my Opening Day

Oregon doesn’t have an official opening day for the fishing season because fishing is always open somewhere. Nonetheless, my opening day was yesterday. It was a beautiful day, starting off in the chilly 30s, but climbing to the mid 50s by late afternoon. Dawn and I each caught several nice wild cutthroat. The float was comfortable without any navigational hazards.

We didn’t see any March Browns, but there was a regular black blizzard of the Grannom Caddis from about 1:45 to 2:45. There were so many bugs on the water, the fish couldn’t find our flies. I found that a little twitch to a small bead-head nymph helped; Dawn tied on a slightly larger dry-fly with some success. We floated the McKenzie from about 11:30 to 3:30, putting in at Harvest Lane and taking out at Armitage. River levels had stabilized around 5,000 csfs or about 2.7 feet. The water is still cold. There was little cloud cover all day.

 

Bear Footprint, video

Pink Salmon, video


This video shows pink salmon fishing on a tributary of the Nash River in British Columbia.

Bull Trout, video


The video shows a bull trout, commonly known as a Dolly Varden. I caught it at the confluence of French Creek and Deese River. The tourist guides and locals all call the fish, Dolly Varden. The regulations make a point of clarifying there are two distinct species, Dolly Varden and bull trout. There isn’t much obvious difference between the two. The bull trout has a flatter, more triangular head (like a bull?) and a downturned mouth. The head is more dominant relative to the body. Typically only one species exists in a drainage. The Liard River/Peace River/MacKenzie Rivers ultimately flows into the Arctic Ocean and only contains bull trout, not Dolly Varden.

Arctic Grayling, video


Caught my first Artic Grayling. They generally live above 60 degrees latitude. They occupy roughly the same biological niche as trout, but in a colder, more northern environment. Like trout, they hold in the river and primarily eat insects. They seem to like the slower water and their bite isn’t as fast or definitive as a trout. This video shows a grayling I caught in Blind Creek.

Babine River

Babine LakeOn the advice of a friend, I wanted to fish “Rainbow Alley.” As we checked into a cabin at Ft. Babine Lodge, the manager asked if we were here for the sockeye. She directed me to the “fence,” an area downstream (north) of Babine Lake where the Nilkitkwa Lake empties into the River. Sure enough, cars filled a parking lot and a line of fisherman were throwing flies at sockeye salmon. From the bridge, you can see the salmon moving around. The “fence” is  a fish counting station.

Babine RiverAfter watching awhile and talking with the locals, I grabbed my rod and hurried down to the river. Lots of peple were catching salmon. The best beats were all taken. I found myself casting in swift current, trying to get my unweighted fly to the bottom. Nonetheless, I soon hooked one and broke my leader as the fish jumped in the air. I got several more strikes, but no fish to the net. I decided to move to another spot and tripped while straddling a tree that had fallen into the water. I was now wet with several liters of water in each wader foot. I went back to the car, took everything off and wrung it out. I found some heavier tippet and returned to the river. I fished another hour with many strikes and views of salmon leaping in the air in front of me, some with my fly in their mouth. Just before I left, I had one on and played it enough to get it into the shallows. But it too made a great final leap and broke my line. I thought about the advice I received on the Skeena: if you have the right equipment and you know what you are doing….

The following morning, (more…)

Kispiox River

Drove from Terrace to New Hazelton and stayed the night. In the morning, the woman at the visitor center directed us  to the Kispiox River near the village of Kispiox. I fished the stream downstream of the rodeo grounds. The river was thick with pink salmon and I caught quite a few.

Skeena River

From Nass Camp, drove to Terrace on the Skeena River. Terrace is a (relatively) large town with auto dealerships, Canadian Tire and grocery stores. I visited the local fly shop and was directed to the Island Campground. On the northeast end of the Island, the fishermen were stacked up. I met a fisherman who talked with me while he put his (5-meter, 16-foot?) spey rod and related tackle together. He said the Island was as good as anywhere else on the Skeena and the top of the riffle was the best. The pinks were running; there were some sockeye; and the springers were mostly gone. “If you have the right equipment and the right technique, you catch them. If you don’t, you don’t. There are lots of fish.” He was a tall man and took off with long strides with me struggling to keep up with him. Over his shoulder, he said, “The China man is the best. He is the real expert.” Once we arrived to the sand bar and he saw the top of the riffle above the China man was open there was no keeping up with him. Like a lynx after a hare, he bounded forward.

