Back, for a minute anyway, from some serious messing about in boats

Hey Folks. Whew, really has been a long time this time huh? Well, the thing is, I’ve spent far more nights beneath the moon and stars these last two months than I have with a roof over my head, and that situation not only fails to lend itself to making blog updates, it also tends to become addictive and self-perpetuating, at least for some of us. So – where do I start? Migratory spawning fish, in general, salt-run or not, are really a whole nother ballgame from “normal” salmonids. Just ask Paulino and the boys under the bridge every November and April on the Corc, Potamodromous and Anadromous ain’t all that dog gone different when it comes down to hooking the buggers with a fly. The main variable in that equation is always the same see; the fish have to be there. And this is exactly the problem with migratory spawners, lots of times when you’re there, they aren’t! And vice versa. This is something I have had to come to grips with over the last couple of months through thousands of miles of driving, hundreds of miles of floating, and possibly millions of Spey casts (ok, that last one may be an exaggeration, but then again, who was counting?). The thing is, these fish have their own agenda, and for the most part not only does it have nothing to do with eating, it is also extremely dependent on some sort of exactitude of conditions. The problem for us is, how that exactitude of conditions actually works is more or less a mystery. Long story short – high water, low water, high temperatures, low temperatures, lots of silt, little silt, big tides, little tides, clouds, sun, wind, calm, – we hit em’ all; and apparently we hit em’ all wrong. This is not to say that fish weren’t caught. Fish were caught. Steelhead, sea-run browns, lake-run rainbows, and lake-run browns all felt my finger and thumb around their tail along the way; but it wasn’t exactly what you’d call a slug-fest.

As always with road trips and float trips though it wasn’t just the fishing that sticks out in my mind as I sit here at my desk today and write. As with any long excursion of the sort there was plenty of good, and plenty of not so good, but with folks like Dr. Tweed and the gang alongside who understand the drill, the rhythm, and the silence of a thing like that, it is a pleasure in the end all the same. Along the way there were fossils and petrified trees, Tehuelche artifacts, and windstorms that threatened to sand blast the skin from our very faces. There were days that we floated for miles and miles, and days that we stayed in one camp and beat the runs to death. There was the day we snapped the oarlock, and the day we found the cave inhabited by the Puma. There was even a whole long night that we floated beneath clear skies and a beautiful full moon, rowing amongst reflections of the Milky Way and listening to our iPods as we navigated our way towards the sea. We explored abandoned estancias and saw the vestiges of what that life too was like in the buildings and equipment left behind, even tasting a bit of it in the fruit we picked from their still producing orchards. And, after running from the rising tides in Piedra Buena all the way to the Red Stag infested plains of Piedra del Aguila, I finished the whole damn thing up with wader-clad swim all the way across the Rio Limay Medio at full generation, wearing a backpack full of meat for good measure, then warmed myself back to life next to a raging brush fire built by Paulino luckily just in time for the occasion. And such is the life. Now it’s off to the North, not quite far enough to reach the majority of you all, (at least not just yet) but into the Amazon basin and more rivers, more country that needs to be explored. I have no idea what my connectivity will be over the next two months or whether or not I’ll be able to make any updates but will certainly do so if I can. In the meantime, since there’s a week or so between now and when I leave, all of you please write me an email to let me know how you are!

But now, to keep you entertained in the meantime, (I mean, what do you people do when you’re not reading this blog?) here’s another addition of “Stuff typed into Google that landed people on this website”, from the amazingly confounding data-maze of Google Analytics.

• “Only Interesting Topics” – I’m guessing this person spends a lot of time looking up trivia on the internet. The thing is, there’s just so much out there, and with a few simple keystrokes, there it is at your fingertips. How do you narrow it down? Well, you type “Only Interesting Topics” into Google of course! Duh! Honestly though, I’m glad to have been included. Most likely my blog was in the first ten results that showed up for this search, don’t you think?

