When traveling deep into windy Patagonia, bring as much tackle as possible

Dispatches From Patagonia:

Pat Ford has made six trips to Patagonia, starting in 1998.

An angler Spey-casts for brown trout at Estancia Maria Behety in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, while a herd of disinterested guanacos continues to graze.

An angler Spey-casts for brown trout at Estancia Maria Behety in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, while a herd of disinterested guanacos continues to graze.

In 1998, I went to the southernmost point of South America to fish for sea-run brown trout that reportedly reached 30 pounds. Before my trip, I spoke with Larry Dahlberg, who had been there recently filming an episode of The Hunt for Big Fish at Estancia Maria Behety in Argentine Patagonia. He explained that I needed 500-plus-grain sinking lines and 9- or 10-weight rods with big, black leach patterns. The river was big, deep and fast, and the wind blew 30 knots on a calm day. These were sea-run fish that wanted big flies: 4 or 5 inches long with beaded or lead eyes.

I arrived, loaded with heavy lines and big flies, only to find that the water was unusually low, the sun was out, and all the fish were being caught on Teeny 200 lines and size-12 nymphs. I had brought some lighter lines but had to scramble up a whole new set of flies. Nevertheless, the trip was so great that I returned the following year loaded with light lines (200 to 300) and mini flies. Right away, I found that it was cold, windy and rainy. When I got to the river that year, it was about 4 feet higher than the previous year, and it was roaring. My guide waded me out to what I felt was my armpits, and he casually explained that the fish were lying along the far bank, about 120 feet away. My Teeny 300 was swept away like straw. Everything Larry had told me the year before was what I needed for those conditions: heavy lines, big flies. The lesson in all this is to check on conditions before every trip and, regardless of what anyone tells you, bring everything.

I returned to Estancia Maria Behety last spring with a 7-weight Loop Spey rod and every fly I owned. The water temperature was 37 F, the air ranged from 22 to 47 degrees, and the wind blew 25 to 50 mph every day. The river was perfect for Spey rods.

While I’m borderline competent, the rest of the guys were Northwest steelhead addicts who could really cover water, a skill that is a big advantage. The river was moderately high, but I landed two browns that topped 20 and 23 pounds, along with an assortment of other sizes — mostly on small nymphs. I will never understand why these huge, ocean-run browns eat nymphs that look like they belong in Montana. I did notice the nymphs were tied on extra-strong hooks.

It’s an amazing fishery, but not one that’s easily mastered. 
Dispatches From Patagonia continues >>

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