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Editor Note: Subscriber Danny Simms is the latest in a long line of Angling Report subscribers who have had the chance to fish FREE at a quality international lodge in return for filing a publishable report. Simms fished with Argentina Waters near Esquel in central Patagonia this past March and has this to say about the experience. To get on the list of subscribers invited on trips like this, all you have to do is upgrade your subscription to Online Extra. You can do so on our Web site at

This past March 20–27, I had the good fortune to fish FREE with an operator in the Esquel area of central Patagonia, thanks to The Angling Report’s FREE fishing program. The company I fished with, Argentina Waters, is based in Esquel in central Patagonia and is owned and operated by Laura and Gonzalo Martinez. They fish two major areas: the Esquel area and the Rio Pico area, which is a three-and-a-half hour drive south of Esquel. Because of the distance between these two areas, the owners suggest that anglers booked on a typical six-day trip fish only one of these areas to avoid losing a day of fishing travelling from one area to the other. Because I added an extra day to my itinerary, I was able to fish both areas. I was joined on the trip by Jacques Gaillard, a Frenchman now living most of the year in Cuba, who is a friend of the Martinezes. Over the years, I have had several bad experiences with fishing partners that I didn’t know prior to the trip, but it was a pleasure fishing and visiting with Jacques.

The fishing in the Esquel area consisted of floating a fairly large river, the Rio Futaleufu, close to the Chilean border, and the Rio Rivadavia in Los Alerces National Park. We used a variety of techniques (i.e., dry flies and dead drifting nymphs) on the Futaleufu to catch a number of good-sized rainbows and a few browns. In a typical week in the Esquel area, anglers float two sections of the river. The fishing on the Rio Rivadavia was much more technical. I had been warned that although hundreds of big trout are clearly visible in the river, catching them is difficult. It was indeed hard. Getting a strike required a perfect drift with a dry fly or nymph. Furthermore, I found it very easy to break the 6x tippet required to fool these trout, especially on the strike. The Rivadavia is the most beautiful river that I’ve ever fished, but catching even a couple big trout on this river should be considered a success. I caught two in the 18- to 20-inch category and lost several large fish, so I considered the day a success.

Another fishing option in the Esquel area is a small spring creek, the Arroyo Pescado, which is on private land and requires a $100-per-day access fee. When we arrived at the creek, the wind was calm, but it soon started blowing hard enough to make the fishing difficult. Still, we caught several nice rainbows and browns, plus a four-pound perch, one of the few native fish in the region.

On our trip to the Rio Pico area, we stopped and fished the upper Rio Corcovado. My host, Gonzalo, indicated that in mid-March good-sized brook trout move out of the lake, where the river originates, to spawn, and sure enough I caught a couple of very nice brookies of about three pounds, in addition to a few rainbows.

The fishing in the Rio Pico area was different from that in the Esquel area because it consisted entirely of wade fishing small rivers and spring creeks. Sight fishing for big browns on the most beautiful spring creek that I’ve ever seen was a real treat. The fishing was very challenging, however, requiring accurate casting under trying conditions. I have vivid memories of a big brown that Gonzalo spotted for me in a small pool one day. To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, there were bushes to the left and bushes to the right. There was a bush in front of the pool, too, and a bush behind it. And to make it even more challenging, the wind was blowing briskly. On my third cast, the fly dropped in the perfect spot and the trout took it. Catching that trout will always be among my very special fishing memories.

Getting to a couple of other small rivers that we fished involved long drives on roads requiring four-wheel drive followed by a hike on cattle trails. The payoff for this travel was the opportunity to fish rivers where there was no indication of previous fishing activity. There wasn’t a footprint on the shore and absolutely no trash or other signs that a fisherman had been on the river. We caught a number of good browns and rainbows on these rivers.

Gonzalo is an excellent guide with a tremendous knowledge of the rivers he fishes. He was constantly changing techniques to suit the fishing conditions. We used dry flies when there was any sign of activity on the surface and nymphs under a dry fly or indicator when there was little surface activity. He has spent considerable time scouting for new fishing opportunities, especially in the Rio Pico area. During certain times of the season, depending on angler interest, he says they’ll fish one of the five lakes in the Rio Pico area. These lakes provide the opportunity to catch really big brown trout weighing 10-plus pounds.

