Thursday, February 21, 2013

Go Fish in Bariloche

This is our friends last full day in Bariloche and we decide to spend it together fishing. Well, the others are going to fish; I am going along as official photographer. Although Martin and the boys had no luck yesterday, we are convinced that today we will catch at least one fish between us. Bariloche has gained a reputation for high quality fishing on the lakes and rivers within Nahuel Huapi National Park. These Andean ice-cold lakes provide excellent conditions for an abundance of various trout and salmon species. The fishing rules are fairly easy to follow and fishing licenses are readily available. Fishing can be done from piers, lakeside or from a boat and although many people come here to fly fish, we are going to use spinners and also troll. Before leaving Rada Tilly, Mariano had obtained our licenses and had purchased a ton of gear for himself and Marcela. We have also met and spoken with Juan. Juan owns the campground and he is also a local fishing guide. Since we do not get up early and apparently the fish take a siesta through the day, we are going in the evening. Mariano, Marcela and Tom will get dropped off at a small uninhabited island in the middle of Lake Nahuel Huapi and fish with spinners, flies and whatnot, whilst myself, Martin and the boys will stay on the boat and troll with Juan who will doing the driving. To prepare for our great expedition, we had a lunch of pizza, empanadas and beer, followed by a short nap. Then it was time to get ready. Let me say, there are people who fish on a regular basis who have less gear than us “city slickers”. There were poles, reels and tackle boxes; fishing jackets, special “fishing pants” and waders. There was two large canvas bags obviously filled with whatever else the skilled fisherperson needs. Marcela was color coordinated in a very pretty sea green whilst Tom and Mariano were in tan and black respectively. Viewing the pile, I commented that we would probably only fish for 3 hours or so, but they were undeterred and the mound of equipment continued to grow. Once it was all collected on the dock even Juan was amazed. “How long do you think you will fish for?” he questioned, eyeing all the stuff. He immediately began to stow some of his own gear under the benches to make room. With everyone there was 8 on board and the boat was only licensed to carry 6, so when Juan saw the policia checking off shore, he made the decision to take Tom, Marcela and Mariano to the island first, then come back for Martin and the boys. I would travel on the boat with him back and forth. The minute we were on the lake, the policia chased us down with their lights flashing. They studied the boats paperwork in great detail, questioned Juan about us and finally begrudgingly let us continue on our way. Once at the island, there was no dock and it was simply a question of Juan maneuvering close enough to the rocks to let them off, without scraping the bottom of the boat on the rocks. Tom and Marcela got off first and Mariano passed them the gear. It took three passes with Juan muttering “dear God” at intervals before all the fishing paraphernalia was disgorged and Mariano was with the other two. As we pulled off, leaving them standing on this deserted island, Juan asked me jokingly “Think they have enough stuff? And we both laughed as we headed back to pick up Martin and the boys. Our goal was to troll in the open waters on the far side of the island. As we passed by, we waved at the others who had all picked out their respective spots and were studiously fishing, cast and reel, cast and reel. They were easy to spot because each person had scads of fishing stuff surrounding them. Trolling is easier. Once Juan and Martin had all 5 lines set, it was simply a question of sitting back and waiting. Martin pulled out the mate (mat –eh) cup and a flask of hot water and he and Juan shared in the traditional custom of passing the cup back and forth, sipping the mate through a straw. Similar to an herbal tea, yerba mate is an ever present custom between the Paraguayans, Uruguayans and Argentinean with only a few slight differences in how it is drank. The scenery out on the lake is beautiful and I got some great photographs as the sun began to set. The boys however quickly got bored and with the setting sun it got quite cold and they huddled under their jackets, until….a fish hooked. Excitement! As Juan handed the pole with the fish on to Martin, he quickly reeled in the other lines so they would not get tangled and then it was the task of bringing in the fish. It was a trout and huge maybe 12 pounds or so and that is not a fish story! Once on board, Martin and the boys all had their photograph taken with it and then it was placed in the cooler. We passed over the same area a few times but had no more bites, so decided to call it an evening. We went back to the island to collect the other three. They were waiting in the same spot as we had left them and looked happy to see us. Despite all the equipment they had not caught a single fish but they had tried, they assured us. Martin proudly showed them his trout and they were very happy for him even though there were comments about who really caught it, since Juan had set the lines and the boat had depth and fish finders and well, many other reasons that were too vague to mention. Martin and Mariano are brothers so there is much friendly sibling rivalry between them. The bottom line is – we have fish for dinner. It took a few trips before all the fishing gear was back at the cabin and as Martin cleaned the fish the others packed their gear away. All that stuff for a couple of hours. Oh well, there will be a next time. Energized from catching one fish, the boys stayed on the dock with their poles to try for more. With the dogs playing around us and the fish on the grill, we opened wine and toasted Martin on his catch.

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