Fishing upside down, Part IV
Fishing and hunting
DOTTIE LYNCH gets a high-five from our guide Tuqui after bringing in a very large German brown trout on the Malleo River. Our guides, Tuqui and Sancho, were not only highly capable, but also cheering us on every time we hooked a fish. Their passion and enthusiasm made every day a joyful experience.
One of the really best features of our fly-fishing adventure in Argentina was the company of our guides, Tuqui and Sancho, who stayed with us from our arrival in northern Patagonia until we crossed into Chile.
They actually stayed with us at the two resorts, ate most meals with us and participated in the social aspects of our trips, not just the fishing side.
After three-days of fishing out of Ted Turner's Collon Cura Lodge, we loaded our bags and fishing gear into their pickups and rode south-southwest with them into the Andes and the small town of Junin de los Andes, a community serving the cattle ranches and farms that are spread out for miles on the eastern side of the range that separates Argentina from Chile.
As we got closer to the sharply rising, snow-capped peaks, the terrain changed from the Montana-like wide-open spaces, to river-cut valleys surrounded by steep pine-covered hills. Our destination was Estancia San Huberto, which has been owned and operated by the Olsen family for more than 100 years.
Formerly a cattle ranch, it now caters to fly-fishers who have exclusive access to miles of the Malleo River, which meanders through former pasture land and wooded acres on its way to joining the Collon Cura River.
Today, Carmen Olsen and her daughter, Karen Wilson Olsen, and son, Ronnie Olsen, are the hands-on managers and operators of San Huberto, ably assisted by an amazing staff, some of whom actually live on the ranch as well.
In this small community of ranchers and former ranchers now catering to visitors, everybody seems to know everybody, and many are related. We were greeted like long-lost relatives with hugs and kisses on the cheek, once again reminding us of how especially enjoyable our Argentinian guides and hosts made our visit.
The estancia's main lodge has beautifully decorated, exceptionally large hotel-style rooms for up to 12 guests on the first floor. That is also where the dining room is located, although when the weather is nice, you can also dine outside on the tree-lined and shaded patio, which is usually where lunch was served.
Upstairs in a very large living-room, lounge and bar area for guests, we gathered for evening cocktails before dinner, which were usually served between 9:30 and 10 p.m., because we fished until 8:30 most evenings.
The daily routine included breakfast with our guides in the dining room between 8 and 8:30 a.m. and then a brief drive through the dirt roads of the ranch to our assigned beat on the Malleo River. We'd fish until about 1:30 or 2 p.m. and then drive back to the ranch for lunch and a siesta, until about 5:30 p.m. when we'd head back out fishing again.
This highly civilized routine has spoiled us for the usual all-day, all-out days of fishing with no down time (yeah, I know it sounds tough).
Next week I'll tell you about the fantastic fishing we had on the Malleo, an easily wade-able and lovely small river loaded with trout, including some really big ones.
UNUSUALLY balmy weather offered perfect conditions for fishing local waters, and the catching hasn't been bad either. Striped bass are starting to move into the rivers and are also schooling up along the Marin shoreline and other areas.
Anglers are catching them and some sturgeon at the Pump House and Hamilton Flats on live shrimp. Valerie Lightborne, of Leonard's Bait Shop at Port Sonoma, landed a nice 26-inch striper fishing from her shop’s dock last Friday on a live grass shrimp. Stripers are in the Petaluma and Napa rivers. Anglers are also catching and releasing lots of undersized sturgeon in the Napa River. Another hot spot continues to be China Camp and McNear's Pier in Marin County.
Valerie added that a monster sturgeon, in the 8-to-9-foot-long range, has been spotted by several fishermen at the mouth of the Petaluma River. Nobody has hooked it yet, though. The best sturgeon action in the North Bay seems to be near the mothball fleet just north of the Benicia Bridge.
Local lakes are still pretty cold, and anglers who are succeeding at Berryessa and Clear Lake are using crank baits and other lures fished very slowly and patiently.
Moving north, the Eel, Trinity and Klamath rivers have been producing good to very good steelhead fishing. The upper and lower Sacramento rivers are also providing lots of good trout action for fly-fishers.
Capt. Rick Powers, of Bodega Bay Sportfishing, continues to have good luck in bringing in full limits of dungeness crab and lots of sand dabs for his party boat clients. He will keep the trips going until salmon season opens in April. Call Rick at 875-3344 to book a trip.