In the middle of the night I awoke to the sound of pouring rain. I had expected to encounter some rough weather during this trip and it seemed that it had finally arrived. Expecting a cold and wet day of fishing ahead, I closed my eyes, thought about how thankful I was for my warm bed, and let the rain lull me back to sleep. To my surprise, when I finally reopened my eyes several hours later, I realized my room was filled with bright sunshine and not the grey darkness I had been expecting.
While it appeared we would not have a cold wet day of fishing after all, it did look like we were in store for even more physically and mentally challenging conditions - WIND. According to the forecast, the afternoon’s winds were supposed to reach tropical storm-levels of 80-90kph (I’ll let you do the conversion to mph). Our trusty wind gauge (i.e. the willow tree across the street) seemed to confirm that it would indeed be a breezy day. Back home I probably would consider not even leaving the house on such a windy day, let alone consider going fly fishing. However, in Patagonia, you suck it up, get out a heavier weight rod than you might typically use, and you go fishing.
Our guide, Guille, had told Spencer and I about an opportunity to hike into a remote stretch of river with some beautiful waterfalls. We both knew that this was something that we wanted to do during the trip and, given the wind forecast and the somewhat sheltered nature of this particular valley, it seemed like the perfect day to give it a go.
The only issue that I had failed to consider (though I’m sure Guille had not) was the condition of the already long and difficult 4-wheel-drive road that we would have to drive to reach our intended destination. The overnight rains had turned the dirt road, heavy with red clay, into a thick slippery mud. This mud quickly coated the tires of Guille’s Toyota Hilux and appeared to reduce their traction to about zero regardless of whether we were in 4WD High or Low. For many miles it felt like we were driving on an ice ring with bald tires and I wondered if we would be able to make it back if it decided to rain again during the day.
Eventually, thanks to Guille’s skilled driving, we managed to reach the “trailhead” (i.e. the end of the road) for our hike. We loaded our packs and began the long hike to the river, which upon our arrival proved to be even more stunning than we imagined. Unfortunately (though perhaps fortunately?), the fishing started out in a less than ideal manner with two broken rods within the first 30 minutes. I still am not sure how my 6-weight got broken other than when I went to pick it up and tie on a fly the tip was no longer attached to the rod. Spencer also managed to break his brand new 8-weight on an errant cast shortly thereafter. While I wasn’t the one casting his rod, I did feel a bit guilty for jinxing him 3 days earlier when I mentioned that that particular model of rod, while a good caster, was notorious for breaking and that he should be careful…
Fortunately for me, I had a backup rod available. Unfortunately for Spencer, he did not. While I rigged up, Guille walked back to the truck to see what he could come up with for him. In the meantime, Spencer prepared himself mentally for what he thought was sure to be a day of watching and not fishing one of the most picturesque rivers either of us had ever seen. To our mutual surprise, however, Guille returned to the river with perhaps one of the most impressive bush fixes (or perhaps gaucho fixes in this case) that I have ever seen. Using some scrap twine that he found in his truck, he had managed to lash the (now) 5-piece rod back into a 4-piece foot rod - though now only about 7 or 8 feet in length instead of the original 9 feet. Guille then proceed to test his fix by throwing some of the tightest loops that I have seen in a long time. The guy has skills! Later in the day Guille told us he wants to write a book called “How to Fix Anything.” Based on some of the things I saw over the past week I think he may have a future New York Times' Best Seller on his hands.
With rods back in both of our hands, and probably one of the worst possible starts of a fishing day ever behind us, I told the guys that we were now destined to catch a “Hog Leg” today. This is what always happens to me when fishing. Bad luck always leads to good luck and visa versa. I also have a flawless record of calling these events, at least according to my probably somewhat selective memory... For example, one time, while my buddy Jordan and I were driving to go fishing, I realized that I had left my large fishing net at home. I told Jordan that it was likely we were going to catch a hog as a result, which, sure enough, we did a couple hours later. I’m happy to report that my record of calling these events remains unbroken and now stands at 2 for 2.
What started as one of the worst days fishing ever ended as one of my most memorable days fishing ever despite (or perhaps partly because of?) a broken rod and battling 80-90kph winds.
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