When planning out this trip, Eric and I made sure of everything. The places we wanted to go, things we wanted to do and the means of how we were going to do them. I don’t think there is really anything you can do to prepare for the avalanche of individuals that you meet on your travels. Everyday it’s a new face, a dozen new names, and just as quickly when you met them, they disapear into the night. It is a fun yet at the same time, a difficult lifestyle to get used to. I like to think about the paths these people have endured to get to this crossroad of here and now. And with the brief time we share together over a beer, or a pick up game of cards, or even just sharing a mirror to brush your teeth, we make a profound effect on one another.
Just the other night at our hostel in Esquel, this local funk band from Buenos Aires decided to play a free gig for all the people in the tents outside. As I watched, it was more than just a concert, it was a reminder of the unity of all those who travel. Language barriers didn’t matter. Everyone danced.
The following day Raul took all of us out to a connecting lake called Lago Futalaufquen which then pours into the famous Estrecho de los Monstruos aka the stretch of Monsters. When trout where introduced to Argentina back in the early 1900’s, many of the rainbows imported from the states and the browns from the England and Europe would eventually end up in the lakes at one point of their lifecycle or another. The story of the stretch of Monsters dates back into the 1970’s when the sport of fly fishing started gaining popularity and deticate aka rich travelers slowly began trickling into Argentina to fish for them. Back then these fish in the “Monster” had not seen much if any fishing pressure since their introduction. So by the time the fly fisherman came around they were pulling out 8/10 kilogram sized trout. Just huge for those that don’t understand the metric system. Nowadays their are still some good size fish in there but nothing compared to the days of old. We hooked into them using sinking line with a wooley bugger casted towards shore and dropping hoppers into the sandy reed beds.
Los Alerces National Park reminds me a lot of Glacier Park back home. It is a romantic place filled with jagged mountain tops that drop imediately into numerous large lakes at their base. Raul, his guides Alvardo and Geronimo, Bill, Eric, the clients and I loaded into three 14 ft boats and left the mud of the spring creek beds for some lake and river fishing. We left the shores along Lago Verde and headed out the towards the Rio Rivadavia in search of brown trout along the weed beds. The scenery only added to the large bows and browns we hooked that day.
The other day we returned with the group to Laguna de Williemanco for a day for lake fishing. When we were expecting the worst in weather conditions from previous experience, instead we arrived to dead calm waters. Both Eric and I have been baffled by how unpredictable the weather here in the Patagonia is. IT isn’t like the mountains back home in the West are. There you could usually expect rain in the afternoon but here it comes and goes on a much different schedule. Shade and sunlight temperatures differ greatly and a dead calm day can quickly change into a huirricane in a blink of an eye. It makes it very hard to know how to dress for the elements. This time around in WIlliemanco there were no three foot waves to battle. This actually made the fishing harder because the fish would see you sooner and then spook. A lot of the fishing we have been doing is sight fishing aka spotting the trout and then casting to it before it sees you. It is not so much fishing as it is hunting. We found that the rainbow trout would be cruising along the sand flats and then hang out around the reed beds. It is not the kind of place where you would think to find a species like trout. It felt more like bass fishing.
I have to hand it to the Argentineans when it comes to cooking there beef. They don’t mess around. Combine culinary expertise with meals on a fly fishing guided trip and you have yourself a recipe for success. This last week and a half, Eric and I have been joining up up with Raul, Bill Marts from the Redding Fly Shop and four of his clients on a fly fishing trip throughout Los Alerces National Park. Every day we were treated to the best damn lunches we have ever had. On this particular day Raul fixed up his famous parillia aka riverside BBQ of the best cuts of meat found on the cow. With his made-from-scratch meal, he introduced us to a special Argentinean sauce called “Chimmychurry” Basically you mix 4 parts salt with 2 parts oregano, red pepper, four cloves of chopped up garlic, olive oil and water. Let it “ferment” for about 3-4 days and then apply it to beef on the grill after you have braized both sides. I have never known beef to taste so good. It beats the hell out of homemade sandwiches.
The other day Raul took us to this great little spring creek called El Canal while the other clients floated on a nearby stream. I am really loving this kind of fishing. The constant, cold, slow moving water and with the thick vegetation all around it creates a perfect environment for large rainbows and brown trout. The visability is superb. You are literally hunting and stalking for trout.
In many places we would have to wade through marshy areas, where to our discovery, six inches of muddy water can drop to 2-3 ft without notice. At the same time we would suddenly see a big brown holding in about 6 inches of water far from the main creek channel. We found trout in places I would never think to look and hooked into plenty using large nympths and the occasional hopper pattern.
This is also the creek Eric and I found ourselves completely lost in after we were separated from the rest of the group. We followed the main channel and they went another way. This small mishap turned into a three hour trudge through mud and thick bamboo groves. Opps. We ended up finding our way back to the car and needless to say we slept like rocks that night.
I think probably one of the most obvious indications that you are in a foreign place would have to be found in the wildlife there. So much of the Patagonia reminds me of Montana. You have the same types of trees, climate, big mountains but when you start comparing the wildlife you get some subtle and other times completely different varieties. You can imagine the reality check I got when this bright pink flamingo flew over our heads the other day when we were fishing. It seemed really out of place to me.
