As time goes on, I’m starting to get the feeling that even if I really hustle, I’m not going to be able to visit all the fishing meccas I’ve put on a rather extensive bucket list. Naturally, I’d like to catch tiger fish in Africa, a monster 500-pound catfish in the Mekong Delta, barramundi in Australia, and bluefin tuna in the wild waters of the Atlantic. Throw in golden dorado in South America and Amazon perch in the Nile, and you can see that my motorhome may have to put in a bunch of miles!
To this end, I am much indebted to those friends of mine who are more than happy to share their adventures with me. Recently, Christina De Witt, director of our amazing local seafood research center, gave our fly club a very detailed and intriguing show-and-tell about her latest outing.
While I was out a couple of miles from my house, stumbling in the waves, casting my heart out for a few pink-fin perch, Christina was enjoying a South American spring, fishing for trout in the Patagonian waters of Chile! True, it was a bit of a busman’s holiday—she did have to give a presentation to an international symposium on fisheries and food research—but once that was over, she jumped in a little plane and hopped over to fish a variety of rivers and lakes down in the skinny part of South America. In that part of the world, a few minutes in the air takes you to either the Pacific, or the Atlantic Ocean!
Over the last hundred years or so, many of the streams and lakes of Chile and Argentina have been planted with sport fish from the North. Rainbow trout from California, Pacific salmon from Oregon, and brown trout from Germany are the ancestors of some monster fish that have made Patagonia a world-class fishing destination.
Since Christina’s Chilean friends had already flown her down to where the fish lived, she threw in a few thousand bucks of her own for lodging and guides and enjoyed a long week fishing several rivers and lakes. It was an amazing trip. As a woman alone on a holiday, she was unique to her hosts. Lots of guys had booked trips over the years, and some women had come down with husbands or relatives, but our brave lady was on her own!
During the trip she stayed in a very nice lodge and fished on several rivers but usually had a guide who took her fishing activities very seriously. He must have been paid by the number of fish she caught, or at least the number of casts she made!
“By the end of the trip I had blisters all over my casting hand!” she said. “I started fishing at nine in the morning, and didn’t stop till dinner.” That may not sound like much, but dinner was served at about ten p.m.!
In fairness, he did spoil her a bit for lunch. All she had expected was a “sandwich in a sack,” but instead got a full sit-down meal, served at streamside with tablecloth and linen, with an entree prepared at the lodge. Heck it even came with wine and beer. (Maybe to take the edge off of those blisters!)
But she did catch fish, lots of fish! During her presentation, we oohed and aahed at pictures of some wonderful big browns and rainbows caught in some stunningly beautiful surroundings. Streams going though the Andes, even the relatively gentle Andes of the far south of the continent, are something special, as was the bird life.
“I saw a number of giant Andean condors flying overhead,” she said, “and a lot of birds looked like those I’d seen in the U.S., but the colors, shapes and sizes were all a little different.” She had to chuckle while sharing an account of a bird she saw attacking its reflection in the window of a lodge. “It turned out to be a meadowlark, but it had a bright red breast. Sometimes it felt like home, but everything was a little different.”
And that is why we travel! Great fishing, a chance to see some very different country, to notice what is similar and what is exotic. Thanks to Christina, we all had a chance to enjoy the experience. And who knows, just maybe some of us will follow her lead and head south. It sounded pretty special to me.
Not only did she improve her world vision, her fishing skills got much better. “I learned some different types of casts, some of the waters were pretty powerful and different tactics were necessary.” She passed around some very different flies she had used on her trip. Called Fat Alberts, they looked like overfed stoneflies, very big and colorful. And underneath she fished a Copper John, an old favorite all of us knew and used. Once again, something exotic and something familiar!
But if I ever get to go, I think I’d get a different guide, one that likes to sleep in, and hit the bar early!
Christina arranged her South American fishing trip through Brian Gies at Fly Water Travel in Ashland, Oregon. (flywatertravel.com)
Bob Ellsberg’s column, Fishin’, appears monthly in RV Life and at rvlife.com.