I’ve not been back that long from another trip to fish Lake Strobel in Argentinian Patagonia, better known as ‘Jurassic Lake’, for wild rainbow trout. Rainbows as beautiful as you could imagine, with a fitness level to match…
However, as is the case for many good things, there are a few factors to overcome before you get to the desired objective. Access is only really possible by truck, and a bit of rock clambering is all in a day’s work for serious anglers on this lake as it is in many parts of the other, smaller lakes in this area.
At times, staying upright in the strong prevailing winds from the Andes could be a bit of a trial and, as you might imagine, playing one of these fish whilst perched rather precariously among big rocks when the wind was really blowing was quite an experience.
On one memorable occasion, when connected to one of these fish doing a lightning-fast dash in shallow water, I called out loudly to my guide, Ivan, ‘Just hang on to me… please!’ He did, and I survived the experience.
Was I perhaps panicking? Not quite, but pretty near.
One of these turbo-charged bars of silver can easily do a 50 yard run once it makes up its mind to go; 90 yards is not unknown and we made frequent jokes about being taken on an involuntary water skiing trip by one of these athletic specimens! In the week after I returned home, winds were reported as hitting 130 kph. Calm days are a bit of a rarity.
As you might imagine, handling a powerful double-figure specimen in these conditions is, inevitably, a matter of teamwork requiring cool nerves all-round.
It is one thing to hook one of these turbo-charged bars of silver but it is quite another to play it to a position where your guide is able to net it. Sharp rocks and other hazards often lurk beneath the surface, constantly threatening to abrade or even sever the leader for which the standard choice is 15lb test, regardless of whether a lure or a dry fly is being fished.
During the week I was there as the guest of the Estancia Laguna Verde, the best fish taken weighed 20lb; the next best was 18lb.
Suspended nymphs, including those fished ‘New Zealand style’ with a nymph suspended beneath a big dry fly, enjoyed great success.
Another option is to use the ‘bobber’, a small buoyant plastic ball – a float in fact – clipped to the leader to enable a suspended nymph to fish at a certain depth. When the bobber takes a dive, it’s time to set the hook – firmly!
The only natural foods which occur in Lake Strobel and in the surrounding smaller lakes are freshwater shrimp and snails, neither of which are noted for their ability to escape feeding fish! When it comes to nymphs, those in the ‘Copper John’ style seemed to be enjoying great success. One thing is certain however: whatever you fish, nymph or lure, it needs to be fished slowly. The Strobel ‘bows are definitely not accustomed to chasing their food and will simply refuse to chase anything moving too quickly. So an inched-back retrieve or, alternatively, longer, slow pulls are effective. As ever with rainbows, ringing the changes will pay dividends.
The other thing beyond doubt is that whatever flies or lures you use, they need to be tied onto really strong hooks, carp or salmon grade. The normal type of hook used – even for reservoir flies – would simply not be strong enough.
Using the ‘NZ style’ or the bobber, you can harness wave power to advantage; the almost ever-present peaks and troughs will add a lot of movement to the suspended fly and attract the attention of cruising fish.
Whatever this particular fishing holiday is about, it is definitely not about bagging up. Conditions, together with the terrain, do not make it easy fishing. Catching half a dozen fish in a day is definitely good going. And if this includes a couple of double-figure specimens, so much the better.
I experienced a whole day of the well-known frustration of having little or no success whilst rods are bending all around. It is a well-known phenomenon. Often it takes the form of two anglers fishing very close to each other; they are fishing with the same flies with the same retrieve and at the same depth – but only one catches fish, usually in fair numbers. It is all part of trout fishing, after all.
So if you can put out a decent line in a wind, can face a bit of rock scrambling and are willing to ring the usual changes with flies, retrieves and presentation, the mighty Lake Strobel may well be your scene.
These rainbows have been fished for in the last 15 years or so, having been introduced as fingerlings around the turn of the century.
You will notice that I called these fish ‘wild’ whilst mentioning they been stocked in the lake. So what constitutes truly ‘wild’? It is hard to say. Whilst fish and other creatures have in the geological past and more recently migrated and established themselves in new areas, these have been introduced to this particular lake by man. It just so happens that the place suits them perfectly: full of crustaceans and with a total lack of competition. Hence it cannot be claimed that that any other indigenous species has been penalised by their introduction and they are able to spawn successfully by running up the Barrancoso River. So, wild it is!
Patagonia (shared between Argentina and Chile) is doing a great job on the species conservation front. Apart from wild rainbows, there are now well established runs of Pacific Chinook salmon, which were first introduced in the 1980s and ‘90s, in the rivers of southern Patagonia. This area attracts quite a few anglers from the western USA since their own Pacific salmon runs have declined somewhat.
You can find out more about the Estancia Laguna Verde here: http://www.estancialagunaverde.com/index.html
I arranged my time at the Estancia Laguna Verde through the well-known fly fisherman Peter Cockwill. You can find out more about his guided trips and tuition here: http://www.petercockwill.com/#guided-trips
Rod began fishing in his local park lake at the age of twelve, and from there he graduated to chub and roach from the river Tees in North Yorkshire. He now lives in Surrey within striking distance of the river Mole, as well as the Medway and the Eden in Kent and does a lot of surface carp fishing on small waters in the area. Latterly he has enjoyed winter fishing on the Test in Hampshire. He has contributed numerous articles on various angling subjects and personalities to ‘Waterlog’ magazine, as well as many posts on environmental and political subjects in support of the work of the Angling Trust on the ‘Fishing Magic’ website (www.fishingmagic.com)
He remains a passionate angler as well as a member and promoter of the Angling Trust.
The Angling Trust deserves your support in its dealings with politicians and the media to defend and promote fishing. Find out all about the Angling Trust and its work atwww.anglingtrust.net or call us on 01568 620447. If you’re not already a member DO consider joining.
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