I watched for an hour as the spey rods rhythmically beat the water. My tall buddy caught a fish within ten minutes. (more…)

New Aiyansh

Nass River pink salmonTraveled south to Cranberry Junction and followed the Nass Forest Road to New Aiyansh. This is the Nass River Watershed, noted for its First Nation population and wilderness. A new road, the Nisgaa Highway was constructed during the past few years, creating bridges and opening up the area. We stayed at Nass Camp, an old logging camp from the 50s. It has the infrastructure to serve hundreds, but we were the only guests.

The river contained fish, pink salmon. Locals were fishing at the boat launch and at the confluence of the Ksi Sii Aks River (aka Tseax) and the Nass. We took a ride, stopping at the villages to look at totem poles. We drove to the end of the road to Gingoix at the estuary where the Nass runs into salt water, the Portland Canal. After watching the villagers and eagles, we headed back. On the way, we noticed lots of seals and eagles at a particular spot. We crossed a bridge over the Iknoule River aka Xnutsk River, stopped and looked down to see hundreds of pink salmon. After double-checking the (complicated) fishing regulations, we scrambled down through the dense undergrowth and were soon into them. Colored maribou streamers stripped slowly in the seam between fast and slow water did the trick. The following day, we timed our visit to low tide and fished the incoming tide. Around the bend below the bridge are a couple of pools at a bend. Dozens of fish would swim upstream in a pod, working their way to the spawning grounds. They were active and aggressive, visibly chasing down my fly. They were far easier to hook and fight than to land. My 7-weight bent double and the fish just pulled line out the drag. A couple of times bigger fish (or maybe a steelehead) took the fly way downstream. Many fish wouldn’t fit into my net.red fox

In the area, we saw lots of wildlife. Lots of eagles, maybe hundreds. I took a short walk after dinner and startled a large, black bear. One morning, we saw a bear cub with its mom. Mom marked its territory on a tree and the cub did the same. Also saw coyotes and red fox.

Eddontenajon Lake

Eddontenajon LakeDrove south from Dease Lake on the Cassiar Highway to Iskut. Stayed at the Red Goat Lodge in a cabin for a few nights. No goats, only llamas. Canoed around the lake catching average-size rainbows–lots of them, as of 30 or 40 in a day. See www.redgoatlodge.com .

Fishing Equipment

rod-holder-designI didn’t know what fishing equipment I would need, but wanted to catch rainbows, grayling, Dolly Varden, pike and salmon. For the two of us, I took six fly rods (1-3 wt., 1-4 wt., 2-5 wt., 2-7 wt.) plus 2 salmon rods, 2 steelhead/pike rods, 2 lake rods and several spinning rods.rod-holder

To carry all these rods, I built a special rack for the floor of the 4Runner. Made from plywood and 2x4s, it allows several 3″ plastic sleeves (irrigation pipes) to hold all these rods. It keeps them available, prevents breakage and hides them from theft.

Dease River and French Creek

rock, river and treeCamped several nights at French Creek Recreation Site, about Milepost 415. This small campsite is designed for canoers paddling the Dease River. It’s a primitive site. We really like it. One night no one else was there. The other two nights, only one other party was there. Beware, there are lots of mosquitoes in a land where lots of mosquitoes are commonplace.

Caught large grayling, to 16″ at the campground. Hiked down to the confluence with French Creek and caught bull trout.

Darkness. Dark, at last. Around 10 p.m. in my tent, in the trees, in the rain and clouds, it was so dark, I used my flashlight to read.

Little Rancheria River

From Atlin, drove back to Alaska Highway. I stopped to check out the Tagish River where it comes out of Tagish Lake near Highway 8 near Jake’s Corner. The Marina was flooded out and is now being rebuilt. It was very hot (over 30 degrees) and the fish were reportedly 30 meters down. Under the right conditions, this would be a good fishery. Little Atlin Lake looks like it will be good after road construction stops.

Continued south on AK Hwy through Teslin, stayed at a noisy campground, near the Rancheria River. Fished the Little Rancheria near the bridge and caught grayling. Tried to find main stem by following logging roads to the north, but never did.

The two of us had burgers for lunch with water for $50 at Junction 37 and headed south on the Cassiar Highway. The weather was hot and dry. One local said, “All of the south Yukon is burning.”

Atlin

rock and lakeFrom Whitehorse, drove to Atlin, the “Little Switzerland” of World Was II fame. Stayed at the Art Center with Gernot. Gernot apparently has some international fame as an artist, photographer and teacher. He is an outdoor enthusiast and at 74 is in better shape than most people (me). His school was based upon “living on the edge” whereby students had alpine experiences that influenced the way they see and create art. He personally built all the lodging including a guest house with two one-bedroom apartments. The view is stunning and panoramic. He has a large jet boat for excursions and a wealth of knowledge about the area; he provides charters.Atlin, B.C. glacier

I fished the stream between MacDonald Lake and Little MacDonald Lake and caught lots of small grayling. Also fished Surprise Lake where it drains into the creek and caught larger grayling. Reportedly Palmer Lake holds pike (more…)

Blind Creek and Rose Creek

Rose CreekAfter getting the tire fixed, I fished Blind Creek and caught lots of grayling, mostly on caddis fly imitations. Decided to stay in the town campground. Ironically, the campground was quieter and felt more like the wilderness than the wilderness with the RVs.

