Jurassic Lake


Destination: Argentina

Holiday: Jurassic Lake River Camp

Sightseeing whilst at Calafate - The Moreno Glacier

Waikato Flyfishers get to grip with monster Argentinean Trout – PART I

"After three amazing weeks fly fishing two of the hottest fishing destinations in southern Argentina, my cup is full. Before these action packed recollections fade into lifelong memories rich on emotion but scant on detail, I am writing to reflect on what we experienced, consolidate new found knowledge and perhaps help others inclined to fish these far flung corners of the world. These are remote, spiritual places where one slips easily into a hypnotic rhythm. Realisation of how special they are is not fully reached until after you emerge at the other end with a photographic reel to die for, a head bursting with memories and a strong sense that this may be the best fly fishing trip you'll ever do." Paul Macdonald-Waikato Flyfishers-Jan 2013

Jurassic Lake

It all started with a 10-hour flight to Santiago from Auckland with a few hours stopover added then a 4hr flight on to Buenos Aires. After a night observing the mayhem that is BA, Early the next morning we made our way again through the craziness of Buenos Aires airport, to only just make our flight on to the next stage or our journey, the 3 hour flight south to Calafate. We arrived in Calafate early and had the day and night before our pickup the following day. Josh and Jimmy took the 80 km side trip to view the second largest glacial ice sheet in the world, while I took some time to take in the sights of Calafate.

The boys came back raving about the glacier heaving and cracking under its on weight, shimmering and shifting its shape and aura in the late afternoon sunlight as large shards of ice broke to the sound of rifles cracking, crashing their way into the turquoise waters of the lake below.

After a restless nights sleep the day we've been dreaming about and planning for 6 months is finally here and one of the guides Julian from Solid adventures will be here to collect us in just a couple of hours. From here, we will hit the road for a trip that is said to be between 4 and 8 hours depending on whom you talk to. Forget what we've read, heard or seen on the Internet and in glossy brochures and magazines, the real Jurassic awaits us. And it's one heck of a feeling.....

Yesterday was a day full of new discoveries. We discovered it took 8 hours to travel the 300 or so kilometres from El Calafate to Jurassic Lake, not 4 as we had hoped. Whoever tells you it can be completed in less time, don't believe them! As one might expect, the landscape changed many times and this kept us entertained...to a point. As Scores of Wild deer and emus roamed the plains in plain view, we crossed several glacial rivers (all with trout and/or salmon in them apparently) passed by lakes dotted with pink flamingos, snow capped Andean mountains and the odd ranch. To say this is wild, open and vast country would be an under statement.

Half the time passed smoothly as we slipped our way along bitumen highway and respectable gravel roads. We travelled in convoy with another vehicle, carrying another 3 fishermen. There would be 6 of us in total staying together. Between us, we had a pretty good cross section of the global fly fishing community covered - US, England, South African, NZ, Australia and even someone from Molowee. Josh, Jimmy and I felt relief that they seemed to be good knock-about type guys and not the loud obnoxious types. The smooth ride didn't last and the remaining half of the journey was spent inching our 4wd Hilux across seemingly endless bone jarring rocky terrain where it seems at most a grader has been pushed over the open plains. A few hours of this and we were well and truly over it. To make matters worse, Jimmy and Josh were both coming down with colds after the long international flights and change of environment no doubt. This energy-sapping journey at the end of an energy-sapping journey does make you feel like your traveling to the end of the earth, or even a bit beyond. It adds to the aura of fishing Jurassic as you feel you truly earn it.

The long slog to Lago Strobel – Painful but with the bonus that on arrival you are deliriously happy!!

This is probably why, in the closing stages of the journey that we felt would never end, we were so deliriously happy to see a flock of horses in a rare grassy glade not far from the lakeshore. The snow white ones stood out from a distance, glowing in the afternoon sunlight such that we determined that they were unicorns and we had indeed reached a magical land where unicorns and double figure trout roam free. We arrived at the campsite soon after. I say campsite but it's really a collection of permanent dwellings, with flushing toilets, hot showers, gas heating in the sleeping quarters and pot belly stove. The perfect fishing camp.

We were greeted by Sebastian and Agus our Housekeeper and chef with a tray of beers and fine wines, we couldn't gear up fast enough and throw a Therapeutic line after the tortuous journey half way across the globe. My first observation about fishing Jurassic is that the hardest thing about the lake is getting to it. To be honest, it was a turkey shoot. We walked not 50m from the accommodation to where the lone Barancuso river (the single lake inflow and spawning river, there is no outflow) enters the lake. Jurassic rainbows spawn all year round to make maximum use of the restricted spawning area. What looked to be shadowy dark patches sitting in the current were in fact fish, hundreds of them probably, sitting there plotting there next move up river under the cover of darkness. It was about 5.30 pm and we still had hours of daylight ahead of us. In this part of the world, summer daylight arrives at around 5 am and remains until well after 10 pm at night.

The Reward – Chrome bright Rainbow Trout in a size and quantity that defy comprehension

Literally within minutes, everyone was hooked up, on a variety of patterns, using a variety of techniques. Jimmy, Josh and I had opted for 7 and 8 weight rods with floating lines and woolly bugger and nymph variants with rubber legs. It didn't seem to matter much what you used as the fish were eager to cooperate. The fish themselves came in all sizes. Yes, there were some real clunkers amongst them. In this regard, Jurassic certainly has lived up to its expectations already, even in the first hour. We landed several fish in excess of ten pounds, some approaching mid teens. We've been told to expect 20lb plus fish through the course of this week and can believe it.  

