Saturday, March 16, started with a short horseback ride for Exequiel and me, as we took turns riding to the river directly behind the cottages where we were staying. Pablo went on ahead with Benito, and when Exeqiuel and I arrived, Pablo was fighting a big fish. It turned out to be a 23 inch rainbow; the biggest fish to date on this trip. It took the pancora fly I tied last night. Pablo assumed the title of king fisher.
Then the day just shut off. I tried big flies in the hope of hitting a big fish, but nothing was happening. Georges Andrieu caught a nice one and then offered me the water. Still nothing. We headed back upstream, and eventually to lunch at 2. On the way, I switched to a Massarta and Prince (tractor/trailer) and indicator. Fishing a deep pool where two channels of the river came together, I took 12 fish in about 15 minutes.
After lunch we headed down to the lower river (below Georges and Nicole’s home) and fished big flies. Nothing. The day was too bright, not dull like yesterday’s overcast. Eventually I switched to a Stimulator, and took several decent fish. I noticed that I got many follows and several fish when I pulled the fly under and stripped it back. I switched to the nymphs and indicator rig, and started fishing them down and across, swinging them with a jigging motion. Fish after fish came to the jigging nymphs. Eventually the score reached 38, but then just as fast as the action had been, it stopped absolutely dead (about 6:30). Time for big flies for big fish.
Just as Exequiel and I were changing flies, a huge flight of big, olive green Argentine Burrowing Parrots swooped down the canyon at just over head height. And then, suddenly, I had a story for my book, Fly Gear (see below).
I rigged up with the biggest articulated sculpin I had and tossed it up into the deep fast throat of the next pool upstream. It was seized immediately by a very hefty 21 inch rainbow. After photos we moved upstream to another deep, likely looking spot, and again, on the first cast, a big trout nailed the fly. It ran down and across and right through the branches of a long-since fallen tree. The fish jumped twice, 25 feet below the tree, and it was obvious that it was not going to come back up. I pointed the rod straight down the line and reeled hard. The fish obliged and followed the pull of the line back through the fallen tree and out into open water. Landed, it taped out at 23 inches. Of course I told Pablo that my fish was 1 mm longer than his. He then complained that his fish had been bent when we measured it. We got a second crown so that both of us could a king fisher.
We had dinner at Georges and Nicole’s from 9 to 11:30. Georges showed us plans for his planned Patagonia Adventures. The estancia is a great place for just such an ecotourism venue. For a look, go here and watch the video.
Breakfast on Sunday was at 8, and we left at 8:30 for the 12 ½ hour drive back to Mendoza. It was a great adventure, and a nice escape from the snows of late winter that awaited me in Wisconsin.
The Legend is in the Rod (This story will appear in my soon forthcoming book, Fly Gear).
Had I not been a first-hand participant in this story, I would find it hard to believe.
At a Fly Fishing Show in Denver, Colorado, I borrowed a 6-weight Zenith from John Shaner, of Hardy/Greys, for my casting demonstrations. It is an impressive rod that throws a long line as straight as an arrow, and makes such demos easy. When I returned the rod, John asked if I had cast their new 10 foot, 3-weight. I had not, and so early the next morning, I sought out John and gave the rod a test run. It felt as if I were casting a 5-weight; the rod easily delivered the line the full distance of the casting pond. I was delighted at its ability to cast at all lengths and manipulate the line through my test series of curves and mends, and I told John so. He graciously offered to provide me with one for upcoming trips to Argentina and Germany. And so the rod was eventually situated in my bags and headed into the southern hemisphere.
After a fully attended and very successful, day-long clinic for the Mendoza Fly Shop, celebrating its twentieth year in business, we headed south to fish. We being Benito Pérez and his son Pablo, Polo Rossi, Exequiel Bustos, and me. Benito published the first angler’s entomology of Argentina (Un Libro de Pesca, La Mosca), and he and Pablo established the shop in 1993. It would be a fast road trip, nearly 600 miles south into the northern reaches of Patagonia. It would also be a time for testing the new Hardy rod.
The first two days were spent fishing Río Tordillo and Río Cobre near the skiing village of Las Leñas, about 6 hour driving time from Mendoza, and half way to our goal of the Río Codihue in the Neuquén Region of Patagonia. The Tordillo is a swift mountain stream that reminded me of a high-speed Madison. About half the volume of the Madison, it none-the-less carried the water along at seemingly twice the velocity. The fishing was totally within the “Secret River”—the pocket water and short flat stretches along the shores (for more information see our second book in this series, Reading Waters).
