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Don Causey Note: Most of our coverage over the years of fishing trips to the northern Patagonia region of Argentina has been devoted to lodge-based (or “estancia- based”) trips, but there is another way to fish that part of the world—namely, you can book a “town-based” trip with a growing number of local guide services such as Andes Drifters. That is what subscriber Bill Wason did recently, and he filed this report on the experience. I am putting Bill Wason on our Subscriber Honor Roll for making the effort to send along such a useful and detailed account of what he experienced.

A fishing buddy and I recently returned from a ten-day fly fishing trip to the northern Patagonia region of Argentina, hosted by Gustavo Hiebaum of Andes Drifters ( Heibaum runs his program out of San Martín de los Andes in the Lake District, which stretches south to San Carlos de Bariloche along the base of the Andes Mountains. This is the heart of Argentina’s ski district.

We flew into Bariloche from Buenos Aires and made the three-hour drive to San Martín through the foothills on the scenic Road of the Seven Lakes. The other option would have been the river road, which takes about the same amount of time and passes through the arid steppes farther to the east. There are direct flights to San Martín, but they didn’t fit our schedule.

The primary river system in this area flows north to south from the small town of Aluminé to Bariloche. San Martín is centrally located within this fishery. The major north-south river is the Aluminé, which becomes the Collón Curá after its confluence with the Chimehuin. Many feeder rivers add to the water flow, including the Malleo, Quillen, and Caleufu. We focused primarily on float fishing, but the Caleufu, Malleo, and Quillen are walkand- wade rivers most of the year. These are relatively shallow streams with flatter bottoms than we see in the United States. Wading is easy, but the rocks can be slippery. Felt-soled wading boots and staffs are helpful.

Rainfall in this region varies from 100 inches at the Chilean border to a mere eight inches just 50 miles to the east. This dramatic contrast in rainfall creates rapidly changing climatic zones as you travel away from the mountains. Most of the rivers we fished are in an arid zone where rain and mosquitoes are rare.

San Martín is a charming resort community of about 35,000 residents nestled at the base of the Andes on the shore of Lácar Lake, a deep lake featuring beach activity and boating. The town has an Alpine village feel to it, without garish signs and fast-food places. Instead, there are quaint shops, hostels, townhouses, and proper restaurants. There are more than enough activities available here to keep a non-angler happy with hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, cooking, wine tasting, kayaking, horseback riding, polo lessons, and golf. There is a Jack Nicklaus– designed golf course and resort just east of town. Lanín National Park is nearby. I can imagine a wonderful vacation here even without a fly rod. This is a good place to bring a non-fishing spouse.

Most outfitters in the lake region are based out of private estancias (ranches). Town-based outfitters such as Andes Drifters host clients in ski-rental townhouses or hotels in San Martín or Junín de los Andes, and they drive their clients to different rivers every day. I will note that Junín is closer to the prime fishing spots than San Martín. We might have been able to squeeze an extra hour of fishing time out of a day by staying there. It is a perfectly nice town, but in my view, it is not as picturesque and pleasant as San Martín.

The townhouse where we stayed was a two-story affair with two bedrooms, one full bathroom, and two half baths. Andes Drifters provides an excellent chef to prepare dinners. A housekeeper/cook serves made-to-order breakfasts and packs lunches for each day’s fishing. The dinners were expertly prepared steaks or fresh trout ac

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