In the morning, took an interpretive walk to the waterfalls. Faro was once a larger town of 1,500 people, but is now only 300. A large open pit mind for lead and zinc operated from 1968 to 1998. The town bills itself as Yukon’s best kept secret. Aside from the vacant apartment buildings and mine site up the road, it is really nice with good views of the Pelly River Valley and the surrounding mountains.

French Toast at Fisheye LakeFished Rose Creek outside of Faro, above the mine site . Excellent grayling stream. Once you get past (and get over) the mine works, you are in a wonderful wilderness in the Tintina Trench. The Trench today is a migratory route for birds and other wildlife. Supposedly during the Ice Age, it remained ice-free and was the highway to Asia via the Beringia land mass (now the Bering Sea). Anyway, there was a baetis mayfly hatch and (more…)

Money Creek

Money-CreekStopped on the Campbell Highway to look at Simpson Lake and Frances River, but continued to Frances Lake Campground. The campground at Simpson Lake was empty, so I was surprised to see so many people at Frances. Turns out Frances is a popular destination and several large RVs park there each season.

Fished Money Creek which runs into the lake just Frances-Lakenorth of the campground. Nice, clear grayling water. Caught lots of fish, largest at 17 inces (42 cm). Around 3 p.m. each day, there was a baetis mayfly hatch. Above the bridge, the beavers are at work and they are fun to watch, even if they do put the fish down.

Most people have boats and troll the lake for lake trout. The lake is somewhat unusual in that it forms a “U.” It is typically long and thin, a result of glacial scraping.

Liard Hot Springs

Liard Hot Springs-1The hot springs are justifiably popular. The campgrounds are roomy and comfortable. I tried to fish Smith River Falls, but a forest fire recently destroyed the access and made the area dangerous from falling timber. I fished the Huele Creek near the Liard Bridge and caught my first grayling. The creek runs clear and the fish were stacked up in a hole where the clear water ran into the muddy Liard. They took Elk Hair Caddis and Prince Nymphs about size Liard Hot Springs16 (just like normal). I also fished the falls at Teeter Creek, about a 2 km hike through a mosquito-infested area. The grayling were in a pool below the falls and eagerly took dry fly caddis imitations. Whenever my fly didn’t get stuck on branches, I got a take.

I also drove about 10 miles on a rough 4WD trail along the Liard, but aside from negotiating the creeks, hills and wash-outs, the tour wasn’t exciting.

Muncho Lake

Muncho LakeIn the morning, I pulled up stakes and continued north, stopping at Summit Lake, a picturesque if barren spot exposed to the wind. Arrived at Munchon lake for a beautiful sunny afternoon. In the morning, I searched for access to either the inlet or outlet of the 7 km lake. On the southern end, past the airstrip, I followed a stream flowing through a culvert under the highway to a creek that flowed into the river that flowed into the lake. I could not find any fish in the creeks, but was rewarded with a good-sized lake trout where the river merged into the lake. But, again, the rain blew in with large gusts of wind. I got chilled at the high elevation and followed  moose tracks through the bog back to the highway.

It rained all night and in the morning it was cold and wet. I broke camp and continued north, passing bear and bison.

Tetsa River

Toad River ValleyBeyond Ft. Nelson, the highway ascends into the Rocky Mountains. I stopped at a Provincial Park on the Tetsa River. It was relatively dry for the afternoon, but started raining again the next morning.

I tried fishing and hooked a few small fish, but a rainstorm moved in and made conditions above and below water imposible. The mosquitoes at the campground made things worse.

Alaska Highway

start of AK HwyFrom Chetwynd, I drove east to Dawson Creek, milepost zero of the Alaska Highway and then drove to Fort St. John. I crossed several muddy rivers that normally would hold some interest: Halfway, Buckinghorse, Beatton, Sikanni Chief, and Prophet.

Continued driving to Fort Nelson. This section of the highway is long, flat and not particularly interesting. It was 45 degrees F  and raining. When asked when it would stop raining, the hotel manager replied, “never.” When I told that to the waitress, she said, “You are lucky it isn’t snowing.”

Stellako River

muddy RiverWhen it started raining on the Nechako River, I drove to take a look at the Stellako, one of the renowned B.C. trout fly-fishing streams. According to a local, the bite was off because of the rain. The stoneflys had been hatching, but no longer. According to B.C. fishing regs, non-resident aliens must purchase a $20 per day license in addition to a regular license.