Another interesting aspect of the fishing in the Rio Pico area was the presence of Chinook salmon in a couple of the small rivers. Jacques hooked a large Chinook but lost it after a few minutes. It did put a nice bend in his 5 wt., though.
Argentina Waters also offers a float trip on the Rio Chubut in early January. It takes five days to float the 60 miles of river that flow through a single estancia. Gonzalo indicated that for sheer numbers of fish, this is their best trip. The fish aren’t large, he says, averaging about 15 inches, but they receive little fishing pressure and are very easy to catch.

So, what makes Argentina Waters special? In my mind, there are three things that stand out about the company. The first is the variety of fishing opportunities, especially if one goes for more than six days and fishes both the Esquel and the Rio Pico areas. Each of these fisheries has something special to offer. Furthermore, the fishing program can be tailored to the preferences of just about any angler, with more or less emphasis on float trips or wade fishing.

The second special attribute is the quality of the food. Both Laura and Gonzalo are trained chefs, having cooked in Buenos Aires and Paris. Sitting down to a gourmet meal and a good bottle of wine after a great day of fishing was wonderful.
Finally, I really enjoyed the time I spent with Laura and Gonzalo. After a week, I consider them to be friends. They definitely seem to enjoy what they’re doing. When I was there, Gonzalo had guided approximately 130 days since the season opened on November 1, and he still seemed to be enjoying it. Laura was especially valuable in helping with travel arrangements. Visiting with Laura, Gonzalo, and Jacques over a great meal each evening was a real pleasure.

A word about their lodging arrangements is in order at this point. Rather than investing in properties, Laura and Gonzalo have arranged to use private homes in the Esquel area that can accommodate up to six people. The house where I stayed would have been very comfortable for up to two people. In the Rio Pico area, they have access to a lodge. It was closed during my visit because the owner was sick, so we stayed in a nice house in a small village.

First impressions aside, this is not a loose lodging arrangement. There weren’t any logistical stresses during my trip. Both houses I stayed in were fairly new and clean. The one in Esquel was on the small side but very nice. I would be very comfortable taking my wife to both of the houses where I stayed. The beds in both houses were very good.

In the Esquel area, the day started with a cooked-to-order breakfast prepared by Laura. In the Rio Pico area, a continental breakfast was prepared by a local family. Again, under normal circumstances, breakfast would have been prepared at the lodge. In both locations, we had a streamside lunch featuring dishes previously prepared by Laura or Gonzalo. These were by far the best lunches that I’ve enjoyed on a fishing trip. We fished until dark every day, so we typically had dinner around 10 p.m., and as I previously mentioned, these meals rank with the best I’ve had on numerous fishing trips.

It’s a very large plus, I think, that Argentina Waters has two distinct fishing areas from which to choose, which provides a backup if water conditions are bad in either area. In a pinch, it would be easy for them to simply switch areas. They may be three-and-a-half hours apart, but in distance, they’re only about 120 miles apart.

In addition to great fishing in both the Esquel and Rio Pico areas, I should add, the scenery in both areas is breathtaking. Many times I was focused on fishing only to look up and realize that I was looking at a picture postcard scene of the Andes, complete with numerous species of ducks and geese. Additionally, pink flamingos were plentiful on the Arroyo Pescado. A real highlight of the trip was seeing numerous condors during the week.

Although I didn’t keep track of the exact number of fish I caught each day, it ranged from the two fish I caught on the Rio Rivadavia to more than 20 fish on other days. The largest fish I caught probably measured 21 inches. I caught numerous fish in the 17- to 18-inch range.

The biggest negative about the trip was the wind. At times it made the fishing frustrating. It blew hard enough to be a real problem on three of the seven days that I fished. To be sure, wind is part of fishing in Patagonia.

As regards fallout from the volcano across the border in Chile, which The Angling Report has covered extensively, I didn’t see any significant ash in either the Esquel or Rio Pico areas. I did see some ash deposits in the Bariloche area, which is a three-hour drive north of Esquel. At this writing, I’m told that the volcano is no longer spewing ash.

In summary, there may be locations in Patagonia that offer the opportunity to catch larger numbers of fish, but I doubt that any offer the total ambiance of Argentina Waters. The rate for a six-day, seven-night trip in 2013 will be $3,450. You can contact Gonzalo and Laura by e-mail at [email protected]. Their Web address is—Danny Simms.

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