After we finished our fishing trip in San Martin de Los Andes area, we drove south for 6.5 hours, mostly on the famous Argentine highway called Route 40 to a city called Esquel in Chubut Province. This is Chubut area is famous for uncountable fishing venues. We took a couple rest days in Esquel before drivers from El Encuentro Lodge picked us up. Taking rest days shows our age, but it’s not ALL about fishing, its where the fish take you.
While we rested in Esquel a cold front blew through and deposited snow on the peaks above us, so our first day fishing was cool and we wore layers, but it didn’t slow down the fishing much.
Our charming wives shopping in Esquel a day before we went to the Lodge. Kristen (L) & Chris (R) are obviously related names, but in Argentina no one understands either. Down there they are both “Christina”. After a while they both adopted the names for themselves and went with the flow.
Each day it got a bit warmer. By the last day at El Encuentro no more snow as seen above and while on the river we were melting 80+ F degree temps
So, one of Kristen’s first fish was a nice Rainbow taken on a dry/dropper rig.
Sunsets at the Lodge were often inspiring with afterglow on the high clouds after the sun had set. This was taken at about 10:15 PM. Look how the Patagonian wind sculpted each tree, dead or alive.
Dinner every night is shared w/other Lodge guests. It’s always a privilege. This time we shared the Lodge with a group of four mostly retired American lawyers, all 74 years of age. We called them the PR74’s for Patagonia River 74-year-olds after we knew them for several days. On the left, is the Head Guide, Marcello and his wife, who were our hosts for that night’s dinner.
Here’s El Encuentro Lodge nestled below peaks that are in nearby Chile with the mighty Rio Grande River (aka Futuleufu River) immediately below the Lodge. The river is called Rio Grande in Argentina and in Chile they call it Futuleufu, which is a native word for the same thing, big river. We’re just a few kilometers from the frontier at the Lodge.
Every morning this is your view to the north. A peak called Throne of the Clouds. The peak is in the Argentine National Park called Los Alerces, an Alerce is a rare Sequoia-like tree in S. America.
This is the lady that urged me to try El Encuentro a year earlier. Her name is Ceci Harrington. Her husband is the Head Guide for the El Encuentro fishing operations. She is the booking/promotions person for the Lodge. There are few Lodges in Patagonia as scenic as this place and they cater to the non-fishing person, also.
One day instead of fishing the big river we drove to fish an intimate creek called Corintos. As we drove to that estancia we drove by the entrance to the next door estancia who had just hired a hunter to clear out Pumas that were destroying lambs. Wiring the Puma carcasses on the gate was the hunter’s graphic way of saying, “The job is done!” Indeed.
Once we got to Corintos, it was Mike Douglas that casted deftly between tight willows to hook this Rainbow. It took several casts, but the fish kept feeding, despite the fly hitting the water several times. Finally, he got a cast really deep in the willows and the fish took his fly and it was all Mike could do to get the Rainbow out into the open water and away from the root wads.
I also scored. This was a stream choked with willows, but it held some larger fish. It was my third time to fish this stream over the years, but never this exact section as it was all private water. I’d love to return next year; one day was not enough.
Back at El Encuentro lodge that night we had a big Asado with lots of roasted lamb.
Some unusual wild plant on the property, beautiful, but it looks like in the fall it dries to become a giant burr.
Flowers draping a wall just outside our cabana door. The fragrance of the all the assortment of different flowers here was so sweet walking from the cabana to the dining hall, that I would often pause and just breath in for a few moments.
The Rio Grande was quite full. Normally that happens when Buenos Aires is very hot and needs electricity for thousands of AC units, but Buenos Aires wasn’t hot at that time, so it was a mystery why they were running so much water through the turbines. On the beat we floated that day, the island the Guides normally use for lunch was flooded, so we sat in waders in shallow water and had our lunch anyway on the island:
The Lodge must have half a dozen apple trees on the property. I love summer, especially when I know I’ll return home to three more months of winter….ha.
Shasta Daisy just about to pop at the Lodge.
Wine storage in the small bar/store adjacent to the dining room. The El Encuentro Accountant enjoys wine, so in addition to his accounting duties he selects wines for the Lodge. All were quite good and a few I’d never encountered before.
One morning we put into the Rio Grande right at the Lodge. This old cow skull was standing sentinel over the put-in.
That evening the wind had picked up and it was really bending the Willow’s branches at our take-out. Wind and Patagonia are almost synonymous. You always have to find a way to make the cast and that is really a challenge some days.
After four days at the El Encuentro Lodge our friends, the Douglas’, leave us to explore Bariloche (another Argentine Mtn. town) and then fly way south into Santa Cruz Province to the town of Calafate to see Glacier Nat’l Park, Torres de Paine Nat’l Park and unusually shaped mountains like Monte Fitz Roy below:
So, Kristen & I take a day off from fishing with a long nap and we head out a day later with our Guide Alun Lloyd to fish another fishing venue operated by El Encuentro: Brook Trout Camp. The Camp is a “glamping” destination (glamor camping) with walled tents, king sized beds, electricity, heaters in the tent and flush toilets, etc. Not roughing it at all! But as we drive to the Camp we stop and fish a creek called Nanty Fall. Nanty Fall is a Welsh phrase that means a creek w/a waterfall. Welsh people were the first to settle this area in the 1800s and there are a few Welsh place names.