I also learned that the salmon runs are better in August than July–and therefore decided to return east to Prince George and start the “loop” on the east side. Drove to Chetwynd. Spent a day looking at rivers: the Moberly, Peace, Pine, Murray and Sukunka. Unfortunately, the rain came down even harder. The rivers were high and muddy with entire trees floating down in the main current. The Tumbling Falls are looked like a good base for fishing the area. Local info suggests the Burnt River, a tributary of the Sukunka is especially good for fly-fishing.

Nechako River

Along the Kenney Dam Rd. from Vanderhoof to the dam is an interpretive kiosk. Near there is a trail to the West. After hiking about an hour, you arrive to a junction. Take the trail down to the right to the Nechako River. The beginning of the trail is well marked, but has many places with fallen trees. The lower trail is very difficult and has not been maintained for at least five years. The markers are far apart and some are on fallen trees.

Once I arrived in the canyon, I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere, the great North of B.C. I was concerned about finding the markers for my way home. But, the water looked inviting and I soon caught five rainbows on an elk Hair Caddis. I explored a long, curving riffle, but that wasn’t as productive as the pools between carved rock walls. The day had been cloudy and turned bright in the late afternoon. The bite was off except whitefish.

If you take the hike, I recommend taking a compass or GPS, going with another person, and taking insect replellent (better a potective shirt). There were many signs of bear, so make noise or wear bear bells.

The river is flood-controlled and large amounts of water are let out to keep the Fraser River cold enough for salmon, so check locally (usually water release occurs middle of July to middle of August).

Nechako, again

Cheslatta Falls-1Fished north side of Nechako River, below the falls. Walked down steep terrain to get below Falls. Caught dozens of rainbows 12″ to 16″. Spent more time fighting and releasing than casting and hooking. Used #5 floating/sinking tip line and a muddler minnow pattern. Maybe bait fish were stunned by the Falls and the big fish were used to feeding on the smaller fish. Probably other patterns would have worked.

Beautiful spot. The mist from the Falls kept me cool. The canyon stretched to the south and the main river wound to the north. Kingfishers twittered about while an eagle hovered overhead, looking for food.

B.C. Fishing #1

Cheslatta FallsA fish broke my tippet on my second cast. And then attacked my drift indicator. Several broke off in the current–and then I landed my first B.C. rainbow. My wife had just landed her fish. A double!

Below the falls, where the Cheslata River turns into the Nechako River is a pool full of wild rainbows. The water from the lake plunges through rapids, a canyon and into a pool. Green caddis and yellow stoneflys were in abundance. Green elk hair caddis, stimulators, Royal Wolff patterns, prince nymphs, brassies and copper johns all worked well.

There were so many fish, there were more fish than mosquitoes.

To get there, park at the campground and follow the loop trail. Be prepared for steep, slippery slopes. Take a camera.

Skagit River, B.C.

I went fishing on the Skagit River near Hope, British Columbia. The fishing was good for rainbow trout.

I stayed eight nights at the Silver Tip campground. The Skagit runs from the mountains into Ross Lake Reservoir which straddles the Canadian-US border. The Silver Skagit Road runs from Hope through the Skagit Valley Provincial Park for about 46 km.

The first few days were rainy and cool. There was lots of water coming down and made fording the river difficult. Most of the fishing was with nymphs. There were some rises in the afternoon. Caddis and a tan mayfly were fluttering around. Most flies seemed to work. Hares Ear was my most effective fly.

To get there, you need to drive about 34 kilometers on a dirt and gravel road. From the campground you can fish up or downstream. There is a trail at the north end of the campground which will get you part way to the upper river. From there you need to bushwhack through the brush and find the logjam. I walked across the logjam, but some can wade across the river there. the upper river feels very wild, and indeed, I was fishing a pool, came around a bend, stuck my head around a logjam and saw two cougars standing on a sand spit looking in the water. They moved away when I shouted.

An angler told me the trout are descendants of steelhead that became landlocked when Ross Lake was dammed.

Fishing, South Platte River

I fished the South Platte River at two different locations. The Platte is fishable for many miles. I fished below Eleven Mile and below Cheeseman Dam. The other  significant areas are below Antero Reservoir (just opened during the past couple of years) and below Spinney Reservoir. The Platte runs through South Park, a wide, flat basin surrounded by mountain peaks (including the Collegiates).

