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Fly Fishing in Patagonia, Argentina

By David Kotok
Special to The New Jersey Angler

     Patagonia in South America is a long way to go for trout fishing. Itís worth it. Last January I made my second trip to the border between Argentina and Chile.  I flew to Buenos Aires, switched planes to Bariloche and traveled a hundred miles by jeep to El Bolson. After a few successful trout fishing days on the Rio Puelo, I made my first visit to Alerces Park.

     The target was big trout.

     Perhaps the best day was on Lake Menedez, a huge body of water fed by glacier runoffs on both ends. The water is nearly as clear as tap water which makes depth judgment, deceptive. That also requires greater skill from the fisherman.

     These are wild Patagonian brown and rainbow trout. They see well and do not have many visitors. False casting must be kept to a minimum to avoid "fining" the fish. The slightest unnatural disturbance in the water or the air above will be sufficient to spook them.
Patagonia Fishing

     Just getting to Lake Menendez is a substantial enterprise: An hour ride in a high-speed boat across two lakes followed by portage half a mile to Lake Menendez. The run on Menendez requires another hour.

     At the end of Menendez,. where a glacial stream feeds the head water, there is a place called "Rainbow Flats."

     The sun was strong; the shelter of the mountains kept the wind calm. The water was flat. I'd already taken a few nice rainbows on Clouser minnows and dark green and black streamers when I saw a dragonfly.

     I asked my guide, Kent Schoenauer, about dragonfly imitations in Argentina. Kent is not one for long speeches. "Try it," he said.

Fishing Lodges and Camps

     I had a few Chernobyl ants in my vest and tied on a large black one with a gray bottom (see article). After two false casts, the Chernobyl, at about 70 feet, landed on the flat surface.

     The water exploded in five seconds. When that rainbow trout jumped out of the water with the fly in his mouth, the entire fish was in the air. I hadn't set the line tight, tried to set the hook, yanked the fly out of the fish's mouth and slumped back at the end of the boat. I'd never seen a rainbow jump that high, that fast, in my life.Chernobyl Ant

     We repositioned the boat and tried it again.  Ten seconds and slam.

     In the next two-and-a-half hours I took fifteen rainbows averaging twenty inches.  Action was continuous.  Schoenauer has been guiding in Patagonia for about 25 years.  He watched the Chernobyls work on these rainbows and said, "I've never seen anything like this."

     As luck would have it, I only carried three Chernobyls from New Jersey to Argentina.  Now they were gone.

    We broke for lunch; the wind came up so we switched back to streamers.

     Schoenauer said he knew a spot for large browns.  By the time we got there, the wind was blowing 15 to 20 miles per hour.  A sink tip with a 150 gram shooting head and a number 6 gray Clouser minnow was about all one could throw with any hope of not getting stabbed in the back of the neck with the hook.

     We were getting pounded in front of a rock outcropping in the open lake.  It was getting late and we had a long ride home ahead of us.  Then it happened.

     A fast strip of the Clouser, away from the rocks, teased out the brown trout: 27 inches, nearly seven pounds.

     We didn't want to hurt the fish, so we kept him in the water and only lifted him out for a photograph.  He's still in Lake Menendez, in case anyone wants to visit him.

    It's easy to get to Patagonia: Fly to Buenos Aires, connect to Bariloche. Schoenauer will pick you up at the airport, then on to Bolson. Patagonia Adventures will do all the rest for you.  For great scenery and comfort, fish the Rio Puelo.

     With only a little more effort, try the magnificent territory of Alerces Park.  You can fish every day for two weeks and never cover the same water twice.  The lodge is rustic: Electricity is generated every evening for about four hours.  The Iast stretch of the drive is over gravel for about 50 miles and past the real Butch Cassidy ranch.  Take a day off and visit the Patagonian Express.

     I plan to do so Patagonia fishing with my friend, Kent Scboenauer, again.  He can be reached at the following address: Patagonia Adventures, P Hube 418, El Bolson, R.N. 8430 Argentina.

Editors Note:  David R. Kotok is the Chief Investment Officer of Cumberland Advisors, Inc., a Vineland-based financial advisor. Reach him at P.O. Box 663, Vineland, NJ 08362-0663 or e-mail to dkotok@cumber.com.


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