A friend wrote me wondering how my recent fishing trip to Tierra del Fuego went this past week. Here is my response. It's a bit long, but you might enjoy it. // Steve
If you want to find the most formidable, butt-kicking Brown Trout in the world, you'll have to go to one of the Argentine estanc View more...A friend wrote me wondering how my recent fishing trip to Tierra del Fuego went this past week. Here is my response. It's a bit long, but you might enjoy it. // Steve
If you want to find the most formidable, butt-kicking Brown Trout in the world, you'll have to go to one of the Argentine estancias that border the Rio Grande river in Tierra del Fuego. To get a sense of just how far away this place is from my home in Sonoma, consider adding the equivalent of a long days drive to your journey, and you'd find yourself surrounded by penguins in Antarctica.
From San Francisco, it takes about 27 hours of travel time to get to TDF, which upon reflection, does seem like an irrational expenditure of effort expended just to catch a fish released upon landing. But OMG!, these mighty sea-run trout are of such preposterous proportions and attitude that for those of us who adjudge the act of fly fishing as to being in a state of perfect happiness, look at these fish, and their environs as entirely rational justification for this outlay of time, money and effort. Besides, isn't this just kind of adventure that we are put here on Earth to experience?
Even with experienced anglers, the latest flies, state of the art rods and knowledgeable guides, most of the time it wasn't a fair fight. The 6 of us combined to hook over 450 fish during the week but were only able to land 148, with a group average of about one landed out of every three hooked. Some days it was one out of 10 or worse. Not a notable landing ratio by any standards but these fish are huge, and in our defense, we were fishing with size #14 flies which are more typically seen on small trout streams and are about the size of the word “fish” you see here. It's hard to get your head around the thought that a little green speck of fuzz being of any interest to a fish that weighs 20 pounds or more, but they are.
Our typical day was: in the water by 8:30, lunch at the lodge around 1:00. Nap time until 4:00, then back at it until 9:00 and then home for dinner at 10:00. This schedule also offered each of us our first opportunity to fish in total darkness. Sounds and was, weird to be sure, but a friend once told me that when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro and so it was with us.
It didn't take long after the sunset before it was pitch black and just before you couldn’t see a damn thing, you switched to a sparsely tied streamer, a small black fly that was perhaps a half inch longer than the little green scud we'd been using during the day. Not sure how these fish can see anything that small in the dark but they do.
At this point, you are reduced to blind casting a fly line into a dark and windy void. With the typical wind speed varying between 10 knots with gusts of 50 knots, you have no real knowledge of where the fly will end up in the water. But, the good news is that it does bring out a part of your forgotten animal instincts as you are forced to rely solely on touch, sound and the feel of the wind on your back. Lots of casts went unanswered, but when they were, it mostly happened about mid-swing when suddenly, the line would simply stop midway through its arc. Then, after a pause of a few seconds, the reel would slowly, click by click, reverse its direction as the line would start to peel off and then all hell broke loose!
Fighting a fish in the dark, with just a headlamp to help negotiate your exit from the water, all the while trying to keep the fish on, was quite an experience.
As for weather…cold; as for wind…all day and all night with some gusts close to knocking you off your feet. Survival and dinner table bragging rights depended on your figuring out how to be a good caster. I'm happy to say that since fishing in TDF, I can never complain about the wind again. It’s an understatement to say that casting into the heavy wind was absolutely a chore but, once you figured it out, it worked, sometimes only sort of, but the fish didn’t know the difference anyway. My one screw up was when I tried to launch a titanic cast into a strong headwind and lost my balance. Splash, head first into the 39º water. It was less than optimal experience, but the lodge was just a few minutes drive away so, after a quick change of clothes, I was back in the water in about 40 minutes.
I should add that one of the unexpected side benefits of this lodge is that it has NO wifi or cell service, so I was blessed with the complete and total lack of CNN, FOX and DC BS that seems to occupy every minute of our time at home. Bit of a political 12 Step Program I guess as I am happy to report that after being home for three days, I have yet to turn on any of those news stations.