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Subscriber Randy McAllister has checked in with a detailed report on a trip to Argentina handled for him and his fishing partner this past February by Laura and Gonzalo Martinez of Argentina Waters (www.argentina waters.com) in Esquel, Argentina. The way McAllister and his partner shopped for this trip and booked it on their own makes for interesting and useful reading. They began by clearly defining their goals: they wanted the opportunity to fish a variety of trout waters in the Esquel area while sampling local wines and food and exploring local culture. This tilted them away from a traditional largelodge experience and toward the services of a boutique operator such as Argentina Waters. “Laura and Gonzalo literally and figuratively shape their trips around their clients’ desires,” McAllister writes. “They know local waters, have the contacts to access them, and, as a bonus, both are trained chefs. My partner and I spent ten days with them and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.”
McAllister says the waters they fished included Rivadavia, Lago Verde, Rio Futaleufu, Arroyo Pescado, Rio Corcovado, Rio Pico, and Nelson River, among others. The following excerpt from his report, describing their experience on the Rio Pico and Nelson River, gives some idea of how their days unfolded. “The next day we moved our base of operations to the Rio Pico, which is about three hours from Esquel. The road to the estancia where we stayed is rutted gravel, necessitating a slow to modest pace the last 45 minutes. Gonzalo has developed a relationship with Pube, the owner of Los Tres Leones. This estancia has many excellent streams and rivers to fish. We stayed on the estancia; other anglers stayed 45 minutes to a couple of hours away. Consequently, we enjoyed a leisurely made-to-order breakfast by Laura at 8 am and were on the river by 9 am. During the middle of the afternoon, from 3 to 5 pm, we had the option of a siesta. After a brief snack, we were then on the water until 10:30 pm. Thus, we maximized our fishing time and still had plenty of time to relax. In addition, Pube culled a lamb from the flock for dinner one night. We had fresh leg of lamb with vegetables, fresh bread, and rich dessert complemented by Argentinean wine.
“Our second morning here, we left after breakfast for a wading/walking day to fish the Rio Pico and the Nelson River, covering about seven to eight miles on foot. We did well in the morning sightfishing 16- to 20-inch fish with yellow, foam-bodied stimulators. At the junction of the two rivers we took a couple of nice fish, which set the tone for the lower Nelson. We proceeded upstream, alternating pools and runs, and caught a good number of fish. These were a mix of browns (20 to 21 inches) and rainbows (16 to 18 inches). I had an interesting experience presenting a fly to a large brown holding under a willow. The brown moved to take a PMX when a small rainbow darted in front of it, only to become the brown’s lunch, leaving my PMX untouched! “An unintended consequence of fishing the Nelson was a chance encounter with a gaucho who granted us access to a portion of a spring creek that would ordinarily require a several-hour detour into Chile to reach. With his permission, we reached the water within an hour. The next day we opted to fish this creek. The weather was cool with drizzle and temperatures in the upper 60s. The water was beautiful. The fish were not quite as aggressive but still readily took hoppers. My fishing partner narrowly missed landing the biggest brown of his life when it popped off at the bank.”
McAllister goes on to make these summary observations: “My impressions of Argentina are many. The fishing is superb and unspoiled. The fish are plentiful and large. That said, one still needs to know how to cast and how to fish in order to catch these fish. Sometimes the wind is a limiting factor. Also, one needs to be prepared for a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions. Although the average temperature in Chubut province in February may be a high of 77 degrees and a low of 45 degrees F, there is a wide range at both ends. Pack accordingly.
“Aerolineas, the airline that serves this region, is frustrating. Anglers pump lots of money into the economy. It makes no sense for them to apply an arbitrary rod carry-on policy the way they do. With stories about lost gear making the rounds, traveling anglers are anxious about checking rods and deservedly so.
“The people of Argentina are friend ly and helpful, though. Their cuisine is excellent. The wines are very good. The trip surpassed our expectations in many ways. Ultimately, the trip was defined by Laura and Gonzalo. Both are trained chefs who worked in Paris for several years before returning to live and work in Esquel. They work extremely hard to make the process of getting to Esquel as painless as possible. Laura has access to many people who offer activities other than fishing (shopping, for example, rafting, and horseback riding, to name a few). As for Gonzalo, he is passionate about fly fishing and conservation. He ties his own nymphs but imports his dry flies. He says this is because the quality of tackle in Argentina is poor. Both are personable and genuinely enjoy getting to know their clients. The accommodations were excellent. The attention to detail was spot-on.
“We booked early and were given a 10 percent discount off the standard fee of $4,500 per person. Our flights on Delta were about $1,500 per person, part of which was a change fee for leaving a day early from Kansas City due to the weather. We paid about $600 per person for the tickets on Aerolineas. Laura made the arrangements for us prior to our arrival.
Transfers totaled about $150 to $200 while in Buenos Aires. The transfer to Bariloche was $200. The expectation of tipping, or more to the point, the lack thereof, was refreshing. A tip is not expected but truly appreciated in much of Argentina. A few pesos for baggage handlers, waiters, and so forth are more than enough. A guide tip of 10 percent, we were told, is generous.”