By Etta Meyer | August 12, 2019 | Lifestyle
Patagonia River Guides in southern Argentina offers a wide variety of fishing with exceptional service. It's all about the guides.
This peak is referred to as the "throne of the clouds"—as seen from the Rio Grande. Photo by Harrison Beckwith
Anglers who are inclined to travel go all over the world in search of the best water, with the biggest, most sporting, most elusive game, and when they get there, they know they need the best guides to put them on the fish.
On the flight from Buenos Aires to southern Argentina, the entire plane was full of these chatty sportsmen, eager to arrive in fly-fishing paradise. I was tagging along with my mother, aunt and a friend to fish with Patagonia River Guides, an outfitter with the policy of offering the best of everything—guides, food, private access, service, experience. After we landed, we were whisked away to PRG headquarters: a lodge overlooking a vast valley and the small, historically Welsh town of Trevelin.
The lodge at Trevelin. Photo by Isaias Miciu Nicolaevici
We settled into our rooms and gathered back on the patio for venison empanadas and a glass of chardonnay (so local it came from the lodge’s own vineyard). Our schedule for the week was explained; after breakfast each morning we would divide into fours (two guests and two guides per vehicle), drive to new water and a new topography each day, fish all morning, picnic lunch, fish all afternoon and head back to the lodge just in time for drinks followed by dinner at 9pm. Assigned guides would alternate daily.
The first morning, our caravan headed up into Los Alerces National Park. We passed glaciers and great Andean peaks while rumbling through the 3,000-year-old forest. Before we arrived at the put-in, we experienced a “Patagonian traffic jam”: a couple of gauchos moving cattle. We spread out on the turquoise body of water, two guests and one guide per boat. Mom immediately proceeded to pull a few rainbow trout out of the deep, clear pools as we floated by.
Floating the Rivadavia in Los Alerces National Park. Photo by Harrison Beckwith
PRG was founded in 2000 by two American fly-fishing guides, Rance Rathie and Travis Smith, who have been best friends since growing up in Montana. Every guide in their program has gone through an average of five years of apprenticeship, and many have been there since the beginning. “A good guide is charismatic, confident and, without question, a leader,” says Rathie, which easily describes any of the guys we fished with, and each had their own special talents.
Our three boats rendezvoused for lunch that the guides popped up out of nowhere—gingham tablecloths, bottles of malbec, paella, a simple salad and small steaks that were grilled on a tiny portable barbecue. Sitting all together in the long grass next to the river, with the sun on our faces, we thought we’d died and gone to Argentina.
On another day, we waded the Rio Gualjaina, a small stream in the middle of a wide grassland. On the drive there we saw guanacos (part of the llama family), rheas, foxes, eagles and condors. Because the water was so small and the fish so smart, we were hunting more than fishing. Hiding behind the tall grass and casting around the backs of trees, we looked like fishing ninjas, careful not to cast a shadow to give away our presence. Alejendro Jones, who is also a traditional folk singer and guitarist (he’s big in Wales), tip-toed me through the weeds all day. Spotting from a hill above a sliver of water, he pointed to a monster trout lurking below. To cast to him, I had zero margin of error, so naturally missed and a smaller trout took my fly. We quickly pulled my line and whipped him off, miraculously without spooking Mr. Big. One more try and the cast landed just right. The male rainbow chomped, and Jones leaped into the channel to net him before he disappeared into the reeds with my line. At 24 inches he was not big enough to make the lodge record book, but what a thrill.
Head guide Esteban Oszust holds a monster brown trout caught by his client before releasing the fish back into the river. Photo by Isaias Miciu Nicolaevici
On our last night, Jones serenaded us before dinner on the patio in both Welsh and Spanish. As the sun set, we hugged each of our guides from the week and thanked them for showing us the best of Argentine Patagonia. From $750 per day
Harrison Beckwith and Isaias Miciu Nicolaevici