After five days of fishing in the Pico Rio area we relocated back to PRG’s home lodge in Trevillin. This is a bigger and more deluxe lodge, with larger, better equipped rooms, a very nice living room and bar area, a bigger kitchen with an excellent chef, and even an antique pool table. You are also on the outskirts of a nice little town in case you need supplies. And not to ruin your image of the really rustic lodge experience; but they even have a masseuse on call that provided great relief to muscles sore from thousands of casts.
As with phase one of the trip, Travis and Rance endeavored to provide a different kind of fishing experience every day. On my first day I fished the Rio Grande, floating with Rance. Unfortunately there was a lot of rain, and while the river was gin clear, the water level was up several feet. While we could see feeding fish, they were extremely picky, and the morning was slow. Later in the day we switched to streamers, working close to the bank to bring out big browns, and the fishing improved radically. When we came to the take-out point at around 5:30 pm the fishing was just getting hot, and Rance had the assistant move the truck down another mile so we could continue to fish for another 1 ½ hours – which became the best time of the day. I especially appreciate a guide that doesn’t mind a long fishing day when the trout are hot. By the end of the day I had landed around 25 fish, with the average in the 18-20 inch range, and several at 20-24 inches.
That night the rain really moved in, pounding hard all night, so the next day we opted to fish spring creeks off a major river in a beautiful national park about an hour drive from the lodge. Despite the rain the water was clear, but the fish were completely uninterested. This was my only bad fishing day of the trip. After literally pounding every variation of fly onto the heads of lounging trout for over three hours, we decided to make it a short day and return to the lodge. This was particularly welcome, because the previous evening we had decided to do an intensive Scotch tasting in the billiard room after dinner that zapped my energy most of the day.
The next day we took a pounding drive across several Estancias to finally reach an incredible spring creek. The water wound through a lush, fertile valley. In most places the stream was five to fifteen feet across, but occasionally it would detract into a narrow deep channel, sometimes only a couple feet wide. We would sometimes cast to rising fish, but more often we would take big hopper and beetle patterns, and slap them hard onto the water. Large browns and rainbows that you could not imagine could live in such skinny water would explode out of moss on the bottom of the stream and violently grab the fly. You were then faced with the task of not only holding onto the fish, but also directing him out of the big weed beds that would quickly end your battle.
In the afternoon the winds unfortunately kicked up, which added a great patina of frustration to the day. For several hours I was casting directly into very hard gales, which made it very difficult to reach my targets, and my count went down.
Like the previous day, at around 5:30 we had hiked back to the truck, and I assumed the day was over. But the guide led me through a tree canopy, and when I climbed down off a ledge into this hidden area I felt like the kids in the Willy Wonka movie when they enter the great hall of candy. The creek had been dammed off to form a large pool; pond size, and as I inspected the water I could see several very large rainbow trout feeding on caddis and midges fifty feet away in clear water. My guide replaced my hopper pattern with a smaller caddis, and on the first cast a 24 inch fat rainbow came a foot out of the water to inhale the fly. We kept working up the stream for another two hours, making long casts to rising trout in pools below large rocks. Because we were in a canyon we didn’t have to battle winds, and I caught another eight to ten fish. It was my favorite kind of fishing, and a perfect topper to the windy afternoon.
One of the best things about South American fishing is the lunches. In the States I am quite accustomed and satisfied with the Safeway turkey sandwich, potato salad, and Famous Amos cookie most guides provide at noon. In fact, I don’t mind a fifteen minute “in the boat” lunch break so I can stay on the stream. But in South America, since it is not uncommon to fish ten to twelve hours a day, you actually appreciate a good hour break for lunch, and the South American guides laugh at the idea of serving a sandwich. In both Chile and Argentina lunch was an experience. They set up a table with a tablecloth and chairs. They serve great wine and local beers, and typically a three or four course spread. On several occasions they brought cooking gear, and actually prepared fresh salmon and other great dishes.
On my final days in Trevillin I fished another spring creek, and on the last day we floated the Frey River. The Frey is big water with big fish, and during most of the day we were throwing 7 and 8 wt. rods with 300 grain sink tips and big streamers. The fish averaged 18-22 inches, but it is not unusual to take a fish in the 25 plus range, and well over ten pounds, so you need to be ready with “big fish” fishing techniques. This meant hard “strip sets”, and since we were usually on OX tippet you could fight the fish pretty hard. Occasionally we would move toward the bank to throw dry flies at rising trout. They were picky and difficult, but we managed to hook a few, and with a lot of room to run in this big water they were the most enjoyable hook-ups of the day. The count at the end of the day was in the 15-20 fish range, with the average fish ranging from 18-24 inches.