On the eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains near the town of San Martin de los Andes, Argentina, lies one of the quaintest and nicest fishing resorts in all of Patagonia. Patagonia River Ranch caters to a maximum of 18 guests. They offer guided fly fishing trips on nearby famous Patagonian trout streams like the Chimehuin, Collon Cura, Alumine and Limay.
I have had the privilege of fishing there on several occasions and the high point of my trip each time is the two day overnight float trip. The “over the top” service, the pristine water, the beautiful night sky unpolluted by artificial light, the huge campfire, the Asado, the call of the rutting red deer (in February or March) and of course the fishing always thrill me.
A few years ago in February, on the last day of one of those two day overnight trips on the Collon Cura River, I was introduced to one of the most unique trout fishing techniques that I have ever experienced. The river was very low at the end of the Argentinian summer and the fishing was a little slow as well. At lunch the last day my guide asked me if I wanted to try something different. I said “sure” without even thinking. He said that sometimes big browns will hide in dead water “sloughs”, well off the main river channel, in trees that have fallen into the sloughs along cut dirt banks. That sounded pretty strange to me but I was incredibly curious. He even said he knew where a big brown had been hiding which really got my attention.
He then rowed our raft into a backwater slough and we got out to begin the stalk. We hiked a little ways to a pool of water that was almost completely cut off from the main river. I was wondering if we had resorted to bass fishing. We ascended a high bank and the guide started staring intently into the trees in the water below us. In just a few minutes he spotted a brown that he said was over 25 inches literally in a tree against the bank in 3 feet of water some 10 feet below us. We backed off and had a tactical discussion. I had not seen the fish but I trusted that he was in the spot the guide was pointing to. I had no clue of how to present my jig to the fish and if he took it the prospects of landing him seemed hopeless.
The guide explained that I should drop the jig straight down in front of the fish and if it took the jig then the guide said that he would slide down the dirt bluff bank into the water and break off some limbs to try to flush the big brown out of the tree. I was then supposed to walk back the way we came some 20 yards to the head of the pool, with the fish on my line, enter the water and land the fish. The whole thing sounded crazy to me but I said “okay”. We then walked back to the edge of the bank and the guide had me lean out to try to spot the fish below us.
I spotted the giant brown just as the dirt bank gave way and two wheelbarrow loads of dirt and gravel and one old man fell into the water and onto the fish making a big splash. The guide was not as concerned about whether I was hurt as he was upset at me for blowing an opportunity to hook a big fish.
I am sure that the big brown survived the landslide but we never saw him again. Not to be deterred by our first failure, the guide moved up another 30 yards to the only other tree in the pool and he spotted another brown. This time I spotted the fish quickly myself and we went with a slightly revised plan that again had me dropping the jig straight down 10 feet or so to the fish and the guide sliding down the bank and spooking the fish out of the tree, but then I was supposed to slide down behind him and wade across the small pool to the gravel bar and land the fish.
I dropped the 1/32 oz. sculpin olive and peach marabou jig about 6 inches in front of the fish and to my surprise he moved forward and inhaled the jig. The guide screamed something in Spanish, slid down the bank and started breaking off tree limbs. The fish shot out of the tree on que and swam toward the center of the pool. Then I slid down the bank and splashed my way across the pool to the gravel bar. In less than 5 minutes I landed my first Argentinian “slough” brown. At 22 inches he was not quite the size of the giant that I had tried to kill with a landslide but I was definitely proud to have landed him. I was so excited that I failed to even get a picture but I promise that it really happened.
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