Fly fishing Argentina: BarilocheFrom the March 24, 2010 Issue
Chinnis with an Argentinean trout
he caught with guide Miguel Sanchez.
The white Nissan pickup truck lurched from side to side as Miguel’s rosary swung in wide circles, threatening to dislodge from the rear view mirror. Up ahead the dirt road stretched menacingly with deeply rutted gullies that would have long ago turned me around. Instead our guide Miguel Sanchez (email@example.com) commented on how lucky we were to have the road in the best condition he had ever seen. On many occasions he would have to park the truck and walk the fishing gear, food, drink and other necessities the last half mile to Fonck Lake nestled in the Argentinean Andes. Sanchez’s friend and partner Alex Davis (www.patagoniaflies.com) had promised that they were taking us to a magical place, and his predictions far exceeded our expectations. There on the lake’s edge we stood spellbound at the vista of giant trees, crystal clear waters and the white glacial majesty of Mount Tronador as a backdrop.
Surrounded by the National Park Nahuel Huapi, Fonck Lake lies in a valley formed by Fonck and Hess mountains. Fonck Lake is in the Manso river basin, which ends at the Pacific Ocean.
It is composed of two different lakes, the Fonck Chico and Fonck Grande (Little Fonck and Big Fonck), joined by a short channel. Their waters end at Hess Lake , close to Fonck Lake , and finally into Manso River . When we arrived at the lake, we were greeted by the park ranger who was the caretaker of this beautiful lake. There in a rustic cabin we were treated to matte and coffee while Miguel and Alex prepared the tackle and boat.
The ride from little Fonck to the end of big Fonck was spellbinding as we passed through verdant primeval Patagonian forest illuminated by a brilliant sun and the clearest and deepest blue sky imaginable.
The road we traversed to get to Fonck Lake is about 6 kilometers long and treacherous, which is the main reason why this lake remains isolated from most tourists and is only visited by a few resolute fishermen and hikers. While the fishing was slow due to bluebird skies and unusually warm temperatures, we were able to sight fish large rainbow trout and one huge brook trout during the day. The lake was full of trout that we could see, but most were inactive and laying near the bottom.
Even though the fishing was slow, the day was spectacular and made more special by the shore lunch that Davis had been preparing all morning while we fished. The feast consisted of cheeses, bread, tomatoes, and Malbec wine that we enjoyed with a mouth watering combination of chorizo, chicken and pork that had been slow smoked on a homemade grill.
After lunch, we fished a few more hours until the sun had begun to move behind the mountains. We gathered everything together and made the drive back into Bariloche. As Miguel and Alex dropped us off that evening, we made arrangements with Miguel to fish again on Saturday.
After a day of rest it was time to experience fishing the Limay River, which empties from Lake Nahuel Huapi, one of the largest lakes in Argentina. I awoke early to winds that were blowing 39 mph with gusts to over 50 mph. After several attempts to contact Sanchez to determine if we were still going to make this trip, I dressed warmly and headed into Bariloche and then to the end of the lake where the crystal clear river began its course through the Patagonian wilderness. Sanchez was waiting with the raft ready. Although I would never have headed out on a day like this, I knew that high wind conditions like this were not unusual for this part of the world.
The river scenery was completely different, yet equally compelling, with huge wind and weather sculpted stone escarpments that rose on either side of the river like gargoyles from some mythic Greek play. The fishing was tough and at times impossible as the winds gusted over the barren steeps. During the day, we encountered winds so intense they actually blew the raft up river. The saving grace was the camaraderie I developed with Sanchez that day and the wonderful shore lunch we enjoyed in a sunny meadow behind a wind break of huge cypress trees. For over an hour we basked in the Patagonian sun drinking wine, eating Argentinean delicacies and practicing our Spanish and English.
We returned to the river, finishing finally late in the day, exhausted. Though I managed only two trout, I consider it one of my most memorable fishing trips. I highly recommend an adventure to this part of the world, one of the last great untouched places on earth.