In early January, 2019 one of my closest friends embarked on his most ambitious adventure yet. John had moved to the Patagonia region of Argentina (A lodge outside of Trevlin). His mission was to fish. In order to do so, he accepted hard volunteer work in exchange for food, shelter, and the opportunity to angle. Four months after John virtually disappeared, I had the great privilege of visiting him along side my father and john’s father. This is the story of my trip and the wonderful experience provided by the Patagonia River Guides.
Friday April 26th
We arrived in Buenos Aires after a dreary 12 hour flight from DFW. I was definitely in a travel daze, but not jet lagged because of the mere two hour difference from the Texas time zone. Its my second time in the southern hemisphere, and my first time to South America. I didn’t know what to expect… will it be like mexico? Will it be like Spain? Of course not. It will be something else because every country offers a unique culture, traditions, and people.
19 million people live in the province of Buenos Aires. Many of which work extremely hard to barely make their living. People. People. People. Traffic Everywhere. Busy. Hustle. Go go go. It is a city full of life.
We took a bus tour and explored the vast city through a drowsy day. The cemetery was certainly the highlight. Rows of ancient and modern monasteries lined for seemingly endless blocks. A city, for the dead. Considering the wide variety of style and age, it was like walking through an architects dream… or a nightmare. Our tour guide, Marina, told us many of the dead’s stories.
Rufina Cambacérès was presumed dead, due to catalepsy. She later awoke in her locked coffin, she had been buried alive. Liliana Crociati de Szaszak, died in an avalanche, a life sized statue of her and her beloved dog stand guard outside her tomb. One of the cemetery’s grounds keeper committed suicide after finally saving enough to acquire his own plot in this legendary graveyard. One might say, He was dying to get there.
A common topic among the Argentine people was Economics, a topic close to my heart. Its hard to earn a comfortable living when Inflation rapidly outruns wages. It’s really easy for a United States citizen to travel there. Unfortunately, that ease of entry is mainly a one way street. A trip to the states costs an Argentine fortune.
Even though the economy is hampered, the city is beautiful and the people seemed hopeful…. for the most part. Marina was quick to explain her discontent with the government.
Saturday April 27th
We took a two and a half hour flight, due south, to the Esqual airport in the Patagonia Region. After another hour in a van we finally arrived to PRG’s flagship fishing lodge. We were immediately greeted with a group of warm welcoming smiles and cold delicious beers. The lodge was beautiful but the mountain range that lined the horizon was truly spectacular. This day was a much needed lazy day. Aside from soaking in the wonderful views, we settled into our rooms, and got acquainted with the staff and the guides. This was obviously a special place.
Sunday April 28th
Its finally time to fish. My father and I were taken to a high desert where we found a massive, spring-fed creek. I was astonished at how much water was subtly spewing out from the ground… right here… in the middle of no where. As the guides pieced together the rods, my dad and I gazed into the lazy pool and then across the desolate land. We had traded the lodge’s jagged horizon for this smooth, golden landscape. The water was clear as Gin and filled to the brim with wild trout. It was an extremely calm and peaceful morning. Yet, all of a sudden I launched my first cast, and was subsequently punched by a gust of wind. Shit.
Casting became brutal as the 30 mph wind would launch the fly 30 ft away from my intended target. This was a real challenge for me, one that I was unfamiliar with. Despite this new natural adversity, I caught some really long, healthy, rainbow trout. It was a wonderful (& windy) day.
Monday April 28th
On this day we drove in the opposite direction, into a national park. The peaks towered far above us, scratching the heavens with their blade-like summits. I was told that we were actually at a lower elevation than the flat dessert that we fished the day prior. That seemed surprisingly counter intuitive. The park was completely coated with a thick rain-forest. Another sharp contrast to our desert experience. I didn’t understand how this diversity in ecosystems could exist, just a mere road trip apart. It was baffling and yet beautiful, all at the same time. All I really knew, was that it was time to float and fish.
I was shocked by the rain forest’s lushness as we glided down the river. The peaks had a dusting of snow from the night before. Just below the fresh white dust, the tree line appeared as a deep brick red. They gradually grew into a shining light green. Then as the forest retreated down mountain and halted on the river’s bank, the trees became a rich, dark evergreen.
Perhaps God breathed life into us, but he seems to enjoy taking our breath away, all the same.
We floated four miles down one of the most gorgeous rivers I’ve ever seen. The water was so calm and transparent, that the dry fly looked as if it had been placed on a glass table top. The first fish I caught here had circled around my fly with caution and curiosity, but also with a little hunger. It subtlety sipped my nymph, like how you might sip an extremely hot cup of coffee. SET! Fish on.
Eventually, I traded the Dry fly and Nymph for a streamer fly, rigged to an 8 weight rod. I was in a wonderful mood as I launched cast after cast, although, this quickly became a workout. Later my shoulder wanted to detach, but in the moment I was distracted. I felt happy, I felt peaceful, I simply felt…. well, In the moment. That feeling was priceless.
Tuesday April 30th
We drove two hours to get to one of Argentina’s most famous river’s, in pursuit of spawning brook trout. What makes this river truly unique is the massive lake feeding the river’s mouth with pacific sized waves. Near the mouth was a long bridge that crossed the river. Under that bridge was a self sustaining cot. And within that cot lived the river’s gatekeeper.
