Pandolfi, had returned from a business trip, and all the guests joined him on Saturday night for an Argentine asado. There was malbec wine and way too much food as we ate salad and grilled vegetables and four types of meat. There were steaks, chicken, and huge fat Argentine sausages. Todd had landed a large brook trout that swallowed the fly to the point that the fish was surely going to die; so we took it back to the lodge, and it became a tasty part of the asado.

Gathered for Saturday Dinner

Gathered for Saturday Dinner

My inability to land some large fish in Roca was a bit frustrating, but it was still a fine ending to a great week at Rio Manso Lodge. I landed seven fish, with six being 20 inches or greater, and the weather was the nicest of the week. The asado and meeting Roberto were a nice way to cap off an excellent week of fishing.

Lago Fonck – 12/06/2013

Time: 10:00AM – 6:00PM

Location: Lago Fonck large and small, but mostly large

Fish Landed: 11

Lago Fonck 12/16/2013 Photo Album

On Friday morning I was excited to learn that I was returning to Lago Fonck with Matias on a beautiful sunny day with a high temperature in the upper 60’s and less wind than experienced on Monday on the same lakes. We got off to a later start than normal, but after the short rough drive, I was on the water and fishing by 10AM. I began fishing near the boat mooring area as Matias was convinced there were large brown trout in that area, but once again my casts proved futile so he fired up the motor, and we moved on to the southern shore of large Lago Fonck. The small lake is at the southern end of the two linked bodies of water, and we moved through a narrow connecting channel to the very bottom of large Lago Fonck.

The wind typically blows from north and west so that the waves crash in the reeds along the shoreline and deposit whatever food might be on the water in this area, and it was here that I landed my first trout on Monday. Unlike Monday, however, it was much warmer with less wind, and these conditions may explain why I observed many more dragonflies flitting about and occasionally touching the surface of the water. In fact as the air temperature warmed I noticed pairs of male and female dragonflies fluttering on the surface and creating the image of a huge spinning ball as their wings rapidly beat the air and water. This phenomenon continued for roughly a half hour, and during this time I experienced the most enjoyable action of the week.

Black Foam Fly That Matia Modified

Black Foam Fly That Matias Modified

Matias pulled one of the black foam flies that I purchased from Royal Gorge Anglers from my fly box and modified it by pulling off two of the four foam collars so that it floated very low in the water. I began casting this fly toward the weed bed and after allowing the fly to rest, I began to twitch it so that I was imitating the mating dragonflies. It didn’t take long before a fish bulged on my slowly moving fly, and I set the hook and fought and landed a 20″ brook trout. After growing up in Pennsylvania and catching tiny brook trout and then hooking similar stunted brookies in Colorado, I was amazed at the size and beauty of this fish. Also I was convinced that brook trout were poor fighters, but now I discovered that pound for pound this species of char didn’t need to take a back seat to rainbows or browns. A large brook trout fights every bit as hard if not harder than the other trout species.

A Second Photo of the 20" Brook Trout

A Second Photo of the 20″ Brook Trout

We quickly released the prize brookie, and I resumed casting and twitching the black foam creation. Shortly another nice fish swirled, and a jaw came down around the fly and another battle ensued that eventually led to a 20 inch rainbow landing in Matias’ net. The dragonfly hatch is what I came to experience, and I was getting a nice introduction to it on Friday morning. I was on fire now, and Matias and I both spotted an aggressive rise deeper in the reeds. Matias allowed the boat to drift a bit closer, and I began to cast deeper into the tall grass. The rise we heard had that deep hollow sound that resonates across the water and usually indicates a big fish with a big mouth.

After a half dozen casts or so, a large bulge appeared under my fly and I paused and then made a strong hook set. Unfortunately in my zeal to land the fish that could have been the best of the week, I repeated the error I made on the first day on small Fonck. After setting the hook I immediately began to strip line, and at that very moment the heavy fish turned in the opposite direction and it was game over. For a split second I felt the ponderous drag of a large fish, but then the line went llimp, and I reeled up a line devoid of a fly. Matias was certain that the fish was a huge brown trout, but we’ll never know for certain.

As quickly as the dragonfly mating began, it now ended as the wind picked up a bit and put a riffle on the surface. Mati fired up the motor, and we moved on to another stretch of shoreline with long grass blades rimming the shoreline, and I began spraying casts of a new modified black foam fly within inches of the grass. In this area I hooked up with another fine hard fighting fish and eventually guided a 22 inch rainbow into the net. Friday morning gave me a taste of how spectacular Patagonia lake fishing can be when the weather conditions and timing are right.

As lunch approached Mati once again turned on the engine and we quickly bucked the waves and fought the wind and pulled the boat on the beach at the main inlet at the north end of the lake. Just south of the boat and our lunch spot I could spot large fish cruising the shoreline looking for food. I assumed these fish were looking for dragonflies, but Mati pointed to a school of small bait fish and explained that they were the main quarry of these fish. He handed me the six weight rod with the sinking tip line and an olive streamer and told me to work it in the cove area while he set up lunch.

I began stripping the streamer with numerous pauses, lifts, and variable speed and succeeded in creating two follows, but the fish turned away and didn’t strike. After fifteen minutes of this, Mati motioned that lunch was ready, so I placed the rod in the boat and joined my guide for lunch. After lunch Matias suggested I return to the four weight, and he tied on a tan foam stonefly imitation with long barred rubber legs. I returned to the cove area where I spotted fish cruising the shoreline and flicked a few casts ahead of a sighted fish. I watched as the fish moved slowly toward my fly, but before it could get there another fish appeared and viciously attacked the stonefly. Another battle was on and I landed another 20 inch brook trout. I handed my camera to Matias and he recorded the last stages of the fight and then the release.

