April 11, 2017
Late last year I was invited by a good friend to join a group fly-fishing trip to Argentina. The suggested mid-January date conflicted with the annual PGA Golf Show, which I have attended for the past 20 years, but after much careful contemplation, I decided the opportunity was too good to pass up. Life is short after all – a reality that hit home with the recent passing of my brother Gerry. I had no idea what to expect, but with great pals and a robust itinerary, we prepped for a new adventure.
This would be my first visit to South America. I had come close, visiting Mexico a few times while studying in the United States, but had never ventured further south. Then there was the matter of the actual fishing. As a kid, I have fond memories of fishing on the River Shannon. But that was usually from a boat or pier. More recently, the itch to try proper fishing again was strong enough that my family generously gifted me a fishing rod for my birthday. I still had no idea what I was really doing, and sporadic fishing trips in between golf rounds usually resulted in empty returns.
Like any good golf trip, we began by gearing up with the necessary equipment. During the trek across the world, I took a pit stop in New York City to rendezvous with friends and collect the right fishing attire; shirts, trousers, fingerless gloves, bandana, Polaroid sunglasses, etc. These purchases were the suggestions of my friends, who may have wanted to properly outfit me, or perhaps were just afraid of what I’d show up wearing!
A few day later, I flew from New York to Buenos Aires (a beautiful city with European influences) and from there to Esquel, Argentina.
On arrival in Esquel, we were greeted by our hosts from PRG Lodge at Treveiln and made our way to our home away from home. The sprawling compound is comprised of a 12-bedroom lodge, two great bars, and a wraparound deck with views in all directions. Straight away we got the impression that many of our six nights would be spent in these comfortable quarters telling stories and cracking jokes. Sound like a golf trip?
The dining room was the centrepiece of the lodge, where we gathered each day for breakfast and dinner. Feast after feast of Argentinian beef was cooked in an open fire pit within the dining room and all meals were introduced by the chef and complimented with local delicacies such as Asado, Chimichurri and Empanadas. The entire experience was professional, welcoming and an understated five-star experience.
It was during that first night while prepping for our first tee time….er, allotted fishing time… that it occurred to me that there was no difference, so far, than if we were a bunch of golfers.
The next day we sprung to life with adrenaline pumping and anticipation building. One friend, a veteran fisherman, didn’t sleep a wink due to the excitement. Out front of our lodging, six Jeeps with a driver and a guide sat ready to transport us in pairs. We had our foursomes! The Jeeps carry the essentials – an inflatable boat, all the fishing gear (rods, reels, lines, nets) the all-important lunch and more. Our guides would essentially be acting like caddies – furthering the parallels between golfing and fishing.
Our destination was without a doubt the remotest place I have ever been. My U.S. traveling companions tell me the closest comparison is the state of Montana. We are at the foot of the Andes, not far from the southernmost city in the world. Literally the end of the Earth.The beauty of the surroundings is unbelievable – rugged, remote, comfortable and breathtakingly clean – as we unpack for our first cast. A “strike” in fishing is a lot like a strike in golf. The idea of the fishing swing is a short quick take back, pause at the top, quick follow through, but stopping halfway. The right swing resulting in the fly going exactly where you aim. I would soon learn that this was important as we were hunting fish and the ability to put the fly in the right spot was essential to catching the fish, kind of like putting the ball in the center of the fairway will increase your chances of a good score. An incorrectly executed strike results in a very frustrating experience. Sound familiar??
Time on the river, this one seemingly meandering forever, goes fast. I caught about 8 fish on the morning run, but only two of these were mentionable in size 15′ and 18′. Just like putts, they tend to get longer as you tell the story of your round. After a quick picnic lunch, it’s back for the afternoon round. This time I nab 10 fish, but they are of the small, “beginner” variety. The day is anything but lethargic, as my fishing partner and I traverse unconquered terrain with each jaunt to a new locale. Even a walk back to the Jeep is more of a hike.
But we’re having a marvelous time. As the sun goes down we head back to the lodge for dinner and one (or two) nightcaps on the deck.
The next few days blissfully run together but are highlighted by individual bursts of memorable ventures. There was the Day 2 trek, where we tumbled down the raging Rio Grande during a howling afternoon gale. We mercifully made it to our spot and virtually kissed the ground on arrival.
The next day, we travelled to the spectacular Los Alerces National Park. We spent the day in the boats on the lake and moved down river as the day went on. There, the water is so clear that you can see the fish taunting you from the bottom. A frustrating day, but one we’ll always remember for the stunning setting.
Each day of this trip is different (something we strive for at Carr Golf Travel), and that is a testament to our fantastic guides and staff. These guys are good, and like a world-class caddie who knows every blade of grass on a course, they know all the locations to help you succeed.
On Day 4, I was paired with my good friend and host of the trip, Tommy. We headed off to a private ranch, complete with real cowboys on horseback herding cattle, and cast our lines into a small marshy river running through the property. Here our guides really became invaluable. With their keen advice, Tommy had maybe the biggest haul of the entire trip.
I finally cashed in on the final day. Finally, my skills had been fine-tuned, and a fertile lake presented the opportunity to capitalize. It was like having your best round of golf on the sixth course of a six-day trip. It was difficult to master and I would say I managed to play off high teens by the end of the week.
As with golf trips, the essential ingredients are the same. The group you are travelling with is key. The accommodations, the food, the logistics and most certainly the courses that you are playing all factor into the experience. All in all, it’s a very similar journey.