• “One Interesting Topic” – Our guy is getting desperate here. The cubicle camouflage has worked its magic all too well, and he’s down to the very nitty gritty of the thing, searching for all he is worth, searching his little heart out, searching till it hurts, looking for the one thing, that one reason to live that will make his life have meaning once again, and discarding all that has come before. Just. Give. Me. One. Interesting. Topic! And still, somehow my blog is in the result list he ends up with. And. He. Clicks. On. It.

• “Brook Trout Skype” – I can see it now; Tweed and I are walking up the Rio Shaman into the Cordillera and the brookies are all logged on in a massive river-wide chat session. “They’re rounding the bend. The ugly one is already wearing those goofy rubber pants. The other one has one of those long bendy things. OK, everybody! No matter how much it looks like a juicy swimming morsel of food, DON’T EAT IT! DON’T EVEN SWAT AT IT!!!” Actually, seriously though, what was this person trying to Google, and how did they end up here?

• “Cattle Round Up Jokes” – Ha! That’s a good joke in and of itself. There can certainly be some jokes that get passed back and forth once the round up is done, but trust me, no one is joking much during the actual process of the work. Speaking from first-hand experience here, cattle round ups are not what they look like in the movies. It’s more like riding a twelve-hour hunter-jumper set up while paying only peripheral attention to the direction of your own animal, since the cattle themselves require the majority of your focus. This one is fairly easy to track, although still, I think the searcher must have been disappointed. There was a round up that I posted about, the one I did with my friend Tizo a couple of years ago up above Estancia Tres Valles, and there was a joke in the same post, but the two things weren’t related. Hope the poor fellow got a laugh out of the whole it anyway though.

• “How Make Homemade Table Saw” – Geeze. I have no idea! We should probably ask Philip or one of the other Voghs.  I’ve scrounged and scrounged through the whole friggin’ history of this site and cannot for the life of me figure out how this one works. Must be Google’s just playing jokes on people, like that news post they did April 1st about the new “Google Nose” smelling app for Smartphone’s. I’m so disconnected from what’s going on in technology up there these days they actually almost got me with that one. Almost.

• “Just Another Day Post Office Music” – Awesome. I can totally see why someone might type that in, especially if they were in the middle of a long hard day of actually working at the post office. There’s got to be tons of good music that comes up from such a search (hehehe) and I’m sure they could easily find what they were looking for. I just hope it wasn’t gangster rap though, or anything else that might have had the potential to incite violence (you know how those postal workers are). Seriously, how many pages of results did this person have to click through before they ended up here?

• “Patagonian Tube Animal Sex” – Oh boy. Here we go again. Tube flies, all kinds of animals, Patagonia, sure, we’ve got you covered. But as far as I can tell the word sex has never appeared in the content of this site until I typed it here just now. Can’t wait to see what that attracts next time I look at the reports…

• “What Constitute the Theory When Writing a Report on Bench Work?” – No clue bro.

• “The Fly Fisherman Justin Witt” – So I’ve been reduced to that. I can remember my life before, sometimes anyway, especially if I’ve had a glass of wine or am half asleep, or watching a beautiful sunset that allows me to have forgotten where I am for just a moment. There was the “Goofy Looking Kid with a Bowl Cut” Justin Witt (I even have pictures of him), the “Student” Justin Witt (grades may have had something to do with the fact that this is all we’re left with now), the “Son”, or “Brother”, Justin Witt (I wish I saw my family more often, but they stubbornly continue to live more than five thousand miles away from here), The “Flipside of Pain” (don’t ask), or even “The World Wandering Sporadically Employed Vagabond Reader, Fly Fisherman, Beer Drinker, and Sometimes Writer of Short Stories, Poems, and Novels” Justin C. Witt (the by-line from one of my earliest published works in a smallish New York Literary Journal, hence the middle initial). But now,.. just this. The Fly Fisherman. Justin Witt. Oh well. I imagine there are worse things one could be reduced to in this world.

• “Legendary Patagonia Fishing Guide” – Honestly I do like this one better. But still, come on….