A Closeup of the Head and Fly

A Closeup of the Head and Fly

I returned to action and within a few more casts a 19 inch rainbow slashed at the fly, and I battled another hard fighting trout. Everything seemed to be falling in place on Lago Fonck, and I was now starting to understand Taylor’s enthusiasm for Rio Manso. The inlet on large Fonck was strange in that three or four channels entered the lake, but they were split apart by a fair amount of sand and gravel beach. It was almost like a small river delta, and I now traced the shoreline to a point and spotted two more trout lying in the shallows apparently waiting to ambush a meal. I made numerous casts in front of these sighted fish, but they didn’t appear to be looking up so I moved on around the point to the upper inlet.

Here a smaller flow of water flowed north, and there was a significant drop off where the current merged with the lake. I placed some casts on both sides of the main current and observed a couple refusals before pausing to analyze the situation. Clearly these fish were interested in eating, but my large foam attractor on the surface was not what they were looking for. Perhaps Matias’ orginal theory that they were chasing baitfish was more accurate. In addition I had seen quite a few damsel flies gliding above the lake in the warmth of the midday sun, so could they be chasing damsel fly nymphs? I didn’t have the large Royal Gorge Angler fly box with me, but I did have my fleece pocket in my front pack, so I opened it and grabbed one of the two damsel fly nymphs that I’d tied from the Charlie Craven book. These flies were light olive marabou in color with tiny dumbbell eyes, and they had an articulated body that made an enticing wiggle when being retrieved. I had never used these flies since tying a batch two winters ago, so I decided to give them a try.

Articulated Damsel Tied by Dave Was Very Productive on Lago Fonck

Articulated Damsel Tied by Dave Was Very Productive on Lago Fonck

I was using my Orvis Access four weight and a floating line, but decided to try the damsel nymph anyway since the fly was weighted. I cast the fly to the left of the main channel and began doing a slow hand twist retrieve, and as the fly approached the drop off a large shape darted from the depths and hammered the nymph. The fight was on and I battled a gorgeous 20″ brook trout with my four weight and called out to Matias who arrived and netted the beauty. This was probably the nicest brook trout I’d ever caught and Mati held it while I snapped a quick photo.

20" Brook Trout Hammered a Damsel Nymph Tied by Dave

20″ Brook Trout Hammered a Damsel Nymph Tied by Dave

I was now quite anxious to get the damsel back in the water to see if my fly was a fluke or whether it could produce more fish. I didn’t have to wait long as a shiny 20 inch rainbow with pink flanks charged the wiggling nymph, and once again I successfully battled a fine fish to the net. Matias released the rainbow and told me to keep working my fly, and sure enough another twenty inch brook trout hammered the articulated nymph as I began to lift at the drop off. The four weight bowed as the brookie made a deep dive, but I held tight and landed a third hefty fish on the marabou creation. Was this really happening? I wasn’t about to quit now so I tossed the weighted nymph to the right side of the current and once again a fish hammered the fly on the lift and began streaking away from shore. The line was blazing through my rod guides and my fingers as the fish continued its run, but unbeknownst to me there was a small kink in my fly line from lying coiled on the ground. When the kink hit my fingers, the brief disruption in the progress was enough to allow a break off, and the hot fish was free along with my highly valued damsel nymph.

I had one more damsel that I’d brought along to Argentina, so I knotted that to my tippet and resumed casting. Unfortunately I must have exhausted the pool of fish at the inlet, or the disruption of the water caused the fish to stop feeding. I couldn’t generate any more hits on my subsurface offering so I moved along the shoreline and back toward the point where I’d earlier spotted a fish. I made a prospecting cast in the tiny cove below the point, and as I twisted the fly back toward me, it was crushed by another chunky brook trout in the 20 inch range. I carefully removed the fly myself as Mati returned to prepare the boat for our departure after lunch.

Lago Fonck as Wind Kicks Up

Lago Fonck as Wind Kicks Up

Could this fly produce along the other inlet next to our lunch spot? I moved to that area and began prospecting the water where I’d observed numerous fish before lunch, but apparently the damsel fly had run its course, and now I was only beating the water with repeated unproductive casts. Matias returned and signaled that it was time to move on, so we climbed in the boat and fired up the engine and explored some new attractive shoreline areas. Matias removed the damsel nymph and split shot, and tied on a foam attractor for this work, but it was fruitless. The afternoon was beginning to fade so we now made our way to the south shoreline of the large lake where I’d landed two nice fish at the start of the day. Matias was convinced that there was a big brown in the reeds in this area, and he was determined to get it.

Once again Matias worked hard to maintain the position of the boat so that I could utilize the wind and throw long casts toward the grass. He kept the boat far enough away so that it would not spook fish, but close enough for me to make relatively accurate casts. I began covering the water at the point where the lake entered the channel that connected small Fonck to large Fonck, and after a few casts I experienced a refusal. I lifted my line off the water and allowed it to extend behind me, and then instantly rolled a cast back to the same spot where the refusal occurred. Wham! A fish smashed the fly, perhaps the same fish that just refused my previous cast, and I battled another fine brook trout to the net.

Matias now informed me of a Rio Manso tradition that I was not aware of. Apparently catching a brook trout, rainbow trout and brown trout in the same day is referred to as a grand slam. Typically in the U.S. a grand slam translates to four of something, but I was a guest in a new country so I didn’t debate the terminology. Mati went on to explain that a fisherman who accomplishes this feat needs to drink a beer afterward, or he or she will never enjoy another grand slam. Since I’d already landed ten beautiful fish on the day and suffered through two break offs, I began to cast with renewed focus with the grand slam goal foremost in my thoughts.