Here I’m standing on a sheep bridge across the Nanty Fall. Its headwaters is a lake upstream, but it’s full of water grasses & root wads that will keep me from landing fish if I don’t handle them quickly and decisively.
Above a playful new colt was curious of us; coming closer & closer. Then it’d scamper off kicking up his heels and running circles around us while I fished the creek. Below, I start to catch hefty Rainbows in this little creek.
I break off my first two large ones and then I land #3, #4, #5 and #6 before lunch. After lunch we have similar results. We end up only fishing Nanty Fall for about five hours, but now I’ve caught the biggest Rainbows of our 2020 trip. I used a Grasshopper pattern with a dropper. It was twitching the Hopper that created explosive strikes, though I took about 40% on the dropper. What a place!
Below, we arrive at about 6 pm at Brook Trout Camp. Pictured is the Dining/Living Room Tent.
The PR74 American lawyers join us for our stay at the Camp and our Guides Alun and Marcelo are also pictured in the group. Above is the living room side of the big common area tent and below is the dining room side.
Our bathroom had its own fireplace, solar-heated water, electricity from wind, photo-voltaic panels, and a diesel generator when all else fails. We even had a weak Wi-Fi signal, but better than nothing!
The Camp is at about 2700 feet in elevation. We are on the Corcovado River just a few kilometers below its birth place flowing out of Lago Vinnter. Vinnter has large resident Rainbow & Brook Trout that sometimes move out of the lake and into the upper Corcovado. We think we are there to fish the monster lake fish in the Corcovado, but when we get there we soon realize the big fish have not moved out of the lake and into the river. So, we start fishing Plan B venues, and we are pleasantly surprised with the other options.
On our second day there we fish Lago Engano (En*gan*yo) which means “Poucher Lake”. This lake is known for its large Brook Trout, so we use sinking lines and fish at the edges of the grass and underwater weed beds with streamers and we take several large Brookies that are the biggest of our lives.
On our last day we drive to another lake, Lago Berta. The trail is a four-wheeler trail which Alun, our Guide, deftly handles in his Toyota Hilux pick-up. We are now about 3400’ feet (about 700’ above our Brook Trout Camp) and the lake is very inspiring. This lake is also populated w/Brookies, like Engano, but they are not as large and more importantly they are best caught on dry flies. Kristen has the front of the boat, loves dry fly fishing, and catches volumes that day. After we had brought about 35-40 fish to the boat, Allun switches me to a large mouse pattern. And, yep, they hit that, too, below.
When we finish Lago Berta our stay at Brook Trout Camp is over. We are off to our last venue, a week at Estancia Tecka. It isn’t far away as the bird flies, but the roads are few and far between in southern Chubut Province, so we out of our way south to the little town of Rio Pico and then east. Out on the dry, windswept Patagonian Steppes, east of Rio Pico, we are both about to have our biggest fishing surprise of the trip. Alun takes us to some new private water. We arrive at a nondescript Estancia. We dub it “Noname”. The landscape is dry and minimalistic, at best. We park the truck. There is a small creek about a 100 meter walk away. Not even a Nire, Chappelle, or Calafate bush lines this stream. Lamb skulls are strewn here & there and litter the walk.
Kristen starts fishing first. We intially take turns. She catches a fish, then it’s my turn. Eventually, Kevin the Assistant Guide, and I walk above Kristen to fish alone. I catch a few small fish, both Rainbows & Brookies.
Then, because there’s not much wind to disturb the surface and mask our presence I must cast farther and try to cast around blind bends in the creek. It pays off and the fish I start to catch get bigger.
I forget the exact reason, but I think Kevin goes to help Kristen w/a fish because Allun is moving the truck, so I end up with Alun as my Guide when he returns. We have a huge boil under my dry fly twice. We assume there’s a big fish by the size of the boil, but it’s been spooked by my presentation. After another few tries Alun says, “Let’s switch to a small leech” and I almost tell him not to bother because I feel I've scared-off the fish anyway, but thankfully I do what the Guide says and we switch from a dry to a leech streamer. I cast upstream and twitch the black leech past a large weed bed very, very slowly. And just as slowly a monster Rainbow appears from under the water grasses and casually opens its mouth (I can see it now) and then closes it’s mouth. I set the hook. The water explodes! The stream is so small the fish cant run far, but it can dive into the grasses where we’ll never extract it, so it’s a tremedous wrestling match with me wanting to keep the Rainbow on top and the Rainbow wanting to dive deep into the grasses. Thanks to strong 1X tippet, I win.
This is the fish of the trip. Not just long (26”), but girthy. And that little inconspicuous stream you see in the background w/o so much as a streamside bush for shade produced that Rainbow. Amazing. And then, just before we leave for the day, Kristen makes a long cast and also hooks a large Rainbow, but she’s so far away the fish is in the weeds before she knows it. So, Kevin, our Assistant Guide, goes into the stream and starts to divide and harvest underwater grasses trying to dislodge the still hooked fish. Kevin is successful and after a few minutes he has the fish in his net and takes this picture. Kristen’s is a fat 23”, her best for the trip! We leave this obscure place with a ram’s skull on the hood of Alun’s Toyota Hilux.