Retiring to the camp for lunch, another outstanding meal was ready for us. The quality of the food really has been a highlight, with complements to a young trained chef that clearly takes pride in what he produces. Handmade ravioli filled with trout (the one trout we kept) with a cream sauce followed by crème caramel and dolce de leche for dessert, all washed down with again the Argentina's justifiably famous Malbec wines.

I was raising fish to the fly literally every cast and about every third or so cast would end in a fish smashing it and powering off into the lake. The average size of fish was rising too as I nailed fish after fish in double figure range. The others were having similar success as the 'guides' milled between us netting fish, taking photos, making suggestions to increase the catch rate even further or how to fish other methods. With wrist already aching, I was happy to change up and welcomed the opportunity for a bit of a slowdown, fish were still rushing the fly on almost every cast and there was nothing graceful about my technique or the drift I was achieving.

The Loop Camp - within metres of the Barancuso River and lake and the very best fishing area on Lago Strobel

The power of Jurassic fish needs no further explanation for those who have read anything about the lake. Stinging runs punctuated by acrobatic leaps and lunging dives makes them a powerful adversary, although with the heavy tippets being used as insurance for fish that can run well into double figures, the odds are stacked in the anglers favour especially in the lake. Another weird feeling arose in me after the largest fish I hooked into (probably 15 lbs or better) unfortunately came unstuck in the closing stages after a pretty surreal battle. I felt a pang of regret but laughed at how differently I'd feel had I hooked and lost such a fish of a lifetime in NZ. Jurassic skews reality quite a bit as I know there will be others.

As we approached evening, the guides suggested we change to large dry flies and these worked a treat, its something else watching a 16 lb bow come up and smash your size 12 PMX. By 10 pm, with still 45 mins or so of daylight, we were done and I, along with most of us I think was in two minds. Yes, there were a lot of big fish to catch in this lake...almost too many. I'd found myself intentionally man-handling fish in the 4-7lb range using my extra strength tippet, just so I could maximize my chances of getting amongst bigger ones. And as the fish rose in size, so did our expectations. Next one I want is over 15 lbs to beat the last one. How can I induce a twenty pounder to take?

Too many to count – Non-stop action

We took dinner late. Freshly made empanadas, Argentinean pasties filled with a delicious beef, followed by a chocolate caramel dessert. This was washed down with a fine Malbec and followed by Cuban cigars which were present all week. After a long and arduous journey getting here, we've all had our initial fill of easy fishing, satisfying our blood lust. For the rest of the trip, we can relax, slow down and take our time, choosing our methods and filming and photographing our catch to properly document and savour each fish. 

 After a solid egg and bacon breakfast, we started off our mornings fishing the deep rocky shoreline of Conchinos Bay. This iconic bay was fishable only sporadically the week we were there due to the prevailing winds and we took full advantage landing several gleaming lake beauties before the wind would blow us back to relative shelter of the river mouth.

Forget trying to cast into the wind, we focused our efforts instead to casting across it. As our technique improved, we started to account for more fish. The tactic was simple, cast beyond the rocky drop-offs and along the mud lines, pause and retrieve slowly. One of the guides explained that Jurassic fish are so well fed that they are lazy, preferring an easy meal to one they need to chase down. This means slow retrieves punctuated by pauses.  

Silver fresh Rainbows take on the appearance of Steelhead – Spawning colours, ready to run the river

A lunch bell would go off at 1pm everyday, lunch would last about an hour or so and the mornings fishing session would be discussed in detail. Siesta was taken soon after and should be had as the days are long, and without you could easily burnout. During the afternoon session hot coffee, Beer or wine was always delivered to us by the river mouth (a much appreciated perk of paying to fish Jurassic). Drinking beers and catching double figured fish...bliss.

Jurassic fish reputedly owe their size to a particular freshwater shrimp (scud) that naturally abound in the lake. Ever since rainbow trout were released into the lake in the early nineties, these scud became the predominant food source, the rest as they say is history. Tying a small scud pattern into the bend of the woolly bugger hook works a treat.

With darkness approaching another day was complete, we left the fish still biting and retired for pizzas and beer. The bad news is that the wind is forecast to continue until the day after we leave, when as Murphy's Law would have it, calm sunny conditions are finally forecast to arrive. As our guide Julian says, the good news is this weather system should place us in good stead down at Rio Gallegos where the fishing can be tough and the wind a major factor. At Jurassic, it may limit your options and frustrate at times, but the fish don't mind and may be caught regardless.

With Trout that tip the scales at 20lbs and more stopping and having a beer to contemplate is no bad thing

Tackle used

7 or 8 weight rods, it was really nice having a fighting butt on the rod. Large arbour reels with plenty of backing and floating lines. Leaders I used were just a straight piece of 15lb airflo G4 at about 8’ long, sometimes longer in the deeper Concicos bay. Take plenty of flies as you do lose them on the sharp coral bottom and they will get chewed apart by some of the bigger fish that have some serious fangs. Be prepared for some serious wind (120km) it is savage but still fishable.

Monster Jurassic Lake Trout – Nothing short of sensational

The Final Score

Between the three of us we caught 1100 fish in 6 days, average size 6-10 lbs. We all had a personal best within the first hour of being there. Three fish were landed for the week that went over 20 lbs, many were lost at the net.

Yes it is along drive be warned, but so worth it. They are at present making improvements to the road that will cut up to 1.5 hrs off the drive. Best time to go is October to mid January as this is peak time. They tell me the fishing is just as good in March, there’s just not that much water in the river. 

Cost for a week at Jurassic will be around $5000, Includes lodging, meals, beer, wine and non-Alcoholic beverages, guided fishing and ground transportation. Fishing licenses all so included. This price does not include Flights and gratuities.

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