The boat slid to the left or east a bit, and I began to toss long casts to an indentation in the grass. A layer of grass ran from the point where I’d caught the brook trout toward the east for fifteen yards, and then there was a nice wide piece of water until another stretch of grass appeared in front of the land. It was this open space between the grasses that I now targeted, and after a few misfires and empty casts, a huge bulge appeared and engulfed my fly. Matias cheered me as I set the hook and embarked on a ferocious battle with a large fish. The fish made several deep dives while doing some head shaking and attempted to roll the line repeatedly. I was certain that this fish was a large brook trout or brown trout as it chose to fight its battle in the depths of the lake. The fish was testing the four weight Orvis to the maximum as it raced past the front of the boat and then charged in the opposite direction and made one final deep run under the boat.

In each instance I was able to recover line quickly and apply strong resistance until finally I could leverage the head of the fish toward the surface. Matias and I both gazed anxiously into the water as a huge head surfaced, and we recognized a deeply colored brown trout! I’d done it; a Rio Manso grand slam. It was the fourth brown in excess of 20 inches that I landed during the week, and it was the toughest fighter of the bunch. Matias was as proud of this fish as I was, and he insisted on snapping six or seven shots. The length of the Lago Fonck brown fell short of the 24 inch fish landed on Tuesday in Lago Roca, but the girth was clearly the greatest of any fish caught. The ratio of pounds to linear feet had to be high. In addition it was much more of a thrill to me to catch the large brown on a surface fly, and completing the grand slam certainly added to the satisfaction.

Mati Displays the Girth

Mati Displays the Girth

We released the brown, and I worked across the remaining grass strip, but the 21 incher would end up being the last fish of the day. What a day it was! I landed eleven trout, and the smallest was a 19 inch rainbow. All the other fish were between 20 and 22 inches. I selected one of my own flies without any guidance and locked into a hot pattern that produced four fish in the space of an hour plus one substantial break off. And finally I hooked and landed another beautiful brown trout to complete the Rio Manso grand slam. As I climbed into the back seat of the truck for the return to Rio Manso Lodge, I popped a Wartsteiner lager and soaked in the satisfaction of these accomplishments. I wasn’t about to jeopardize another grand slam.

Another Grin and Fin Shot with Dave

Another Grin and Fin Shot with Dave

 

 

Rio Manso – 12/05/2013

Time: 10:30AM – 5:00PM

Location: Rio Manso beat 9

Fish Landed: 13

Rio Manso 12/05/2013 Photo Album

Finally the weather warmed a bit, and Thursday would yield high temperatures in the upper 60’s allowing me to remove the three layers that I began with in the morning and fish with just my fishing shirt for most of the afternoon. Todd and Mary took a guided horseback ride to a mountain lake for the day, so Monte joined me in an inflatable raft as we drifted beat nine of the Rio Manso. Our guide for the day was Diego, the head guide for the lodge, and the most accomplished speaker of English among the staff. Diego is a fourth generation Argentinian but descended from English immigrants, and each generation has taught the succeeding generation English.

Diego informed Monte and me that we would be fishing beat nine on Thursday, so we threw our gear in the truck, and departed for one of the more distant stretches of Rio Manso. The trip took in excess of an hour and traversed mostly dirt roads. On a map the distance doesn’t look nearly as far, however, the roads form three sides of a rectangle as we traveled east and then south and then west to get to a location almost directly south of the lodge. Diego told me that the river flowed through one more beat before crossing the border into Chile and ending in the Pacific Ocean.

Near our final launch point we turned on a crude dirt road and passed some sparse campgrounds before stopping across from a small cabin. A man was outside the cabin, and Moncho and Diego exchanged some conversation, but the content escaped me due to my lack of understanding of Spanish. Moncho drove beyond the launch point and then expertly backed the trailer and raft around the turn and into the river.

Moncho and Diego Prepare the Raft for Another Day of Fishing

Moncho and Diego Prepare the Raft for Another Day of Fishing

Monte and I rigged two rods and as Diego and Moncho loaded the raft I spotted a loud substantial rise fifteen feet out from the bank and 15 feet below the raft so I decided to make a few casts. I tied on a chubby Chernobyl and made numerous drifts over the location of the rise and on around the tenth pass a fish rose and crushed the large foam attractor. The fight was on and twice the trout made strong downstream runs, so I allowed it to pull out line until finally it tired enough for me to gain line. Diego took a break from loading the raft and came down with his net and landed a gorgeous 21″ brown trout. What an exciting way to start our day of drifting the river, and for the third consecutive day I landed a brown over 20 inches.

A Nice Fat Brown

A Nice Fat Brown

We were now ready to begin our float so Monte and I jumped in the raft and Diego deployed the oars and maneuvered us into the main current. I elected to begin in the rear of the raft with the expectation of moving to the front in the afternoon, but I was experiencing enough success from the rear to maintain my position for the duration of the day.

The method of fishing was pretty much consistent throughout the day as I kept the chubby Chernobyl on my line and launched casts toward the bank attempting to place my fly as close to the vegetation as possible. In the morning I landed a couple more small brown trout below our starting point, but after that the catches became entirely rainbows.

A Gorgeous Side Channel We Wade Fished

A Gorgeous Side Channel We Wade Fished

Unlike the previous day we stopped and pulled the raft up on the rocks more frequently and wade fished attractive side channels and slack water areas. The length of the beat was probably shorter so these stops served the purpose of extending the time of the drift. I normally enjoy wade fishing more than drifting along and popping attractors from a boat, so I was in favor of the wade fishing interludes and truthfully would have liked to spend even more time focusing on the areas where we stopped. A large portion of my enjoyment of fly fishing is spending  time reading water, spotting fish, and observing the insects that allow me to choose flies that mimic what is present in the nearby environment.

