Trip report - part one

central patagonia - chubut Area

with our local FFTC Partner El Encuentro Flyfishing 

Chapter 1-7

Prologue

Respecting the privacy of the other clients, guests and people I met on my trip

I wrote the report from my point of view only without saying any names or telling stories of third parties.  

(All photos are made with my camera PANASONIC Lumix DMC-G81 with Lumix G Vario 12-60mm (ASPH 3.5-5.6) - MFT, and with my iPhone 5 SE)

 

 

Chapter 1 - Getting Prepared

As an experienced traveler you definitely know that if you want to make sure that you can enjoy your journey in all details, especially if your travel experience is based on having the right and complete „gear“ with you, you have to double check your list in order to be prepared for anything that might happen. 

Mostly on a single fly fishing trip you target one or two different sizes of species, so there is normally no need for more than 3 line weights. But I travel to Argentina, and I plan to fish in different kinds of waters in Central Patagonia. Starting from headwaters, over spring creeks, to some small rivers, and big lakes with big fishes as well. I will target small wild trouts on light tippets but also big trophy trouts, as well all in-between. And at the end of the trip (you will read about that experience in trip report part two) I will try to catch some Golden Dorados, known for being brutal fighters, in the north of Argentina 400 miles away from Buenos Aires at the Corrientes area. Planning so many different challenges I decided to take a 4wt, a 5wt, a 6wt, a 7wt and of course a 8wt rod with me. Spoiler: I used all line weights exactly as I expected in order not to get under or oversized on the water. 

So, I took 5 rods and the fitting reels and lines with me. All reels and spare spools filled with floating and sink tip lines. I used a WF line setup only for the 4wt ultra lightweight rod, just to be able to explore some little spring creeks. 

 

I have never travelled with so many fishing gear on a flight before, so I had to find a new travel bag. I searched with fly fishing brands, no-name products and well known luggage brands, but I did not find what I had in mind. I’ve searched for weeks but could not find an ideal 100L+ softcover bag on wheels. One day I stumbled across an online shop for outdoor stuff, where I found a bag meeting all my expectations. I was happy to find a travel bag, which exactly fits the biggest allowed size on all important airlines around the globe (157cm in all dimensions). This is a perfect bag! I’m totally happy that I decided to buy the TOURSAFE EXP34 Anti Theft Large Wheeled Gear Bag from PACSAFE. I was really lucky. If you travel with expensive gear this bag keeps it as safe as possible not only on the way but also in any hotel room. The exterior is extremely endurable, the wheels are outdoor approved, and the security system is easy to handle and unbeatable. The eXomesh protection and the ToughZip prevents any knife attack (this getting trendy in airports) and the size is perfect for every traveling fly fisher. With 84cm length you get a lot of different rod models in their original tubes (some of them are fitted for two rods) inside the bag without putting them diagonally, which is sometimes very impractical especially if we talk about 5 rods. By the way I do not earn any money or affiliate percentages to recommend or to „promote“ this bag or brand. For me it’s a perfect bag that keeps my gear safe and well stored. But I guess the style I bought is not produced anymore but there should be a brand new model available. Anyway … good luggage helps to stay relaxed on your journey. At the domestic airport in Buenos Aires I watched a funny situation when an english Fly Fisher was hectically trying to put a lot of stuff out of a really XXXXXXL bag into several other small or let’s say normal sized bags because the airline won’t transport his huge bag (maybe the deal of the day for the lady of the luggage shop). Be prepared for anything. Different countries have different rules. 

 

In order to avoid any trouble with the luggage insurance companies or with airlines I always make some photos of the stuff I put in. Sometimes the luggage gets lost and it’s up to you to declare what the content was. Photos can be very helpful.

 

Right lines, rods and reels are well selected, so I add some fly boxes with different patterns from dry flies in size 26 for very selective fishes up to some heavy (trout) streamers, and I add some different tippets spools. Now I should be „perfectly“ prepared for a trip to Argentina exploring different waters and targeting several species. As you know the FFTC Hosted Trips are always full-service-trips including guiding. For this reason you can be more relaxed when you travel alone or with a group of friends to explore new waters in foreign countries. 