Polo took first turn on the 10 foot 3-weight, and found it to be an exceptional tool for pocket water nymphing. I fished it for a few hours and noted that sometimes the tip would over flex and hit the water when I made strong throws into the oncoming Argentine wind. Only a minor adjustment was necessary to overcome this tendency on my part. It played fish of a variety of sizes from 6 inches to 16 with equal ease.
The next day, on Río Cobre, found Exequiel using the Hardy to handle a big two kilo brown with equal aplomb. Unlike the Tordillo, the Cobre is a meadow stream with long pools, side channels, and swift riffles. And always, the wind. We fished bead head nymphs with a variety of indicators. The rod punched out the needed casts without strain.
Polo left us at Malargüe on his way to Buenos Aires to drive in a nationally sanctioned auto race. And then it was on to the “El Halcon” estancia of George and Nichole Andrieu. They hold the upper 26 miles of the Río Codihue, and had graciously offered it to us for our Patagonian excursion. The river proved most welcoming, and the Hardy enjoyed its daily performance in the hands of the anglers of our party. There were many fish of all sizes, the largest coming in at 23 inches and 5 pounds.
On the last day, the Hardy was in again in the hands of Exequiel as we fished the canyon reaches of the river, taking small fish with alarming regularity. Alarming because we could not connect to anything over 14 inches. We knew the big fish were there, because the day before we had found then with regularity. Suddenly at 6:30 pm, as the sun dropped to the western horizon and shadows sought out every nook and cranny of the canyon, the small fish stopped hitting the fly. It was not a gradual tapering off, it was instantaneous.
We both immediately began re-rigging—the big fish had come out. I cut the leader back to 0X and knotted on a huge, 6-inch long articulated Down and Dirty Sculpin. I was after big fish, and I wanted the biggest fly I had. Exequiel, likewise began to change his leader and fly. We are fishing a large, deep pool occupied at its center by two enormous, room-sized boulders that had obviously calved off the canyon walls above, sometime in the dim, distant past. Exequiel stood downstream of the massive chunks of canyon wall, and in line with the space between them, the Hardy held upright as he worked to tie on a very large black Zonker.
Suddenly, the canyon walls came alive with the coarse, squawking cry of the Argentine Burrowing Parrot. And equally suddenly a flight of about 50 of the high velocity birds came rocketing down river, barely head height, guided in their flight by the constraining, tortuous walls of the canyon. Some crested the big boulders at river center, but others flew swiftly between them. In an instant, one of the birds that swept between the bulders smashed directly into the Hardy rod. It jerked around violently, and broke just below the center ferrule. The startled bird, tangled in the leader, struggled to stay on the wing. Croaking hoarsely in distress, it flapped uncontrolled toward mid-river, driving the size 2 Zonker deep into the tip of Exequiel’s right hand middle finger, and jerking the leader free. The pain was evident on his face, and so was the dismay at seeing the top half of the rod shoot down the line and leader toward the bird, now dropping dangerously close to the water. Then, the bird was free, and raced off after its quickly disappearing companions. The top half of the rod dove head first into the deep, swift currents of mid river, and was gone.
Using a heavy piece of mono we jerked the fly out of Exequiel’s finger, but it was small consolation to him for the loss of the top half of the broken rod. There was nothing to do, but to stand in disbelief for a few moments, before finishing the evening with two large rainbows that he had to watch me catch. And so ends this bizarre story; another truly unusual adventure that is a part of the legend of the rods of the House of Hardy.
In all my nearly six decades of fly fishing, I have never heard of such an improbable happening. But it’s not the only strange story that I have about broken rods.
Exequiel and I went riding, sharing a horse between us.
It’s easy to see why we wanted to ride a bit on this day.
When we got to the Codihue, Pablo was landing the biggest fish of the trip, to date.
The big trout are very healthy from their diet of pancora
Georges with a fine rainbow from his “secret” spot that always yields a fish.
In Georges’ case the fish took a big black stonefly nymph fished with action.
Late in the evening I tied on a huge articulated sculpin and was immediately into the big fish.
The first big fish was a 21 inch rainbow in very healthy condition.
The second big fish of the evening was 23 inches (+ 1mm), and earned me a shared crown with Pablo.
Benito make this sketch of Exequiel’s painful encounter with the Argentine Burrowing Parrot.