During the course of the day we spotted numerous rises, but most appeared to be small rainbows. During one stop as I fished a small side channel, I spotted a refusal to the chubby Chernobyl so I decided to deviate from the guide’s recommendation and try some of my own flies. I first tried a size 14 caddis, then a light gray comparadun, and finally a parachute hopper, but none of my choices of personally tied flies caused the trout to rise again. I enjoyed the process of trying to solve the riddle in spite of my lack of success.

We stopped for another fine lunch shortly after this experience, and afterwards I returned to the chubby Chernobyl, and it was in the hour after lunch that a nice thirteen inch rainbow smashed the attractor dry as we were drifting over a riffle. This would prove to be the nicest fish of the day other than the large brown that I landed before we even began the drift.

Monte and Diego Fish the Bank While Dave Wade Fishes the Riffles

Monte and Diego Fish the Bank While Dave Wade Fishes the Riffles

During another stoppage around mid-afternoon while wading I decided to add a twenty incher as a dropper off the chubby Chernobyl. I kept it on my line as we returned to the boat, and the twenty incher proved its worth as it produced a small rainbow as the flies drifted along a nice run a few feet from the bank. This fish became my thirteenth and last fish of the day as we reached our end point at 5PM where a narrow pedestrian bridge crossed the river. Moncho was waiting, so Monte and I took down our rods, and the two staff members muscled the heavy raft up a very steep bank and then on to the flat trailer.

It was a fun day on Rio Manso as I landed the most fish of any day during the week in Argentina. Unfortunately my best fish came in the first hour and the other fish were mostly in the 8-11 inch range except for the 13 inch fish landed after lunch. I did enjoy casting dry flies most of the day, and that was a pleasant relief to my weary arm, back and shoulder. The warmth of the sun was pleasant and the late spring weather finally equaled my expectations. I also enjoyed the numerous breaks from drifting in the raft, and the opportunities to observe the water and try different flies and approaches.

The weather forecast was favorable for the remainder of the week, so I was anxious and optimistic for Friday and Saturday.

Rio Manso – 12/04/2013

Time: 9:30AM – 6:00PM

Location: Beat 3 ending at lodge after going through Lago Hess

Fish Landed: 6

Rio Manso – 12/04/2013 Photo Album

By now Jane and I had fallen into a nice Rio Manso Lodge routine. We typically woke up between seven and eight in the morning and went downstairs to the dining area where we were pampered with a delicious breakfast. Diana and Noy acted as servers in addition to their other duties. Diana managed all the customer facing aspects of the lodge experience including scheduling the drivers for shuttling fishermen and other guests to their activities for the day. There were only three trucks and ten guests, and trips to take guests to the airport and pick up food and supplies needed to be incorporated into the plan. In addition Diana managed the bar and served meals and acted as a general concierge for the guests including helping with travel plans.

Noy appeared to be Diana’s assistant and was also amazing. Somehow she seemed to be everywhere at once and also knew our preferences within a day of our stay. When Jane and I felt a need for something, Noy was always right there. She knew what drinks we preferred, what we ate for breakfast, and whether we took sugar in our tea or coffee. At the end of the week we both wanted Noy to return to Colorado with us. We were completely spoiled by her constant attention to our needs.

Breakfast consisted of small pastries, several large plates of fresh fruit, yogurt, granola, corn flakes, tea or coffee and, if desired, eggs and bacon. I never left the lodge hungry before my day of fishing.

After breakfast we split off to our various activities. Jane typically undertook numerous hikes with and without guides and in addition went white water rafting one day and also observed the cooks making Argentine specialties in the kitchen. I meanwhile gathered my gear and headed to the fishermen room where I climbed into my waders and wading boots. When I was ready, I exited the lodge, and my guide was always waiting to escort me to our assigned fishing destination for the day.

After our day of activities we returned to the lodge and showered and changed and descended to the great room where a roaring fire was normally in progress. Diana and Noy would serve us drinks if we desired, and the guests shared stories about their daily adventures in front of the fire. By 8PM large trays of appetizers appeared on the coffee table, and then at 10PM we were ushered into the dining room for dinner. After dinner some guests remained to socialize, or when it was a particularly tiring day, we would excuse ourselves and head back to our room for rest.

On Wednesday morning I stepped out of the fishermen room and discovered that I would be fishing with Niko on beat three of the Rio Manso a few miles up the road from the lodge. We would drift down the river and through Lago Hess and end near the bridge by the lodge. This would be my first outing with a guide other than Matias and also my first day on the river rather than on a lake. I was rather excited to have a flowing water fishing experience in Patagonia so I jumped in the truck, and Moncho served as our shuttle driver and took us to the launch point. We drove the truck and trailer down a short rough dirt lane, but we had to stop twenty yards short of the river because the shrubs and trees had overgrown the road.

Moncho and Niko Load the Inflatable Raft

Moncho and Niko Load the Inflatable Raft

Niko and Moncho pushed the inflatable raft off the trailer and then muscled it over the dirt and grass and then down a steep bank to the river. Niko readied the raft for our day of fishing while Moncho carried the remaining items from the truck to the watercraft. While this was going on I rigged my six weight with a sinking line and my four weight with a floating line.

Wednesday’s weather was unsettled similar to Monday with more cloud cover than Tuesday, and it actually drizzled for brief periods several times during the day. The ever present wind was also an issue, although floating the river seemed to offer more protection compared to the exposure of being on the surface of a wide open lake. Once we had the gear in the raft, and we were settled in our positions for the day, Niko expertly rowed across the main current and then used his strength to go upstream against the current to a nice wide riffle stretch with moderate depth.

