Well folks,… the fishing season down here,… has officially ended. And as is always the case after such an event, the non-fishing season,… has fishily begun. Yes. Fishily indeed. It was a great summer overall, low water notwithstanding. And from the look of the rain and snowfall surrounding this writer’s current point of view here at the big bay window in Trevelin (I know it’s early, but just in the last 24 hours we’ve had over five inches) things are going to be back to normal levels in no time and we’re likely to have plenty of water for next summer. Rance and Travis had some photographers down in March and so I showed them around the Tres Valles venue, which turned out to be a lot of fun. These are good friends of mine, and also the owners of Patagonia River Guides, whose programs at Estancia Tres Valles and in Trevelin, as well as up in the San Martin/Junin de los Andes region all appear in the Patagonia Unlimited catalogue. Austin Trayser, Matt Jones, Rance Rathie, Guillermina Etchebarne, and Khadizhat and I had a great time of it those days, fishing and rowing and hiking and setting up shot after shot after shot. And in the process I even ended up convincing Marcelo Acevedo (one of Rance’s auxiliars and a neighbor of mine from back in the Rio Pico days) of all people that my fishing Icaros actually work. He had challenged me to try one, in fact, while Rance was nymphing the juncos bank one day as we waited on the lunch truck. Bright sun, no wind, and no bite happening whatsoever – these were the conditions, that is until the last note of my Icaro – then Wham! Rod went up and it was on! Pretty cool really. “Ahora te creo” Marcello said, “Ahora te creo”. Other highlights of these few days were my own thirty inch brown, pictured here and now also on the homepage slideshow of Rance and Travis’ website, a lot of really good lunches, and a lot of just kind of lying around in the tall grass looking up at clouds while Austin and Matt messed with the cameras getting set up for a shot. After the shoot we had several more very nice groups, including my last of the season which was really made up more of friends than clients – Matt Branton and his father Allen. Even Negra got to tag along on this week’s worth of wading, boating, and getting hooked in the face, although she mostly just got tangled in the stripping. Matti apparently has a thing about my face; at one point while I was netting a big rainbow for him on Lago Tres he spat Copenhagen all the way across it, and at another point down on La Panisa he buried the size #2 hook of his Great Pumpkin (a big orange articulated streamer fly) in it on his back cast. God Love the guy though, he did keep catching hogs, and even rowed the boat sometimes! Once it was over though it was over, and I had to accept that the hour had come to shift gears. Luckily, there were apples. Lots and lots of apples. When Trevelin was first settled by the Welsh in the 1880’s they brought more than a couple of apple trees. At that time the farms which were being developed here were all producing wheat, not cattle, and once the mills were constructed the flour being produced in our region even began to win world fairs. Once the population began to come in off the estancias and center up more in town though, the apple trees just kind of got left out on the old homesteads. And since those same old homesteads are the kinds of places I usually hunt quail in the fall, I run across these trees quite often. So Khadizhat and Caetano (a most excellent neighbor from across the way) went out gathering them, and have been eating and cooking and drying and juicing them ever since. Khadizhat makes pies and cakes, I make apple sauce and cider, and we’ve both been dehydrating and juicing the living Dickens out of them to the point that I honestly wonder if one might not overdose on apple with such practices. Alas though, the things are apparently healthy, in whatever quantity, and with the stores that now exist here it looks like we’ll be eating them still for a good long while. In truth though we’re actually just now getting back to the processing of the harvest that got stashed beneath the stairs, since it got interrupted for a bit with a trip to the Amazon in Peru. No new country mind you, just some more of the same ol’ same ol’ with our friends up there in the jungle, but this time also a lot more water than we are used to. The river herself, which off the banks of our usual camp is already a mile and a half wide and normally a hundred and twenty or so feet deep, had come up thirty-plus feet above even her hundred year high-water mark, which totally flooded us out. It’s truly hard to explain the scale of this river. Actually, even for a guy like me who spends more days than not on a river of some sort or another, it is hard to even comprehend the Amazon’s scale, much less explain it. Just to give it a try though for my North American friends who have never been there, we’re talking about a river that is over ten times the size of the Mississippi. The area of the watershed itself encompasses more than 40% of the continent of South America. I mean, seriously. This is a RIVER. And for folks like myself the fact that it is home to over two thousand five hundred known species of fish, a total greater than that of the entire Atlantic Ocean, is also of significant interest. Some ichthyologists even estimate that the actual total, if we get to know it, will likely be over six thousand. But anyway, I could go on for hours here… Our usual camp, as I said, was flooded, and so we traveled inland to one of the old camps that I have spent a lot of time at over the years, and in fact even harvested plants from the property herself that we had been watching grow for a very long time. Plus we spent time in Iquitos proper, and took some nice photos as usual of the stray dogs and locals, not to mention my old adopted son Charlie, the monkey of Belen, who Sunay and I bought/adopted last year. It was a great trip overall though, and now we are back in Trevelin and looking out at the snow capped and rapidly whitening Andes and wondering what happens next. So in other words the question now,….