 

The time between booking your trip and the actual day of departure is a very intensive time filled with different emotions, from thrilling anticipation to some speculative worries. But I love this time and as the day of departure comes closer the happiness is growing with the same speed. I’m ready to start the upcoming adventure. I’m very excited to meet all the people I was in contact with for so many months. Argentina - I can’t wait to explore you!

 

Chapter 2 - The Journey

I chose two different stops for my journey to and from my final destination Esquel in Central Patagonia. For Argentina I chose a flight from Munich (Germany) to Madrid (Spain) and from Madrid a direct flight to Buenos Aires. I started at 7 am on Friday, March 22, 2019 and I arrived in Buenos Aires at 9 am on the same day with 5 hours back to Berlin time. For the way back home from Argentina to Germany I planned a short visit in London Heathrow. 

My friend Mario Battison, the owner of the Dorado Cúa Lodge, recommended a city hotel in downtown Buenos Aires, where I was going to spend one night. On the next day, at 9:15 am, I had a 2,5-hour flight from Buenos Aires to Esquel. So, midday I was at my final airport destination in Patagonia. I got lucky for the second time during this trip - I got my luggage! Now, nothing can go wrong. My complete gear is in my hands! Yes! But how long will it take to get to the next water?

 

I was surprised to find out that the trip has changed. I was picked up by my guide Julian and his helper Mauro, my very kind shadows for the next two weeks and we head to the Brook Trout Base Camp on Rio Corcovado which is 3-hours drive from the city of Esquel. The initial plan was to start at El Encuentro Lodge but there had to be some changes because of another group! After the first confusion I’m getting totally relaxed because Julian convinced me everybody gets to the right place on the right time - all is organized very well! After a short instruction to myself and to the intention what I’m doing here beside fishing we leave the Esquel airport area. We had a short break to pick up some additional compressor stuff in Esquel city for the camp. Very shortly after the 10th stop for making some photos of something „nice and interesting“ around us, my nickname for the next 13 days was clear: El Chino - the Chinese, as they are well known all over the world for making pictures of everything they see. I’m sorry, but I try to record this trip the best way I can - this includes some nice shots. 

 

So, El Chino and his supporters are on the way to the Brook Trout Base Camp at the beautiful and legendary Rio Corcovado. 

 

Please note that after 23 hours of travelling I recommend staying in Buenos Aires for two nights to have some extra time for sightseeing in this active town. I haven’t done this. After checking in at around 11 pm I decided to have a shower and go to bed without having an exploration walk through the city starting at the front of the hotel door. So, if you do have time for this, then it could be the better choice to start the trip. Just getting familiar with the Argentinean atmosphere, and discovering a very interesting big city. Next time I will spend an extra day in the city, will have lunch and dinner, watch people and get a feeling about the rhythm of the capital of Argentina.   

 

Chapter 3 - The Camp

During our drive to the camp I was impressed by the beauty of the country and its changing landscape, I fell in love with Patagonia at the first sight. After we left concrete roads (we do not see them for many following days) we cross some small creeks for the first time, following the winding rocky roads higher and higher into the mountains. As we stopped after the bridge near a really big lake LAGO VINTTER (known as Lago General Vintter on Argentinean side and Lago Palena on Chilean side) Julian told me that this is the birth place and the headwaters of the Rio Corcovado. The second time we crossed a bridge over the lower Rio Corcovado we stopped again … yes, for some photos.

 

Of course I had a look over the bridge and for a short second I saw a really big salmon in the deep… wow, what a first impression of this beautiful looking river, where we will fish for the next days.

I was surprised to see a salmon and Julian told me we will raft this part of the river on the day we leave the camp and head to the El Encuentro Lodge. He showed me the spot (starting point) about 50 meters upstream. So, maybe we will see some salmon again. But we are not going to target them on this trip. We will do a raft and we will fish for brown and rainbow trouts. Maybe next time I will try to catch some of the big pacific salmons kings, which are resident in this water system.

 

We drove further and at one point we left the rocky road, entering a private gate to on off-road route ahead. After 700 meters we stopped on a hill with a beautiful view of a grand curve of the upper Rio Corcovado and the big pool with the name Facundo. Simply beautiful. I can´t wait to jump out of the car to rig my rod - what a promising spot!

After another 10 minutes of off-road drive we arrived at Brook Trout Base Camp. Perfectly located directly on the banks of the beautiful river Corcovado on its long curve - a perfect setup built in harmony with nature around it. I’m totally impressed. I can say that the reality is more impressive than on any picture I saw. 