From previous experience Niko knew that fish were attracted to small mayflies in this area, so he tied a parachute Adams to my tippet, and I began making nice drag free downstream drifts, and in a short amount of time, I landed a small rainbow trout. Once we drifted downstream from this area, Niko suggested that we switch to a larger attractor pattern, so I tied on a lime green trude for a bit, but that didn’t produce any action. Next Niko clipped off the trude and tied a large foam chubby Chernobyl to my line, and I prospected with this buoyant highly visible fly for most of the remainder of the morning. I landed two more small rainbows during the late morning float with one coming from a long riffle stretch just before lunch. The catch rate wasn’t great, but I was enjoying casting the light four weight rod and challenging myself to deliver the fly to tight spaces along the bank beneath overhanging brush and tree limbs. The river was absolutely crystal clear and when viewed from a distance appeared to be blue or aqua in color.

We pulled the raft up on the shore after the long riffle, and Niko spread out the typically splendid feast. After lunch I decided to experiment with a nymph dropper, so I tied a 20 incher below the large foam attractor, and in one nice section where the main current flowed near the bank bordering the road, I landed two rainbows on the trailing nymph. Both fish grabbed the trailer at the tail of the drift as the flies began to swing or lift.

The Raft Is Empty and Ready to Be Guided Through Rapids

The Raft Is Empty and Ready to Be Guided Through Rapids

Toward the middle of the afternoon we cautiously approached a difficult white water rapid, and Niko pulled the raft up on a rock in some slow moving water just before the drop off. We climbed out of the raft and inspected the downstream cascade, and then returned to the raft and moved all the contents on to the bank. When Niko was ready, he pushed the raft out into the current and then ran along the rocks and guided it through the roaring white water that plunged around a large midstream boulder. The raft bounced off the large exposed rock and slid toward the cliff that Niko was standing on, and then Niko moved forward and tugged the raft free of the cliff rock. This caused the inflated boat to spin back toward the middle and then gently drift out of the fast water, and Niko guided it up on to the beach below the narrow danger point. We portaged the contents of the boat in several trips and arranged everything the way it had been prior to the turbulence and continued on our way.

We Rode Through the Next White Water Section

We Rode Through the Next White Water Section

Just below the narrow chute we had just circumvented was another plunge with fast water and protruding rocks, but Niko navigated this skillfully while we remained in the raft. Roughly halfway between the whitewater stretch and Lago Hess we approached an area where the river created a still lagoon off the main channel. There were two indentations here with virtually no current, and the open areas were bordered by numerous fallen branches and logs that extended to the bottom of the deep pool. The water was so clear that I felt I’d be able to spot any trout and seeing none, I despaired of catching any fish.

Niko by this time had switched out my fly to a foam body Madam X, and he insisted that I cast into the first open area. I followed his instruction and dropped a cast in the first open space and allowed it to rest, but no fish were visible. Next we floated downstream a few feet so I was positioned to hit the second opening, and I made another cast so that the Madam X settled in the the opening but a few feet from the fallen debris on the far side of the river. Niko looked away for some reason, but as he did, I saw a large torpedo shape slowly come into view. My heart raced as the football calmly swam to the surface and sipped in the Madam X! Where did this gift from the fishing gods come from?

I set the hook and the big guy immediately began to thrash and dive. As mentioned earlier there were numerous branches and sticks that entered the river from the bank and extended to the bottom below the surface. The large fighter I was connected to made a beeline for the debris, and succeeded in wrapping my line around one of the branches. I momentarily despaired that I’d lost the fish, but Niko nudged the boat in closer to the hole so I could apply pressure from a different angle more directly above my opponent, and a miracle happened. I raised the line and it was free of the branch and the weighty trout was still attached and battling for freedom. I managed to pressure the fish from the side so that it was extracted from the still pocket containing sticks and branches, and guided it back out to the edge of the main river, and after a couple more brief dives, it was in the net. Now we could see that the fish was a hook jawed old brown, and Niko measured it to be 22″. I’d experienced a second brown trout thrill in Patagonia.

22" Brown from Rio Manso

22″ Brown from Rio Manso

We carefully released the second largest brown I’d caught in my life and continued the float and fairly quickly reached Lago Hess. By now the wind had kicked up in a major way, and Niko worked hard to position me to make some casts along the weeds near the spot where the Rio Manso entered Lago Hess, but unfortunately I was not rewarded. It was now approaching pick up time, and Niko needed to row the wind resistant raft across the lake and into the waves to get back to the exit point, so I reeled up my line and hunched into the wind and held my hat on my head. Niko was up to the challenge, and we turned the corner and entered a narrow slow moving channel. This water looked very attractive, and Niko had me prospect as we slowly moved through the channel to the take out point where the truck and trailer were waiting. In spite of my best efforts to tempt fish to the surface in the channel, it did not produce, and my fishing day was at an end.

Niko told me that toward the end of December the channel is one of the best places to fish dry flies in the evening as fish will rise to caddis and mayflies. Catching large resident lake fish on small dry flies sounds like a future experience to dream about. Overall it was another unseasonably cool day with slow action, but the 22″ brown certainly made up for a lot of fruitless casting. I have to admit that I was disappointed with the river fishing, and I wondered if the large fish remained in the lakes and left the rivers to their smaller relatives. There were still three more days to test the theory.

