South Patagonia on a Budget - The Lakes
Published Feb 20th 2009
Part 2 Lake Strobel and Rio Santa Cruz
By Rolandas Minčinauskas
Trip to lake Strobel
After a long ten days in the desert it was nice to get a warm shower at our Sleepers Inn Hostel and with the help of Manuel and the barbecue we recharged our batteries in the evening.
The schedule was very tight, so the very next day we had to head north to a famous and unique lake, Lake Strobel.
Morning… still with heavy heads after feasting with Manuel and his family. The truck was delayed for about four hours, so we had to be very quick in packing our stuff.
The distance was more than 600 kilometers with 400 kilometers of gravel road. I would not say that it was difficult, but driving is not relaxing. We reached our destination after eight hours.
The meeting point was set at Tamel Aik on Ruta 40. We were met by Gerardo, the keeper of Estancia Pecho Blanco, and followed after his Toyota truck.
The same evening we moved our belongings to Gerardo's truck and started our butt-shaking trip through the rocks up to the lake. The distance was not long, something like 25 kilometers by road, but it took us four hours.
We reached the magnificent lake in the darkness and could not see its beauty. The house we lived in was perfect according to my standard. It was an old concrete bricks shelter used for gaucho purposes. There were six beds in it - and a gas lamp. A small kitchen was attached to the house as well.
There you could really feel the lake breathe and we could even see bright starts through the small holes in the metal roof. Really romantic. Seriously!
The first morning was like a scene from an action movie where the soldiers are stuffing their vests with cartridges, cleaning the guns and fixing the most heavy duty weapons.
The morning was windy so I used my light double hand rod with shooting head and a sinking tip. The flies were all kinds of zonkers, streamers, nymphs even muddlers...
As always before fishing we - Algis, Tadas and I - gathered together to please the water gods and share our whiskey with them.
This is an old tradition, which I believe makes the relation between the fisherman and the flywater much better.
And it helped...
But frankly speaking I don't know how much rookie a fisherman must be in order not hook a fish within first fishing hour.
What can I say? It is a vacation when you get satisfaction even though you have to work hard.
What can I say? Everybody knows what I mean.
FISH FISH FISH around! Everywhere schools of large fish.
On the third day we faced very nice and gentle weather conditions, so we started experimenting with nymphs and exiting fishing with dries.
I was using all kinds of heavy nymphs, but pink and black were the main colors in this lake for all patterns.
Regarding dries - the best method was to use big foam flies like the Chernobyl Ant, which is a good floater and easy to see.
The most exiting scenes were when we stood on the cliff some 3-4 meters above the water level and the water is so clear that you can't even imagine how deep it is. The fish appear from nowhere. It is so silvery and shiny that you can see only a one meter long dark line coming for your fly.
What else I can say? Those rainbows are really acrobats and will pull your backing out quickly while jumping. What can be better?
Final - Santa Cruz River at the town Piedrabuena
This is a huge river, which starts on west part of Patagonia in lake Argentino. Camping is very easy on the island Pavon, which is so well organized with showers and toilets, barbecue and fireplaces and most important with threes what gives nice shelter from the heavy winds.
You can even rent a cabin if you are lucky, but we were in a tent as always.
When we arrived at Piedrabuena our good mood disappeared. We became witnesses of the global warming process. Lake Argentino is fed by glaciers and due to rapidly melting ice the water was more than one meter above normal level.
In other words when a huge amount of milky water passes you, it's really difficult to see where the fish is holding. I had a lot of advice on how to fish Santa Cruz and the main was go as far and as deep as possible.
Casting was really difficult due to strong winds and very heavy flies and very heavy sinking heads.
I must admit that my spey casting skills are poor at that moment and I was waisting a lot off energy. But surprisingly I got into the first fish very quickly and the fish grabbed quite close to the shore.
There was one old American man fishing close to me who had already been alone in Patagonia for seven months and it was his fourth day on Santa Cruz with zero success. You should have seen his face when I landed a fish just after half an hour of fishing!
