Charlie White reports on his hosted trip to Tierra Del Fuego
By Charlie White
After months of anticipation, fly tying, weather checks and monitoring of fishing reports, it was eventually time to head to Heathrow for the flight to Buenos Aires...
After a couple of drinks (or five) in the bar at the airport it was clear that come what may, we were going to have a fun week with a great team.
The pre-flight drinks hit the mark and all of us slept for a large portion of the 13 hour flight. On arrival into Buenos Aires we were met by the simply brilliant Leticia who shepherded us out of the airport, into her waiting car and on to the downtown hotel – the Casa Sur Bellini.
It is of course perfectly possible to dispense with Leticia (or her husband Alex) and take a taxi but I cannot recommend their services more highly and for an efficient, safe and ultimately really useful service I think people are crazy not to use them. She booked us restaurants, told us where to buy presents for those left at home and even found us a bar on the way home that was showing the final Six Nations matches – on your own these things are easy to get wrong.
Leticia booked us all into the Don Julio restaurant in Palermo where we met up with some of the team who had flown out earlier to either look around the city or to have a crack at the doves – both options seemed to have hit the spot.
Much is made of the steak and red wine of Argentina and Don Julio shows both off in the best possible way. Simply done, simply delicious and very good value. It was a great night and a very good introduction to the awesome cuisine of Argentina.
After a much needed lie in, Leticia picked us up the next morning and took us to the internal airport for the flight down to Rio Grande. Again she proved invaluable as she managed to get most of us to avoid having to pay overweight baggage (despite all of us having the proverbial kitchen sink), sorted out a small issue over a fly line being found in a carry on bag and generally made a bustling airport a very relaxing experience.
After three hours we arrived into Rio Grande to be met by Federico, the head guide of Estancia Maria Behety and jumped into the waiting bus. After 20 minutes we stopped at La Villa de Estancia Maria Behety to drop off the six rods fishing there and after another 20 we were at our final destination – the stunning EMB lodge on a bluff overlooking the Rio Grande.
One of the unique aspects of the Maria Behety lodges, as opposed to other lodges on the Rio Grande, is that they completely share the available fishing between the two lodges. This means that every rod, in each lodge, has the chance to fish the lower, middle and upper part of the river as opposed to simply one of those sections. This makes a huge difference if, for whatever reason, the fish are concentrated more in one part of the river than the other.
We were warmly greeted by the entire lodge staff but rather inevitably it was the guides that came in for the most serious questioning and they gave us just the right amount of confidence without building up expectations too high.
After the typical flustering, panicking and nervousness of getting everything ready on the first morning, we all came back to the lodge at lunch and it was obvious that the guides’ confidence was wholly justified after the first session. Many of us had landed fish and even those that hadn’t connected had seen enough big fish rolling and jumping for them to know that they were fishing somewhere special.
As is the custom, after lunch some had a siesta but for most of us the first day was too much to be able to get some sleep and discussing future tactics over seemingly endless red wine was thought to be the way to go.
The next session and the following day was more of the same. We all caught fish, some of us landed our biggest sea trout (up to 22lbs) and everyone came into the wader room with tales of bad luck, sights they couldn’t believe and the most enormous smiles. As host, it was the fishing and experience I had hoped everyone would have and the atmosphere was buzzing.
Alas, that was the end of our perfect week. Unknown to us, on the Monday afternoon (our second day) it had rained, in a biblical fashion, high up in the Andes and we woke on Tuesday to a rising and very coloured river. Visibility was down to just a few inches and we all knew that it was going to take some time to clear – would it clear in time for us to have another fair crack at the river was the only question.
Well, not really as it transpired. Credit to the team (and the guides) in that everyone gave it their all and tried for every hour that was available to us but Nature just wasn’t playing ball. We did catch more fish but it felt more like luck than judgement and there was no question that we “should have been there next week”.
Whilst it is not that unusual to lose the odd session in a week, it is incredibly rare to lose a whole day, let alone the best part of four and it was such a shame as we had all the right ingredients in place to have a magical week.
We did of course have a monumental amount of fun. There is no point in saying we didn’t go there for the fishing so of course it was ultimately disappointing but staying in an epic lodge, with phenomenal food, red wine flowing like the river and a fantastic team of people made it a week to remember.
A football match played between clients and guides, whilst still in waders, was one of the funniest thing I have seen for a very long time and the chance to hear so many different experiences and stories that a team like this have built up over the years was one I wouldn’t have missed for anything.
We flew back to Buenos Aires rather more tired than we arrived and with memories of a great week but not as many epic fishing memories as we all would have liked. We all agreed that we felt that the river “owed” us and that we would be back there soon – more on that to follow.
My huge thanks to the lodge staff, the guides, Alex and Leticia and of course a brilliant bunch of clients in making it a week to remember for a very long time.
- Charlie White