 

 

 

Lago Roca – 12/03/2013

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Lago Roca

Fish Landed: 4

Lago Roca 12/03/2013 Photo Album

Jane was scheduled to join me for a day of fishing on Tuesday, so we didn’t rush to get up early and instead took our time and enjoyed a relaxing breakfast. After breakfast we went to the wader room and bundled up as the weather was supposed to be similar to Monday. I actually wore my warm green jacket over two other layers to start the day. Once I suited up in my waders, we exited the lodge and discovered that Matias was once again our guide, and we were headed to Lago Roca for the day. As it turns out Lago Roca is less than a kilometer from the lodge so despite our leisurely start, we were on the water by 10AM.

Lago Roca is a lake slightly larger than the two Foncks, and was described as having fewer fish but larger fish. That sounded fine to Jane and I. I took the platform in the front of the boat while Jane sat in the back with Matias as he cranked up the outboard motor, and we sped roughly halfway up the lake and cruised in toward the eastern shore. The hill next to shore in this stretch was quite steep, so it probably meant the depth increased rapidly, and there were quite a few fallen logs providing cover in this area.

Once again as predicted it was quite windy but not as cloudy and consequently the air temperature warmed more quickly. I wore my green jacket for the boat ride, but quickly removed it and stuffed it in my dry bag before fishing. Matias instructed me to grab my six weight Scott with a sink tip line, and he attached a large bunny leach to the heavy tippet. I began covering the water by shooting long casts to shore using the technique I’d learned on Monday, and then I retrieved the fly using various speeds and pauses. This went on for quite awhile as Matias kept rowing the boat back out and into the wind to position me to cover a large amount of shoreline. The water looked great with rocks and numerous sunken deadfalls, and I shot casts into all the likely indentations in structure to attempt to draw interest from hiding fish.

Dave Grips Without Help

Dave Grips Without Help

Finally after a long period of unproductive casting I felt a heavy bump and set the hook and my six weight began to throb. The rod bounces were not quick abrupt jerks, but instead they were heavy deep thumps. I was optimistic that this might be my best fish of the trip so far, so I focused on fighting the fish. The fish immediately went deep, and I applied upward pressure as I didn’t know what type of debris might lie in the depths of the lake. Finally the fish tired a bit and I was able to gain line, but then it made a couple strong runs away from the boat, and in a final effort to reach freedom, it made another deep dive under the boat. I allowed line to shoot back through the guides and followed the fish with my rod tip. Eventually the resistance and drag had an impact, and I was able to bring the fish close to the surface, and we could all see that it was a big bad brown trout. After a few surface rolls Matias slid his long handled net beneath the bruiser and brought it into the boat for viewing.

Matias’s net had inches (not centimeters) calibrated on the bottom of the net, and we determined that the brown trout was 24″ long, thus representing the largest brown I have landed in my life. This prompted high fives all around, and then Matias lowered the big guy into the lake to revive it before the photography commenced. Matias seemed more excited than Jane and I as he snapped off six photos of one fish, but eventually he lowered the brown into the water and spent quite a bit of time reviving it before it wiggled its fins and swam away.

Another Nice Shot with Guide and Fisherman

Another Nice Shot with Guide and Fisherman

Needless to say I was re-energized by this catch and resumed casting the streamer with renewed enthusiasm. After we’d covered more of the eastern shoreline, Matias again decided to change things up, so we motored further up the lake to another shoreline near the inlet that was more shallow and contained reeds and tall grass similar to what I’d observed at Lago Fonck. Mati grabbed my fly box and decided to clip off the bunny leach and tie on a muddler minnow style fly with a big deer hair collar and a white wing. I began casting toward the grassy shore and stripping the fly and after a few casts felt a strike and set the hook. This fish fought its battle closer to the surface so I knew it wasn’t another brown, and sure enough I brought a nice 20″ rainbow to the net. The morning fishing was quite slow, but the fish caught were both over 20″, so the experience was matching what we’d been told; fewer fish but larger fish.

Jane Near Weed Bed Along the Lake

It was now approaching lunch time so Matias motored back down along the opposite shoreline from where I’d caught the brown trout, and he pulled the boat up on a nice small peninsula that jutted into the lake. There were some trees and a large fallen log here, and Mati set up the chairs and table right behind the natural windbreak, and we faced the warm sun as we indulged in another delicious lunchtime repast that included wine, bread, small quiches, and a type of chicken loaf.

While we relaxed in our lounge chairs, Matias and I spotted two substantial rises in the reeds along the shoreline beyond the base of the peninsula. While Mati put the food away and packed up the table and chairs, and while Jane soaked up the sun, I wandered around the peninsula and then along the shore for another twenty yards before I waded into the lake until I was even with the grass. I began working casts parallel to the shoreline and just beyond the line of protruding reeds and after covering 10 yards or so, I spotted a swirl on the surface and set the hook. I was connected to a nice fish and battled it for a few minutes until Matias arrived and helped land and release it. We didn’t have the net to measure, but we estimated this fish to also be twenty inches but heavier than the previous catch.

Close Up of the Head

Close Up of the Head

Matias returned to the boat and loaded the remainder of the lunch equipment, and then he and Jane pushed off and drifted over to my position and allowed me to climb in. Since it was now after lunch, I switched positions with Jane and she became the focal point of Mati’s efforts. First we stopped in the middle of the lake where there were no obstructions, and he had Jane strip out line and make casts and false casts. In a fairly short amount of time Jane was pausing on her back cast and getting a bit of rythmn. Next he taught her to grip the line with her left hand and allow line to slide through her fingers on the forward cast and then pinch to stop the line. Jane was struggling, as do many beginning fishermen, with moving her rod tip too far on the back and forward casts, but eventually she shortened the arc and threw out some decent casts. Of course making this more difficult was the constant gusting wind which increased the complexity of all the mechanics of casting.

