Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Peninsula Valdes

Quick update because we finally found a WiFi signal in eastern Patagonia (in the Puerto Madryn bus terminal). Since Sunday night we have been camping on Peninsula Valdes, which is world famous for its wildlife, especially the 9 orcas that almost beach themselves to feed on sea lions and southern elephant seals every March and April. On two different days we were able to see orcas (saw 7 just this morning), but they decided not to come in to the beach to feed even though they were just a hundred yards or so away. Anyway, we have pictures of penguins, seals, etc., but the signal is too slow to get photos uploaded right now. We are headed to Mendoza tonight, so hopefully we will have a faster connection there and can get some pictures posted. Hope everyone is doing well!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

trout heaven

This is Ian guest blogging on behalf of Clay and Esma, who graciously allowed me to visit them in Argentina. The trip to Patagonia was amazing - we did lots and lots of fishing, stopping only sometimes to eat and only at dark to sleep. Since the Holley camera got drowned (but later resurrected!), here are some of my photos from the trip.

This is one of my favorite photos of Clay's many, many catches. Don't let the fish's size deceive you--it had the heart of a champion but took on a bit more than it could swallow.

Clay often offered me the most ideal-looking fishing holes, and I would accept, only to see Clay downstream catching more (and bigger) trout. After a while I started thinking, 'something fishy's going on', so at this particular prime hole, I turned down his offer...only to see Clay pull out this 20" monster rainbow (and about 10 other trout)! You are quite the fisherman, Clay!

Chilly mornings in Patagonia often turned into hot afternoons, and dressing in layers was key. Here's the highly-fashionable Esma dressing for the day's weather (and looking an awful lot like a rodeo clown...or Pippi Longstocking). Esma was gracious enough to let me post this semi-embarrassing photo of her but wanted me to point out that she was still color-coordinated!

The water in Patagonia was the purest I've ever seen. We were often tempted to drink straight from the rivers! Here's Clay casting into a crystal clear fishing hole.

Although we spent a bulk of our time camping and fishing, we did take some time to check out the nearby towns. Here we are outside of Junin.

Our last day of fishing was the best, with well over 200 fish combined between us, including this nice brown trout. We caught so many fiesty fish that our forearms were sore from all the fights!

And what's a great trip without some delicious local eats? My last day in Argentina was spent exploring Clay and Esma's adopted home of Bariloche. Here we are in downtown enjoying some choripan (Argentinian sausage dogs, aka "heart-attack in a bun"), made by the local choripan master himself!

Thanks for letting me visit, Clay and Esma! I had a great time in trout heaven. Hope to go back sometime!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ian visits Patagonia

Sorry for the lapse in communication. We have been out in the middle of nowhere camping and fishing for the last week and obviously didn't have internet connection. We also don't have a lot of pictures to show because we had a camera accident involving water during the trip, which thankfully did not result in the death of our camera but did require a couple of days of drying time before the camera functioned properly again. Ian had a camera with him, so we'll try to get him to guest blog in the next few days about our experience over the last week.

Our good friend and fishing buddy Ian came down for a visit to see and fly fish Patagonia. He arrived in Bariloche on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 21, after a LONG trip: he sat on the tarmac for 3 hours at RDU airport Wed. night, Feb. 18, because of a weather delay at JFK and ended up not getting to leave Durham until Thursday; connected through Dallas on Thursday; then on to Buenos Aires; then a 20+ hour bus ride across the Pampas of Argentina to Bariloche.

After that, we proceeded to drag him around northern Patagonia staying in a tent each night with no access to showers, electricity, etc., for a round trip of 1000 km and 4 different campsites in 5 nights. At least we did take him to a good Argentine parrilla (steakhouse) before we left for our camping/fishing adventure. Here is Ian with his Sirloin steak cooked to perfection. The steak was too big to include his salad and glass of wine in the picture. :-) Oh, and did he ever catch the fish. Let's just say that on his last full day in Patagonia (Thursday, Feb. 26), he caught 100 trout in ONE DAY, and one of them was a 21 inch brown trout (photo to come later if we can get Ian to guest blog). Thanks for coming to visit, Ian! We had a blast!

We camped and fished by this volcano (Volcán Lanín, which thankfully, unlike others in this part of the world, is currently inactive) on the Río Malleo on Ian's first night and full day in Patagonia. He caught his first Patagonian trout on Sunday morning (Feb. 22) after only about 5 minutes on the water.
More to come in the next few days...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Rio Meliquina & Esma's first (9) fly-caught trout

We took a weekend trip north of Bariloche to a small river called Rio Meliquina, which is in a beautiful valley just a few kilometers southeast of the town of San Martin de Los Andes. We had the river and small campground to ourselves the entire weekend, and this (below) was the view that greeted us when we arrived late Friday evening.

