Fly-fishing, Trout

In Patagonia

When it comes to pictures expressing a thousand words… even to a compulsive writer, this is one of those.

Stalking the gravel flats, swampy oxbows, truncated spurs and meandering terraces of a river I’ve known since my teens but hardly started to understand until now…

… thanks to local expert Owain, I felt as if I’d stepped straight back into the diagrams of my favourite geography O-level textbook.

Slow-moving storms, and maybe herds of cattle crossing muddy fords, had brought down coloured water from the high country that first evening. But as the second day wore on, clarity improved until only the faintest tint remained to veil a fly-caster’s incautious movements from wary fish.

Between passing showers and the circling, metallic chatter of sandmartins, the silence was so profound that I could clearly hear a woodpecker working a dead tree half a mile across those wildly looping meanders. The cloudbase lowered and sank slowly into the valley:  showers merged back into continuous, saturating rain, and the air chilled and thickened with all the fabulously miserable promise of a proper Gierach-style blue-winged olive afternoon.

Under the circumstances, with tiny pale wateries popping off sporadically – and artificials sometimes getting eaten, sometimes not – it probably took me longer than necessary to work out that they were really on the spinner.

Still, by the end of that soaking day I’d landed and released 8 trout to 16 inches, missed several more to distractions like passing raptors and fast-mover jets, and lost a bruiser when the hook pulled at the net (lesson 2: make sure you pack a proper long-handled net if there’s a chance you’ll want to land a real hog on your own).

And all too soon there was nothing for it but to reel up, trudge back to the road, and start the long journey back to real life in South London… from the place we’ve come to know as Patagonia.