The second fish was even more fun. At midday we went to the restaurant in the center of Piedrabuena wearing waders and jackets and looking a bit stupid.
But after nice meal and a couple of bottles of red wine we decided to try our luck just next to the bar where the river was forming quite nice stretch in the park of the town. Lucky again - after five minutes of hard casting I was into the second chrome steelie.
Algis and Tadas finished the day empty handed and exhausted. The same day we went to one of the two local flyshops to have a chat with local experts.
It is always recommended to visit a local flyshop if possible. The information we got in the tackle store was not promising. The guides were talking about high, milky and warm water and stated that fish were on their way and the fishing should improve within two weeks.
Not the best info for us.
Anyway we agreed to hire a guide with a boat who would just lift and pick us later from some good spots a couple of kilometers above the Pavon island. I was surprised that the cost of lifting was not as bad as I expected, but fishing wise the day was almost empty except for two small steelheads hooked by Algis and Tadas.
So after two days of hard fighting with milky water and heavy wind we gave up and decided to pack things.
I hit my target. I scored two nice steelies and was very happy about how the things had developed.
That was the end of our terrific adventure on the exotic rivers of South Patagonia.
Making a conclusion I want to say that after extremely long and deep research and sleepless nights on the wide world of the Internet, I managed reach all my goals on this trip.
I got sea trout.
I got nice brownies
And finally chrome steelheads.
So worth ALL the efforts.
The final stage of the trip was to get back to Rio Gallegos, say good bye to our amigo Manuel and take a flight to Buenos Aires where we had a plans for one and a half days in a capitol of Tango.
Here you have a budget based on three person group. Prices per person:
|-Return air tickets Vilnius - Milan - Buenos Aires - Rio Gallegos||1000 €|
|- Taxi Buenos Aires from airport to airport and around the city center||20 €|
|- Annual fishing licenses||66 €|
|Food and spirits for 10 days||60 €|
|-Picking up (by Manuel Gonzales) from Airport of Rio Gallegos driving to Puente Blanco|
fishing 1.5 days with us and after 10 days picking up from Bella Vista cost each
|- Camp at Bella Vista 3 days||30 €|
|- plenty of beer at Bella Vista||50 €|
|- Off road truck rent for 12 days cost each||217 €|
|- 4 days at lake Strobel||400 €|
|- camp 2 at Isla Pavon||20 €|
|- Hostel at Rio Gallegos 3 nights||40 €|
|- all 3 times barbecues and drinks with Manuel||100|
|- hostel in Buenos Aires||15 €|
|- restaurant taxi and wine in BA one evening||50 €|
|Total trip expenses for 24 days all in without gifts||2153 €|
A big thanks for helping me to:
Fabian Martin, Manuel Gonzalez, Adolfo Marinesco, Gustavo Alvarez, Martin Caranza, Rodrigo Amadeo, Andrius Karpavicius , Ivy from CAR GUER S.A. and Fransico from tourist info center in Rio Gallegos.
PS: Anybody who needs information, telephone numbers, contacts, e-mails or general advice can easily apply to me. I will always help. It is just my mission!
PPS: Here you see an email, which I received when I was back in Lithuania. Please read it and my advice. Next time don't mis the opportunity to meet me an to have drink.
After I came back home one the guys wrote me an email:
You wrote this mail and an other to my blog some time ago, and while reading it and wanting to help you I thought at the same time that you were completely crazy.
I mean, wanting to drift the Gallegos and hike on your own to Strobel crossing private property... what can I say about that except that you are totally out of your mind. So I thought that eventually you would forget about that idea and come back to your senses.
That is why I didn't reply to you back then, sorry for that.
Well, last week my friend Manuel Gaita Gonzalez from Rio Gallegos told me he took you and your buddies to the Gallegos and that I wasn't wrong about you at all, he confirmed that you are crazy indeed, but in a cool way :-)
Again I am truly sorry for not answering to you at that time but I meant to help you by doing so.
So maybe my plan was a bit crazy...?