Ron on South Platte RiverI fished Cheeseman Canyon with Ron above the Wigwam club along the Gill Trail. The river is heavily fished in this catch-and-release section. The fish are well-educated and difficult to catch–meaning I only caught one. The fish are easy to spot in the crystal-clear, cold water. The fish are numerous and some are quite large. We fished in the middle of the day; I think the morning or evening might be more productive. I saw a couple of trout take insects on the surface, but the overall pattern was small weighted nymphs. I didn’t see any other fishermen catching fish. The gorge is very pretty with huge boulders, evergreen trees and the gurgling river. The Gill Trail has been much improved so that the hikers and fisherman stay on the trail. Now, the foliage is recovering everywhere.

Dawn on South Platte RiverOn another day, Ron, Dawn and I left Colorado Springs to float the
Arkansas River. But storms the night before turned the water into a frothy, chocolate milk shake. We drove the entire river and wound up fishing the Platte below Eleven Mile near the bridge. The parking lot had lots of  trucks. Everyone seemed to catching lots of small fish. During the first hour, I caught six small fish on tiny nymphs and 6x tippet. Ron and Dawn also caught numerous, small fish. After lunch I sought larger fish in the deep back eddies. The heavier split shot caught lots of seaweed and more small fish. Ron caught some using a #18 Trico on the surface.

The South Platte is close to Colorado Springs (and Denver) and is a world
renowned catch-and-release area. The trout are extremely selective and
fishermen either need to fish the river on a regular (maybe daily) basis or have a good dose of luck.

Fishing, Rio Grande, July 9-11

Ron and Fritz on Rio GrandeFished the Rio Grande from South Fork to Del Norte for three days. Wonderful experience. Dawn and I joined Ron and Fritz in their rafts. We caught many large browns and some rainbows. Caddis dry flys like Elkhorn Caddis, Stimulaor, Goddard’s Caddis and Humpy worked well on the surface for the first two days. Gray or yellow, sizes 14 to 18. The third day, nymphs ruled. The #14 Beadhead Prince Nymph with Legs was very effective. Various caddis nymph patterns also worked. There were a lot of Green Drakes hatching, but our Green Drake patterns were not particularly effective.
Fritz on Rio Grande
The flow from the reservoir decreased each day and the water level declined accordingly. By the third day, the insects and fish seemed to be hunkering down in the remaining water.
Fritz has a B&B, Riverside Meadows about three miles downstream from the town of South Fork. It is very upscale, comfortable and friendly. As you lie in bed, you can hear the river flowing. The cabins are private with dining in the main lodge. Fritz and Paula prepare wonderful food. For fishing, you can put in or take out a raft at their property.
Ron is an expert fly-fisherman that knows Colorado and the West inside out.
Fishing from a moving raft takes some getting used to if you typically wade the riverbanks. When I wade, I try to stalk the fish by slowly wading upstream to prime holding areas and watch before I cast. When rafting, you move briskly downstream and cast rapid fire to the next holding spot. If you wait to see a fish rise, you will typically float by the spot before you can position your cast; you can’t wait for the fish to rise again. I like to spread out from my friends and leapfrog fishing spots when I wade. Everyone is compressed in a raft; only two people can fish at a time. You need to be attentive not to cross lines or cast at the same time.Dawn Dowd-fish
The Rio Grande flows from the Rockies near Creede and ultimately forms the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Most of the land along the prime fishing water is private so wading is impractical. South Fork is located in southern Colorado west of Alamosa. Don’t confuse it with south Park of TV cartoon fame.

Fishing. Rocky Mtn Natl Park

cutthroatSince 1969 the fishery management philosophy at Rocky Mountain National Park has been to restore the greenback cutthroat trout, the original native fish. Rainbows, browns and brooks are harvested; the cutthroat is catch-and-release only.

Dream Lake had a fair number of actively feeding trout just downstream of the inlet. Sprague Lake had a fair number of actively feeding fisherman at the large picnic area. The Big Thompson River near the museum looked productive with about a half-dozen fly fisherman.

Bear LakeBear Lake had a number of rises, but is closed to fishing.
The park is beautiful and has many accessible destinations. Consequently, parking lots fill up before noon and a shuttle has transports for hundreds of people. Some of the trails are paved with asphalt.

