Finally after 20 years I got the chance to come back, to fly fish again at the Quillen River in the province of Neuquen in Argentina. We went there from Cordoba by car, we drove almost a for a full day till we got to the Alumine area where we had organized to stay at the famous Casa de Campo for 5 nights while we would be fishing in different rivers.
In our itinerary our first stop was the Quillen river, for we had decided to go with Christian, a friend and guide from Alumine.
We arrived at Casa de Campo, our accommodation for the trip, and had a great meal with Dani and Marisa where we enjoyed some amazing pasta and nice red wine from Ventus Vineyard. Judging by the wine, we knew this experience was going to be unique. Ventus vineyard is an exclusive premium class wine produced by the first winery in the Province of Neuquen. Neuquen had been considered a desert for a long time, but it has now became an oasis for wine production given its unique characteristics. This highly awarded winery is called “La bodega del fin del mundo” The Winery from the End of the World, given its position in the southernmost part of Argentina.
After that delicious meal, we spend the night together with Juan and the following day we woke up early. At about 6.30, 6.45, we prepared our rods, our lines, all our flies, specially our dry flies and nymphs that would be the ones that we would use the most. We also prepared some sandwiches with tuna, chicken, tomatoes, lettuce, and some special cheese that Juan brought for the occasion. We also took some water and gatorade for the day in a nice cooler. We were expecting a waiting day over big rocks and we were prepared to spend a lot of energy around. We picked up Cristian at around 9 am at Alumine with a selection of flies. We had our boxes packed with flies and a couple of minutes later we were driving in the direction of the river. It is not far away, just 20 minutes driving and we got to a middle area of the river where we got the lines in our rods, mostly number 3,4,5 rods, all with floating lines, long, long leads of 15 feet, normally a tippet in the front of the line to get a good presentation. We were always assuming a fish can break our tippet, especially if it gets tied around the trees in the water or the algae.
Lets talk about the Quillen river for a while. It starts in the mouth of the Quillen lake and runs to the east for about 35 km before joining the Alumine waters. The Quillen river has profuse vegetation on its banks, being willow trees the most typical species.
For February the river had very low level of water and its temperature was kind of warm. We arrived in a very sunny and clear day. During the morning there was no wind, which was nice for fly casting but in a certain way the warm temperature of the water made it more difficult to get the nice fish because they were kind of non active during the morning. In the early morning there was no activity on top of the water but later in the morning the water got calm and we saw a lot of small fish. Unfortunately, we lost two small fish. Juan lost one fish, he lost this nice fish even before we got the chance to see how big it was. Then something similar happened to me when the line got stuck in a branch of a tree. I was landing on the water and the fish got stuck around with this tippet and I did not have the chance to hold it. Cristian was helping us a lot changing flies. We moved to different spots looking for deep waters that most of the time were calm. We looked for correderas of water, channels of water, trying to get some fish. We saw some action in those channels but the fish were not really trophies. We caught a nice one that was about 15 inches that morning and a couple around 16-17 inches. After that we stopped for lunch, we had a nice lunch looking at the river.
That lunch was amazing, we had some meat prepared by the guys of Casa de Campo and we had some great vegetable salads, too. It is nice to have some light food during the day in the water. We all met the other different groups fishing for lunch. We took a short nap, about 15-20 minutes some of us under the shades, others under the sun. When we recovered our energy we were ready to come back to the water.
Cristian, one of the guides, brought a special wine from Mendoza, where he is originally from. We appreciated that a lot. It was a really nice present from a friend. It was a nice invitation, a red Malbec wine. We decided to keep it for the evening though, save it to have it with some good cheese during a nice sunset at Casa de Campo. After lunch we decided to change the area so we came back to the pick up truck and we started to look for a different area after Christian’s suggestion. We had been in an place with lots of trees around in both sides of the river, which make it impossible to fly cast. We did the casting with the rods, the rods casting way. It was not easy, but we liked the challenge and we managed to cast the flies and present them in the right area where we were expecting to get the fish from.
Cristian was very polite, he helped us change the flies, made suggestions, and fixed leaders. Like our friend from Santiago del Estero province said, “if you’re not getting your flies in the trees, you’re not fishing.” We tried to put the flies in the last little corner looking for a trophy.
During the day Cristian was nice to invite us to fly fish in Mendoza province. There’s a couple of rivers he’d like us to go fish with him. It’s in our bucket list now! A new challenge to go to Mendoza and see how the fishing works over there and maybe visit some wineries, too.
We had to use loads of sunscreen because the sun was really strong. We were wearing our long sleeves Columbia shirts and nsilta shirts, we were also using buffs to protect ourselves, Simms waders and fly fishing gloves and boots.
We used Sage rods, the zxl, Sage 1, Sage Approach and Sage Method. We found this latest was the better for this waters, it was stronger and we enjoyed it a lot. Sage Approach number 3 was kind of short but very interesting when we caught fish. Sage 6 feet was very challenging for this rivers. By the afternoon when the wind picked up and started blowing stronger we put the rod number 3 in the case and we decided to continue fishing with rods number 4 and 5, specially a Sage 5. It was very helpful.
The day went by very quickly. We could not believe it when we saw it was 6.30 and time to make our way back to the lodge! We were going to meet Rell Tipton, a friend coming from Cordoba where he had been wingshooting; he was joining us for the rest of the fishing trip.
We finally met Rell Tipton that evening at Casa de Campo. He made a great connection: Cordoba, Buenos Aires, San Martin de los Andes. He left in the morning and he landed around 1.30 pm at San Martin de los Andes in Neuquen Province. Someone from our staff picked him up and took him straight to the river and Rell had some action over there and after some hours he continued driving up north to Casa Campo.
Casa de Campo is a beautiful lodge located in the town of Alumine in the province of Neuquen. This lodge offers the unique calm typical of rural settings in the foothills of The Andes. Marisa and Dani, the lodge owners, offer the guests the most comfortable experience and wonderful breakfasts in a lodge that offers great accommodations.
The day had been really good to us, a good beginning for our trip! We enjoyed a delicious dinner together with the Malbec wine Cristian had given us. That night we were all excited for the days we had ahead.
Stay tuned and check the following reports about the rest of our experience in Patagonia!