The fishing was excellent in terms of quantity of fish. Most of the fish in Rio Meliquina this time of year are not big by Patagonian standards, although we did come across a few large fish. But what this river lacks in big fish, it more than makes up for in quantity, and unlike in many Patagonia rivers, the fish respond very well to dry flies.

Esma practiced her fly cast and fished some yesterday but didn't catch anything. This morning, however, she caught her first fly-caught trout, and then proceeded to catch 8 more in the same spot! We were both very excited. We combined to catch 62 trout (35 rainbow and 27 brown) between 7am yesterday and 10:30 am today.

A stone fly molt. The insect hatches on this river are incredible. Yesterday just before sunset, the sky was full of mayflies, and we caught plenty of trout using mayfly imitations.

A Rio Meliquina rainbow.

A beautiful Rio Meliquina brown.

Reason #234 why we enjoy fly fishing. Fish, and especially trout, usually don't live in ugly places.

Esma with her 2nd fly-caught trout (better shot of the fish below). Her first one slipped out of the net before we could get a photo.

Esma's 2nd fly-caught trout.

Another rainbow in the net for Esma. This fish was very pretty.

Esma's 9th fish while standing in the same place - a fat rainbow that gave her a nice battle.

Esma with another trout on the line - another feisty rainbow that gave her a good fight.

Esma standing in her fishing hole, where she caught 8 rainbow and 1 brown trout in 30 minutes. Notice that our tent is in the background. We had not fished this hole until just before we broke camp. We assumed it had received some fishing pressure (and thus held fewer fish) because it's directly adjacent to a dirt road and small campground. Good thing Esma tried!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The promises of God

Tuesday (10th) was Clay's birthday, and we woke up that morning to a rainbow right outside our window. Neither of us had seen a rainbow appear so close. It was a cool birthday gift, and not being one to believe in chance, luck, coincidence, and the like, I thanked God for providing it. Rainbows remind us of the promises of God. In Genesis 9:13, God says, "I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth." It's easy to sometimes forget about God in our busy lives, but He is faithful to us today just like He was to Noah in the day of the first rainbow and just like He will be tomorrow. Thanks, God, for the reminder.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fly fishing on Rio Pichi Leufu (¨Little River¨)

We spent Sunday afternoon through Monday morning (Clay has afternoon Spanish classes this week) on the Rio Pichi Leufu, which is about 1-1.5 hours outside of Bariloche in the Patagonian steppe (aka desert). It is a small, freestone river with many trout, although most of them are small by Patagonian standards. We rented a car for the first time since being in South America, and Clay got to experience driving in Argentina, i.e., road signs - including stop signs, traffic lights, and speed limit signs, if present - are mere suggestions. It was fun!

Setting up camp on Rio Pichi Leufu. This was a beautiful place to camp next to a deep, clear hole of water (with many trout of various sizes swimming around).

Esma tried out fly fishing for the first time. She´s a natural! Her cast is already prettier than Clay´s, and he´s been practicing for almost a year. She had trout on the line two times but failed to get them all the way in to the net both times. We´re hoping that next time she gets one all the way in so that we can take a picture of her first fly-caught fish.

First cast in Patagonian waters. There was a HUGE trout in this hole, but we couldn´t get him to bite.

Netting our first Patagonian trout.

Clay´s first Patagonian fish - a 10 inch brown trout.

A beatiful rainbow that wasn´t the biggest fish of the day but definitely the hardest fighting!

The biggest fish of the day - an 18 inch brown trout. He wasn´t too happy about me catching him. He kept biting the net, but finally let go long enough for us to let him go!

A final rainbow before sunset.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

¡Bienvenidos a Argentina!

On Saturday night and Sunday, we made the 18 hour trip from Santiago across the Andes to Bariloche, Argentina. It was a beautiful trip and could be much shorter without bus stops and 2 stops at the border (once before leaving Chile and once after entering Argentina - it took us 2-3 hours to go 30 km or so at the border, but at least the mountain views were gorgeous while we waited).

The wind in Patagonia can be something fierce. This is the best shot we could get of the Argentine flag when we crossed the border.

The view out of our front window on our first morning in Patagonia (yesterday, Feb. 2).

Just up the road a couple of kilometers from where we are living. A couple of hiking trails start here, and we are anxious to try them out.