Leaving Rio Gallegos

DawnPlateadoAt this point in our trip, we have moved faster south than the change in seasons. Although it’s
summer, it’s cold here. The wind is fierce. It’s mostly in the 40s F. If Junin felt like Colorado, this feels like Alaska. Rio Gallegos, the city, has about 60,000 inhabitants. It’s located on the estuary where the river flows into the Atlantic. The river has its headwaters in the Andes and is a major watershed for the entire southeast part of the continent. For fly-fisherman, Rio Gallegos (and Tierra del Fuego generally) is noted for the sea-run trout. The trout are brown trout or marònes. When they go to sea, they return silver and are known as plateados (plata is Spanish for silver). In North America, we have sea-run rainbows, known as steelhead. Sea-run trout are significantly bigger than their land-based cousins.Rio Gallegos
When we arrived, we had beautiful weather for New Year’s Eve–it was warm with little wind. We went to the river and saw numerous groups of fisherman and picnicers. The river was clear and the water level was falling. At one point, I saw numerous fish rising (small, resident 12-18 inch trout that I did not target). That night, it began to rain and rained all New Year’s Day. After the rain, it got cold and windy. We visited Bella Vista in the middle reaches of the river and the tributary, Gallego Chico. The wind was so strong it was difficult to assess the riffles, pools, depths or seams. I had to pick my spots to fish downwind. I caught a couple of browns. The Hotel Bella Vista is open. The Estancia looks prosperious. Everything else looked closed and deserted.
We returned to the lower Gallegos to the water tower west of town for two more days. Worse than the wind and cold, the water level was up considerably. Snow melt and rain run off made the river muddy, cold and difficult to wade and impossible to cross. I kept switching fly lines from sinking to floating/sinking to floating and finally, back to sinking. By early afternoon, the wind was too strong to fish. The last day, I caught a silver, by stripping a greenish brown matuka through a seam at the tail of a pool. It felt like a coho salmon, about 6 to 8 pounds and measured just short of 24 inches. To really fish the river, you need time to learn it and wait for the right conditions. Maybe, next year. Despite the weather conditions, I really enjoyed the environment. Most days, we had the river to ourselves. Waterfowl were everythere with young ducklings. Wild flowers were abundant. The big, blue skys were streaked with high wind-blown clouds. The air was fresh and crisp.

fly, before and after


The phrase is, from river to table. But in this case, it’s from table to river. In the morning I tied up a fly and the following day I caught a fish with it. We brought our vise and other materials for tying flies. The wooly bugger is a popular fly here. It mimics a small fish, leech or large insect. It also mimics pancora crabs which are abundant here. The locals drop the “w” when pronouncing the fly’s name. I awoke one morning in Esquel and tied a half dozen on the kitchen table as I drank coffee. Lead thread, maribou, saddle hackle, chenille and as a variant, flash-a-boo. I tied them in black and olive on hooks sizes 6 and 8 with a beadhead.
The following day we had moved to Los Alerces National Park to the Hosteria CumeCue. We fished the boca of a stream flowing into Rio Rivadavia. During our guided float trip, I learned that a floating-sinking tip was awkward to cast and didn’t go deep enough for the large river in spring run-off ocndition; so I bought a Type IV full sinking line. I waded deep along a sand bar and cast toward the opposite shore. There was a seam that flowed into a back eddy. I let out line hoping to drift the fly deep into the seam. Then I stripped the fly back in through the slow water. I caught two nice fish that way, a brown trout and a rainbow.

The photo of the fly uses a 105 mm macro lens. The photo of this fish is taken underwater using my point and shoot camera.

Rio Gallegos

On the bus to Rio Gallegos, I met two Israelis. After Israelis finish their mandatory three-year military service, many of them travel and South America is a popular destination. The couple was splitting up, as they said–she by bus to Buenos Aires and he by bus to Ushuaia. He was surprised we were staying in Rio Gallegos and said he thought there wasn’t anything to do there.
He is correct. If the guide books list it at all, they say it is a place to stay while waiting to take the bus or airplane somewhere. We decided to come here because a fifteen year old book said it had good fishing. The taxi driver said there wasn’t any fishing here. The guidebook says to go twenty miles west of town, take a dirt road and look for a water tower. Fish upstream from there.

After our experience driving 20 miles per hour in our Suzuki Fun in Junin, I am now equipped with a large four-wheel drive Toyota king-cab pick up complete with a roll-bar and large fire extinguisher. I can now easily go 80 km per hour. We were stopped at the police checkpoint (everyone was). I was mindful not to sound like a smart-aleck when the policemen wanted to know where I was coming from and going to. Rio Gallegos is the answer to both questions. The town is at the mouth of the river of the same name.

Standing at the water tower, I surveyed the river and wondered if this indeed could be the place. An Argentinian fisherman was returning from his fishing. I greeted him. After awhile, he invited me to ¿Toma mate? which of course I did. After exchanging pleasantries, he told me all about the river and the fish. Our timing is good. These special brown trout, plateados (silvers), return from the ocean once each year to spawn. They are now in the river. He had hooked, but lost, a six kilogram fish that very morning. Like a local Trout Unlimited member, he directed us to one of his favorite fishing spots, where indeed we spotted several extra-large jumbo trout jumping in the air. …so, we are here for several days.

