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

Still at the bench, sorting flies (spring is on its way)

Not much to report here, other than that the snow now comes and goes; spring seems to be peeking its head out from around the corner-bush; and the boxes are spilling over with new flies, which has left me resorting yet again to Tupperware for storage.  That’s actually not a bad way to keep the tube flies and the Intruders handy though, since neither one fits very well into your standard foam-bottom fly box.

Last week I did my yearly sort-all.

This is the time when I spread every fly I own and every new fly I’ve tied out across the tables and the floors and any and every other flat surface I can find within the house, and begin categorizing, and culling, and re-stationing them in their places for the season.  It sounds like a simple enough task, unless you’ve ever done it.  There are literally thousands of the things, ranging in sizes from upwards of twelve inches long down to #22′s that you practically need a magnifying glass just to see, and over the years I’ve been through a dozen or more theories on what the most practical way to organize them should be.  One is tempted to do it by type, and then size, and then color, or some variation of these characteristics, but in the volume that we are dealing with, what that ends up meaning is that you’ve got whole boxes filled up with flies which are more or less the same.  This necessitates allotting a great deal of space in the day-pack just to carry enough boxes for variety, and even at best there is never enough room.

Another approach is to put just a little bit of everything into each and every box, so that at any given moment on the water you’ve got handy some streamers, some natural dries, some attractors, a few nymphs, and so on, but the folly of that one is that you almost always have some idea about a particular fly you should be looking for, and invariably if you’ve taken this approach it is in another box back at the truck when you want it.  My friend Philip once suggested that I dump the whole lot of them into some sort of tumbler, mix them all around for a few hours, and then just grab out handfuls and stuff them into boxes entirely at random, making do out on the water with whatever the lottery allotted me.  I may still come around to trying that one some day.  Last year I decided to simply limit the number of repetitions in any given pattern and color that I would put in a given box, on the theory that one should not often run into situations in which they could go through more than a half a dozen, say, #2 6x Long Shank Green Giants in a given day, and that as long as the Tupperware back-ups were always at the lodge, I could refill the boxes each night as I needed to.  This worked to some degree, but there is still never enough room in the pack.  So, this year I’ve just ordered a much bigger pack…Invariably, and this is what chaps my hide the most, there are certain flies that I pull out of the boxes every year for the sorting, knowing full well that they are of a pattern, size, or style we didn’t use a single time the year before.  But also invariably, there was this one time, a few years before, when they were exactly what the doctor ordered in a certain isolated circumstance, and maybe even saved what could otherwise have turned out to be a fishless day.  The things take up space, and I know the chances are I’ll be sorting the same exact ones next winter without a single one having gotten wet, but I just can’t seem to bring myself to pull them out and set them aside for the season.  I mean, what if?  You know?

So in they go back in the boxes, neatly realigned and color/size coded – all of them except the throngs of dulled or torn or otherwise use-rendered-imperfect but still well appreciated for their excellent service recyclables (most of which do get recycled these days, into shanks for the Intruders or middle sections for three part articulated monsters), and the whole lot of it gets packaged back up into the boat bag and the day pack and even then there are boxes and Tupperware bins left unfilled and sitting on the bench, so I sit back down and tie some more.  It is as tedious as it sounds, but a good kind of work nonetheless, and I get to drink a lot of nice coffee in the process and hear good music all day to boot.The office of course requires some work as well, but as you can see I have cleverly combined the tying space and the laptop desk so that a quick swivel of the chair puts me in ready-position for either.  Only downside of this is that every once in a while when in the middle of a conference call with the Syzygy boys I get inspired by some feather just off to my right, and pretty soon I hear Steven saying “I can hear the thread-bobbin squeaking Justin” and have to swivel back around quickly enough to pretend I still know what they are talking about.  “Oh yeah, yeah, the J-query option sounds like a great fix” I say, and he groans.Everyone shoot me the news from up there when you have a chance; if it wasn’t for writing these blog posts I think I might forget how to speak English before the winter is over, and I would love very much to hear from you all.

~Justin

Birding in Patagonia!

Patagonia Unlimited is pleased to announce a new program starting with the 2012/13 season: Birds of Patagonia. This is the culmination of a long-term project which has been several years in the making, combining our existing infrastructure for trip planning and area-logistics with the knowledge and expertise of two of Argentina’s most renowned ornithologists, María Pía Floria and Javier De Leonardis. Pía and Javier have been conducting research and guiding birders in Argentina for many years, and have extensive knowledge of the diverse range of environments and observation sites we now use to conduct tours with access to nearly 300 species of birds. Lodging for these programs is provided in the quaint Andean town of Trevelin, situated at the gates of Los Alerces National Park, and the programs include birding excursions in a variety of local area environments ranging from Arid Patagonian Steppe, to Lush Wetlands, to High Ancient Forests and even the Rocky Andes themselves.