• “Gaucho Knife Fight” - Now, that’s a good one. It may be that the poor fellow who initiated this search was simply looking for some entertainment. Let’s hope so anyway. Because if there is one thing you don’t want to do ladies and gentlemen, it is get into a knife fight with a gaucho. What is a guacho, you ask? That’s a good question, and while the answer these days might depend somewhat on who you ask, I’ll break it down like this: Historically, gauchos were nomadic cowboys, working here and there across the estancias and vastness of the Patagonian landscape, with nothing but their horse, a few dogs, their tiny satchel, and a penchant to move when they decided a change of venue was in order. There aren’t as many of them now as there used to be, but believe me, they’re still around. When they get into knife fights though, it isn’t something that generally lasts long enough to become a paying enterprise on cable television. One of my friends in Rio Pico, Mario Riasnianski, worked as a radiologist in the tiny hospital there (which is named after his mother) for many decades before becoming a fly fishing guide full time. While he has many wonderful stories about the medical history of that region and its people which I won’t go into here (not even the one in which he catheterized a woman who was giving birth in the back-country with a sterilized peacock quill), when it comes to the gaucho knife fight stories he says the losers only ever came in with one of two wounds. The ones who were alive had been sliced across the back of the knee so as to sever the most important ligaments and tendons of the leg, and render the fellow unable to continue the dispute. And the ones who were dead had been stabbed just to one side or the other of their sternums, with the knife blade angled in between two ribs and straight across the top valves of the heart. You see, that’s the thing about gauchos. They’ve spent their entire lives with that knife in their hands, using it in the killing and taking apart various large mammals that are anatomically very, very similar to human beings, and as a result they can probably picture the mechanical inner workings of your body better than your family doctor can. Seriously guys, gaucho knife fight – only takes a half a second or so, but a very, very bad idea.

• “The Party is Well Under Way Now and We’re Starting” – Of course! Why wouldn’t it be/we be? I mean, what?

• “Christmas Creek Rio Pico” – Ha! Good try. The way this one works is like this: When we find new water around here that makes us happy and to which we would like to return, we give it a name. Much of this new water of course already has a name, something the gauchos call it or the Tehuelches called it before the gauchos where there, but we don’t much concern ourselves with those names. We like our new ones. I mean, what’s in a name, anyway? With or without people giving streams their names, the streams are there, flowing along like always, and they themselves really couldn’t care less what we call them if you ask me. But it cracks me up to see this search, because it means that some poor soul who saw a photo of a fish, in this case likely an enormous brown trout with a tiny spring creek in the background, thought that Google, of all places, might be a good place to find out where it was that we were fishing. Sorry pal; we named it Christmas Creek because we found it Christmas day, and if you want to fish there, you’ll have to ask me personally where it flows.

• “Wild Bunch Legal Leather Chaps” – Is this some sort of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid meets The Village People fetish? More importantly, actually MUCH more importantly, what the hell does it have to do with me?

• “Hilux Fishing Truck” – I didn’t previously realize that the Toyota Hilux was a fishing truck. Most of the photos I have seen of them in the media have shown Taliban drivers and huge bed mounted machine guns being fired by insurgents at my infidel brethren in Afghanistan. But I like this new picture better. The Hilux is definitely the four wheel drive tool of choice for those of us plying our trade here in the Andes, so why not? Too bad they don’t sell them in the states.

• “Little Piranha Juvenile Delinquency in Peru” – It’s a ongoing problem. Every year the newly spawned toothy little critters in the Amazon get uppity, and think they have every right to barge right in on the most tender parts of whatever hapless mammal falls into the river. Meanwhile, the elder Piranhas, many of whom engaged in such unseemly behavior throughout their own fingerling years, find themselves with only the second rate morsels of innocent flesh, but rip them from the thrashing skeleton of the still alive innocent creature they are devouring all the same. Such is modern piranha culture. Actually, the “Little Piranhas” are apparently a gang engaged in violent acts of crime on the streets of Lima. I tested this search myself, thinking “Google’s nuts”, but we were the 18th result in the list, after a couple of news articles about the gang, the lyrics from an “Old Dirty Bastard” song, and a bunch of other nonsense. So,… Hello? Google? WTF?

