I was in Argentina climbing Aconcagua, it would be rude not to try and get any fishing in, we were very lucky with the weather and got the mountain climbed fairly quickly so that meant a few days R+R in Mendoza. Mendoza is a large city set in the eastern plains at foot of the Andes mountains, famous for its Malbec wine and olive oil. Most, if not all of the rivers that I had seen up to now had been un-fishable dirty glacial melt so it was essential to try and find a guide. Straight to the Orvis shop in Mendoza to make some enquiries, the guy behind the counter was really helpful and offered to take us out to a remote ranch the following day. ‘Polo’ the guide explained that it was a small mountain stream with wild Rainbows and Brooke trout, in good numbers, set in a beautiful location in the Andes 2500m above sea level, sounds perfect. Polo had previously been a full time guide in Patagonia and has just finished making a fishing series for ESPN so we were in very good hands and couldn't wait to get up to the stream.
It was a early pick up from the hotel and we soon found ourselves back up in the mountains winding our way up a dirt track towards the ranch, the track seemed to go on forever but eventually arrived at the ranch and met the Gaucho who informed us he would have food and wine waiting whenever we finished fishing, the day was getting better and better. We rigged up a couple of rods, I opted for the #1 handmade bamboo rod and John had a full flex #4 rod we both tied on a huge foam dry fly as instructed by Polo. John is a International Mountain Guide who helped us all up to the summit of Aconcagua but a total beginner to fly fishing, although a lot of experience fishing for carp back in the UK he always wanted to try his hand at fly fishing - the perfect place for it. The plan was simple, we fish upstream taking it in turns pool by pool and work our way up until the heat of the day either puts us off or the fish off. With huge condors circling above, we set off and I saw the stream for the first time, my heart sank, it was tiny and I mean tiny, you could easy step over it and thought to myself there is no way there are any fish in that tiny stream and thought the tourist trap had been set! Following the footpath, slightly disheartened, we moved up and Polo pointed into a pool ‘look, big rainbow’ I looked down into the pool to see huge rainbow trout sat at the back of a crystal clear tumbling pool lazily picking nymphs off. Amazed, is an understatement! The size of the fish compared to the size of the river was unbelievable, now I believed Polo, I was exited to get fishing.
We carried on upstream as Polo said that the fish will be bigger in the middle stretch of the stream, up we went and we found a nice looking pool, getting down low so that we didn't spook the fish we all peered into the pool and saw a nice looking Brooke trout. After a quick demo from Polo and a quick practice, it was time for John to catch his first trout on the fly. Getting into the correct position is very important, taking your time so that the fish don't see you and getting into a comfortable position before you make the all important first cast. As the stream is so small you don't need much fly line out, 18 inches is ideal, and its more of a flick than a cast but still very difficult due to target area being so small. John flicked the fly out and it landed perfectly, the Brooke couldn't the resist what was on offer and John hooked into the fish. What a start, fly fishing for less than 10 minutes and he's playing his first trout. A beautifully marked Brooke trout, a fantastic start. A quick photo and a very short walk to the next pool, Polo had a excellent eye for spotting fish and had already spotted two good sized fish in the pool before I had even caught him up, so down on my belt buckle I got in position, watching the fish I flicked the huge fly into the small pool and instantly hooked into a lovely Brooke trout, what a start, a nice fish each and the pressure was off.
We worked our way up the pools both of us having action in every pool, weather it be a fish, a quick smash at the fly or a fish turning away at the last second it was the most enjoyable fishing I had ever experienced and the amount of fish in the tiny stream was unbelievable. The technique was quite difficult to master, after the flick you had to hold the leader off the water so the fish did not spook, harder than is sounds with a stiff breeze and small stream with natural vegetation on the banks, but soon got the hang of it. John and I both loosing good sized fish (estimated around 2lb) we continued to catch fish and miss plenty.
Polo has also wrote a book on fly fishing and explained he wrote one chapter based on the ‘first cast’ and the importance of the first cast being correct, your best chance. As the morning progressed this could not of been more true, every pool we fished, if the first cast was not right it would spook the fish and your second cast would be useless and just a waste of time with the fish moving off station into the faster water or simply just ignoring what was on offer. Very interesting and educational as it rings so true back in UK. Another interesting observation was how far a fish would swim off its lie to take the fly, sometimes well over a metre, sometimes they would swim from under the cover of banks to take the fly. Fantastic to watch.
I lost count of how many fish and chances we both had, but it was a lot, this tiny stream was in great condition. Polo turned over a few stones to show us how they are all sustained, the stones were covered in huge caddis and hundreds of other nymphs which explains how there can be so many fish in such a small stream. With the sun beating down on us and fish moving into the more shaded and oxygenated water it was almost time to call it a day the last pool of the day, a quick flick of the fly and I was playing a lovely wild rainbow of 1 1/2lb on light tackle it was great fun the fish going up and down the stream giving me the run around. Eventually succumbed to the net, this fish was destined for the pot, what a way to end the day. We took a slow walk back to the ranch where the Gaucho had prepared lunch, steak, chicken, local sausages and the freshest rainbow trout ever all washed down with the local Malbec wine. What a fantastic day, the hardest part was explaining to John that unfortunately this is not my normal days fly fishing but an introduction both of us would never forget.