One of the questions I often get asked when people find out I’m heading almost 7,000 miles south to fish in Tierra del Fuego is “is it really that much better than here” or “don’t they have good trout fishing closer to home”? The short answer to both of those questions is a resounding “YES”. But these are the types of questions you brush off because they are coming from those outside the eccentric world of fly fisherman, and outside “the know”. They usually say something along the lines of “it’s their summer down there, right?”. When you tell them it is, but that their idea of sunshine and sand covered beaches is a little off, as the temps are usually in the 50’s, maybe lower, the wind blows about 30 mph on a day with a “slight breeze”, and then there are the random rain, hail, and snow storms that can crop up at any time, and did I mention the wind? You tell them that you will be doing all this while sleeping in a tent, showering about every 5th day, eating dried pasta or some other easy to preserve meal served “hot” off the single burner gas stove, and prepared in the back of the car to keep the wind from blowing the whole contraption over, they start to look at you with that look. Those of you that fish for an addiction know the one. That “you are out of your freaking mind” look.
“But the fish are big right”? “Yes, yes they are”. And there is no one around, no modern day distractions, no light pollution, no noise pollution, peace, solitude, you get the idea. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the conveniences of modern life, but every once and a while, more often than not, I need to unplug. John Gierach wrote that “ there’s an art to being unaccountable without ultimately ending up sleeping on a park bench. It involves the rare ability to check out indefinitely while leaving open the very real likelihood that you’ll check back in at some point. (Not forgetting that reentry can be a time-consuming shock to the system).” And so it was that the opportunity presented itself again, to check out, and spend 25 days with my amigo Herb (I feel obligated to break into what little Spanish I know for this report) in one of the most beautiful places in the world, chasing brown trout where measuring tapes are useless and nets with scales serve a purpose, throwing foam hoppers that fish have never seen (real or alive), into a headwind that makes it an almost if not completely impossible task, on meandering spring creeks that look like there should be a 3-5lb brown trout in every lie (and there is).
When the wind becomes too much to throw the hopper, usually about the time you realize you are having difficulty staying upright, it becomes time to switch to the bugger. The results are the same, although there is something much more poetic about watching a fish that size rise slowly through the crystal clear water column until his nose just breaks the surface, sipping the hopper in with the surface disturbance of a minnow……..until you set the hook. Then the water literally explodes. Your rod bends with a force that you are sure will just snap it in half, but somehow it doesn’t. You struggle to gain a couple feet of line, to keep him from pulling you beneath that undercut that he desperately wants, and is making good progress of getting back to. Sometimes you win, and are rewarded by holding in your freezing wind burned hands, a beautiful golden brown that makes you start to reconsider the 3X you have been fishing. Sometimes you lose, again, reconsidering the 3X. As this repeats itself at every bend, you have long forgotten the looks of those crazy people who earlier were considering having you committed to some sort of mental institution, thinking to yourself that this is what keeps you out of such a place.
After several weeks, coincidentally about the same time we had pretty much run out of food and water, and were both physically beaten down, we decided it was time to check back in……..at least temporarily. After several days of processing photos and a few hot meals and showers, I already find myself pouring over maps and satellite images. There are several streams and a handful of lakes that have already made the list of “if we can find a way to get in there, looks like it could be a lot of fun”. But until that time comes, I guess I’ll start processing the video. Although I’m sure that is not going to help the reentry process much. So for those who have not already just skipped over the paragraphs above, below are a few (we probably shot near a thousand) of the still photos from the 4 cameras and 5 video cameras we had in tow. I will try to get the video up soon, but the process of compressing 10 hours of video into 10 minutes can be a bit time consuming. As always, I hope you enjoy the photos. Remember the old adage, “it’s better to die with fishing memories, than to live with fishing dreams”.
|Refueling! Its hard to explain how big a deal this is. The next closest place to get fuel is 5 hours away, in the wrong direction.|
|5lbs on a foam hopper. What more could you want.|
|It's not big, at its deepest point it may be up to your chest, but it holds 5-8lb+ browns.....and lots of them.|
|Another sunset from our tents, overlooking the lake.|
|No matter how many times I see them, still find it wild to be chasing trout where there are flamingos around.|
|Mi Amigo Alejandro|
|Little further south this time. Yes that is Antarctica just to the south.|
|RARE calm morning at Lago Fagnano.|
|Another gourmet meal in production.|
Special thanks to Alejandro Cardenas and Estancia Cameron Lodge. Also to Simms for making waders and coats that can stand up to the conditions down there, and Sage and Rio for making lines and rods that can do the same!