• “Quail Beekeeping” – Now see that sounds interesting. I’m into all kinds of goofy intertwinings of activities. I like quail. And bees. So why not? If the person who did this search is reading – could you please get in touch with me and let me know how it is I can combine the two?

• “Capybara Body Parts” – GOOGLE! Buddy! Seriously! I’m going to switch over to Bing if this keeps up! This has gone too far. Please explain yourself.

• “Lioness Eating Testicle” – I gotta go, again, before I laugh myself to death here…

Summer Well Under Way, and Under Way Well

Hello everyone! Long, long time – no update; my apologies. But the trout have been keeping me occupied, to say the least.  First up on the list here though, is the video we shot last fall on our end of season wind-down trip, edited at last and ready for your viewing pleasure.  Check it out!

When November 1st rolled around I had the family down which was wonderful, and we spent a very nice two weeks out on the water and in the surrounding area seeing the sites and bothering the fish. It has been a beautiful spring (now summer) and between the hiking, fishing, and mushroom hunting, a good time was had by all to say the least. Our last day on the water we did a float on the Rio Corcovado and at the takeout enjoyed the first total solar eclipse I have ever seen. What a treat.

In local news we’ve got much better water levels than we had last year due to heavier snowfall through the winter up high and a decent amount of rain throughout the spring, and November boca-time with Paulino, Raul, and Pedro was a blast. I had a group of Germans down then who were very good fishermen and showed me that the spey rod was an excellent tool not just for the boca of that river, but for all the excellent water down below there as well, leaving me all the more excited about the possibilities presented by this still relatively new (to me) tool of my life’s chosen work. Luckily Alex Miller of Red Truck sent me a brand new #7 Diesel which Tweed was nice enough to carry down when he came at the season’s start, and I am in Love with it beyond description. Learning to cast these things and getting accustomed to all the details of Skagit techniques is a whole new chapter in the book of my fly fishing life, but it is coming along, and the physics involved are just mind blowing.

After that it was back out on the water with my next group, a lovely couple from Vermont who split their time with us between fishing and birding, observing a whopping sixty six species of Patagonia’s avian residents and bringing some very nice trout to hand in the meantime as well. I want to say thanks here also to my good friend Pocho Hann of Rio Pico, for allowing us access to show these folks around the first European settlement of the area, his family property, originally established as a wheat producing farm back in 1890, complete with working mill and grain separator, a general store, early German style architecture houses, and the hundreds of fruit trees that still make the now abandoned valley a beautiful place to spend the day. This is not a site that is open to the general public, and it was a treat to be able to see and photograph the virtual museum of wonderfully preserved relics, and to hike up to the falls that Pocho’s grandfather first arrived at via ox cart so long ago. Also on the property are the graves of two Yankee “banditos”, chased down into the Rio Pico border country and shot after having held up and kidnapped the manager of Estancia Tecka back in the early 1900’s. The real names of these men were never known, but more than one book has been published which suggests they may have in fact been none other than Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid themselves (see link for more information), making a list ditch attempt to raise some travelling money in the wake of having been run out of their own estancia up in Cholila some months before after their presence there had become known to the Pinkerton organization. According to the story, the group that ran them down and finally killed them near the Cahon Grande just downstream were looking to collect the ransom, and cut off the bandits heads with an idea to carry them back to Buenos Aires for identification. Eduardo Hann was a very religious man though, and had different ideas, directing the party at gunpoint to immediately bury the heads there on his property and then remove themselves from the area. The family has maintained the graves ever since.

