South Patagonia is on every fisherman list. Wind, big fish, wilderness, loneliness. I have guided many anglers through the years on well known destinations of Santa Cruz province like Gallegos river, Jurassic lake, and others, where I’ve learned with crazy guys from Scandinavia and also from my hometown Rio Gallegos. But seasons are long for the guides and usually you get to fish, but always on the same places. The sensation of living in such a big province full of unfished water, truly wild places and stories of big fish didn´t let me stuck on the same spot. Money was good for living the rest of the year but this feeling was getting stronger and stronger till I couldn’t hold it anymore.
These last three seasons I have been fishing the places I always wanted, rediscovering brook trout fishing with small tackle, hunting browns in the tiniest holes you could ever imagine, and I have even started my own company to share the whole adventure with people of the world. My passion for spring creeks reappeared, but it is not only fishing, is the environment wild and authentic!
To describe spring creek fishing I have chosen 3 different places that together form a route of spring creeks, each with a different story and a different fishing situation out of the fishing map.
Estancia Río Pelke
The first place I have chosen in this route has transformed me into a fisherman since I was a kid. My estancia called Río Pelke (small stream in aborigine language) is located 155km from Calafate village (Glaciers National Park). This is definitively my place on earth. My family since 1936 has produced wool and meat to sell in the main town and export to Europe, and this particularly piece of land was the result of a gun dispute between some farmers and my great-grandfather. Lucky for us my great grandpa was a true bad ass.
Estancia Rio Pelke is like an oasis, sheltered from the wind with a poplar curtain and keeping the exact style as it was built almost 90 years ago. 50 meters from the house you start fishing the Pelke. Tackle size 2 or 3 is what you need to get the best of this fishery. Selective brookies up to 800 grs and browns a litle bigger are all over the place. Once you get some trout in the main pools you start fishing only the ones that rise. 90% of the time you fish a floating line, and in this particular place small dries like humpies or caddis flies are the best choice. A friend from Switzerland got some good fishing with Tenkara technique on last season, something I´ve never seen before but it worked perfectly, you can really connect with the river and the movement of the fly.
Hares, grey foxes and rheas live in good harmony with our sheep. Nature really makes sense in this place. Cara caras don´ t waste any opportunity on charitos (baby rhea) or baby upland goose, the balance even with the sheep brought from Europe is still there.
After the fishing, barbecue is waiting, but even though lamb is the star on Patagonia the real food of a gaucho is capon, the male sheep. In my opinion is better than the lamb, cooked on an iron table (we call it plancha) with onions and salmuera (like chimichurri), is something you would never forget.
After filling the stomach the route continues to a tiny spring creek called Coyle Norte. The first impression of the anglers when they see it for the first time is “are we really fishing this place”. Then it becomes an addiction. Its technical fishing, channels of a couple of meters wide were you look for places with cut banks, weeds and just a bit of movement in the water. What is below the surface you cannot believe, browns of 1kg of average up to 3 kilos going mad for foam flies. This place has given me memorable takes, and the main reason is that you approach quite close to the places on your knees most of the times, trying not to show, then you need to make a good first cast, if you fail rarely you’ll have another chance, but the next corner is another opportunity. The population of browns and brooks is amazing; they are in very good shape and really strong.
If you look where you walk is easy to find arrows and stones worked by the aborigines. Some years ago, we found a tomb which I´ve been trying to find out who belongs to, but it is hard to say. On 1921 there was a strike made by the gauchos. They were working in really bad conditions, so a civil war between some of the richest farmers and gauchos took place in the whole Province. Not all the farmers were a corporation and not all the gauchos were in poor conditions, but it was a lot of killing, fires and persecution. Sadly after almost 100 years of that period a lot of gauchos are still in very poor conditions and a lot of farmer’s haven´t changed their way of thinking about that.
On the last season we got spectacular browns but there was one particularly that I have pointed on a small corner that is definitively the biggest I´ve seen in this river so far. I´ve seen it feeding on earth jumping crazy out of the water many times, I could see the size of around 3 kilos or more and it took a couple of flies but spit them out, it´s a clever one, I´ll catch it next season. Till that day my father still owns the biggest fish that weighed 3,2 kilos.
Moving down from my place 100km south there is a beautiful Estancia with another fishery called Coyle Sur. This place is a must for trout fisherman. The owner, Robert Lemaire is one of a kind, the way he takes care of his place is the envy for any farmer, everything is in order, shinning. The estancia was bought in 1904 by Reynard his grandfather, 30.000 hectares with river and channels running through it. Actually is still producing mainly wool and meat from sheep. Michelle Lemaire born in New Zeland also has a production of vegetables in garden house that is awesome; they produce some of the finest scabeches and typical jams from Patagonia.
South Coyle river is the exact combination between Pelke and Coyle. The landscape is pretty similar to Estancia Rio Pelke, the brooks in this place are really a treasure. Some of the males we have caught reached 2,5 kilos. Then the average is closer to a kilo. The structure of the water getting closer to the plateau is unbelievable; the lights of the sunset transform this yellow landscape in a colorful place contrasting with the shadows on the last hour of light.
Fishing is done with tackle size four, floating lines and some nymphs in the deepest pools. Big brooks are usually below cutbanks and are very hard to make them going for dries. The perfect place to be for a brook in this river are pools with moving water, a cut bank in the end and some stones in the bottom, there is no way that a spot with this conditions would not hold fish. Fortunately, this estancia is not close to the main city and keeps the wilderness untouched.
When I started scouting it a Gaucho called Fredy from Chile that worked there for more 20 years told me about a huge fish caught some years ago. They were building the new house and one of the workers decided to take a long walk to bring some fish for dinner. After many hours he returned with a small fish on one hand and the other hand on the back. Freddy, laughing, insisted on the waste of time that was walking so much, but the worker put the other hand in front with a huge fish hanging from his belt to the floor, guess who was laughing then.
Estancia Paliaike, the last stop
This is the last river you will find in Argentina. A river that says nothing and hides some of the biggest brooks in Argentina. As you drive to Chile to cross to Tierra del Fuego, you take an old route to arrive to this estancia. The landscape changes as you drive deeply into the steppe. There are volcanoes everywhere, and this lava field filtrates the water from the snow and rain creating a lot of small creeks that feeds the Chico Sur river. Estancia Pali Aike (lonely place) is one of the oldest of this area; you can see it on the entrance on a sign with the name and the date 1882.
This place holds brooks that reach 3 kilos for sure. And some old stories of my family that my grandfather told me long ago talk about a monster caught on a net of 8 kilos.
On my last scouting with an old friend we fished a beat that usually remains unfished because it doesn´t have much speed in the water, it was dreaming awake. We set up tackle four and five with floating lines, and some streamers with weight to catch the big ones. My friend Mariano landed a brook of 2,5 kilos, and that one definitively worth the trip. As we were reading the water I started to change the way I was fishing the pools and started imitating my Coyle river techniques, hunting the fish in the middle of the weeds. Just imagine a small hole surrounded by algae and the cut bank at the end with still water. I casted a streamer right on the hole and waited a few seconds to sink, I wasn´t even retrieving the line when a monster took it, put my rod down and went straight to the weeds, but I didn´t hesitate on putting all the pressure my rod could take, I finally managed to land it and it was by far my personal brook record, around 3,5 kilos.