After the casting lesson we drifted toward a grassy shoreline and Jane attempted to place some casts, but the wind and overpowering the forward cast caused her line to pile up short of the target, so Matias began to cast for her, and then allowed Jane to hold the rod and the line and concentrate on her fly. It was fun to watch Matias manage the boat and in between, shoot extraordinarily long and accurate casts out ahead of the boat and within inches of the shoreline grass. Seeing this type of casting made me realize that I need to practice double hauling in order to raise my game and be a more versatile fisherman.

Unfortunately due to the bright sun and wind, we were never able to coax a fish to rise, although Jane did see one swirl or refuse as she twitched her fly back toward the boat. It was unfortunate that Jane never experienced the thrill of a strong Patagonia fish stripping line off her reel, but I think she gained some sense of the beauty of the environment and the challenge of overcoming the elements to land large fish.

Granite Mountain Near Lago Roca

Granite Mountain Near Lago Roca

I had promised Jane that we would make it a shorter than normal day, and we had already gone beyond her expected 2PM quitting time, so Mati radioed the lodge to send a truck to pick us up. We motored back toward the launch point, but as the truck had not yet arrived, we found a large submerged weed bed and positioned the boat so I could fish the edges. From a distance the weed bed looked like a long narrow brown ribbon that stretched cross the lake. In the short amount of time over the weeds I hooked a heavy fish that escaped and then hooked and landed a rainbow in the 15 inch range. After releasing the rainbow the Rio Manso truck appeared, and we motored to the gently sloping shore and removed our belongings, took down the rods and returned to the lodge.

Four fish in five hours of fishing is not exactly hot action, but I landed the largest brown trout of my life plus two 20″ rainbows, and we had the entire lake to ourselves. I spent the day with my lovely wife, and I enjoyed watching her make large strides in casting a dry fly under extremely adverse conditions. The scenery was breathtaking, and we enjoyed sunshine most of the day. Best of all I still had four days of fishing ahead of me in the remote wilderness of western Patagonia.

Lago Fonck – 12/02/2013

Time: 11:00AM – 6:00PM

Location: Small Lake Fonck and lower end of large Lake Fonck

Fish Landed: 5

Lago Fonck 12/02/2013 Photo Album

Finally after five enjoyable days in Buenos Aires and Bariloche, Jane and I were prepared to reach our ultimate destination, Rio Manso Lodge. We repeated our routine from Sunday morning when we mistakenly thought we were being picked up, including a delicious breakfast at Lirolay Suites. Unlike Sunday, however, when we arrived at the office we met the two couples from California that would be joining us for a week at the lodge. We introduced ourselves to Monte Baker and his friend Nikki Collins and Todd Pershing and friend Mary Docek. At the scheduled time of 9:30 two trucks arrived in front of the office, and Jane and I climbed in the rear of one cab with a driver named Santiago and a passenger named Matias. We would later discover that Matias was one of our guides. The other couples climbed aboard the other truck, and we were on our way to Rio Manso Lodge.

The trip lasted 1.5 – 2 hours, and we had to reach a certain point before 11AM, as the road was open to only northbound traffic between 11AM and 1PM, and we were traveling south. When we reached the stretch of road that was one-way, it was easy to see why, as the dirt road narrowed to barely one lane and climbed high above a large lake with a monster drop off on the outside with no shoulder to serve as a margin of error. We paused at one point where we entered the national park so that our driver could purchase admission tickets for us visitors. Finally after a week of anticipation we crossed the crystal clear Rio Manso River and then made a left turn and entered the parking area of the lodge.

The Lounge Area at Rio Manso Lodge

The Lounge Area at Rio Manso Lodge

The lodge was a beautiful two story building constructed with natural logs and perched on the top of a hill with gorgeous views all around. The staff unloaded our luggage and took it to our assigned rooms while Jane and I entered the lodge and were introduced to more staff members. We went through the fishing area to the great room where a large fireplace was the centerpiece, and we were immediately offered drinks. After a brief amount of time to tour the impressive facility, Diana, our concierge for the week, announced that the fishing members of our group should prepare to fish. The guides would be waiting outside when we were ready. This was music to my ears.

I hurried upstairs and gathered the necessary gear from my luggage and returned to the wader room where I organized my fishing belongings into a dry bag and pulled on my waders and wading boots. The wind and chilly temperatures we experienced in Bariloche extended their reach south to Rio Manso as apparently a cold front had moved through on Sunday, so I wore two layers plus a raincoat to serve as a windbreaker on top. When I was prepared, I stepped outside and was greeted by Matias, the very same person who rode in the truck with us from Bariloche. Matias first asked what types of rods and lines I had, and after hearing I had a 6 weight with a floating line and an interchangeable spool holding a sinking line, he suggested I configure the six weight with the sinking line and also rig my four weight with a floating line.

Our Boat for Fishing Lago Fonck on Monday

Our Boat for Fishing Lago Fonck on Monday

We threw all our gear in the truck and jumped in, and then the driver transported us a short distance on a rough dirt road to the shores of Lago Fonck. It probably took 20 minutes to make this trip, and when we arrived Monte and Todd were already assembling their rods and preparing to fish with their guide Niko. There were two flat bottom boats pulled up on the shore with outboard motors in the rear and oars positioned in the center position. Carpeted casting decks were evident in the front and rear of the boat. While Matias helped launch the other boat with Monte and Todd, I assembled my rods, and when Matias returned his attention to our boat, I was prepared and excited to begin my fishing adventure in Patagonia.