Just before Christmas I had a bit of a break and as usual used it to do some exploring, happily loading the truck up for that operation with my good friends Tweed, Hernan, and Redwood. Redwood is a new addition to the crew and another of those that just sort of wandered in on his own and became incorporated, this time all the way from a forest fire fighting team up in North America; but it was a fortuitous event, and the beginning of a friendship I expect to last a long time. Tweed and I already have plans to visit him on the steelhead country he calls home sometime soon. I had had my eye on a couple of small streams that were in no way easy to access through any means other than with backpacks, boots, and a lot of hours spent using the two for some years now, and the time was ripe for them to be seen, experienced, and fished. We were not disappointed. All of the water we explored produced as good a result or better than expected, although what will perhaps end up being our favorite of the streams now carries the name Arroyo Mañoso, due to its extreme nature of moodiness that might well be compared with certain women I have known throughout this life. One particularly interesting note from that one was the presence of pancoras, a species of local crawfish that is common in provinces to the north of here, but very uncommon in our area of Chubut. The stream we were on was just chock full of them though, and it is a mystery I intend to solve figuring out what specific conditions in that particular arm of the drainage are the cause. Tweed, as is is fashion these days, threw practically nothing but twelve inch long Dorado patterns the entire time, and proceeded to catch browns after brown on the things, none of which were what you might call trophies, but all of which were at the very least ambitious predatory fish. What a trip though. We really weren’t sure what we would find when we came out, give that according to the Mayan calendar the world was supposed to end and all that while we were in there, but I guess maybe this post from Dave’s blog says it best:

Oh well.

Christmas day Redwood and I treated ourselves to a huge American-style breakfast of waffles, eggs, bacon, and freshly grated sweet potato hash-browns, then as might well be expected we went fishing. There is a stream not far from home that for various reasons I only fish once a year, and it had yet to be done so we went. It did not disappoint, as it never does. When we got back we made European Hare tacos and listened to the soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Christmas, as I always do, and it was a good day, a good day to be alive.

Last but not least I attended a wedding down on the coast of Santa Cruz Province, practiced with the Spey rod a bit on the Lower Santa Cruz, and then guided for a week at one of my favorite places in the world, Lago Strobel. Strobel, you may remember from earlier posts, is a landscape apart. This is an area of such high steppe and most desolate yet fascinatingly beautiful landscape it defies description, a place where one can still expect to find, even without really looking, such an abundance Tehuelche artifacts and enormous trout it is beyond belief. I myself left there this time with two new ancient boleadoras (one broken in half) and photos of some very, very nice trout from my one day of exploration between client groups. The clients also left with some very nice prizes, including this enormous beast, a rainbow caught by John that we measured thirty two full inches in length, weighing in at just over twenty pounds! What a place. I’ve got a couple more cancellation deals to offer for this location as well if anyone is interested, for the dates February second through the ninth, and while its short notice the discount equates to over $1,700, easily enough for the flight it will take to get down here; call our office up in the states or contact me here for details.

Now it’s back down to Rio Pico for several more weeks of guiding and limited connectivity to the world, but I’ve got a couple more days before I head out so all of you please write me an email and let me know how life is wherever you are! I am starved here for news

THE EPIC POST – A Cattle Round Up, Fall Fishing, Futaleufu Rafting, Petrified Wood, Wool Trimmage, Mushrooms, Floating the Limay Medio (big Brown Trout Included), and last but not least, a Joke

