El Encuentro Experience by Patrick Johnson
As with most of the world, my plans for March and April were rapidly thrown out the window with the oncoming threat of Coronavirus. On a crisp Patagonian morning a few weeks ago I awoke early to begin planning my post-El Encuentro travels. As the season began to wind down I was looking forward to fishing and seeing more of this beautiful country with some of my new friends before returning home. By evening that same day, however, it became clear that I would have to leave the country before quarantine orders and airline suspensions left me stranded. While my plans were obviously scrapped, I’m grateful to have left some unfinished business in Argentina — I feel like there’s so much more left to write, and many fish to be caught.
Now that I’m quarantining with my parents in the States, I’ve had a lot of free time to reflect on my two and a half months in Patagonia. I was only there for a fraction of the season, and it’s wild now to think of how much I learned in such a short amount of time, and how many memorable fishing experiences I was able to partake in — especially in those last few weeks. Late February and March were full of great food, friends, and off the charts fishing. It felt like the lodge staff, guides, and guests were all dialed-in and focused on having a great time. Luckily, mother nature responded in turn with amazing weather and even better fishing. Camp days were spent putting in long hours targeting those famed migratory brookies of the Corcovado river, while just two and a half hours north at the main lodge, we were treated to mornings full of dry fly action, and afternoons of ridiculous streamer eats. Driving between the two places during that time truly made us feel like we were getting away with something — surely no one deserves so many fishing options, all popping off at the same time — right? I was constantly reminded of Benjamin’s cryptic advice to me during my first week here: “you’ll always have the chance to target big fish… if you’re willing to put in the work.” With autumn’s approach looming on the horizon it really felt like we were all working in a rhythm to squeeze out the last of all summer had to offer, and putting in that necessary work. Early morning outings and twilight excursions were the name of the game (long hours to say the least) and most trips ended in at least one trophy sized fish to the net. We may have been prematurely deprived of our full season, but that last stretch felt like a fitting end, full of hard work, big fish, and a lot of high-fives.
I’ll always be grateful for that period of nonstop working and fishing, for that was when the transformation I'd undergone became really clear to me. To be able to land in Esquel as a clueless gringo and come out the other end as a slightly less-clueless gringo with a deeper respect and familiarity for this little slice of Patagonia was a great privilege. From barely knowing how to hitch a boat to the truck, to standing waist deep in the Corcovado helping guests skate dries for big brookies — I don’t know if such a metamorphosis would have been possible without the amazing staff at El Encuentro. They have become both co-workers, and also a sort of adopted family. Many people can hop on a plane to Patagonia, but few are so lucky to land in such a friendly community that is so focused on having fun and showing you the wonders of their home. It becomes much more than a business when everyone is inviting and as obsessed with trout as you are. Like many of our return guests, I hope to come back one day — if I don’t, I know for sure that the amazing landscape, the serene solitude, and the sight of 25+ inch fish rising clear out of the air will haunt me forever!
Anyhow — Thanks for reading these last few months. It sometimes it feels like grasping at straws trying to describe the amazing fishing conditions and scenery we encountered every day. Words are mostly inadequate when it comes to recounting the big Futa brown who just ate your streamer, or watching the moon emerge over the meandering runs of the Corcovado. Regardless, I at least hope that you have a chance to head down to the lodge soon and experience it for yourself, or are already planning your return!
Until next time,