Photo: Schaffer trying his luck under one of many overhanging willows on the Chimehuin river.
For those who love fly fishing, northern Patagonia is certainly on the bucket list, and if it’s not first on your list, it should be. The world just feels larger there—the country, the rivers, the meals, and, most importantly, the fish. The allure only increases when you consider that it’s on the other side of the equator. Outside’s Grayson Schaffer and Nick Kelley, along with New Mexico-based photographer Ryan Heffernan, crossed one off the bucket list this April and got a taste of fall a few seasons early.
Much of the area around Bariloche, Argentina, still had ash on the ground from the Puyehue eruption in June 2011. Several inches of ash blanketed the region again in May, 2015 when Calbuco erupted just across the border in Chile.
Crystal clear water and hungry trout make for another great day on the Chimehuin.
Charrua, a local gaucho’s dog, looks out in search of anything worth chasing. Loving and eager to climb in any lap, Charrua is also trained for hunting and working around horses, sheep, and cattle.
Patagonia’s sharp and thorny vegetation more than makes up for the lack of snakes and things that can bite you.
A small hunting shack, built to keep firewood dry through the winter, made for the perfect campsite.
Unlike some larger trout in the west, larger brown trout often hang out in just inches of water in the northern Patagonian rivers. You either have to tediously fish every section of the river or take the chance of stepping on the catch of the day.
In the summer months, fishing can stay hot until almost 10 p.m. During fall, the skies are dark by 8 p.m., which leaves plenty of time for eating, drinking, and chatter about missed fish.
Schaffer with his a big brown trout, which he was lucky to catch in his first ten minutes on the water.
Andres Sorzana, who has spent much of his life in northern Patagonia as a polo player, avid hunter, and horse trainer, tested his aim with some targets on the hillside.
With nearly record-low water levels, we were able to wade into places you wouldn’t dream of standing during typical flows. Low water and higher water temperatures made for slow, dry fly fishing, but the fishing remained steady with nymphs and streamers.
A nice brown fooled by a dry fly on the Collon Cura.
Much of the Collun Cura is wide open and fairly straight. In spots, the river is diverted into channels and smaller pools that are perfect for wading fisherman.
A herd of sheep getting chased after by Schaffer during a break from fishing. Good thing the gauchos weren’t looking for a sign on which one to pick for the asado.
Car camping anywhere is always fun, Patagonia is no exception.
Herbal mate, maybe even more so than coffee in other parts of the world, is served at all times of day Argentina. It’s an acquired taste for many, but the warm water on cold mornings was hard to turn down.
A big brown trout taken from a productive stretch filled with boulders and shockingly clear water.
Schaffer doing his best to brighten up the landscape in what he consistently referred to as his “Instagram jacket.”
Distances are vast in Patagonia, so a three-hour drive often falls in the “short” category. With views like this, the drives are bearable.