And Another Season Ends in Argentina

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 MississippiThe 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,….

The tipping point of summer

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.

Homecoming, censorship, and some very strange search trails…

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!

Leaving Las Pampas

Well, actually leaving Patagonia altogether for a while.  But whattayagonnado?  I got other fish to catch!  It’s been an awesome season though, even if it was a short one for me (Gustavo and the boys are still going strong).  Just looking back through the photos and the stories from these few of months though it almost seems as though I’ve packed an entire season into half the time this year.  Between all the usual Rio Pico Lodge package trips, and a couple of back-country Trout Bum endeavors, a heck of a lot of fish were caught, and a heck of a lot of good times were had.  Onwards and upwards though; I’ll be back down here soon enough!Write me back everybody!

A Snowy Christmas in the Austral Summer

Happy Holidays Everyone!  As I write this I am sitting in the altillo here at home in Patagonia, with the sound of the centrifugal honey extractor humming up from down below where that lovely substance is being spun from its combs for safe packing into jars; while the snow, yes I said snow, falls on the mountains outside my big bay windows to the West.  I am going to miss this place.  A lot.  But as a famous writer once said, “Everything moves and changes, and no two days are ever the same for a fly fisherman.”  And so, I am winding down a shorter than normal season here and getting ready to head north, then farther north, into a year that will see me guiding at one point or another in every single hemisphere on Earth.  Such is the way things move and change these days.  On that note – my house in Trevelin is currently for sale.  Don’t everyone panic all at once; I am certainly not closing up shop here in Patagonia. It’s just that with my upcoming cycle of work between Argentina and the Bahamas, the Peruvian Amazon and Siberian Russia, it just doesn’t make sense at the moment to let the place sit here un-used.  Like I said in my last post, operations will continue as normal while I’m gone, as well as when I am back in between other locations, but in the meantime the house has to be let go.  Anyone interested or who thinks they might know someone who will be interested can click here to see details.  In the meantime, when it sells, all of my stuff will be stored with friends here in the area, and I’ll still have a more than adequate base of operations down at the lodge in Rio Pico until I find something else I want to buy.  It’s been a busy season so far (hence the long time no update) and both the weather and the fishing have been excellent.  Hernan and I did a couple of dot-connecting excursions down to Rio Pico last month where we enjoyed catching on both the Spey rigs and the dry fly throwers, spending a few nights as always beneath the bridge at the Corcovado Boca with Don Arias and the gang.  This is always such a wonderful experience, and one I wish I could share with more people than I do.  The folks that congregate beneath that bridge for the opening and closing of each season are some of the most knowledgeable, and nicest in all of Patagonia.  I don’t think a thousand dinners with them would be sufficient to hear all the stories that might get told, or to learn all of the useful tricks that might be learned.  The time was cut a bit short this year though due to a re-paving project that the province had (in my opinion) rather poorly timed, which caused the Madrugon II to be disassembled and hauled back to Rio Pico after the first week of the season.  But no worries, April will be here soon enough, and Maestros Paulino, Raul, and Pedro will be there to serve, as always.  Hernan and I had other business to attend to anyway at that point, and made our way North and then West to see about the wedding of our good friend Zachariah Tweed with the beautiful (and to be honest) practically perfect in every way, Marcela.  This event was held in Chile, on a lake, and despite the less than cooperative weather every single person in attendance wore a smile.  As a means of post ceremony celebration we then enjoyed two days of thermal pool frolic that even the curmudgeonliest of curmudgeons would not have been able to prevent from putting to good healthy use.  Afterwards Hernan and I headed back East, then South, anxiously awaiting throughout the first part of that drive our arrival at a creek which had attracted both of our attentions as we crossed it on the way to Chile – the Arroyo M. Malal.  This thing just sort of screamed to have hoppers thrown into it, and the throwing of them was exactly our intention as we anxiously parked beneath a clear blue sky that afternoon and rigged our rods.  No sooner had we done so though, when Hernan said “Che, Justin, has viste ese letrero?”  I could hardly believe my eyes.  We had parked right next to a sign which read, in no uncertain terms, “No Fishing”.  Arghhh!!!  I grabbed my regulations and looked up the creek.  Sure enough – closed.  But why???  Only thing we could figure was that it was an important spawning ground for the fish of the nearby river into which it flowed.  So – licensed guides and law abiding citizens that we are, we took down the rods and pulled out the cameras for a walk. Sure enough the thing was chock full of beautiful trout, some of which we even managed to photograph, but a fishing we did not get to go.  Another interesting note from this particular trip across the Andes was that it was Hernan’s first into the “interior” of Chile, and the roads made quite an impression on him.  I mean, they’re paved!  And not full of potholes!   Plus there is the embarrassing question of the cow crossing signage.  You see, in Argentina we have this sign: that of a cow, crossing.  In Chile, on the other hand, they go full-bull:  Whether this is simply an issue of greater impact iconography to make drivers even more cautious than they might otherwise be, or some sort of pseudo-Freudian complex about terminology differences between the two cultures along the lines of “Pico” vs. “Pito”, I don’t know, but Hernan was laughing pretty hard, so we took pictures.  Back in Rio Pico it was client/fishing time again, and we enjoyed some wonderful weeks on the water with folks who had come down to do just that.  I was a bit surprised at how low some of our streams and rivers have fallen already, considering the excellent snow pack the area had this last winter, but the fishing was spectacular, as usual, all the same.  Of special note was a visit by one of my favorite clients, Mr. David Capen, who this year took advantage of both our Rio Pico Lodge package and a portion of the Trout Bum package, following Hernan and I with packs into one of the back-country drainages we love so dearly in order to make camp and fish for trout that have most likely never seen a fly, as well as enjoying the campfire and natural surroundings of a puma-tracked and little accessed area of Patagonia he had not before been familiar with.  As usual, the fishing was great.  And now with the new snowfall I am watching and the rain which is forecast to follow, I am certain the coming weeks will be more than superb as well.  There is definitely better moisture in general though this year, as noted with the year’s crop of Llao llao, an orange tree dwelling mushroom which is sweet to the taste and a delicious treat while we are out on the streams. Taking a quick break before my next group comes in though I just got back from the annual “scenalada”, or marking/castrating of the lambs, out at my good friend Marcelo’s place on Lago Rosario just down the road.  A bittersweet if also delectable affair as always, we got started at dawn and wrestled with the poor creatures all morning through the process of ear marking, castrating, and tail-docking, before eventually slaughtering and roasting one of them for the afternoon asado.  This year was a low-attendance event to be sure, with only myself and the always reliable Toledo from the peninsula puesto doing the pin-downs, and Marcelo doing the cuts.  The resulting feed was awesome though, and I washed all of the blood off my skin by swimming myself out most of the way across the lake that afternoon.  So anyway, here I am folks!  Write me back!  I would love to hear how all of you are experiencing the holidays, and where you are and what you are up to in the world.