 

Here we are - this is the place we will stay for the next 4 days and nights. Perfect - let’s explore the facilities. The charismatic camp manager Gabriel gave us a warm welcome and introduced me to the camp. He showed me my personal safari tent, which was the first in the row of four tents. It will be my pretty cool home for the next days. He gave me a short introduction on how to use the gas oven inside and which separate bath cabin belongs to my tent. Generally two tents are sharing one bath cabin with toilette and hot shower. Perfect in size with a lot of smart placed wall hooks easily to jump in and out of clothes. This will be my home for the next days and at this point I can’t imagine how much I will get used to this piece of ground and how emotional will be the day leaving the camp I felt in love with. We walked around the camp and he gave me Wi-Fi password - yes, you read it right! You will have Internet access in the middle of nowhere. This is pretty cool and something I did not expect. So, you are in the middle of the wilderness with access to the digital world - very comfortable because there is no other local mobile network available in this area.

There is one big outdoor meeting point with an outdoor bar and a fireplace with a grill for the legendary Argentinean Assado. I met Benjamin, who managed the family business, and some other EEFF guides, Martin and the head guide Marcello, Juan the cooker and last but not least Alien. She is responsible for the service. A very pleasant and funny crew. Another meeting point at the camp is one big base tent with two ovens, one on every side, some banks, a couch table, some chairs and a big table for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a separate exit to a storage for all the stuff which is needed for cooking, serving and of course the stocks. In one corner of the big tent is a short table with some fly tying accessories. So it’s easy to refill your boxes if needed.

A warm and hospitable place to relax and a great place to meet the group and the guides during your stay at the camp. Beside the big tent there is a full equipped cooking trailer. At this time I cannot imagine what excellent food comes out of this small trailer created by Juan, a very young guy and nevertheless a very experienced cooker (with a one year study of cooking in Italy!) - he is doing a great job and serves us great food all the time. 

 

I was wondering about myself because I spent the rest of the evening talking to Benjamin and the guides at the camp without following the wish to rig my rod for a first cast. We had a nice evening and I enjoyed my first excellent dinner at the camp. Before I went to bed I went for a walk around the camp and enjoyed the big sky full of stars and the sound of the Rio Corcovado next to me. 

 

Chapter 4 - The first fishing day and the first catch

Good morning Argentina. On March 24, 2019 I had my second night in Argentina and my first night in Patagonia. The nights are very cold in Patagonia, no difference what season of the year it is but the safari tent with the short gas oven gets warm very quickly and the oven works perfectly all night long. I slept very well, and jumped out of the tent early in the morning, 1,5 hours before breakfast, to explore the morning mood, which is so breathtaking.

 

It’s more than 30years ago that I spent a night in a tent close to a river I fished and the moment I opened the zipper stepping out of the tent into a freezing early morning, watching the fog over the river and waiting for sunrise was just perfect. I’m not really an outdoor person. I work all day long in an office and yes, I love the nature, but I’m not the kind of a fisherman walking out into the wilderness and staying alone for one or two weeks far away from civilization, sleeping on the ground under the stars and preparing a new place for the camp every night. The experience here is a perfect mix for me - feeling like an outdoor man far away from any civilization but with Wi-Fi and all facilities to have a comfortable stay outside of a regular hotel room or any kind of lodge. Having a real bed, a warm bathroom with a toilette and a hot shower, an excellent catering service and a beautiful river in front of all of this. Simply fantastico. 

 

Today I can’t wait to rig my rod. The evening before I have shown my guide Julian all the gear I have with me and we decided to rig my 5wt and my 6wt rods.  For the first casts in front of the camp - 5 meters away from the big tent - I took my 5wt equipped with a self-tied little dry fly. After some short drifts of my self-selected dry fly I caught my first Brook Trout in Argentina. Ok, not the biggest one - but the first fish before breakfast and without a guide! Perfect - it works well here. 

A good start into the day. Now I’m ready for breakfast.

 

The group arrived and after warm greetings and short instructions on how everything works here, we all went out for fishing with our guides. 

