The gringo and the Chilean ranger spoke a common language of moving water

Dispatches From Patagonia:

With a home on the Río Espolon, Seaver Jones has fished the Futaleufú and nervous waters of northern Chilean Patagonia since 2000.

Sea-run browns can weigh more than 20 pounds.

Sea-run browns can weigh more than 20 pounds.

I was introduced to the Futaleufú River by my fishing partner Adrei Gallardo, a retired Chilean ranger who patrolled on horseback the cordillera, which is the high, remote mountain border between Chile and Argentina. Adrei looked after the interests of the huasos, the skilled horsemen and Chilean equivalent of the Argentine gaucho or American cowboy.

In his retirement, he married a young woman and started a family. He had two sons, and the family lived in a small cabin by the river where it crossed the border.

And Adrei fished. One day, he landed an enormous sea-run brown weighing 39.1 pounds. It made the news and made him a legend.

Upon my arrival in Futaleufú in 2000, I heard tell of this fish and went in search of Adrei. He grinned and pointed me toward a wall with the fish mounted in the middle. I moved closer. Indeed, it was a monstrous caricature, a Godzilla of a brown trout with teeth like a housecat’s. And thus started my friendship with Adrei.

It didn’t matter that I couldn’t understand the rarefied dialect of Spanish in that remote outpost. Day after day, we shared fishing the way some people share a good bottle of wine. After catching that brown, Adrei never used a spinning rod again. He took up a fly rod and became equally proficient, with a simple, self-taught style. And he shared his love of the Futaleufú with his gringo friend.

I now fish and guide on that same stretch of river. Over the years, much has changed. Adrei is gone, as is the isolation of this once-remote pueblo. The roads are paved, and the new hotels are full of seasonal pilgrims with their rod cases and fly shop attire and expectations of once-in-a-lifetime fish.

The fishing is still excellent, the scenery breathtaking. I take the dreamers out, and they catch good fish. Every now and then we hook something that refuses to succumb to any pressure.

With a good fisherman and some judicious oar work, we can usually coax a glimpse of a huge sea-run brown in the deep. The response it engenders is always the same: My bug-eyed sport will get nervous and jerky, and the fish winds up swimming away no worse for wear. I chuckle, reach into the cooler and hand a beer to my gaping, dry-mouthed patron. And we toast Adrei Gallardo. Dispatches From Patagonia continues >>

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