Argentina/Patagonia Fly Fishing Trip 2019

Ty Haberling

Initially, I was apprehensive to write this article. The first reason being that it is mostly about fishing and it might have a limited audience. Secondly, I feel very fortunate to experience unique trips like this and I’m rather reserved in sharing. However, I made a new friend last year – a former trial attorney turned investment advisor, and now author, Dan Solin. I met Dan at a conference where he gave me a copy of one of his books. One of the chapters centered on happiness and fulfillment, and it was this chapter that inspired me to share my “happy” experiences with the hope of encouraging others to find theirs as well. Here’s to Dan.

This is my second trip to the Patagonian region to fly fish for an assortment of rainbow, brown, and brook trout. Trout were introduced to this region in 1907, and, still to this day, the waters are pristine and clean. During my stay, I never once saw a plane in the air. At times, I felt like Lewis and Clark as they ventured into the Northwest. There is low to moderate fishing pressure and, with it being summer in the Southern hemisphere, it was a welcomed break from our North American winter. Those who know me well, know that I’ve been married to a wonderful Brazilian lady, named Noelia, for more than 30 years. She is from the southern Brazilian city of Florianopolis, located in the state of Catarina and just over two hours north of Buenos Aires, Argentina (BA). My trip begins by returning to Brazil to visit my happy and loving in-laws on Feb 1, 2019. This year, I had ten days with them on the island of Florianopolis. On a Monday afternoon, I boarded a flight headed directly to BA.  BA has two airports and I flew into the smaller of the two – an airport called Newbury. I needed to spend the night in BA as there is only one daily flight to my next destination, Esquel. The next day, I caught an 11:00 AM flight to Esquel and, two-plus hours later, I arrived to be met by my outfitter, Jason Witt. Although I had conversed with Jason for more than a couple of years while planning both of my trips, this was our first time meeting in person. Jason can be described as a tall, lanky, and lean Georgia boy with no accent. With a passion for fly fishing and traveling, Jason is the most free-spirited person I have ever met. The primary genesis of his free spirit comes from a near-death experience at the age of 24 wherein he survived a brain aneurism. From that point on, he left the traditional world of work and business and has since followed his passions. After gathering my gear, we walked to his red van, a 1997 Toyota with Chile license plates. There waiting for us was his wife, Khadizhat (Hyshot), and his three-year-old daughter, Aiza. Hyshot is from Russia and another super interesting person, speaking more than eight languages. I conversed with her in English rather easily while she spoke with the locals in Spanish. Hyshot and Jason met in Peru by chance one evening and, within a month, they both happened to be in India where they reunited. She has given up her business career in Southern California to follow Jason around the globe guiding nutty fly fishermen to Mongolia, Russia, Alaska, Argentina, and many other locations. If you ask Hyshot where they reside, she will say, “where we are today.”  If you are looking to purchase educational children’s books, I would urge you to seek out her work by searching for her by name on Amazon. The two books I read were titled, Nick and Aya Travel to Argentina and Nick and Aya Travel to Russia. Both give young children a different perspective. We left the Esquel airport and drove for 2 ½ hours to a small town called Rio Pico.  From there, we traveled south through an arid landscape; but as we got closer to Rio Pico, the Andes came into view. Rio Pico sits 10-15 miles east of the Andes and 135 miles south of Esquel.

Fishing for trout in this region is done in one of three types of waters: lakes, rivers, and spring-fed creeks. During this trip, I chose not to fish the lakes, where the largest fish reside. Last year, I caught a handful of 4-8lb browns and rainbows in the lakes. However, it is windy in Patagonia and a day on a windy lake isn’t as enjoyable for me as working miles of river.

Big Brown from last year’s trip from Lago 4

Fishing Day One-Upper Nielsen

I’m reunited with my wonderful friend and guide, Guille Willhuber.  His first name is phonically pronounced as “Gee shay” but I call him “G” for short. My favorite river in this region is a smaller river called Nielsen. It dumps into the larger Rio Pico river. G took me to the upper Nielson, a location I hadn’t fished before. We start by walking down a forty-foot trail and, as we traversed down, we could hear the waterfall that makes this location spectacular. We fished down river and then back up river. In all, I would estimate we covered two miles in both directions, catching more than 40 fish for the day. All caught on dry flies, they ranged from a couple of 17 to 18-inch browns to ten or more 13 to 15-inch rainbows. In Patagonia, everything is catch and release.

G and I taking a lunch break-all fished out

Upper Nielsen water fall

First Brown Trout of the trip on the Upper Nielsen

Fishing Day Two-Rio Pico

The Rio Pico is the main river in this region. Fishing was below average for me during the day; however, the other two fishing guests (from Montana) were 1-mile up river from me and had a fabulous day. That night we had lamb cooked over an open fire pit. I also experimented with some fabulous Argentine Malbec.