 

Before lunch I decided to fish directly in front of the camp crossing the river to fish the home pools over there. After some nice rainbow trouts in different sizes, and small Brook trouts we stand directly in front of the camp on a short pool next to where a small creek with the name Cuacho floats in. We spotted some nice Brookies. But it is not so easy to catch them. They stand deep and because they are in the river only to spawn, they are very lazy and selective. We tried several nymphs and some small streamers, and yes, we get lucky and one of them is on the line. A beautiful colored fish and after some photos I released him quickly. I hooked one more - a bigger one out of the group in the deep of the pool but I lost him at a tricky head shaking. After that action this pool seems to be done. The time flies and we must cross the river for lunch. This is a brand-new rhythm for me. Eating three times a day. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Normally I have a late breakfast and a dinner. This is the beginning of a big feeding with excellent Argentinean Cuisine. And one more tradition is new to me - siesta. I’m not used to have a power nap and in the time my guide recovered energy after lunch I decide to go fishing myself on the side of the camp only a few steps downstream. A beautiful stretch, easy to wade with riffles, some big rocks and pockets behind. Enough backspace for a stressless and poetic casting full of fish. I caught 7-10 fishes in 1,5h within not more than 300 meters. Some rainbow trouts and some small brook trouts as well until my guide picked me up at the water for a short drive upstream to the big pool Facundo we passed on our arrival.

I’m happy with my catches and so we leave the camp for another great spot. After a 10-minute off-road drive we leave the car and enjoy the great view in front of us. What a beautiful landscape - what a really big pool. We went down and passed the pool. We walked 700 meters over the curve to a slow floating crystal clear stretch with the intention to fish all the way down to the hotspot of the pool Facundo. We went into the water and tried to catch the Brookies we saw standing on the ground… not easy… and after changing the patterns for several times we managed to catch another nice Brook Trout. The time is running and the daylight is fading slowly. We met two Fly Fishers from Chile. They passed by and were fishing between us and the big pool. Some catches later, and after a handshake and a small talk, everybody leaves in his direction. The sun goes down and we do not fish the big pool on this day and also not on this trip. This promising big pool is now on the list for the next time! I won’t forget that! 

 

Back in the camp the group comes together to share the stories of the day. We all had a beautiful first fishing day starting from Brook Trout Base Camp and we had fun before, during and after dinner with excellent drinks and food.

 

Chapter 5 - Headwaters of Rio Pico

After breakfast we head out to fish the headwater of Rio Pico in the area Rio Pico. After a 1,5-hour drive we arrived to the area and entered through a secret entry to the private land of a ranch. Normally you fish this section of the river when you stay at Tres Valles Lodge or Las Pampas Lodge. I requested to fish over there to get an impression about this area away from the camp to explore different regions. 

 

 

To fish the headwaters of Rio Pico means walking. But it is worth every single step. In the middle of nowhere you find a small watershed with a main and different side channels about 1,5 m deep and sometimes deeper, with very shy brown trouts in all possible sizes. We went upstream hours by hours fishing with dry fly only - catching some nice wild and aggressive brown trouts. I had some spectacular takes with high jumps out of the water directly on the take and hard fighting fishes on my 4wt ultra lightweight rod Douglas upstream (4wt/8.8 f) on light tippets and big dries. This was a real fun.

 

The biggest fish of the day was a nice 20-inches brown trout. I lost a much bigger one - about 22-23 inches on a sight cast… what a beast. 

 

This day was totally thrilling - pure fun. Some sight casts - a lot of blind casts. Sneaking the river up and down… a beautiful headwater with a healthy population of brown trouts in all sizes. 

 

If you like to fish headwaters, then you will love this spot. By the way, this was the place where we made pictures for the setup „FFTC was here“ with the fly rods on the bones of the dead cow.  

 

This was a totally different experience compared to the day before and this is a part of the program of the FFTC Partner El Encuentro Flyfishing. You can choose the kind of water you prefer to fish. At the area of Chubut you will find all different kinds of waters making every Fly Fisher happy. 

 

Chapter 6 - Home Pools of Brook Trout Base Camp

 

On the next day after breakfast I decided to fish in front of the camp once again. Starting with a fish we spotted in front of the camp, just 10 meters in front of my tent. This was a thrilling sight casting with a happy end for both sides. After a quick photo I released a very nice spotted rainbow trout. After this quick motivation we repeat the first day and try to catch the biggest fish from the home pool on the other side of the banks in front of the camp. To be honest, it is not easy to catch these Brook Trouts. Based on their focus. Feeding seems to be not on the top of their list. But with the experience of my guide Julian and my patience I caught one more nice brook trout. Not the trophy one we target but one of the other at the pool. A beautiful colored midsized fish. What’s next? Ok, dinner & siesta. 