Hi everyone; sorry once again for the long-time-no-update. Things have been pretty busy down here since my last post, and I’m just now getting back into the office and settling down for the long-haul daily grind the rest of this winter will require. I headed back down to Rio Pico not too long after my last post, spending a few days out at Paulino’s Corcovado boca camp where I did very well fishing the early morning and late evening hours, and had fun watching Truco and hanging out with the crew in between.
I also did day trips from there on my own, exploring some exciting new out of the way streams and lakes, some of which proved to be excellent quality waters which we’ll incorporate into our programs for next season. The autumn colors continue to be spectacular, and the weather has been pretty nice most days.
While out on Lago Vilches in Estancia Tres Valles one day my good friend Tizo happened to mention that he had lost some cattle in the high country on another nearby campo, and would be looking for them the next morning to bring them down. I asked him if there was any interesting looking water in the area where the cows were, and he said that in fact there was, but he was not sure whether or not it held trout of any size, then offered to take me along on the ride. I accepted without hesitation, and we tacked up early the next morning and headed out with our lunches and a rod tube in my backpack, and the dogs (including Negra) running alongside.
It was a work first type of situation, and I knew that, but what I didn’t know much about was how to do the work. Luckily my horse however did, and we found the first of the cattle mid-morning in a tightly wooded draw at some elevation.  The running of cows through the placement of a horse, and direction of intention, is an interesting process. My horse, a gelding of around fifteen years’ age, was an expert at this type of work, and most of the day seemed more like a machine to me than a living creature. He could somehow sense what the cows would do next, also seemed to somehow know what it was in fact that Tizo wanted them to do, and would act accordingly in all cases – sometimes despite the idiotic and contrary actions of his rider (me). In fact, that was the only way in which my horse displayed anything even vaguely close to a characteristic of personality. Whenever I would do something stupid, or fail to understand what it was he himself was trying to do, he would stop and crane his neck around to make eye contact with me, as if to say, “Who are you? Are you an idiot?” It was a humbling experience, to say the least. But so much fun!  This country up high above the rocky ridges is so rough and un-traversed, it amazes me that the horses do as well up there as they do. They crash through the underbrush like bulldozers, recover from stumbling slides across loose rock like ballerinas, and jump pretty much whatever else gets in their way, including log jams, deep rock fissures, and fences. It is amazing, honestly, that I was able to stay on the animal at all.   Once the cattle were collected though, thirty-three of them in all, and deposited in a place that we could easily find them later on in order to drive them to the lower country and deposit them in their winter digs, we continued to climb until we reached my other objective, a high, hidden lake that has no name. I won’t go into to much detail, even though the access issue makes it almost inconceivable that this place might end up receiving any real pressure any time soon, but I will say that within three casts I was into a fish that made every hour of the ride to get there feel worthwhile, and that the next few hours I spent there followed that lead.  Eventually though, I had to tear myself away from the water and break the rod back down into its tube for the ride home, during which time I learned a little bit more about the driving of cattle than I had understood that morning, but not nearly enough to start thinking of myself as some kind of Yankee gaucho.

My next trip south sent me down through Estancia Tecka, which we are adding as a destination next season for our guests (Patagonia Unlimited website update will describe this soon. Tecka is one of the largest, if not the largest estancia in all of Patagonia, and home to most of the Argentine flow of the Rio Corcovado, all the spring-creek headwaters of the Rio Tecka, and a lot of other interesting water and land.
I went from there back down to the boca at Lago Vintter, then East to some of the newer waters I’d recently seen which begged for further exploration, and ended up one day collecting more than a hundred pounds of edible mushrooms on an estancia before helping the gauchos there wrestle sheep for several hours, trimming wool away from their eyes to prevent them from going blind over the winter as it grew longer and covered them completely.

When I got back to Esquel we peeled and sliced the mushrooms, then I built a rack above one of the heaters out of some extra bee-hive screens from the basement, and the whole harvest got reduced over a period of days to around a kilo or so of dried, preserved, and deliciously edible product.

Then it was off to the Limay Medio, the same stretch of river I floated last May that stays open until the end of the month and fills with very large migratory brown trout from the lake below, again, as last year, with my good friend Emiliano Luro.We had quite a bit better weather this year than last, and also managed to find better campsites, complete with plenty of firewood and level ground, and the fishing was quite good as well despite higher than normal water levels all three days.  I found my very first piece of petrified wood amongst the stones where we stopped to eat lunch one day, and photographed one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen in my entire life.

After the takeout we went up and camped one night on the Caleufu, which neither of us had ever before fished, and found both decent browns and tasty percas, as well as another first for me, a herd of Ciervo Colorado, aka European Red Stag. We also saw one wild boar. 

Last, but not least, after my return to Esquel, I did a float with the Club Andino down the Rio Grande (Futaleufu) from the dam outside Trevelin through Los Alerces National Park and almost to the Chilean border. My friend Ivan and his family live in the park ranger outpost just this side of the line, in a really neat old house right on the river which is surrounded by old, productive fruit trees planted many years ago by the property’s original owner.

