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Tierra del Fuego
German Florian Baumann had Tierra del Fuego in Argentina on his "really itching list". This spring he scratched the itch.
All of us have spots they want to fish. Be it Atlantic Salmon in New Foundland, Trout in the Rockies or GTs on the Seychelles.
The spot on the "really itching list" that kept being on my mind was Tierra del Fuego.
I checked the funds available, tick.
So I started researching where I really wanted to go. There are the big Rivers, Rio Grande or the Rio Gallegos. I watched some videos, a lot of wind, to the point to be blown out. Not exactly what I wanted to do. Then I heard from the Irigoyen. A small river, requiring precise casting, trout plenty large enough, only one lodge, four fishermen a week. Pretty interesting.
I got in touch
with the guys who are selling the lodge in Europe. We identified a week and then I placed the booking. Christian, an old fishing friend of mine, heard about this and wanted to join. So he booked as well.
Then I received the brief for the trip. Heavy stuff in the truest sense of the word. The rod recommendation was an 8 weight, 10 feet, even though the river was protected from the wind serious weight forward lines and the absolute catch, leaders 15 lbs, 20 lbs and 25 lbs straight Maxima ultra green. Nymphs heavily weighted with tungsten heads, with rubber legs tied on carp hooks, leeches tied intruder style. The list sounded serious.
The time before the trip
was intense in the job, so was I almost surprised when I was finally at the airport, bags checked in and full of anticipation. A long flight ahead. Finally we arrived in Buenos Aires. A first small shock, an airline representative calling my name, "one of your bags is missing, it wasn’t loaded".
So I looked for the other one, thank God the one with the gear showed up. The missing one surfaced on the same day, the lock missing, but nothing else.
My friend and I were met at the airport by a lovely lady, who took us to the hotel. She knew quite a bit about fishing, Argentina and specifically about BA. A lovely city, which is seeing, due to the social divide, an increasing number of pickpocketing, trick theft and also armed robbery.
We spent two nice days in town, figured out public transport, managed to get really good food and participated in a lovely wine tasting in a cool wine shop.
We moved on from the meat pots
of Buenos Aires. The check in was a little bumpy. Aeolians Argentina has a 15 kilo limit for check in luggage BUT you can check in a second bag with sports gear, like fishing stuff. Unfortunately not all check in personnel at the BA airport knows about that. A few words in Spanish from our handling lady solved the issue.
So a fairly large Airbus started south, the flight from BA to Ushuaia is about three hours and I have rarely experienced such a large plane to behave like an unruly pony during the approach to the runway.
In Ushuaia it was crowded like hell, but both bags were there. We went out of he airport and were immediately approached by Tobi, one of the guides for the week. He also found the third angler in a heartbeat, no signs required. He knows anglers obviously. The third one on the trip was a nice American by the name of Murray.
All bags went on the back
of a pickup and we were on our way to the lodge. The beginning of the trip was paved road. Then we left the tarmac and the road got dusty - and so did our bags. Underway we had a stop at a ship wreck that the skipper put on the beach, perhaps on purpose for the insurance money.
The talk about the river and the weather was anything but encouraging. The water was low and the sun high, a pretty unfortunate combination for seaport fishing in freshwater.
Finally we arrived at the lodge. In the picture you can see two of the cool vehicles that were used to haul us around. The small, green one is a Kawasaki mule, 4 wheel drive and wicked fast.
we checked the gear. My flies found kind nods from the guides. I bought the right stuff, including poly leaders in various sink classes
After a walk the first dinner was served. The chef was Colombian, young, creative and really good. Unfortunate for my weight – especially considering the dessert selection.
The first day
saw no action in terms of fish. So we were enjoying the scenery, honing our casting skills and waited for better conditions.
Precise casting is absolutely important. The holding spots on the river are small and deep. This requires super heavy flies that need to land in the spot that the guide points out to you with pinpoint accuracy.
The sunny weather was still up during the second day. At least I caught a brown trout and then a 35 cm sea trout on a Sunray Shadow. This fly raised about a half dozen more fish but none took it.
Then, after a long siesta, we started the evening session. Finally some clouds and a little drizzle. In the dark a fish took the Rio Grande Queen, a leech pattern tied intruder style, and hookset and… the rod broke in the butt section. The guide told me to keep the pressure on the fish. A really valuable instruction when you are hand-lining a 7 pound sea trout.
So there was my first Argentinian sea trout and I was pretty proud of it.