There are some interesting animals I hope to photograph. See photo of rhea; they look like ostrich.

map, Southern South America

fishing Rio Rivadavia

We fished the Rio Rivadavia with guide Marcelo Coronado. We were impressed with the beauty of the scenery and number of trout we spotted. We were disappointed that our trend of hiring guides on bad weather days continued. We did catch some nice fish, but overall it was a slow day, especially considering the potential. The river was swollen with chilly water. A furious current ran through the river and from bank to bank in the turns. Marcelo lives at the downstream end of this short, several mile long river that drains from Lago Rivadavia into Lago Verde. Marcelo was knowledgable, skilled and friendly. We tried a variety of techniques: fishing while floating and anchored and wading the banks, sand bars and shallow parts of the river. We fished under trees and under banks overhanging the river. Marcelo said it wasn´t the fisherman and it wasn´t the guide. The weather had driven the fish deep underwater and they weren’t feeding. For lunch, he set up a table and chairs on the side of the river. While we ate we talked about fishing, Argentina and the U.S. He couldn’t understand why we didn’t take siestas. After lunch, while Dawn and I fished, he took a nap. The river was a turquoise color.
Dawn caught more fish than I. She was using a Type IV sinking tip. I used a Cabela’s rig which had kind of a shooting taper with various 12-foot tips that could be exchanged without changing the line. It was my first time using it. I found it awkward. The tip at 12-foot is accompanied by a 9-foot weighted leader with a 4-5-foot tippet. This 25-foot end sunk rapidly. The problem was I could not lift the full 25-feet from the river with a roll cast or a back cast because it was heavy and sunken into the water. This meant, I needed to strip the line in to a shorter length and the knot-to-knot junction slid through the forward rod guides, hanging up on the way in and out. Also, although the tip went down quickly, the line was very buoyant and tended to offset the value of the sinking line in the fast-flowing water. For these conditions, I think a full sinking Type IV is the ticket. I will try the sinking tip again. It worked well in the side tributary creeks where I could cast to the far side of the water and allow the tip to sink while buoyant floating section floated across the current. I will try it again and experiment with using just the sinking tip without the sinking leader

photos, maroòn and Rivadavia

Rivadaviabrown trout
Here is an underwater photo of a brown trout I caught. The Riò Rivadavia flows from Lagò Rivadavia and later into Lago Verde.

map, Esquel area

We’ve moved south from Junin to Esquel. The park is to the west of us where al the lakes are marked. We drove up there for the first time yesterday. We visited a guide that we have engaged for a float trip down the Rio Rivadavia on Monday. His family has lived there since 1900. The park was developed in 1937 and they have the rights to continue living there. The lakes are deep and clear.
Thanks to William C. Leitch and his book, Argentine Trout Fishing, for maps, orientation and lots of information.
http://www.amazon.com/Argentine-Trout-Fishing-William-Leitch/dp/1878175068/sr=8-6/qid=1166283195/ref=sr_1_6/102-3868446-1564155?ie=UTF8&s=books

photos, Patrick fishing

arucharyaHere I am with a brown in a riffle that was very productive. The tree is an Arycharya Tree and the spot is called the Arycharya Pool.

photos, Dawn fishing

nice oneHere is Dawn fishing and one of her big fish. Dawn has caught three fish over 20 inches. She also caught the first fish. I have caught the most fish and the most unusual fish (a silver colored brown trout).

photos, Boca of Rio Chimehuin

Laninat the bocaThe Rio Chimehuin runs out of Lago Huechulafquen which is fed by glacies in the Andes including Volcàn Lanìn, shown at the right.

freight train on a kite string

Yesterday we went to the mouth of the Rio Chimehuin where the river begins at the outlet from Lake Huechlafquen, “la boca.” This is trophy water famous for many fish, big fish and renowned fisherman.

We were suiting up when the game warden presented himself and asked for our licenses. We have met the game warden on most of our fishing excursions. They typically show up on cross-country motorcycles, ask for your permit and after carefully inspecting it, leave. They are friendly in an official way. El Señor Hugo Felix, the guardfauna, turned out to be an extremely hospitable, well-informed guide. He showed us the popular fishing spots and told us their names. He pointed out fish and told us about popular methods for catching the fish. From the bridge, he pointed to several extremely large fish and groups of smaller fish swimming peacefully in the crystal clear water. When prompted, he told stories of famous fisherman that knew particular fish by their markings and could catch them with a single, well-placed roll cast.