For any fisherman who is familiar with the Patagonia region of Argentina, the name Arroyo Pescado should signal sirens. It´s known for being arguably the best spring creek fishery in the country and first hand accounts from previous fisherman have described it as being so good it´s almost boring.
Eric and I came to it with a guided group of fisherman from Washington state with local fishing guide Raul San Martin and Bill Marts from The Fly Shop in Redding, CA. For all the build up people had been giving it, at first glance, it didn´t look like much. The creek resides roughly 30km from Esquel and it flows slowly through a huge open valley in the heart of the Patagonia tundra. What it lacked in mountainous asthetics, it made up for in the fishing and the quiet beauty of the wind swept grasslands.
Driving up to it along the mazes of off-the-beaten-trail gravel roads, you drive past Argentina guachos herding their merino sheep and watch over head as flamingos and spotted ducks give themselves a safer distance from the new arrivals. It is the kind of place where you won´t find another footprint and the fish act as if they have never seen a fisherman before and with good reason. The property that the creek runs through is owned by a Bozeman Montana man who in the spirit of conservation, maintains a strict limit of access no more than eight fisherman to the water system on any given day. In order to fish it we had to pay $210 pesos (roughly $70).
All I can say it was well worth the cost.
We are still alive despite getting seriously lost in a bamboo jungle. We have been fishing with Raul San Martin around the Esquel area. I haven´t had any internet access and even now I need to keep this short. Look for a posting within the next couple of days. So much to tell. Soon, -M
I´ve noticed that traveling through the more rural areas of Argentina, you get a big sense of the small town feel. Often times any given individual will work two completely different jobs or own numerous random businesses within a town. In our case, our hotel owners Rueben and Mimi spent their mornings cleaning up their hotel then spent the rest of the afternoon listening to music at their ice cream shop a couple blocks down the street. This ain´t no thirty-one flavors. Argentinan´s love their ice cream almost as much as their meat. I´m not a food critic, but I can´t remember the last time chocolate ice cream has tasted so dreamlike. I like to think that is because Argentina is a place in the world that still takes great care and pride in the foods they prepare and the goods they make mostly likely from the fact that each town produces all of these goods locally. Away from Buenos Aires there are no Walmarts or any other small business killing superpowers. This is the ultimate small town feel and Eric and I were welcomed warmly. This was proven when Mimi joked with us saying that if we came back from fishing empty handed we could fish out of her freezer that was stocked full of 30+ inch rainbow trout.
Raul met up with us an took us to one of the best yet unexpected places to get a fishing license, the gas station down the street. For $300 pesos or $100 American dollars we purchased a seasonal pass for fly fishing in the Patagonia region. We were startled to learn that upon our arrival into the Tierra del Fuego in a couple weeks we can expect to pay a $1000 pesos for that region. Yikes. We will worry about that when the time comes. From there Raul recommended that we consider fishing at a privately own lake that he knew of. Throughout all of the fishable waters around Esquel, only two require additional charges for access. The famous Arroyo Pescado, said to be the country´s best spring creek and the Laguna de Willimanco, a small private lake that Raul said had rainbows that fought like Tarpon. For as poor as Eric and I are for this trip, who are we to question a guy like Raul. We choose door number two.
From just a short drive out of town we barreled our way down a dirt road and through numerous cattle gates to the lake and came to look upon gorgeous aqua blue waters unspoiled by the presence of land owners. Large stallions sprinted and kicked to a safe view point as we rigged up our Sage rods and listened to Raul offer pointers about the fishing. For as beautiful as the lake was it was like starring down the barrell of a hurricane. Forty knot winds blasted us and bent our rid tips in the wind. Raul explained that he had a busy day ahead of him and that he would be back to pick us up here around 9 p.m. Sure thing. He even made sure to show us how to get out of the wind by hiding behind a few large bushes.
This lake offers a large sand flat off the shoreline that extends about 100 yards. We waded out into waist deep water where the wind was kicking up three feet high waves. These rainbow trout would gather in along the flats cruising back and forth, feeding on small shrimp on the lake bed. For us it was a delicate balance of bracing for wave impact and then trying to spot these pigs inbetween the wave breaks. Sight fishing is a lot like knowing a secret plot for a surprise party. You know it´s coming but you´re not really sure when and how and then all of a sudden a dark mass materializes in the water and starts swiming your way and the realizations of “Holy shit is is a big bow headed my way´´ sinks in.
To see the fish is one thing. To cast accurately to it in the constant state of hurricane was another. We missed many o fish but for the few perfect casts, they hit our prince nympths like a Harry Potter book. The result was a intense fight of long runs and jumps that left our arms sore at the end of the day. We couldn´t have asked for a better day of fishing. Welcome to the Patagonia.
After a no show of our package from the states that we had been waiting on in Tigre, Eric and I decided to come back in two weeks to Buenos Aires and get going on our search for trout. This entailed us having to take a thirty hour bus ride westward to Bariloche and then head south to the small mountain town of Esquel.
