We left Buenos Aires New Years day and took a hopper to Neuquin, Argentina. Due to the volcanic ash we could not fly into San Martin de los Andes. We could either take a bus, or a van, or rent a car. We chose the latter of the options. Let me tell you two things about renting a car when there is volcanic ash has the airports closed. The first revolves around simple economics, supply and demand. Low supply, high demand equals HIGH PRICE. Secondly, the cars are like mini go carts designed for people who are 4 feet tall and 80 lbs.
It was a 5 hour drive from Neuquin to San Martin, but I did it in 4 hours. Let me honest with you, the drive is like driving thru the desert on route 97 to Vegas. However, it would be fun with a very fast car because people pass each other like they are racing in the Indy 500 and there is no cops. Once you get about an hour from San Martin it begins to look very pretty. We arrive at the Patagonia River Ranch and instantly greeted by the staff. They are very nice and show us to our room immediately.
The ranch is full of flowers, and a huge garden, the house faces the river. The living room is relaxing and comfortable with a bar.
I am not going to give a ton of photos of the Patagonia River Ranch, you can check them out at flyfishargentina.com or google the ranch itself and take a look. What I can tell you about the lodge itself is that is ran perfectly and with every little perfect detail. Salome, is your personal host with her assistant Isabel. There is nothing they do not have, or cannot get to make you comfortable. Their mission is to make you very comfortable and very happy. I can also tell you that the food is incredible, and this comes from the Hunting Chef who knows good food, as well as bad food. Claudio is a very competent chef and has a great staff. The guides were all very respectful and worked very hard, our personal guide Nicko not only spoke very good English (they all do at the lodge by the way), but his fishing and rowing skills as well as his knowledge and fly tying abilities exceeded my expectations.
Your guide stays with you for each daily trip and he not only assures that you see new fresh water, but that also sets up each lunch prepared by Claudio’s staff. It takes a little getting used too, having a big lunch and a bottle of wine. But somehow, we manage to live the Argentina way.
The cooler was always full of sodas, water, and Argentina beer. Did I mention it was 85 degrees and that cold beer was tasting good on the breaks in between when Nicko was ordering me to cast here, and cast there. Seriously, it was like going to fly fishing boot camp and I was the private.
Each day we were hauled off to another river. It was great because we got to see a lot of the surrounding terrain. What is great about this fly fishing Mecca, is that you NEVER see another boat, ever.
I cannot tell you how many fish we caught, because there was so many. Nicko said the fishing was a little slow because of the abnormal heat, it never got cold at night which is typical. The big fish were a little lazy. Did I mention that we were catching them all on surface flies? Tell me where you can go catch 100 fish on surface flies, and never see another person?
What is interesting about fly fishing in Patagonia is that your fishing shallow waters. Look at the shore in this photo. Literally less than a foot of water.
Each night we would return back to the lodge, take a shower and get ready for a knock out meal. Your hands would hurt from stripping line and casting a thousand times, but everyone had a smile on their face.
We did an over nighter one night and camped. Salso went down before us to set up the tents and get dinner ready. We were tired and fished all day, but very relaxed.
I swear these people are trying to make me fat! Of course, I came down South a little Gordo but only because I didn’t know how the food was going to be and had put on my winter weight.
The next morning after….breakfast. We were off on the river fishing again.
My casting started to get even better and I was rolling through branches with precision. Even Nicko was impressed for those 5 minutes, challenging me to put the fly in places he knew I couldn’t do, but those 5 minutes….I was like Brad Pitt in the movie “River runs through it”. I went two days without losing a fly, a river record. The next hour I made Nicko call me Brad. Steph later steals a fish from underneath me.
Then the wind picked up and I went back to being just a normal fishing dude with a hurt hand and sore arm.
We had our last meal on the river and there is something to be said about sitting having lunch and a glass of wine watching fish rise in front of you. It is pure torture.
We were rapping up a week of fishing in some of the best waters I have ever had the opportunity to fish. I sat down and opened and ice cold beer, and just enjoyed the moment for about 20 minutes before drill sergeant Nicko started barking orders for me to keep casting….”Get ready…this is really good water.”
That night, we broke down our gear and we prepared for the farewell party which was an Asadore prepared by Claudio and his staff. I have been waiting for this all week. I read the book “Seven Fires” my favorite cook book by Francis Mallman and I was giddy all day preparing for this meal.
I was warned by the guides to not eat more than three so you were not full for dinner. However, I watched each one of these skinny dudes knock down at least seven.
The table is set, the party is beginning to assemble. The bar is open, the empanadas have arrived. The meat is still on the Asadore slowly cooking.
Let the party begin…..
What a way to end the week with our Texan friends, the guides, and the wonderful staff. I can say this is a memory I will have for the rest of my life and/or until I go back next week.
I love this photo, because the whole time on the boat I would be speaking to Steph and say “Honey can you get some sun screen” or something like that and Nicko would always respond. Then I would reply “Thank you Honey” and he would reply “Your welcome Sweety”. I hope all his friends see this photo!
I would like to thank the all the staff of Patagonia River Ranch. It is amazing that all of you work so well together and get a long so well. You made our visit, unbelievable and for that I am forever indebted. I would also like to throw out a word to the owner, Ken. You sir, have created a paradise and I hope when the grim reaper comes to get me he takes me to the Patagonia River Ranch.