This year we closed our tenth consecutive season of the most popular program in our catalog, the one that started it all after Justin’s long walk down in Patagonia. Since its beginning the Trout Bum Rio Pico has represented an entirely new approach to fly fishing
travel, and although a lot has changed since 2009 including the development of several similar Hemispheres Unlimited programs across the globe, this style of operation is still one of a kind!
From its conception the idea was to provide access to what we see as the world’s greatest fishery for Rainbows, Browns, and Brook Trout at a price point even our fellow guides could afford. What we didn’t see coming though was that this was far being from the only market that would respond. By the second season we had bookings from clients Justin had previously guided in five star destinations elsewhere in the world, and by the third season there were doctors, lawyers, and corporate executives sitting right next to young vagabond guides at the dinner table almost every night.
Turns out that it wasn’t so much the price point that mattered, it was the style of the program itself that was pulling these folks away from the lodges they had previously visited and putting them in the simple rooms at Vasco’s and Paulino’s. More than the cocktails, bedding turndowns, and table clothed streamside lunches, everybody just wanted to fish! And that’s where a schedule set by the clients themselves plus a willingness to walk, row, or four wheel drive those extra miles makes all the difference in the world. Our guests don’t get told it’s time to head back to the lodge for cocktail hour, or what time breakfast will be served; and they darn sure don’t get told that the waterfall upstream is too far a walk to undertake. All our clients seem to like this, and as such we have grown and grown each year.
Make no mistake; we still cater to our brethren taking a break from the oars and push-poles of their Driftboats and Skiffs around the world. We are proud to offer a place at our table, on our waters, and in our rafts for guides and fishermen of any age or background that would not have the opportunity to see Patagonia and fish to these amazing fish if it weren’t for the affordability of what we offer. These days we just sit them down right next to the other guys, and they all seem to get along just fine!
Now it’s true, over the years both the lodging and the food have gotten a little more “cush”. The guides no longer do any of the cooking, which is nice because they get to hang out and enjoy dinners with the guests and are also a lot less tired in the morning (not to mention it means we all get to enjoy the company of Karina), plus we’ve made a lot of improvements to the living spaces as well. Back country trips are still an option though, and we are better equipped than ever to take those as far out into seldom accessed waters as any client wants to go. And the best news is that none of this has changed the pricing; all of the options are still as affordable as they ever were.
Plus the fishing has actually gotten better almost every year. We have no way to explain this, but we’re certainly happy it is the case. We’ve had quite a bit of low water on the lower sections of the drainages these past several years, and it has concerned us, but apparently it has not concerned the fish. The spring creeks in the upper sections still hold the monsters they always did, and the multitudes of fish in the lower freestone-ish sections just seem to keep multiplying and eating more and more dry flies as they do. Ten years ago we said a third of our lakes offered consistent fishing, another third were pretty reliable, and the last third were all or nothing 50/50 bets on any given day. That last one is still as it was, but the middle one has continually edged its way into the first column, with many of what were “medium fish” lakes five years ago now having become “big fish lakes” with all season action.
Then there’s that one lake…. And those of you who have been with us mid-season these last couple of years know which one I mean. It used to be in column three, and we got skunked out there better than half the times we went. It was worth it though because when it worked out the brook trout landed were the biggest anyone had ever seen, even the guys who’d been to Labrador. Since last year though, even that lake has jumped right into column one, and as hard as it’s been to believe we’ve not been skunked out there a single time, and had many, many days whereupon putting the boat to sand at takeout clients and guides both had to look at each other with “did that really just happen” written all over there faces. We still have trouble believing our own logs. 40+ Brook trout landed by one boat in a single day, and not one of them less than five pounds???
The idea from the beginning though was to keep the program small and personal, and that intention is still in place. There are only so many folks we can put at the table at any one time while maintaining the level of personalized service we provide. And the reality is, the calendar for the 2019/20 season already has almost as many spots filled on it as we had our entire last season. If you’re thinking of coming down (or back down, as most of you have been here once do), then give us a call – soon!