An exploration to the South

This last month I finally found time to do some serious exploration, and took advantage of it without asking twice. Zachariah Tweed happened to roll in from his adventures up in Salta just in time so he jumped in the truck as well, and the two of us and Negra headed south – way south. I’d had my eye on some of these lakes and drainages for quite a while via maps and Google Earth, but since they’re quite a ways from where we normally operate they always stayed on the list and off the itinerary,… until now. Where there were roads we drove, and where there weren’t we walked, but over the course of a couple of weeks we managed to make good speed and ticked off every coordinate on the list. Some of them turned out to hold nothing but smallish fish. Others, well, I’ll let the photos and videos speak for themselves.

We also experienced a good deal of local off-the-beaten-path culture, with varying extremes in its consistency. On day two we received our first ever (and this is a life-first) honest to God smoke-signal, wondering as the gaucho thundered up on us with his mount what the heck he might of been burning up on the hill before riding down. “No! He said, that was for you! I was telling you to wait so we could talk and have a mate!” Seeing us driving up the creek bed from a couple kilometers away, and not having had a conversation of any kind in quite a while I guess, he threw together a bunch of brush and set it ablaze before mounting up and giving chase. We were just too stupid to know it was an attempt at communication meant for us! Oh well, live and learn. We had a very nice visit and got lots of, err, hum, useful information from him; such as the fact that the creek we were on drained into both the Atlantic and the Pacific via four different rivers, all of which, he thought, came from somewhere up to the North of our current position. He also told us a story about a Puma he had recently killed with his knife, reacting to our incredulous expressions with “What else could I do? I hadn’t brought the gun!” I Love these guys.
A few days later though we had a very different gaucho run-in, getting caught in the midst of a large-scale sheep drive and then talking to the men on horses at the end of it for quite a while. They were a typical looking bunch, all leather chaps and rawhide hand-made reins, big knives and dogs with that wild look in their eyes. But when I asked the one who had the information we were looking for how I might get in touch with him in the future he replied “Well, you could look me up on facebook.” This had me stopped and without words for a minute or two, since facebook, even I don’t have.
All in all though we passed a hell of a couple of weeks. The weather was great and we only even pitched the tent a couple of times, mostly sleeping out on the ground or in the bed of the truck, and seeing a heck of a lot of the most startlingly beautiful and amazingly vacant country you could imagine. The Pumas are truly the only ones really at home up in these parts, and are definitely still present, as evidenced by this track we found one night right where we were laying down our sleeping bags. And of course along the way we caught the rainbows, browns, and brookies that made us wonder why we would ever think about heading back in to take part in “the rest” of the world again. But alas, of course in the end, we did. It’s a trip I won’t forget anytime soon though I think.

 

Fontinalis Giganticus (Seriously, this is RIDICULOUS )

“Yeah, yeah, yeah… more big brook trout; isn’t this getting a little old by now?” you might ask. Honestly, no!

This last exploratory trip may well rank in the top three fishing experiences of my entire life, and I am not alone in that sentiment. Last week Zach Otte, Colin McCrossin, and I all headed out together into the backcountry of yet another more or less mapless set of drainages on the Argentine/Chilean border, this time with not much thought of looking into client-friendly water, just lots and lots of miles to put beneath the boot soles, and enough food and supplies in the packs to keep us going along the way.

The first days were quite warm and gave us considerable trouble with biting tabanos and mosquitoes, but the temperature began to drop and the fishing got steadily better as we went along, moving us farther and farther each day from anything even remotely civilized. Aside from a few old gaucho trails and the odd errant cow track here and there, by the second day there wasn’t much sign around that other humans even existed on earth, and with the fishing we were finding, we could almost have forgotten ourselves.
This really is rough, rough, country, hard on us and hard on the gear to be sure, but beautiful all in its own way at the same time. On the third day out we woke up to snow flurries, and the river we were camped on literally began to explode with ferocious fontinalis of dimensions we could hardly believe. It really became almost indescribable. Ludicrous. Enough to make even me think that perhaps at long last I had somehow cultivated a vibe of luck, or good karma.

At one point on a deep pool I lost a fish I could never even turn with the nine weight; then Zach landed an eight-pounder out of that same hole; then he lost a fish he saw and called better than ten, just before I brought yet another eight pound brute to my hands; and we both just started to laugh. That’s when he said “I don’t know what to think about this. There’s really no going back.”  Indeed. In the end eight pounds was really the best we can claim to have landed, but better fish were hooked and played and seen and lost, so while in the sense Zach meant it, there may well not be any going back, there will certainly be some going back in there, if you catch my drift.  There have got to be only a few places on the planet that are left with this kind of fishery for giant brookies. There are certain sets of conditions that make such a thing possible to begin with, and they are all easy things for humans to disrupt, even unintentionally. I will say that by the time we finished up the exploration and hauled ourselves back out we were pretty well destroyed, limping our way back to the road with very sore bodies, empty bellies, and much more well-worn waders than what we had gone in with; but that, in specific effect, is exactly what has protected these fish in that environment for all these years. I can only pray that the ever popular watch-word of “access”, as it relates to all things fishing, logging, cattle farming, and generally human-impacting, continues to stay as far from these drainages as possible, and that these fish remain as beautiful, enormous, and innocent as we found them when we arrived.I hope everyone is having a great holiday week leading up to Christmas!  Send me an email and let me know how you are doing; I miss you all.