Russell Kitchens

Trout Bum Rio Pico

March ~ 2017


Russelll Kitchens Trout Bum Argentina Trip

March 18, 2017 Arrive in the quite modern Buenos Aires International Airport at 4:30 am.  Customs, etc. backed up approximately 1 1/2 hours.  Four and a half hours after our flight landed, we arrive across town and check in at the domestic airport for our two-hour flight to Esquel.  Transport through the modern high-rise apartments and steel and glass office buildings of this city of 12 million reveals that this the sixth largest country in the world has a good deal of wealth.  The feel of the city is quit European, and the beautiful classic style governmental buildings are impressive.  Argentina’s population is 40 million, 12 million of whom live in Buenos Aires; the remainder of the country is  sparsely populated. On the flight to Esquel, the landscape out the plane window, for the first 100-200 kilometers, reveals fertile coastal farmland.  As we travel west towards the Andes, we enter the desert country which looks almost identical to central Wyoming.  Vegetation here supports one cow per 50 hectares (1 hectare = approximately 2.5 acres). Our guides, Juancho Camissa and Gustavo “Negro” Segovia meet us at Esquel Airport with Clacka Craft trailing their Toyota Hilux pickups.  Esquel is a charming little city close to ski runs, mountain trekking, white water rafting adventures, and Los Alerces National Park which has good trout fishing via wading, river and lake floats.  This however was not part of our package. Our guides, who were most experienced, friendly, cheerful and knowledgeable, were anxious for us to jerk a lip, so we stopped at a 30-50-acre, shallow lagoon on the 2-hour drive to our base lodging in Rio Pico, where we dropped in the boats, and each caught 4-6 browns, 16”-20” in 1 1/2- 2 hours of stripping streamers.  Nice touch, as most guides simply run you down to a lodge on your arrival day.  We saw three wild emu on the drive through desert country to the village of Rio Pico.  Both emu and guanaco are protected species.


Our ten-day fishing experience consisted of a mix of a small mountain streams, spring creeks, a number of beats on the Rio Pico, which is an open and easy wading, freestone river system.  The number of fish we caught each and every day was mind blowing.  If you think the Big Horn River in Wyoming and Montana has an incredible number of fish per mile, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”  We each had 3-4 50-100-fish days, mostly rainbows 12-16”, with a few larger bows and browns mixed in—most caught on dry with 3-4 foot dropper with most takes on stonefly, pheasant tail or copper john nymphs. The scenery is heart stoppingly beautiful, similar to Milford Sound (New Zealand), the Canadian Rockies, the Wrangle or Kuskokwim Mountains of Alaska to name a few.  Truly difficult to watch your fly, as the scenery is so inspiring. We fished four lakes, the water gin clear, surrounded by more distracting scenery.  These lakes hold large browns.  As everywhere in the world, your success depends on a medium wind producing enough surface irregularity to make your artificials—dry flies, streamers, or droppers—look edible to a hungry brown.  We happened to catch off days. Our first day was on Lake Uno with high winds and white caps—tough conditions—my partner even seasick.  Together, we caught 2-4 browns, size 18”-20”.  Another day on Lake Quatro was dead calm—sipping risers avoiding the boat at 60-80 feet!  We struggled to catch a few on streamers—ours in the 20”-22” range.  We both lost a hog or two on the lakes.  Other fishermen we met at the Esquel Airport on the way home had much better experiences on the lakes, catching 25”-30” browns in better numbers, 4-6 each per day. Our guides, who spoke English well, were a pleasure to spend time with.  Negro is a history buff and is a willing educator of South American history—if that trips your trigger as it does mine.  Juancho camped on the Rio Pico for two months at one point and knows every inch of the drainage spring creeks, etc.  They both are friends with the locals who happily open the gates to their private properties for river access.  


One is not limited as to where to fish on this trip, but limited only by time and weather.  Ours was, fortunately, bluebird perfect, about 68 degrees each day.  We had one little shower one afternoon on the Rio Pico during which the fish went insane, almost fighting over who gets to the fly first.  What an experience! We are already booking our 2018 trip!  Wish I was back on the Rio Pico this very minute.  If I don’t get to heaven, then the Rio Pico is where I want to be.  We returned to North Carolina on March 25.  Our Carolina TarHeels shortly thereafter won the NCAA Basketball Championship, but we experienced such euphoria in Argentina, the big win seemed sadly anticlimactic.


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