2015 started off with a bang for me, as I left California for Chile on January 2nd to start an epic 23 day fly fishing adventure to South America.
The following is a day by day journal account of Marcel and my experience at Patagonian BaseCamp and Las Pampas, Rio Pico– the latter an intense two days and one night fast-track in the Fonterra!
Marcel arrives at the meeting place exactly one minute before our agreed upon time, (love his attention to detail) and we transfer luggage and jump in Carolina’s (Marcel´s wife) FJ Cruiser. We arrive at the lodge just in time for a super lunch. It’s worth noting that all the vegetables, meats, milk, all the staples that can be, are organic and grown or produced on the ranch in a sustainable manner. Marcel gives me a tour of the ranch, and we check out his new boats, rafts, etc. – a couple container loads of equipment he ordered from the States, which arrived a week or so before. He purchased new 17’ deep v-hull LUND boats for the lake fishing. First on our itinerary is a two day, one night float on the Rio Palena with a stay in Marcel´s Rio Palena Camp.
We are out the door and loaded into the Excursion van by 9:30 a.m. We drive approximately 1.5 hours to the put in, pulling a trailer with stacked pontoon rafts with small outboards. Jim and I will fish the first day with David. It’s windy and quite cloudy and I suspect we are in for some rain as the sky looks pretty menacing down river.
According to Marcel, the fishing on the upper Palena had been challenging the last couple weeks. Jim and I cover the water well with big dry flies and streamers and move a few fish, one good brown on a black and white Dali Lama and Jim lands some small to medium size rainbows.
The NEW Palena Camp is in a great location and Nice! There are two large DOMO stand-up height tents for each two guests with real beds, fresh linens, towels and pillows. We have lights, night stands, a place to hang our waders, everything you need – this is deluxe camping. The tents and kitchen (also a DOMO) are all built on elevated wooden decks, connected by walkways, built in an ancient forest of Coigue. There is a flush toilet and sink for cleaning up. The main DOMO is where a simple kitchen is located and a divider in the large tent separates the kitchen from where the guides sleep and supplies are stored.
After a quick breakfast we are pulling out of the Palena Camp by 9:45 a.m. Greg Bricker, Jim and I are fishing the day together. We fish big dries and streamers through the morning off floating lines and move and catch some nice rainbow trouts. The day is a spectacular early summer day in Patagonia, clear skies, some wispy clouds; a sky so blue it glows. Right before lunch, across from our designated lunch site, while fishing a clay bank wall with a medium sized Gypsy King I hook a BIG Brown trout. The rest of the afternoon we continue to fish big dry flies, Gypsy Kings and Fat Alberts and see plenty of action.
Fishing Marcel and I are off to Las Pampas today. We motor into the Frontier, ”no man’s land between Chile and Argentina” to meet the Las Pampas guides, Martin and Pablo, nickname “Anka”. We shuttle Marcel’s vehicle back to the Chilean Immigration Office and then drive back into Argentina and down out of the mountains to the river valley. We immediately climb into our waders and fish some lagoons. Marcel and I hook and land half a dozen nice rainbow trouts and brown trouts, all with big, foam body dry flies. It’s all sight fishing to large trout and a lot of fun. We also fish a brief section of the Rio Pico for a short period before driving to the Argentina Immigrations and Customs Outpost. The entry is relatively painless and easy, albeit the posturing of the officers, which are bored out of their skulls in this uber remote outpost.
Marcel fishes for about 45 minutes on the Las Pampas, a beautiful creek out in this arid dry valley. The creek is a classic trout fishery, gin clear cold water serpentining back and forth with all kinds of structure, root wads, clay banks, and undercut banks – loaded with rainbow trouts. I mean LOADED! I bet you could have a 100 fish day on this creek. There must be some moss-back brown trout under those cut banks, but we don’t see or move any.
Marcel and I make it back to the lodge, have a well-earned beer, some snacks, grab a shower and make our way to the lodge for cocktail hour and dinner.
Today, we go to “Africa” a maze of spring creek channels of the Rio Pico in a massive valley, surrounded by arid steppes and snow-peaked mountains. The valley floor is covered by thousands of braided spring creek channels, aquatic vegetation and sweet grass – loaded with brown trouts and rainbow trouts eating Caddis or whatever other aquatic insect is hatching. My first good shot at an eating fish, lands a 23 inch rainbow trout taken on a Missing Link – thanks Mike Mercer. We meet up with Rob and Ted who have been floating the main Rio Pico, once the myriad of braided spring creek channels combine to form a single channel and enjoy a quick and delicious lunch steam side, then Rob and Ted head to Africa and we jump in the raft with Martin to continue the Rio Pico float Ted and Rob were on this morning.
We have about 1.5 hours to fish, before we have to bail on the fishing, head back to Las Pampas, grab our gear and head back to Chile and Patagonian BaseCamp. The border crossing closes at 8:00 p.m. As we are getting into the raft, a fat 20 inch brown trout cruises by us, Marcel casts his Fat Albert in front of it and it eats – this is going to be good! And it is!
We hurriedly get off the river, get the raft loaded on the truck and beat it back to Las Pampas to gather up our gear and head to the Argentine Border Outpost. Marcel and I enjoy a simple and quick dinner and reflect back on the last 36 hours of our lives. We fished 6 different moving water fisheries, half a dozen lagoons, a lake, spring creeks, freestoners, an amazing variety of remote and incredibly productive trout water.
The new Patagonia One program combines the best of Las Pampas with the best of Patagonian BaseCamp. It is well-choreographed, a perfect blend of the large mountain-water fishing that PBC specializes in with the new small water, high desert wade fishing in Rio Pico – the very best of both worlds. This new program will no doubt redefine what an ultimate Patagonia Trout Fishing Safari is.
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