Wind is the unrelenting companion of gauchos, hikers and hapless fly-fishers who venture forth on the remote and sparsely populated steppes of Patagonia that stretch hundreds of miles east from the Andes to the Atlantic.
Dottie and I and our friends Chad Overway, Jeanne Montague and Tom and Deb Engle, were there to fish, but we were not used to casting in such conditions.
The skill required is something akin to flying a very small kite in a hurricane. The chances of burying a hook in the neck of our companions or fishing guides were high, but more often than not, nearby trees, bending and thrashing in the heavy gusts, were the greater hazards.
There was an adjustment period during which we placed our fly-lines and flies just about everywhere but near a fishy-looking riffle on the wide Chimehuin River.
The heavy winds buffeted every standing thing in the wild and untamed landscape through which the river flowed. Compounding the wildness was the presence of exotic creatures like guanacos, red deer and condors.
In case you’re wondering, a guanaco is a native wild relative of the llama, related to camels. The red deer, among the largest in the deer family, were imported a century ago from Europe. The condors are native and making a big comeback.We were told that there were also pumas in the vicinity, but they allegedly had not developed a taste for non-native North Americans.
We also took a lesson from the birds, bees and other bugs dwelling near the water. They worked with the wind, not against it.
One morning, while I was observing some of those bugs (several medium-sized white butterflies) flutter across the river about two feet above its surface, a trout nearly the length of my arm leaped out of the water to snatch one them out of mid-air.
I frantically searched my fly box for anything big and fluffy enough to resemble a white butterfly. Our guide, Leo, suggested a “stimulator,” a big fly with lots of white deer hair on it. It didn’t look much like a butterfly to me but Leo showed me how to use it with his magical “cat-tease technique.”
This method includes casting the fly in the general direction of the fish, then raising the rod tip and intentionally jerking the fly over and off the surface of the water so it popped and gurgled and sometimes flew into the air.
The wind added to the fly’s spastic and erratic passage above and in the water. Sure enough, the monster trout slammed it. It was a really big fish. The fight was brief. The trout won, breaking my line in the process.
I tied on another stimulator and managed to land two more large trout in the 18-to-20-inch range, but neither were the size of the monster I saw that swam away with my first stimulator in his jaw. This cat-tease technique was just one of several things I learned down here.
The next method was more like fishing blindfolded while wading waist-deep on bowling balls covered in olive oil. More on that next week.