I started fishing the boca where it is more lake than river. I was preparing my line for the first cast when the first fish struck my line. I was ill prepared. I fished downstream. I caught a small one and lost another. I was using my seven weight in the wind. The wind is easterly–and although it was light, it created one to two foot waves. In the river proper is a large, submerged rock. Hugo spotted a feeding fish and said I needed a long cast to reach it. I could cast that far, but the fly floated over the head of the fish. Hugo said I needed to get deeper. But when I added weight, the BB kept flying off on my backcast. My roll cast came up short.

Meanwhile, Dawn had positioned herself to drift nymphs to feeding fish under low-hanging willow trees. She captured and liberated (Captura y Liberación) three fish all well over twenty inches. She fought two of them for about fifteen minutes each. I returned to my fish at the point of the rock and switched to my usual technique of deep nymphing and finally managed to hook a nice rainbow.

When we decided to take a lunch break. Hugo set up some chairs and a table for us in the shade. We told him of our travels. He is from Junin and has worked for the department for twenty years. His schedule is fourteen days of work followed by four days off. For fun, on his vacation, he goes to northern Argentina to fish dorado. They have teeth that require special leaders. He suggested we try our five-weight rods for better feel and because the wind was not especially strong.

After lunch, I switched over to my five weight. I had been using a 3X tippet on the seven-weight, but left the 5X on the five-weight. Both Hugo and the fishing book suggested using a wooly bugger. I decided to fish with a Prince Nymph, a fly I have a lot of c0nfidence in. I tied on a 14. I flipped the fly into the slack water below the piling of the bridge. I pulled my line tight and a giant fish leapt up. I was ill prepared. My reel began to sing, spinning madly as the fish swam into the main current and chugged downstream, careening and leaping. It reached the bend in the river, paused, took a final leap and disappeared. I tossed the same fly into the river and again hooked another fish. This fish immediately snapped my line at the leader and disappeared. Because this is the big one that got away, I cannot say that the one that jumped in the air reminded me of an Alaskan king salmon or that the size of its head was as big as my thigh. I will say that confirmed catches from this trophy boca include a twenty-four pound brown.

I caught several more fish including another nice rainbow. Dawn won the prize for the day. We were both tired and cold from standing in a river fed by melting, volcanic snow with out faces blown by the wind and burned by the sun. Hugo was kind enough to invite us into his trailer home and offer us hot tea and bread with jam. After conversing for awhile, he said it was nice we could speak Spanish. He has lots of visitors from the States, especially Montana, but most only speak English. We thanked him for his introduction to “la boca” and told him that without him, we would have had a good day, but with him, we had a special day.

fishing report, Rio Chimehuin

We have found fishing here everything we hoped for. Clear, cold rivers flow from the mountains and provide abundant habitat for trout. At its best, I released six fish in an hour, each ranging from fourteen to eighteen inches. The largest fish so far has been a heavy brown twenty inches in length. We have found Rio Chimehuin which drains from Lago Huechulafquen the most most productive. Mostly, I use what I think of as a standard nymphing rig. Nine-foot five weight rod, nine foot leader with 5X tippet. Size 16 nymph (Hare’s Ear, Prince Nymph, Pheasant Tail all work fine). Fish the seams of riffles. In the evening just before dark, there is a caddis fall and fish can be caught downstream of the overhanging willows. I caught the large brown this way. He was vacuuming up caddis without any concerns. I could see his broad head roll over to take my fly even though it was too dark in the shadows to actually see my fly. He ran out into the main current and raced downstream. It was difficult to get him to the net. His color was spectacular even in the low light. So far, our best spot on the Chimehuin is south of town where the road curves and there are many statues of San Ignacio.

Rio Curruhué was a bust because its entire length is fenced and inacessible. There is access under the bridge, but we only caught one small fish. Similarly, Rio Malleo is slow fishing. Although extremely picturesque with many views of Volán Lanín, we found few fish. We tried both above the interesection with 23 and below the five-peso Mapuche gate.

For unknown reasons, the custom here is to take siestas. People arise early for work and school. But in the afternoon the stores close. Dinner is served very late. We typically fish until dark which is now after 9 p.m. and then return to town. (It gets light before 6 a.m., don’t know when). All the restaurants are open. We are easily seated a 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m. at night. Even when we are leaving, more people are arriving for diner, often with young children. We have attempted to adjust our schedules because the best fishing is apparently in the morning and evening–so essentially we can fish two shifts with a siesta in between.

photo of fishing Patagonia

fish
Here is a photo of my very first Patagonian fish, a nice rainbow taken below La Herradura. That’s Dawn fishing where she caught her first fish. It’s hard to see, but the white triangle in the center is Volcán Lanín. The river is Rio Chimehuin.

Map of northern Patagonia

Map: Fishing Zones

We plan to visit each of the three major fishing zones in Patagonia. This region is generally regarded by fly fisherman as among the best in the world.