The bus systems here in Argentina, altough long, are a pretty cheap and scenic way to get around the country. The seating is not what you would think a bus seat would be. When we were expecting a 30 hours ride from hell, we were plesantly surprised to be greeted with lazyboy type seating with plenty of room to stretch out.
As comfortable as a 30 hour bus ride can be, it was still tiring and by the time we got to Esquel we were wiped out. We ended up meeting with a local legend fly fishing guide Raul San Martin. Raul is a stud. This guy is in his fifties and has been fishing the Patagonia region since he was twelve. We arrived with a room reserved by Raul at this really nice hotel and the promise of getting into some rainbows the next day.
There is something about being in a strange unfamiliar place that you sometimes get those craving for homestyle creature comforts. Exuasted but determined, Eric and I decided to make a feast for ourselves comprising of spagetti, wheat bread and Nesquik chocolate milk. The rest of the evening was spent redeeming myself in our rummy game and polishing off two bottles of wine. Salute!
On our train rides between our hostel in Tigre and the ciudad de Buenos Aires, beggars, musicians and people selling random items make there way through each train car in hopes of getting small change from passengers. One man who made his living playing his accordian, (pictured here) saw Eric and I from the other side of the car and shouted to us. After approaching us and realizing that neither of us understood anything he was saying he spoke these words.
“Repeate! Only Love can save the world repeate!´´
I thought about that man the rest of the afternoon. At least on man has figured out a solution.
Some friends of our emailed us some pictures of some of the stuff we have done together. I thought I´d share them with all of you. -M
If there is one thing other than huge trout that Argentina is known for is their pride in their beef. The other night at our hostel in Tigre a group of us decided that we wanted to host a Argentinean BBQ for all the travelers. Enter stage left Eduardo. Eduardo is the ¨do all man¨ around the hostel. In our broken Spanish we asked him about the large grills out back and what we would need for an authentic Argentianean Asado (BBQ). The next thing we know we are following him across the street to the local butcher shop where a wall of hanging beef beckoned to us in carniverous delight. Eduardo took the reigns and started firing off orders to his friend behind the counter. These people don´t mess around when it comes to backyard cusine. We loaded an entire shopping cart full of what would be the equivilant of what seemed like 1/4 of a cow including prime rib, tenderloins, sausages, a couple chickens and eight large bottles of vino.
It is common to cook over wood on a huge open grill. Eduardo left that part to the Americanos. Not ones to refuse a challenge, especially when it comes to setting a bon fire we quickly got to work. Flames eight feet high spewed out the top of the homemade grill. Opps.
An hour later as the hellfire calmed to coals, we watched Eduardo prepare the meat. Salt. Lots and lots of salt. According to him, the meat will only soak up as much as it needs for the proper amount of flavor. Next he placed the meat about a foot over the coals where it slowly cooked for about an 45 minutes.
Once the meat looked about finished, Eduardo excused himself to walk to the trees in the back only to return with branches of Laurel in each hand. With a small grin he laid them over the meat and let them smoke for about another ten minutes. Lord have mercy! Easily the best beef I have ever had. I could get used to this lifestyle. It´s a good thing we have six months left of this trip. Tuesday we leave for Bariloche then down to Esquel to finally get our lines wet. Arroyo Pescado is said to be the best spring creek to fly fish.
Every Sunday in Buenos Aires the streets fill up with locals and tourists alike for the weekend markets filled with just about anything the mind can imagine. It is the kind of place where literally high and low, every where you look there are people selling their goods and performing for pesos. It is a lot to take in. Eric and I walked around today with out Brazilian friends Solano and Taiana exploring the shops and submersing ourselves head first into the local culture.
I suppose this image is a lot like how both Eric and I have been feeling these last couple of days in Tigre. Awkward image angle and just plain overwhelmed with everything. This place is truely amazing but the fact that our spanish or as the locals call it “castellano” (casta jano) is so poor, we find ourselves in a new strange experience. You never really pay much attention to language and asking for simple things back in the states. But as we found out quickly here, it can be a very helpless and intimating feeling. Usually it is just gives you some unexpected surprises. We ordered food the other day with some new found friends from our hostel and ended up getting blood sausage and something that resembled bull testicles. Pretty sure they were. You truely do learn something new every day and definately learn from your mistakes. Having a ball in BA -M
We made it. Being in a foreign place like Buenos Aire is a lot like being a kid lost in a toy store with out his mom. Overwhelming yet inticing. I´m sure we will be able to find our way through but it is definately a bit of a culture shock. Actually who am I kidding it´s a huge trip. Turned out our hostel was 45 minutes outside of Buenos Aires in the city of Tigre. This was a rude awakening at 1 a.m. in a airport after a whole day of traveling. Throw in the fact that the spanish we though we knew went right out the window as we sped past the stray dogs along the deserted, sketchy grafittied streets in a bottomed out cab…. We find ourselves having an adventure. After a successful mission of ordering cheeseburgers (the only spanish we knew), we are coming to our senses and dialing down our bearings. After a day or two we kick start our travels and will head south into the Patagonia. I´m planning on getting some pictures up here soon. More to come. -M