 

After dinner we drive only 5 minutes to fish a stretch between the camp and the big pool I have put on my list for the next year.

 

We fish a promising stretch of the river about one mile upstream of the camp with great riffles, pools and slow moving parts. We caught some nice rainbow and some nice brook trouts. One of them was a very charismatic looking male fish. A beautiful place - we fished the whole afternoon on a stretch of 500 meters and it was thrilling. We hooked some of the target species as well as rainbow trouts. 

 

The Rio Corcovado is a beautiful river full of fish. And it’s also possible to catch your fish at the end of the season because the EEFF Guides are well organized in selecting the parts of the river without creating pressure on single spots. 

 

Please note, that besides the two Fly Fishermen from Chile we met on the first day, we did not meet any other Fly Fishers on the Rio Corcovado. All the area around the camp is protected private land and there are no drift boats or any other floating boats on the river in this remote area. So, you can fish on your own - alone with your guide on a river with a healthy population of rainbow and brook trouts with a very comfortable home base.

 

Chapter 7 - Leaving & Rafting the Rio Corcovado

After 4 nights at the Brook Trout Base Camp we head out to the El Encuentro Lodge which is the home base of El Encuentro Flyfishing. 

With tears in my eyes I leave the camp, where I felt at home. I loved the heat of the oven in the bathroom which is unbeatable in comparison to any electricity or oil driven heater, the waking up and stepping out of the tent early in the morning. Taking a deep breath in a crystal clear cold air. The sound of nature - watching the foxes running out of the camp after they see you… being close to the nature and the elements we all love - the waters we fish. 

 

It’s time to say goodbye to the very, very kind service from Alien, the very young, excellent and very professional cooker Juan, and the ghost of wellbeing, Paco, who is responsible for the fireplaces at the big tent and in all bathroom cabins. Many thanks to all of them for providing all clients with such a perfect service and their excellent hospitality. All of them are professional, and friendly - simply nice people. A perfect team on a fantastic location in front of a beautiful river with nice fishes in it. A place you will come back to!

 

After some hugs we faced the next adventure - rafting the lower Rio Corcovado!

 

Exactly as Julian told me on the day of transfer to the camp we will start our rafting tour at the bridge, where I spotted the big salmon. Julian and Mauro prepared the rafting boat. I have done white water rafting several times so I’m not afraid of this adventure. Of course, I have not fished while rafting before - but I’m very excited to do that and I can’t wait to start this trip to explore this part of the river, which is totally different from the stretches we fished in the area of the camp. At the camp the water is crystal clear, easy to wade and you see all the colored rocks, which looks pretty amazing. The lower Corcovado is clear but green (by the way this is the meaning of the name in Spanish - Green river) and partly much deeper. 

 

Let’s start the rafting! After 40 seconds on the water I got the first take on a big dry fly and landed my first nice rainbow trout of the day. What a good start - let the ride begin. 

 

And I can say this was one of the most impressive days during this trip. An unbeatable bizarre landscape with untouched forest on both sides of the river with so many varying landscapes. A challenging fishery (a very quick reaction is needed!) and breathtaking canyons. A perfect (romantic) lunch (sorry Julian - but this was really a romantic place and normally I would stop over there with my girlfriend) at one of the most beautiful places we have been to and many, many strong, hard fighting fishes. Brown trouts and rainbow trouts as well. Out of the white waters. out of pockets, behind or in front of big rocks and simply everywhere the fly lands. The river seems to be full of fish. We hooked or caught on every point we put the fly on the water… I felt in love with this amazing river!

 

What a great day! I did not get out of the boat at the end of the drift and I spotted Mauro on the banks waiting for us. To be honest I did not see him… just passing him quickly for a long ride down to Chile for fishing, fishing and fishing. Nothing else!

 

We leave the Rio Corcovado, which was presented to me in a perfect condition, to head to the home base El Encuentro Lodge.

 

We met the rest of the group at the lodge - all of them had a fantastic fishery on different stretches and rivers with their guides on that day. Everybody caught his nice and wild fishes.