We collected baskets and baskets of good apples (I could have filled the whole bed of the truck up if I hadn’t had the boat) which I am now drying on the same bee-hive screen rack where I did the mushrooms. I would have about a ton of the things put away by now if I could only stop eating them; they’re so good right off the dryer that it’s hard to accumulate any stock!

And on that note, to close, I would like to relate a joke that was told to me recently which I think is quite prescient to our times, not just here in Patagonia but in the world at large.  It goes like this:
In a small town somewhere in southern Argentina, where not much good had occurred in the local economy for quite some time, one day a foreigner walked into the only hotel on the square and requested a room, plopping a fifty peso note on the counter before receiving his key and retiring up the stairs. The hotel owner, too honest a man to let temptation get the best of him, ran immediately to the local laundromat where he’d been racking up an account on credit for quite some time with the cleaning of the hotel bed sheets, and handed over the entire fifty pesos.
The laundromat owner, in turn, ran directly next door to the meat market, where she had a debt that was far past due with the butcher, who received the fifty pesos with a grin. He then walked two blocks over to his home, where the village carpenter was in the process of packing up his tools to stop work on the butcher’s roof, since he had not been paid a dime in several weeks. 
Suddenly finding himself in possession of fifty pesos, the carpenter had no choice but to stay and finish the job, but decided that first he would go and use the money to pay off his own debt, one he had been carrying for far too long, with the village whore. But the whore had her own debts to pay, since she’d been using a room in the hotel on credit for her encounters since the first of the year, and so she walked proudly back in there plopping the same fifty peso note down in front of the hotel owner, who had only then just returned. At that very moment the foreign tourist came back down the stairs, proclaimed he didn’t like the look of the room, grabbed his fifty pesos up off the counter, and stormed out!

Limay Medio

Lo and behold ~ it wasn’t the end of my Austral season after all! After more than three weeks of no fishing, Emiliano Luro and I loaded the truck up with boat, gear and camping supplies in a fit of piscatory mania that would probably make heroin withdrawals look like a day at the beach. And off we went. went,… and went,… and went,… all the way to the Rio Limay. This river forms the border between Neuquen and Rio Negro provinces to the north of Bariloche, and is open to fishing through the end of May. The drive, needless to say, was long. In fact we left about two hours before dawn and still weren’t putting in on the river until almost three in the afternoon. The Limay is a weird, tortured thing, smallish and unobtrusive as it leaves Lago Nahuel Huapi up by Bariloche and begins its long and winding journey to the Atlantic. It is pretty immediately into the pampas at that point, with the usual sauces and red-rock cliffs along its banks the whole way, and a lot of twists and bends, encountering the first hydro-electric dam just after its confluence with the Rio Caleufu from the North and Arroyo Pichi Leufu from the south. This begins a series of dams and flood control gates that form several distinct reservoirs and tailwaters all the way to the city of Neuquen. The section we floated is known as the middle Limay, below the first two dams and between the tiny town of Piedra del Aquila and Picun Leufu. The river is somewhat bleak here in its appearance above the waterline, but utterly fascinating below the surface. At times all at once unbelievably deep and wide, and at other times dividing into a maze of interconnected channels and islands with shallow riffles all around, the only thing that is consistent is the clarity of the water and the cleanliness of the seemingly manicured pebbly bottom. Although there are certainly plenty of resident rainbows swimming about and eating mayflies the attraction, for most anglers anyway, is the influx of migratory browns from the reservoirs that the river connects. And Emiliano and I got our first taste of these only thirty minutes into our float. What fish! Big, strong, angry, hook-jawed male brown trout are in no mood to play when autumn’s orange light hits the river, and they attack most anything smaller than they are that comes near them as they make their way upstream from the lakes. We caught fish on a variety of large streamers using sink tips and intermediate sinking lines, but I must say that the Green Giant accounted for more than its fair share of the hook-ups. Our float was three days in total with two nights camped on the river’s islands, and although the temperatures were less than balmy we enjoyed excellent weather throughout, with light winds and no precipitation. Overall I’d have to say that this last week of the season float has all the makings of a yearly event that will likely become the closer of my Patagonian fishing year for many years to come.