Rod with a superb fish.

…is the name of the game when it comes to fly fishing somewhere like Lake Strobel in Argentinian Patagonia, famed for its large wild rainbow trout, as the guest of Luciano Alba of the Estancia Laguna Verde Lodge, and in the company of Pete Cockwill who organises trips to fish the Lake from the UK end, and Clem Booth. 

It was a rough week as regards the prevailing wind from the Andes, with few if any calm spells. But no matter: it is as it is, and part of the challenge of fishing is to get the best result you can in the prevailing conditions…

Imagine fishing from rocks which form something resembling a shoreline in Cornwall on a rough day. You are playing a big fish and your guide climbs down ten feet or so to perch himself on a rather precarious and wave-lashed ledge below to get himself ready to do the honours. It is your job to play the fish to a standstill – not always easy given the athletic nature of these fish – over the waiting net, his not to make a mistake and cause the fish to bolt. Hence it all goes under the name of ‘teamwork’. 

The guides seemingly never make a mistake with the net. Given the nature of Lake Strobel, aka ‘Jurassic Lake’ with its rocky ledges and often slippery rocks underfoot, playing and landing a fish successfully is above all a question of each doing his bit. It is a lesson soon learned in this environment.

The classic bend!

Martin, the senior among a bunch of true professionals, was the allocated guide for me and Pete. Fish were hard to come by for at least half the time. Martin occasionally told me to relax, to calm down. Knowing all the while that he was doing his very best to put us onto fish, I did! He was a true morale-booster and great company. 

The fishing here is bordering on the extreme. 

A reasonable level of fitness is essential, what with the rock climbing and tricky routes down to and away from the lake. Wading in high winds is also fraught for obvious reasons with danger, as is quite often the simple act of remaining in an upright position, whether wading or not.

Another lesson which many of us learned long ago, but may constantly need reminding of, is the simple fact that a poor day, or even a total blank, can very often be turned into a red-letter day in the last hour or two. Never, ever, say die…The temptation to give up should never be given in to whenever there is the least chance of a fish. The last thing you want is to head for home before time, only to be told later that the fish really came on during that last hour or so…

These Patagonian fish don’t give themselves up easily…

If you can put out a decent line with a fly rod here, you can do it practically anywhere! I am not ashamed to say that Martin, seeing me struggle to put a line out across a high wind, took the rod from me on several occasions and did an apparently effortless twenty-five-yarder, punching out the line with a flat, low trajectory… with apparent ease! 

Which brings me to one further lesson learned, or rather reinforced: however good you think you are, and maybe you think something is impossible because you yourself cannot do it, this can be a big mistake…There is always someone out there who can do it, or do it better. 

This type of fishing is also, of course, in quite a different league from the ‘bagging up’ sprees we have become accustomed to in the UK, in coarse fishing especially. Some do catch prodigious numbers of trout on some days, but such results are far from a given. They need to be worked for and opportunities exploited when they come along.

To round the trip off, Pete, Clem and I made the trip to the North Shore Lodge and spent two days fishing there. Just for a change, this meant that the wind was on our backs. The first day went well for me, with a succession of fine ‘bows from 9 to 14 pounds. 

Guide, Martin, with a magnificent 12lber

But despite this, I was acutely aware of one thing: that however much you achieve in fishing, there is always more to be achieved and always someone out there who is achieving it.  Pete is well-known for his fly fishing prowess; Clem less so maybe, but whether he is there fishing or not, Lake Strobel seems to be constantly in his thoughts, and he is – when not physically there – always designing new fly patterns to give an extra edge to his technique, ready for the next trip. This time he was trying out his new double-handed Mackenzie 12’ 7’’ six-piece travel rod. It worked a treat, with a large number of hook-ups. The extra distance helped and the outfit was well capable of dealing with these super-fit fish. In other words, he is constantly refining his technique and figuring out better ways of fishing this challenging water. 

His latest creation is a fairly long black leech representation using rabbit fur strip with a flying rear hook. The fish in this lake will never have seen a leech, given that it contains mainly freshwater shrimp and daphnia, yet of course there will be certain colours – in this particular case black – and certain actions, namely a pulsating retrieve and wiggle, which appeal to rainbows everywhere.

Rod’s own leech patterns tied to No.4 salmon irons

The second day on the North Shore was disappointing for all concerned. I only managed one fish from ‘Banana Bay’ on a big dry fly. We called it a day at around four-fifteen in the afternoon, exhausted from the day but happy to have done as well as we could on the trip, given the conditions, with a long drive back to the lodge ahead of us. 

Luciano has been running his Estancia Laguna Verde lodge for thirteen years now. He has worked hard at his business, building up a highly proficient team of guides and extending the lodge’s comfortable accommodation to rival any hotel. He has also worked hard at opening up access routes to the lake through the rough local terrain.

Maybe the first and last time this one will be caught.

You will not find a swimming pool, room service or a faultless standard of décor; just a warm individual room, a comfortable bed, spacious en suite facilities with a nice hot shower – most welcome after a hard day on the lake. Not to mention delicious meals, more than the odd glass of Argentinian Malbec and, of course, a few angling-related photographs and prints on the walls to remind you of the purpose of your visit…

Buena pesca!

Rod Sturdy.