Contact a Patagonia Unlimited trip planner today for available dates, rates, and details, and to get started planning your next birding adventure of a lifetime in this incredible region.

*First Season Special! Book before November 1st and receive a 10% discount on these amazing trips!

“Wait,… what month is it up there?”

Back again for a few days of office and home front scramble-age between clients:  I’ve spent the last couple of weeks out on the water with a very nice fellow from Rhode Island, down for his seventh trip to Patagonia and his second in a row with us.  We’ve been chasing fish across several old favorite spots of his, plus a lot of new water too in the area of Rio Pico and beyond.  A few of the results of our efforts can be seen in the photos here, and I will let them speak for themselves.

As I write I am in fact just back in from my standard “Buen dia” tour with the Negra.  We wake up early in the morning when we can to go for walks, and the exchanges that result between myself and the folks we encounter as well as the environment in general always serve to remind me of just how good we have it in this community.  Almost everyone we meet greets us with a “Buen dia” (Good morning) and a smile, and between the house and the bakery or wherever else we walk it is a pleasure to watch the city and the sky here come to life.  Back in the states I always dreamed of having a farm of my own and the good, pure food that would result.  But since when I got back in this morning I had for breakfast a bowl of cereal wet with yogurt I made here using milk from the neighbor’s cow, butter made by the neighbor’s hand from the same milk spread onto bread from the bakery I just walked back from, eggs laid by another neighbor’s chickens, and juice squeezed out of oranges and grapefruit bought in bulk at our local verduraria, I am for the most part feeling like I now have the benefits of the farm without doing all its associated work; which is kind of cool too, in a way.

We’re finally getting some rain which will help water levels and the fish here a great deal, not to mention the ranchers and their cattle.  I find now though that after having been in the southern hemisphere without return to the north for as long as I have I am getting confused about the seasons.  Patagonia doesn’t habitually subscribe to seasons anyway, and over the last couple of years we’ve seen both ice storms in the middle of summer and bright, warm days when it should have been freezing.  But I knew maybe I needed to check myself when I asked my mother the other day while on Skype “Wait,… what month is it up there?”  She laughed.

Everyone shoot me the news; I’ve got a couple more days of good connection left before I head south again and would love to hear from you, any and all.

         

Everything outside was elegant and savage and fleshy.  Everything inside was slow and cool and vacant.  It seemed a shame to stay inside.

                   ~JOHN CHEEVER

Fishing fishing fishing fishing fishing fishing all day long…

Hello everyone;  I know it’s only been a few weeks, but when you’re at the oars and running the net all day every day it seems like longer.  This actually works out to be kind of a bargain though, if you think about it, as a way for me to stretch more life out of my meager allowance of time as a human being here on Earth.  As for the fishing itself, things have been pretty darn good.  Several days with sun and very little wind have produced great catches on dragonfly dries out on the lakes at the junco lines, and the hopper action in the spring creeks around Rio Pico has been just unbelievable for the clients.

It’s always a bit strange though coming back up to Esquel after being out on the water for so long down around Rio Pico, and this time was no different.  On my first trip to the grocery store last night I found some fascinating uses of marketing print that I thought I might share here.  “Barfy”, believe it or not, is actually a brand of frozen hamburgers here in Argentina, and although I have not actually tried them, they seem to be quite popular with the locals.  “Bimbo” makes dough for empanadas, and as for the Seven Color Crystal Boll – well, all I can say is that I was tempted to buy it just to see what the heck it actually was, or maybe even as potential fly tying material, but in the end instead of helping me “too much”, it freaked me out a little too much, so decided to leave it lay.

I’ve got about a week off now before heading out with the next group, and as such started out in the office splitting my time between taking care of business at the laptop, and taking care of business at the tying bench.  In the interest of efficiency I am looking into building some sort of physical bridge between the two; I’ll let you know how that works out.  But after a few days of this I needed a break and a little fishing seemed to be in order as well, so Trey Scharp, Rio the black lab, and I took the day off together and hit a little seldom-fished stream somewhere outside Trevelin, forgetting all about the laptops and the tying benches for a whole entire day.  And a day filled with hoppers and rainbows to boot!  We walked a long ways, but the fish (all rainbows) were bigger than average for that kind of water, and spread out at just the right intervals to keep the action going all day long, and all three of us had a really good time (Rio even got into a big covey of quail).  The weather was just right for wet-wading too.  I’ll admit, I didn’t even think about all the stuff waiting for me in the office even one single time till I got home.

Hope you’re all doing well wherever you are and whatever you’re up to.  Don’t forget to drop me a line every now and then; I look forward to receiving it soon!