I have been fishing in Patagonia on a regular basis since 2004, although my first trip there was in 1996. I love the waters of Rio Manso Lodge; the river, lakes, smaller streams and other spots we fish on a regular and not-so-regular basis within an hour or less from the lodge. Casting a line feels like pulling on a pair of well-worn work gloves. You know exactly what you are getting into, even if the task is somewhat varied. Like the monster brown on the river that was totally unexpected in water where we’d rarely seen a decent trout. This kind of fishing is the perfect blend of the expected and the unknown, but falls well within that comfort range for any activity; nothingtoo crazy, but, as always in fishing, there’s still a chance the Loch Ness Monster might grab your fly.
There’s another activity that I, like many anglers, enjoy perhaps even more. That is the lure of exploring and fishing new water. Expectations can be all over the place, but the possibilities can seem almost endless. Just seeing new water brings an adrenaline rush to any fly fisher. In Patagonia, there is an almost endless parade of such water, sometimes tempered by stories and rumors, but more likely there is no or little information at all.
There is a such a place on the Rio Manso list of waters, but it’s well hidden from most lodge guests. Not on purpose, of course, but because it exists hours away down a long Patagonian road, through many gates, and with the barest of what can only euphemistically be called “accommodations”. Roberto, the lodge owner, has a nose for such places and somehow sniffed this one out. The lake holds seemingly endless numbers of powerful rainbows that destroy rods and make leaders part like twanging guitar strings. In fact, we don’t even use leaders when we fish there, but just tie several feet of twenty-pound test to form the connection between our fly lines and the fly.
It’s baffling to me why these fish are so powerful. They fight no current, swim no streams to spawn, but lounge in a lake full of food. Yet strong they are, and they don’t hesitate to demonstrate it when hooked. To spoil the rare angler who gets to experience this Nirvana even more, nearly all the fishing is with dry flies. Big dries to be sure, sizes four to ten, with big rubber legs and mouse patterns leading the charge. And the fishing isn’t really about playing these fish once hooked, it’s all about the take, where sight casting just adds to the pleasure.
Will I tell you where this lake is? Not on your life! But if you come to Patagonia and Rio Manso Lodge, don’t care about creature comforts, don’t mind eating Javi’s savory pollo al disco by a fire, enjoy great malbecs, and relish the thought of sharing all this with worthy companions, I just might share one of the greatest places on earth.