The guides told me that this man had his private property confiscated by the government, and so, he set up shop under this bridge. It didn’t seem too crazy to me, considering he now has world class fishing 10 ft from his front door step. It also didn’t seem too cozy to me, considering he lives under a bridge in the middle of nowhere. He had solar panels powering his small property. Evidently, he had cable TV, so perhaps it was rather cozy. Anyways, I suppose he had formed a symbiotic relationship with the community and it’s government, and so they allow him and all his solar panels to stay.
Massive trout gain entry from the massive lake. However, I didn’t catch any, I was the skunk. The word “fishing” implies a chance of failure… otherwise we would just call it “catching”. I was merely fishing…. meanwhile, John and his father Jay… they were actually catching. I mean, they caught A Ton of brooks! In fact, the guides later told me that their day had been one of the season’s best. The grin on Jay’s face was contagious. Even though I couldn’t land a single one of those gorgeous brooks, I learned a ton about my cast and enjoyed a dazzling day on the river. Despite some more frustrating wind, I kept my cool and made sure that I improved. Just about every moment offers us an opportunity to improve. Really solid trip. Seeing John and Jay’s smiles was certainly worth the two hour drive and 40 minute hike.
Wednesday May 1st
We had been hiking for miles dressed in florescent orange, with silver pigeon Berettas balanced on our shoulders. We were hunting for quail. The first three hours consisted step after step after step… after step… and no birds to show for it. The dog was anxious and Alejandro, our guide, was chirping his quail call. With no response. We started to feel discouraged. After all, it’s called hunting, and not killing…..Then All of a sudden, we heard a quail calling back to Alejandro. We hiked towards a giant bristled bush and before anyone could smack it…. Over a hundred quail flashed and fluttered! “BIRD! BIRD! BIRD!” Alejandro shouted! “Game on!” I thought. We followed this cubby for miles (…step after step…) up and down a mountain side. I didn’t think about the hiking because the hunt was so engaging and so exciting. You had to be ready to shoot your shots as the birds could suddenly flash out from any bush at any moment .
This hunt was nothing like the bird hunting back home, in Texas. It was unbelievable.
Spending the day with Alejandro, and his assistant Pablo, turned out to be one of the most memorable parts of our trip. Turns out, Alejandro is a famous Welsh singer, but also a 6th generation Argentine. He was a tall, smiling, archive of the valley’s history. His great great great…ect… grand father was one of the valley’s original settlers. And, another great great ancestor built the flower mill about a century ago. The town that developed around the mill became know as Trevlin – which means Mill town. Interesting people like Alejandro really leave an impact on one’s adventure.
Thursday May 2nd.
We only drove 15 minutes from the lodge and found ourselves on the Rio Grande…. Much different than our Rio Grand in Texas. Our guide today was named Leo, and he was quiet the character…. or as we liked to say, he was “full of shit”. I learned that Leo had studied economics and was also madly passionate about it. I felt like every Argentine was somewhat of an Economist, but Leo was truly well studied. During a fine dinning lunch experience on the river bank, we discussed market mechanisms, Smith vs Marx, Capitalism Vs Socialism, the meaning of well being and sen’s capabilities framework. I really geek out over this sort of stuff, so the conversation stuck with me. It almost felt like we could have solved the world’s problems, right then and there. However, Leo and I are both fully aware of how dynamically complicated economics, society, and life can be. We concluded with this…. economics is about people.
We caught some great fish that day, but the best fish was saved for last. Again with the streamer and the 8 weight…. my arm was already aching just before we called it a day and dragged the raft ashore. I desperately launched my fly and felt that certain tug of a trout, right as I began stripping line in. Judging by the size of the tug, I knew this was a solid sized trout. After a few minutes of reeling and battling the trout, I landed the nicest brown trout of the day. Sweet Sweet Success.
Friday May 3rd
The last day of fishing. My Father and I returned to the high desert with a couple fellow guides. This was the most peaceful spring of all. I probably caught 50 tiny trout, while a handful were averaged sized. When I asked my assistant guide where his favorite spot to fish was, he replied “right here… this very pool….because we are fishing it, right now”… talk about living in the moment. It was inspiring, and yet, calming to hear. There was no past, there was no future, there is only The Moment.
At lunch we gathered around our mobile picnic table and began to chat. I quickly realized that we were not alone. Hidden at the edge of the shrubbery was a well camouflaged set of eyes, curiously peering at our troop. It was a sly fox. She seemed sleepy, as if we had just ruined her nap in the sun. We tossed out a piece of bread, and she courageously, yet cautiously, walked towards us to claim her treat. I love how surprising nature can be… especially out in the middle of no where.
Friday, May the 4th
Unfortunately, our time in Argentina had come to an end. John is not the most emotional person, but he seemed a little upset to be leaving. Over the previous 4 mouths, John grew to love the playful pups that he catered to, the breathtaking landscape that could view, and the personable people that he now knew. I could see his deep connection with this place, and now I had a better understanding of how that connection came to be.
Personally, I felt disconnected from all the BS that occurs in my normal, day to day life. I felt a detachment from everything that I needed to be detached from. I truly felt as though there was nothing but The Moment. Everything else in the world was so irrelevant. The people I was with and the place I was in…. that’s what was important. I’m sure John felt just as disconnected during his time there. It was a good feeling, and I already miss it. I’m certain that John does too.