Fishing Day Three-Lower Middle Nielsen

I fished this section last year in January. The water was higher the previous year and the fishing was incredible. I lost count after 40 fish last year. This year, with the water down, the fish were smaller. However, I landed 10-15 rainbows in the 11 to 13-inch range. I missed 4-5 larger browns.

Fishing Day Four-Berta River

Jason and Hyshot had gone to a lake up river from Berta to set up camp for G and I. We arrived to untouched wilderness after an hour drive and a 30-minute hike. Up until this year, it was relatively unknown and was one of the primary reasons I came back. This river can have 3-8lb brook trout. However, we had a couple of things working against us. First, the water levels were down and the large fish remained in the lake. Second, another Outfitter did a TV show about the fishing that went global. On the way down, fishing the river I ran into three younger Brazilians who had seen the TV show about this area and came down to fish it. After a couple of hours of fishing, we finished up as the Brazilians had already covered the water I planned to fish – that’s fishing luck. We spent the night on the river and enjoyed a campfire dinner.

Jason’s van and G’s truck. This is where we parked to hike to the Berta River

A berry that tasted like an apple on the trail to Berta River

The end of the trail to our camp. This lake is what feeds the Berta River. You are looking west, towards Chile.

One of many 15-inch Brook Trout caught on the Berta with a Streamer

End of the day around the campfire

Thinking about the wonderful day and how good it would be to have a beer with my peanuts, when G asked me if I’d like to have a cold cerveja?  Are you serious? You brought beer!

Fishing Day Five-Camp Creek

We had originally planned to fish more of the Berta and a tributary; but, with the wind and Brazilians, I asked to return to Rio Pico to fish Camp Creek (also known as Spring Creek and Christmas Creek) for the first time. It is a spring-fed tributary located not far from the town of Rio Pico; however, it was a very windy day. Spot and stalk fishing are the tactic in many spring-fed creeks, and we used this successfully. I was able to land a beautiful, 19-inch rainbow (see below) on a small caddis fly. I caught a handful of other small fish, despite the wind making it challenging to make accurate casts.

Fishing Day Six-Rio Pico

We returned to the Rio Pico river and received permission to fish a stretch owned by Justo Alvarez. Justo is a real “Gaucho” and I had a wonderful day as I used a crane fly, or what is referred to the “Mackay Special” from Idaho. G had never seen the fly, or this technique, before. I casted down river and tossed the fly to the other side of the current, allowing the current to take the fly across the busy water. I landed six rainbows in the 13 to 14-inch range, each replicas of the other. Although I missed as many as I landed, the highlight of the day was a 19-inch Rainbow and a 16-inch Brown.

Justo the Gaucho and myself

15-inch Brown

Fishing Day Seven-Back to the Nielsen

On my last day, we fished the upper-middle stretch of the Nielsen – a new part of the river for me. The morning started slowly with us all alone on this special river. By the end of the day, we had walked four miles fishing up river, which means we also walked four miles back to the truck.  As the day continued, the fish began getting active, allowing me to catch more than 35 fish, mostly Rainbows.  However, the prize of the trip was a 20-plus inch Brown on a small caddis fly. I was able to watch the fish come from the bottom of a large pool and slowly, with confidence, approach the fly like a shark. After successfully setting the hook, it came out of the water at least two feet high on three occasions. I will always remember G’s excitement yelling, “Veddy Gud Ty, Veddy Gud.” It took a while to land the large fish, but it was the icing on the cake for G and me.

The prize of the trip. My 20 plus-inch Brown

Late afternoon on the river

The flyrod taking a break

Final Day-Return to Esquel

We left Rio Pico at 9am and arrived in Esquel near noon, leaving enough time to meet G’s wife and daughter. After meeting his family, G took me to the airport and my departure was right on time at 2pm. I arrived after 4pm in Newburry and caught transportation to EZE, the large international airport in BA.  It is a 45-60 minute trip, depending on traffic. From there, I boarded my trip to Atlanta around 9:30pm and, over nine hours later, landed in Atlanta. The final day started at 4am PST on Wednesday 2/20/19, and I arrived in Kennewick on Thursday 2/21/19, at 6pm after 38 hours of travel. If you have an interest in visiting Patagonia, whether to hike, bike, tour, or fish, I would encourage you to contact Jason Witt of Hemisphere Unlimited to assist you in your plan. If there is any way my friend, Guille, could be incorporated in your endeavor, I rank him as one of the finest people I’ve had the opportunity to meet. G is a physics teacher when not guiding. I would also refer you to Alica Regueiro to assist you in booking flights and accommodations. She is from Argentina, and lives in California. She knows the system and the lay of the land.

Contacts

Hemispheres Unlimited

Jason Witt-Outfitter

Email info@hemispheresunlimited.com

US phone 1-404-783-2114

Website: www.hemispheresunlimited.com

Travel Agent

Alicia Regueiro

Holdytours

US Phone 1-925-927-6617

Email: alicia@holdytours.com