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Like many, I had heard about this mythical piece of water a while back, and to the surprise of many, I have never really been motivated to tick the box or add it to my already overflowing list in a bucket.
But the stories, the images, the bombardment of youtube clips got the better of a good group of clients I am now lucky enough to call friends and they forced my submission – “Organise it Jono, come on – the best operator, the best part of the lake, at the best part of the season – take us, you know it makes sense.”
Don’t get me wrong I love trout, especially big and wild ones, Argentina – adore it! I need no encouragement there – the people, the scenery, the Malbec – ok lets not even go there. We travel as a company to Argentina and Patagonian Chile 3 times a year, the common denominator – big wild, breathtaking rivers, drift boats, white water, double handed rods and strong, strong fish, why would you possibly want to fish a lake….But I had a group that wanted to go so it was time to make some phone calls.
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I chatted to my good friend Danny, a renowned guide and outfitter in Bariloche. If it swims in South America and you can catch it, he has the inside scoop – and better still he always knows someone who knows someone – he is better connected than a Soweto taxi driver in a roadblock!
Turns out he knows the family that owns the largest Estancia on the Lake – Estancia Laguna Verde, a 15000 Ha Ranch with over 15 km of varied shoreline, over 10 km of the only feeder River the Barrancoso, 12 smaller lakes linked by a spring type Moro creek and all bursting with freakishly large fin perfect, rainbow rockets.
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Upon further research, the early season when the feeder river runs fresh and full of glacial melt is the time to go, huge mature fish gather in the bays surrounding the mouth and then run the river heading up to the upper reaches to spawn. After overnighting in Calafate and getting over any long-haul flight syndrome with a huge lamb Asado ( butterflied over an open fire ) a several bottles of amazing wine, we were on the road to the lake, 2 hours of tar and then 3 hours of painfully slow farm track, over sharp volcanic rock that would have been quicker to walk over.
The lodge while basic in appearance from the outside is beautifully renovated on the inside, cedar wood floors, the original thick stone farmhouse walls, huge leatherbacks a roaring fire with a breathtaking view over the main Laguna – Laguna Verde.
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The fishing, well by the second evening all at the dinner table had to come up with an adjective that encapsulated what they thought of the fishing and I got shot down in flames as I couldn’t improve on “obscene”. Imagine, if you can, fishing a large windswept hatchery pond, filled with solid, stacked, spade tailed wild fish.
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Every evening the anglers were buzzing with arithmetic, “ 36 fish, 11 over 10 pounds, 2 over 15”, then on to the next angler, then the next. I was often looked upon as the leper sitting quietly at the end of the bar “ really 8 fish Jono – whats the matter with you?” I just found it all too much, fish numbers were so plentiful both in the lake and the river system that it became just too easy to make a pig of oneself.
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By halfway through the first day, I made a choice to only sight fish, using dry fly if there was some good light and dry and dropper only if conditions were difficult.
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Standing on a calciferous weathered rock with my hands in my pockets, keeping warm, I would wait for a cruising grey lump if I thought I could do better and wait for a larger fish I would. On the river a nymph upstream under an indicator was murder, a skated mouse or large foam dry not as productive but seeing a 15 pound sip the dry in a river you can jump across just amazing!
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By being this selective I cut my catch rate down to a sensible 8-12 fish a day but all absolute hogs. Was it too easy, possibly, but its Horses for Courses I guess, a heavy 74-year-old, unsteady on his feet by his own admission, landing 30 trophy fish in an afternoon session on a slowly stripped leech with a scud pattern behind it – that’s just nuts!
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Is it the best wild trout fishery on the planet, indeed it must be…!
Mavungana Flyfishing is the exclusive South African agent for Estancia Laguna Verde. We have the second week of the season – as good as it gets, join us for the mayhem!