Articles by AAPGAI Members
Sometimes we have the opportunity to fish in unspoilt waters where the fish are plentiful and aggressive. Fortunately for us in AAPGAI, one of our own members, Paul Becher (Double Hand Advanced), is a partner in the fishing programme on the Rio Gallegos in Patagonia. He and his partner, Diego Peralta (a famous Argentinean guide) took over the fishing at the Estancia four years ago and, with a lot of hard work to upgrade the old (and beautiful) Estancia house to accommodate fishing guests, they opened up an opportunity to fish 35 km of the Penitente (one of the two rivers forming the Rio Gallegos) and 20 kilometres of the main Rio Gallegos itself.
The latest adventure started in The Trout Hotel in Cockermouth, on the final day of the AAPGAI Spring Assessment Weekend in 2018. The main prize in our regular auction for the Benevolent Fund (generously donated by Paul) was a rod for a week at the Estancia with guided fishing, full-board accommodation and (of course!) all drinks included. Our Chairman, Clive Mitchelhill, made the successful bid, and it was at that point that Paul decided to offer a heavily-discounted fishing week to other AAPGAI members.
As well as Clive the final group consisted of: Willie Banks (Single Hand Advanced; Double Hand Master), Bryan Martin (Single Hand Advanced), Jonathan Morris (Single Hand Provisional; Double Hand Advanced), John Pape (Single Hand Advanced; Double Hand Advanced) and Brian Warrington (Single Hand Advanced; Double Hand Advanced). All started out by travelling to Buenos Aires (some earlier than others, to get a taste for the city before the rest of the group arrived on the Friday morning). The Hotel Etoile in Recoletta was their destination for one night only. A very early flight south to Rio Gallegos meant that little sleep would be enjoyed on the Friday evening; however we all made sure to enjoy the customary ‘Argentinean Steak’ and some hydration before retiring relatively early to our beds.
The flight to Rio Gallegos takes three hours and we all met at the domestic airport at an unearthly hour, but excited at the prospect of what lay ahead. On arriving at Rio Gallegos we were met by the guides, who drove us the two hour journey to the Estancia – at last we had arrived! The Estancia is very comfortable and single rooms had been nicely prepared for our six rods. We chilled out on the Saturday afternoon, some sleeping whilst others set up equipment or sat about drinking tea (as above!) We did, however, also manage a short fishing session on the river as a taste of things to come – and we weren’t disappointed, either!
I have to admit, at this stage, that for some unknown reason I contracted a very bad sore throat on the flight from Heathrow to Buenos Aires, which curtailed my fishing activities greatly. I missed this early session and made a few early finishes throughout the week, too. In a way, though, it it pleases me that I was the one suffering as I have fished these rivers before and intend to do so again in 2020, whereas for my friends it was possibly a trip of a lifetime!
Diego, the manager and head guide, gave us the itinerary for the week’s fishing over a very nice dinner. The days begin at 0700 for breakfast before leaving in trucks with one’s guide (two rods per guide). Lunch is at 1300, followed by an afternoon siesta (with the guides picking up the rods for the evening session at 1700). This is the main meal of the day and the chef, Belen Acuna, is very, very able, serving up tasty meat dishes every day. One day we enjoyed an Asado (traditional lamb cooked over the fire), as seen above. This Estancia is not, sadly, suitable for vegetarians – but for us omnivores it was very much to our taste! The return to the Estancia is around dusk at about 2230, when snacks are prepared by the kitchen.
There are only two types of fish: brown trout and sea trout, and it is very helpful that they both act aggressively to the same flies. The setup that most anglers used was a double handed 12 – 13ft rod for the Gallegos and a 9ft 6in – 10ft rod for the Penitente. Flies are mainly rubber-legged weighted nymphs, Yuk Bugs and small tube flies (the latter especially on the main stem Gallegos). Although floating lines do work (especially when there is no wind), intermediates are favoured due to the downstream wind being a constant (on the Thursday we had strong winds of 60+km/hr!) Leaders are fluorocarbon of at least 12lbs breaking strain, as big sea trout can be encountered in any of the pools. There is so much water available that the guides can be flexible as to where to take the anglers. The Penitente river remains clear even during high water (which we did have one evening), whilst the Rio Gallegos on high water is more likely to be coloured by the other river which forms the main stem: the Reubens. This allows good fishing even in high water conditions, which of course is so important to the visiting angler.
The fishing went very well! The pairs of anglers (Clive and John, Jonathan and Willie and (of course!) Brian and Bryan) caught over 100 brown trout averaging an impressive 2lbs+ along with 38 sea trout – the biggest an impressive 21lbs landed by Bryan Martin on our last day. Everyone caught fish in numbers and following the guides’ instructions was the best road to success.Brown trout to 6lbs were caught, although the Penitente in particular does have even bigger ones to 8 or 9lbs which are caught every season. The scientists are of the opinion that the majority of the big sea trout that run the river are female and head for the Rio Penitente to spawn, whereas the vast majority of big browns are male.
Of course all the boys also wanted to catch sea trout and everyone was successful. Our fish magnet was Willie, who caught the most fish (indicating that, in trying to reduce his golf handicap, he remains an excellent fish catcher!) Even though we were high up on the river, the fish were fresh and fought very well.
Socially we got on very well; however as the oldest man there I had to endure much banter and the naughty ones seemed intent on changing the flies on my rods. At the beginning of the week John Pape was very quiet and well mannered, but by the end he gave as much as he got! Such is spending a week with friends and fellow enthusiasts.
The week was a great success and everyone enjoyed themselves immensely in beautiful surroundings so close to the end or the world! It goes without saying that we are all so grateful to Paul for making this trip affordable, and to Diego Peralta and his guides, house staff and Belen for making the Estancia a ‘home from home’ for the week. I am going back this year and look forward to more good fishing, good craic and with the hope that the nasty virus from which I suffered in 2019 is a thing of the past!