Countries in Contrast
Fishing both sides of the Andes in one trip highlighted the region’s diversity By Nick Price
Last April, in the heart of autumn, I took a trip to Argentine and Chilean Patagonia. It was my first time visiting both countries during the same trip. One was arid, expansive and windswept. The other was lush and rugged, with relatively short river valleys. As a region, Patagonia is a dream destination to be sure, but there are certainly distinctions between Argentina and Chile beyond the fact that their respective people don’t always like each other. I traveled with my friend Zac Mayhew. The two of us met up with Jorge Trucco, Argentine Patagonia’s first outfitter, in San Mart’n de Los Andes. Our first stops were the Aluminž, Limay and Chimehuin rivers. We proceeded to fish by drift boat, and by walking and wading, all three rivers in eight days. Argentine Patagonia resembles in many ways the topography of south-central Idaho and much of Montana. The comparisons, to me at least, end there. Think asado, malbec, gauchos, mate and rivers far less crowded than Montana’s, not to mention a unique Spanish that replaces double Ls with a J sound. As wonderful as the fishing, food and culture on the Argentine side of the Andes were, it was fantastic to combine a trip to Chilean Patagonia, where the watersheds are lush, beech tree-laden valleys, and where annual rainfall resembles the voluminous tallies of Olympic National Park. Zac and I were met with rain upon arrival at Los Torreones Lodge in the Simpson River Valley, owned by the Salas family. Three years prior, I had spent almost a month with them, and I was excited to visit. We were quickly whisked away by Sebastian and Benjamin Salas. Their guide season was essentially over, and they were ramped up to fish for a few days. Toyota Hilux fully loaded: Nine dogs, fishing gear, food for two days and nights, and we were off to a remote backcountry cabin near lakes apparently full of large brown trout. We arrived in the dark during a snowstorm and awoke the next morning to 4 inches on the ground. The wood-burning stove served both as our heater and as our cook stove. Mate was passed around. Scrambled eggs and bacon hissed and steamed on a skillet. The dogs outside apparently ate the resident cat. “The cat’s gone,” one of the boys said with the back door partially open, pulling in drifting snow and cold air. I remember thinking as we headed out in the Hilux to the lake that we would eventually fish in near-55-mph wind, new snow and white caps with piercingly cold water. How absolutely beautiful our tiny world is.