Disillusionment and Rapture in the (relative) South

Hello World!  Life is good, no?  It is for me.  After not having set foot in the United States of America for three whole years, I arrived at the Atlanta airport earlier this month and began the process of re-accustomization.  (Yes, it’s a word; I just typed it, didn’t I?)  The first couple of weeks were interesting in many ways.  So much has changed!  And yet, so much has not. The most interesting parts of the process though were the realizations that things I had thought were different most likely never were.  Take my first trip to the grocery store for instance.  I walk in, grab a shopping cart, and begin my rounds.  Over the next five minutes or so my jaw slowly drops, and drops, and drops, until I am dragging it along the floor between my feet.  I mean, how can there possibly be this much selection?  I count no less than forty seven varieties of cheese.  Thirty two cereals.  Sixteen coffees???  I have landed in the land of free market bliss.  The cart fills as I calculate price per weight for each item and make educated guesses about comparisons of products; and soon enough not only am I at the checkout isle with a wider variety of foods than I can ever remember seeing in my life, at least half of them are foods that I haven’t tasted in what seems like forever, if ever, and I am happy.  My smile stretches from ear to ear, and the cashier is looking at me a little strangely too.  But then I notice that she feels it necessary to carefully inspect my hundred dollar bills, apparently ruling out the possibility of counterfeits?  When did that start?  Was it always this way? And when I unload the groceries into my truck and turn around to return the cart to its rightful place in the cart-collector, I notice that several other customers have simply abandoned their own carts in the parking lot, some even directly behind other shoppers vehicles, and I think “Wait a minute, I thought that only happened in Argentina!”  Well, apparently I was wrong.  You see we tend to do this, the expat crowd.  Through the repetition of our many moments of frustration with living in a foreign land it just sort of naturally occurs; and before we know it we have idealized our own people, and painted a fantastic sort of picture in our heads about the perfection that we left behind.  Sure, there are differences, and certain things are easier up here, especially when it comes to questions of paperwork and government processes, but as it turns out lots (and lots) of the little things that had frustrated me so much over these past years are the same!  It just goes to show – wherever you go, there you are.  And some of the other differences require definite adjustments as well.  Like, you guys have these policemen up here with those silly little radar guns; and they actually control the speed at which people drive!  That one I need to remember.  And there are so many people.  I mean, wow!  It’s kind of unbelievable.  How do they all fit into such a little space?  But like I said, the food is awesome, and I’m a happy camper.  (If still only hanging out for just a while)  I’ve been fishing very little, but have managed to get out on the water once after stripers with The Dude, and also for the usual bluegill, bass, and other fish that are fun to help people catch out on the lake here at the house.  But mostly its been taking care of business in the office since my arrival.  That’s not to say there are no plans.  I mean, the office can only go on like that for just so long.  So tomorrow, by God, I am headed to New Orleans.  Because ladies and gentlemen, it is redfish time.  Dr. Tweed will be waiting for me there with the flats skiff, and I hope to be posting a whole bunch of stories and photos from the couple of weeks I’ll spend poling it when I return sometime around the middle of next month.  At which time I head to the Bahamas.  Where bonefish live.  Er…hmmmm…  You know.  It’s sort of a life.  Till then though enjoy the video below which hopefully might give you some idea of what I am up to as you read these lines, and then drop me a line of your own so I can hear about your adventures too!  Talk with you all soon.

BULLS ON TOP from SHALLOW WATER EXPEDITIONS on Vimeo.

The goings on – here, and there

Hello Everyone,

Taking a break this week from the water (more or less) and getting caught up in the office between groups. I hope you are all doing well wherever you find yourselves in the world. Things are good for me. We had a bit of a spell of hot weather for a while, but as I write it has cooled off considerably and a mix of rain and snow is falling in the mountains. Over the last month I’ve had some backcountry Trout Bum trips and some clients for a few weeks in the lodge, but they have all been quite enjoyable, and the fishing has been excellent as well. I say more or less about getting caught up in the office over my break because of course the voices called me, and so Trey Scharp and I did a small exploration of the Valle Rio Frio yesterday, when I should probably have been in front of the laptop instead. The water does call though, and it amazes me every single time I get on Google Earth just how much of it there is within a day’s drive of home that still has yet to see my flies. Now though, after the break is done, I’ll be back on the oars until the end of the season and then more or less immediately heading out again for a month-long float trip through one of the longest stretches of back-country river left on Earth, mixing it up at last with a fish that has been on my list now for some time, the noble steelhead. Poor me. Look for stories of that one to come along in May.

In other news (I’m starting to hate that word) the rest of the world seems to have gone quite mad. I am a bit off the network down here, a circumstance I rather enjoy, but the things my clients have been telling me about the goings on up in the states and other parts of our planet of late have been alarming. I realize it is easy for news to seem worse than it is; the media is in the business of focusing only on the bad most of the time; and when I back up far enough from my limited perspective to look at all of this within its larger historical context, perhaps not much has changed. But that can be hard for me to do sometimes. I live in a town where the baker, if she can’t make change for the only bill I happen to have in my wallet on a Sunday morning, tells me “Just pay me next time you come in.”, and then doesn’t even feel the need to write the debt down in her ledger of credits. I just pay her next time I go in, and that’s how things work down here. Sure, bad things happen too; people lie; horses and cattle are occasionally stolen; sometimes even a couple of gauchos get into a fight and one of them is knifed; but for God’s sake man – nobody walks into an elementary school and starts shooting children. I mean, seriously though, what the hell is going on up there?

Anyway, changing the subject, here are some of the better photos that have been taken either by or of me since my last post. Hope you enjoy. Also – our video from the last post got picked up by Orvis’ Friday Fly Fishing Film Festival – click here if you haven’t already seen it, or would like just like to give it another look, and be sure to scroll down to the bottom and leave us some good commentary for the public there as well! And everybody shoot me the news! (Your news, not the media’s; and the word “shoot” here only applies to its usage in sending me an email) Hope to hear from each and every one of you sometime soon.Baby Seed Snipe – Lago StrobelBrown Trout – Christmas Creek, outside Rio Pico, ArgentinaPatagonian Road Sign: “Beware – Spontaneous Orgasms Can Occur”Happy Client, Happy GuideNikita and Gretel – A Love that lastsAnd on a dry, no less…High Lake ApproachPatagonian Edible MushroomLago Tres Brown TroutWielding the Net of JoyThe Spring Creeks of Tres LeonesWild Strawberries on the Estancia of the man who once told me “No one can own a waterfall!”Low Profile Approach

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