So, I woke up this morning, and as I made my coffee and stared out the big bay window at the Andes, the sun that began to hit them from its rising in the East showed a definite skew towards the wavelengths of autumn. I know there will probably be another shift, some Indian summer, maybe even a couple weeks of the return to yellow and green wavelengths, but in the end it must be recognized that the thing has definitely started. Fall is coming. And soon enough the world will be red and orange again, for a while. This summer has been awesome in so many ways. On the work front I’ve had a good mix of the old reliable clients that come down pretty much every year, and a bunch of new folks that have turned out to be very welcome editions to the crew. The fishing has been very good as well, with the only hitch in our git-a-long being that water levels did not quite stay where they were predicted to, and many of our streams and rivers are running quite low. Hopefully though my perception of the impending autumn also means rain to come down at this level and snow up above, which should have things flowing right again in no time. In between the groups down at Tres Valles I’ve been working on the house a lot. As with most projects of this type you get done with 90% of it in a matter of months, and then the last ten percent takes ten times that long. All the little detail and finish work. I learned this lesson with a mahogany driftboat project years ago, and have found it to be the same with anything involving woodworking ever since. The whole thing is coming along quite nicely though, and I expect to have her finished before the season ends in May. Khadizhat is back down from her recent trip to Russia as well, and we’ve been out picking up all kinds of wild fruit for the kitchen as well as doing some impromptu instructional on general bushcraft such as changing Hilux tires and rowing in heavy winds. All fun stuff though. And in the meantime between groups I have been getting out to fish a bit both with Khadizhat and my new friend Matt Branton (not to mention Negra) on some waters that require long walk ins with the backpack and the tent, which is the kind of time I most enjoy passing in this world. So everyone send me an email now and let me know how things are going wherever you are in the world; I look forward to hearing from you soon!
View from the guide’s seatMatt and I on the little secret streamMore berry picking on the way to BolsonEvery girl should know how to change a tireAnd row a boat…Chess match after dinnerLittle dry fly guys still do it for me tooEspecially on my back-country secret streamsLago 3 has been fishing really well this yearWhich makes me a happy camperSo here’s a sunset, over and out.
Folks it had been a long time since I’d last seen my dog, but she was waiting for me when I landed at good old Esquel airport under sunny skies with light wind, as always, from the West. Patagonia! It had been too long. Eleven months I was away, and those of you who follow this blog can imagine from the travels undertaken in that time that it felt like much, much longer than it was. But here I was, and just in time to start the season. So far it’s been awesome. Plenty of water, and plenty of fish – just the way I like it. So far I’ve been mostly down in Rio Pico, guiding on all the waters around Tres Valles since a lot of my programs are running out of that lodge at present, and we’ve had an awesome bunch of clients and awesome fishing (not to mention some good old fashioned days on horseback). A bit of an odd cold snap in December and early January but that is not necessarily a bad thing, and the weather has ameliorated itself now anyway into the usual sunny skies and pretty light, so everyone is happy. This next item is pretty funny: I’ve been censored in Russia. Like, for real. I sent Khadizhat (who is in Russia at the moment) the link to that recent Itinerant Angler Podcast I did and when she tried to pull it up she got this: Says it’s pretty common there. But I was impressed! With myself, that is. If Putin feels threatened by my fishing prowess, it must be even greater than I thought it was. And so, I am out on the water almost every single day pulling on the oars and netting trout, and there’s not much else to tell. Sounds like a good time for another edition of the good old “Weird searches from Google Analytics reports that apparently landed people here on the blog” Enjoy!
“I’m just a little bit fishy”– Well, I hope not! I hope I’m a lot fishy. I mean, it’s my job. Actually, I am a lot fishy, but not in any of the ways these weird searches below seem to be pointing to.
“Afghanistan Trout Fishing” – I have heard that there were trout there, but if you are looking for an expert, I’ve not been yet.
“عکسهای طالبان افغانستان” – Which means, according to Google translate – “Afghan Taliban Photography” – Seriously? Where is this stuff coming from? Between getting banned from the internet in Russia and this kind of searches popping up on the NSA’s data crawlers, I’m going to have black helicopters following me around any minute now.
“Justin Witt, ok” – There we go! Please forward directly to NSA…
“Before preparing a tea” – Before preparing a tea,… before preparing a tea… Well, I say go fishing. Before, after. Heck, tea is just as good streamside as it is at home anyway.
“Adult video underwater handstand” – Oh boy. Here we go again.
“You’d tube animal sex” – I guess these people actually do exist (I apologize if you are one of them). It looks like they just sit around all day in some dark little cubicle or basement and look up the weirdest things they can think of, which is usually pretty weird, and then somehow end up on my blog instead. Hopefully though at that point they see the light, walk outside, take the straightest line possible to a fly shop, and become born again into a world that makes some kind of sense.
“Wrestling fetish underwater” – Is there seriously content on my blog that could somehow have led to this?