The next day
we changed guides, as we were three anglers it was decided that the best way would be to have two days of single guiding for each of us, so my friend got his two days and I fished with Murray, who by then had two nice sea trout around 12 lbs under his belt. The rain had disappeared and the morning was a little slow. Two small fish for me and a 4 lbs sea trout for my American partner.
The afternoon started at the sea pool. This holds a species called robalo beside the trout. Robalo is a member of the perch family. I caught about ten of them up to 5 lbs. They take mainly olive flies and put up a good fight. Other than the trout, some of them are kept for the kitchen. Fried on the skin they are really tasty. Murray hooked a very decent trout, but it escaped while he tried to beach it.
The scenery is magic. A lot of dead wood. The living trees shaped by the constant wind. Not a single trace of civilization on the banks of the river. A long trip, true, but magnificent untouched nature at the end of it.
The evening session on that day was again a clear sky affair. I fished a grassy bank with a black, rubber legged nymph. A solid take, a short, furious fight and I held a 9 pound fish in my hands. What a lovely evening.
The next day
the sun blasted down again. The guides came up with the idea to hit the deepest pool, called The Black Hole, with a not so serious attempt from all three of us. A cooler with white wine, beer, cheese, nuts plus a few chairs were riding in the back of the truck. The deal was that one of us set up a fast sinking rig, try the deep hole, the others were sitting by the cooler, sipping on their drink, sharing stories and cheering the one fishing. This yielded no fish, but rested the other pools under adverse weather conditions and had three half drunk anglers heading back for the lunch and the obligatory siesta.
The evening was better, a 2 lbs fish for me and a 5 pounder for Murray.
Then it was my turn
to have a guide to myself. The weather was cloudy. A fish rolled at the big fish pool, a stealthy approach, clear instructions where to put the leech, a solid take and - adhering to the Irigoyen style - a no nonsense fight, helped by the straight 20 lbs tippet. Finally I could land the biggest fish, a nice 9.5 lbs trout.
My afternoon at the upper part
of the river I shared. with my friend Christian, who hadn’t been catching a fish so far. We took the Argo. An amazing vehicle. Build by Canadians, this six by six amphibious car is equipped with a 23 bhp Briggs and Stratton engine that gives it a fantastic performance on land and in the water.
We had high hopes for this trip. We heard active fish but all of them were unfortunately uncooperative.
On the way back
we entered the water and a large trout was lazily moving away from the lights of the Argo.
Before I knew it it was the last day of fishing. Again a guide for myself. A fish of 2 lbs and then a further large fish about 9 pounds but the fish escaped after we had him on the bank.
The lunch was a fantastic Assado, the Gaucho style BBQ.
The last session
of the trip started in pouring rain (which helped the fishing in the week after ours significantly). Start was at the sea pool again.
I had a rock solid take and in the first few minutes of playing this fish I thought it to be a good trout. It turned out to be a 7 pound Robalo
We switched to a Sunray Shadow. This fly raised a few pretty big trout without hooking when retrieved “properly”, a dead drift of the shadow brought the final fish of the trip for me, a 4 pound brown trout.
The lodge had set up
a nice buffet in the evening, while our stuff was drying in our cabin.
The team that took care of us
was really great.
The already mentioned chef. The ladies Laura and Lou taking care of the rooms and serving Jonny’s (the chef) masterly meals. Jonny II who was responsible to keep the fires going, get the generator going and hot water.
The two guides who got us to the fish were both good but quite different in style and gear preference.
Tobi was more the get the sink tip line with a fast sinking poly leader person. He was also the livelier of the two.
Packet (Patrick) was more quite and considerate. His style was get the floating like, a long leader and really heavy flies.
I have learned a lot from both.
The trip back to the airport
was different than the way in, the rain had turned the dirt road into a pretty slippery surface, the truck was oftentimes sliding sidewards. Packet, who claims he taught Michael Schumacher how to drive, put a significant amount of substance to the claim.
When we hit paved roads we dropped of Christian, who had a second week in a Chilean lodge on the Rio Grande, where he fared much better.
At the airport Murray and I parted. He was on a different flight to BA than I. As we, to use his expression, didn’t hate each other we may get into some tarpon in Florida.
One last night in BA and then I was on my way back to Europe.
Was it worth it
is always an interesting question. I think it was, I didn’t get one of the really big fish but I had four good seatrout and worked for each of them. I have seen Tierra del Fuego, an amazing part of the world.
What I always enjoy are the people you meet.