Friend­ship Born of a Fish

The gringo and the Chilean ranger spoke a com­mon lan­guage of mov­ing wa­ter By Seaver Jones

Anglers Journal - - FIRST LIGHT -

I was in­tro­duced to the Fu­taleu­foe River by my fish­ing part­ner Adrei Gal­lardo, a re­tired Chilean ranger who pa­trolled on horse­back the cordillera, which is the high, re­mote moun­tain bor­der be­tween Chile and Ar­gentina. Adrei looked af­ter the in­ter­ests of the hua­sos, the skilled horse­men and Chilean equiv­a­lent of the Ar­gen­tine gau­cho or Amer­i­can cow­boy. In his re­tire­ment, he mar­ried a young woman and started a fam­ily. He had two sons, and the fam­ily lived in a small cabin by the river where it crossed the bor­der. And Adrei fished. One day, he landed an enor­mous sea-run brown weigh­ing 39.1 pounds. It made the news and made him a leg­end. Upon my ar­rival in Fu­taleu­foe in 2000, I heard tell of this fish and went in search of Adrei. He grinned and pointed me to­ward a wall with the fish mounted in the mid­dle. I moved closer. In­deed, it was a mon­strous car­i­ca­ture, a Godzilla of a brown trout with teeth like a house­cat’s. And thus started my friend­ship with Adrei. It didn’t mat­ter that I couldn’t un­der­stand the rar­efied di­alect of Span­ish in that re­mote out­post. Day af­ter day, we shared fish­ing the way some peo­ple share a good bot­tle of wine. Af­ter catch­ing that brown, Adrei never used a spin­ning rod again. He took up a fly rod and be­came equally pro­fi­cient, with a sim­ple, self-taught style. And he shared his love of the Fu­taleu­foe with his gringo friend. I now fish and guide on that same stretch of river. Over the years, much has changed. Adrei is gone, as is the iso­la­tion of this on­cer­e­mote pue­blo. The roads are paved, and the new ho­tels are full of sea­sonal pil­grims with their rod cases and fly shop at­tire and ex­pec­ta­tions of once-in-a-life­time fish. The fish­ing is still ex­cel­lent, the scenery breath­tak­ing. I take the dream­ers out, and they catch good fish. Ev­ery now and then we hook some­thing that re­fuses to suc­cumb to any pres­sure. With a good fish­er­man and some ju­di­cious oar work, we can usu­ally coax a glimpse of a huge sea-run brown in the deep. The re­sponse it en­gen­ders is al­ways the same: My bug-eyed sport will get ner­vous and jerky, and the fish winds up swim­ming away no worse for wear. I chuckle, reach into the cooler and hand a beer to my gap­ing, dry-mouthed pa­tron. And we toast Adrei Gal­lardo.

With a home on the R’o Espolon, Seaver Jones has fished the Fu­taleu­foe and ner­vous wa­ters of north­ern Chilean Patag­o­nia since 2000.

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