“Testicle Castrating Mom Fetish Story” – Laughing too hard to type again…
Now everybody write me back and let me know how you are doing; I am headed back down to the estancia tomorrow but have internet almost every night; and I hope to hear from you soon!
Hey Folks! Zach Mathews called up the other day and asked to record a new podcast for his program on the Itinerant Angler, and so anyone interested can listen to it here and learn more about the programs I was on up in Russia and over in India last year. Then write me back and let me know what you are all up to; I look forward to hearing from you soon!
India….You know, I would like to have thought that with the year I’d done already prior to this recent trip, a bit of time chasing Mahseer in the Himalaya would be just one more footprint on the path. I mean – rivers, flowing water, fish, boats, tents; it’s my usual world, right? Nope! India is a whole nother ballgame, and one that I think it would take a good long while to move from the astonishing experience that it is for me to the realm of simple “trip” or “destination”. After almost a month of travel in India this time (I had been there once before) I still couldn’t really even pretend to understand most of what I saw going on around me every day. There is just too much of it. And it is far too diverse. Between the dozens of religions/cultures and the hundreds of separate sects and types of environments within those, all of it built into a density of interaction unlike anything else I’ve seen on Earth, the scale of the thing is just too great. Which,… is awesome! In the truest sense of that word’s definition.Arriving in Delhi it was easy to see that a lot has changed there since I flew in on other business back in the winter of 2002. That city is on the move, and in an uphill direction, at least in terms of economics and polish. But like so much about Indian history and culture, it is still a totally confounding set of contrasts that for the most part I can’t even begin to figure out. So I didn’t hang around there too long trying. Instead I headed North, and East, until I had reached one of the headwaters of the same river system that forms the Yamuna, which flows through Delhi in a condition that can literally bring a lover of rivers like myself to tears. But up in the mountains bordering both China and Nepal she is still beautiful, and my bungalow at Misty Dhillon’s lodge was situated directly above a hole full of perfectly visible and excitingly heavy Mahseer. Bingo, no? And as such the fishing began, first on rivers, then on a combination of streams and lakes, some of which were on the borders of the Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve where the lodge itself sits proudly. This amazing piece of property offers excellent opportunities for wild tiger observation, as well as some of the best birding I have ever seen anywhere in the world, and to be honest I felt right at home there.Mahseer are really cool fish. Imagine a cross between a grass carp and a bonefish, but with an appetite and feeding habits more like those of the Muskie or the Taimen. And they fight! Even a five pounder can easily take you into the backing for all that you are fishing 16 pound tippet when you hook him. Misty’s operation is top notch, and I am happy now to announce that we will be adding it to our catalog with the next Patagonia Unlimited website update. He’s been outfitting for Mahseer now longer than anyone else in the country, and from the quality of the lodging, to the incredible food, to the well thought out array of non-fishing activities which are offered, everything about the operation is impressive and adds up to a top notch experience in a part of the world I think all should experience at least once in their lifetime. I fished both his lodge and some of the float trip/camping environments, and to be honest there was hardly a difference in comfort between the two, which is to say that the camping trips are extremely well thought out and executed, with all the creature comforts of a top notch accommodation. Those of you who are interested contact me right away for available dates and details.And now, my friends and family, it is time to make an introduction. Meet – Khadizhat. This is a girl who came into my life last June while I was in the Peruvian Amazon, and while how that happened is an interesting enough story in its own right I will save that for the campfire when we are together in person sometime. Suffice it to say here though, the connection stuck. By the time I went to Russia things had already gone past the point of commitment, and when we met back up in India the connection and commitment did nothing but continue to grow. Khadizhat accompanied me on the Mahseer exploration, sleeping in a tent for the first time in her life and adapting herself to the use of a fly rod as though it was the most natural thing she’d ever done, and then when the fishing was over we traveled together seeing sights and experiencing the country in amazing symbiosis. I figured it was sort of a litmus test, really, the idea of bumming around one of the most difficult places to travel on Earth for a few weeks in the form of a first date; but the test was passed with flying colors, and I have to say that the roots of this relationship run deep. I expect you’ll be seeing a good deal more of the girl here in the years to come. But as far as this trip goes suffice it to say that sights were seen, elephants and camels were ridden, ascetics and sadhus where communed with, ceremonies were performed, and a good time was generally had by all involved. I want to express my enormous gratitude to my new and very good friends Tegbir, Ishneet, and Arjun for all their amazing hospitality, and to say that sooner rather than later I hope to be back in this amazing and stimulating place. Looking out across the Himalaya.Mahseer on the fly.Bidi with a Sudhu.One awesome fishRowing some locals across the riverFor now though I am back in Argentina and ramping up the season. The fishing has been awesome so far and the water levels are good, so for the next few months I am going to be in my usual spot behind the oars. Everybody send me an email when you get a chance to let me know how things are going in your part of the world, or better yet, just come down and have a visit. I hope to be talking with you soon!