Cathy, the Rio Malleo & Me
Here is a story from one of our travel clients. I think he embellished the story quite a bit with regards to his fishing partner, but the rest rings so true for a day of fishing in Patagonia – the day, the lunch, the siesta, the fishing. I remember it like it was yesterday.
Anyone care to venture a guess as to who the author is? An MFC fly box is yours if you’re the first to correctly guess. Hint: He is not in the photo but tells a good joke. Answer through the blog comments - accessible when viewed from a browser.
Cathy, the Rio Malleo and Me
– a story of a day on a river, with a person I admire, in a place I will never forget.
There are many stories about exactly how and when it came about, but most agree trout were introduced into the rivers and lakes of the Patagonia region of Argentina in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Since then, the pristine waters of the area have allowed the browns and rainbows to flourish and transform Patagonia into a fly fisherman’s dream destination.
Hooked from the start, I was introduced to Patagonia by my good friends Cathy and Barry Beck who host fly fishing trips for Frontiers Travel out of Gibsonia, PA. Having traveled with them for several years, I noticed they always went back to Argentina – often, several times a year. So, when the next Patagonia trip was offered, I was on it.
Presidents and celebrities have fished these waters. Author and angling legend Ernie Schwiebert was a North American pioneer of Patagonia fly fishing. One of his favorite rivers was the Rio Malleo (in Argentine Spanish, the ll is pronounced like the zh sound in azure)) where he often stayed at the legendary San Huberto lodge. The lodge sits on an estancia (ranch) with over eighteen miles of private, trout filled water. The area offers arguably some of the best dry fly fishing in Argentina. And, now, I get to stay there and fish this famous river.
It was a typical Patagonia day on the Malleo. After flying from Buenos Aires the day before and having a full blown asado (Argentine BBQ/cookout) which lasted well past mid-night, we were up and on our way to the stream at a semi-reasonable hour. No one rushes in the morning either due to the remnants of the night before or the fact the hatch doesn’t usually come off till around 10 am.
It was March, so the day was a beautiful, but slightly overcast, fall day in the Southern Hemi-sphere. The fish were taking bugs off the surface regularly so everyone in our group had a great morning of fishing. We stopped around 1 PM for lunch.
When you are staying at San Huberto, lunch on the Rio Malleo is always an event. The teams that were split up in the morning, reunite for a shore lunch. Again, these meals are no simple affair.
Several collapsible tables are opened and set end to end by the guides. Tri-pod chairs are lined up eight to a side. Multi-colored tablecloths are layered two deep and places are set with metal plates and silverware. Wine glasses, wrapped in cloth napkins for the ride, were placed accordingly. Bottles of local red wine, Malbec, lined the center of the tables. Appetiz-ers consisted of empanadas left over from last night’s asado, smoked meats, assorted chees-es. The main course is grilled lamb, breaded veal, roasted vegetables and a fresh green salad. The food is plentiful and delicious. And, so is the wine.
In true Argentine fashion, a nap after lunch was not only well deserved but necessary. Every-one found a patch of grass to lie on or a stump to lean against and dozed off. Cathy and I sat on the river bank and finished the last of a bottle of wine when something caught her eye.
After pointing me in the right direction, I saw what she saw. A pod of fish were working on the surface just below a water flow metering station (which is why the local name for this beat is “el medidor”). Just above the meter, there was a grass clearing that touched the river where the local horses came to drink.
Without speaking, Cathy and I grabbed our rods and vests and walked 50 feet upstream to the pod of rising fish. We waded into the cool, waist-deep water and, of course, I insisted Cathy take the first shot. The fish were closer to the left bank but the flow was such that the best placement of the fly was closer to the middle of the stream so it could drift into to the willow-lined bank.
To see an accomplished angler display their craft never fails to impresses me - whether an athlete or a chef. To watch someone do challenging or complicated tasks with such ease and grace always leaves me amazed. To see Cathy Beck place a fly on the water fills me with the same sense of wonder. The biggest wonder being why, after 40 years of casting a fly rod, I still look like a guy swinging a stick trying to ward off fruit bats. But, I digress.
With minimal effort and maximum grace, Cathy made the first cast. Of course, it was perfect. After two feet of drift, the dark brown, CDC, no-name fly given to us by one of the guides, was gently slurped down by a nice sized Malleo buck brown. The fish in this river are healthy and strong fighters. But, Cathy moved him easily out of the center of the stream over to the gravel bank gently but quickly. By doing so, she left the rest of the pod undisturbed.
It was my turn. The only common denominator between what Cathy just did and my effort was we were using the same fly. But, after a few casts, I had a similar result and followed her lead getting the fish away from the pod so we could continue. And we did.
This went on for an hour or more. The fish never turned off and the pod stayed in tacked. We hooked one nice fish after the other. As our friends woke from their naps, they started to line the bank and cheered us on - fish after fish. All of the trout were beautiful and every cast Cathy made was perfect. I was savoring each moment.
Fishing is Great
We are moving into our summer season here. Sulfurs were reported last night on the Home Pool. Rain is coming today so that means you should get out this weekend. It should be pretty special. Here are a few shots from our guides this week.
Airlines to Drop Service to Many Airports
The CARES Act requires that all airlines maintain service to all U.S. Airports they served pre-COVID-19, but the DOT has begun to loosen the mandate. See which airports your preferred airline is dropping here.