The wind was gusting and the cool temperatures that probably never surpassed the high 50’s cut through my layers. I was wishing I’d brought a fourth layer as ridiculous as that may sound for late spring in the southern hemisphere. The other boat appeared to head immediately to the larger Lake Fonck so Matias motored a short distance, and we began fishing not too far from the boat launch area. Matias instructed me to begin with my four weight, and he tied on one of the chubby Chernobyls that I’d purchased. It had two large cream colored poly wings on top of a tan foam body and a dubbed yellow tan abdomen. This fly didn’t provoke any action so after a brief trial Matias clipped it off, sifted through my three fly boxes, and much to my surprise tied on one of the Chernobyl ants that I tied myself. This was rather flattering, but would it work?

It didn’t take long before I hooked a small rainbow, but halfway between the point of take and the net it escaped. I lost my first South American hook up, although I wasn’t really disappointed because the rainbow was probably an eight inch fish. I continued casting the Chernobyl with the pink foam indicator on top and eventually spotted a rise, set the hook, and felt significant weight. Unfortunately this fish after leaping from the water made a sharp move away from me and snapped off the fly as if the hook was a minor annoyance. I was quite disappointed with this turn of events because this fish carried some significant weight, and I was now 0-2. Matias consoled me, but also admonished me for trying to pressure the fish immediately upon hook set. He suggested that I set the hook and then lower the rod and allow the fish to take some line before stripping or reeling in line. This sounded reasonable, but I was in an extreme adrenalin fueled state trying to land my first Patagonia fish, so I took some deep breaths and tried to relax. It was very difficult.

Lunch Almost Ready

Lunch Almost Ready

Just before lunch we drifted into a small cove on the east side of the lake, and as I cast I spotted a dark image slowly cruising a couple feet out from the bank. I semi-calmly picked up my fly and cast it five feet ahead of the direction of the cruiser. I held my breath as the fish swerved slightly to the right and elevated a bit, but it was a refusal as the fish dropped back a few inches and passed my offering. Matias moved the boat a bit further so I could cast under some overhanging branches, but then we retreated to a nice grassy beach area so he could test the firmness of the ground and grass as a lunch location. It wasn’t long before Niko, Todd and Monte arrived, and the guides set up the tables for lunch. Niko fired up a grill and cooked steaks, and Matias got out the appetizers and poured glasses of wine. I continued to cast from shore to the area where I’d seen the cruiser, and Monte walked further along the shore to the place with the overhanging limbs. He was stripping a white streamer and hooked and landed a nice brook trout while the rest of us looked on.

I clipped off my Chernobyl ant and tried a size 14 caddis while we waited for the guides to set up lunch, and then I spotted a solitary mayfly, so I tried one of my size 16 gray comparaduns as a callibaetis imitation. Nothing worked, so I put my rod in the boat and joined the others for lunch. The lunches were amazing with wine, beer and water; appetizers, salad, a main course and dessert. I don’t typically eat dessert at lunch and dinner, but at Rio Manso I was consuming sweets at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

After lunch Niko and crew returned to the large upper lake while Matias and I continued to prospect the edges of the small lake. The wind really kicked up in the afternoon, and Matias felt we were better off in the more intimate and protected small lake, and I could see merit in his logic. In addition because of the significant wave activity, he decided to go to streamers and subsurface techniques. He looked at my fleece wallet and much to my surprise selected a gray ghost, so I tied that on my six weight sinking line and fished it along the edges of the lake. It would have been a thrill to catch a fish on this streamer that I tied 20 years ago, but unfortunately it didn’t produce.

Matias changed tactics once again and fired up the outboard, and we bucked the waves and wind and went through a small channel that connects the lakes and stopped at the very southern end of the large lake. He pulled out the fly box containing flies purchased at Royal Gorge Angler and extracted a large olive streamer that had a tan rabbit strip and dumbbell eyes and attached this to my line. I began chucking this weighted hunk of fur toward the reeds that lined the south shore. I was having difficulty getting the fly to the surface because of the sinking line, so Matias demonstrated how to make a roll cast to bring the fly up and then quickly backcast twice and then shoot line on the final forward cast. This greatly improved my efficiency, and I finally felt something hammer my fly so I set the hook and played a 15 inch brook trout to the net. I was pretty excited with this first catch, but would later realize this was small compared to the average Rio Manso lake fish.

A 15" Brook Trout

A 15″ Brook Trout

After this success I worked the streamer for a couple hours with no success other than refinement of the roll cast and backcast routine. By 4PM my arm, back and shoulder were beginning to ache so we returned to the smaller more sheltered lake, and I switched back to the four weight with the Chernobyl ant. Matias rowed us into position upwind of a shallow cove with several long clumps of reeds and tall grass protruding from the water. I began to shoot long casts into the reeds or right in front of them using the strong tailwind and finally began to see success. Between 4PM and 5:30PM I landed four nice rainbow trout in the 16-20 inch range on the Chernobyl ant. After covering the inner edge of the weeds, Matias allowed the wind to blow the boat over top of some fairly dense grass and reeds so that I could place some long casts in a small but deep lagoon bordered on all sides by vegetation. I had a refusal from a nice fish in this area and then landed a rainbow.

A Nice Rainbow in 17-19 Inch Range

A Nice Rainbow in 17-19 Inch Range

By 5:30PM I was quite weary and chilled so Matias radioed the lodge and a truck arrived to transport us back to a roaring fire. Jane was there to greet me after getting acquainted with the other non-fishing guests. The weather provided very difficult conditions on Monday with cold temperatures and strong wind, but I’d managed to land five decent fish and acclimated to my guide and the fishing methods of Rio Manso. The fishing wasn’t what I expected, but it was only day one and surely the weather and temperatures would improve. Would they?