As I write this we are driving down 50 miles of dirt road on our way to Estancia Quemquemtreu near San Martin de los Andes in Patagonia, Argentina. Our guide Andres Homosilla is driving and Adele is playing in the car. About every 10 minutes I have to blow the ash dust off my computer keyboard. There is still a lot of it in the air here from the volcano erupting nearly a year ago. It’s on everything. Our group has just wrapped up five full days of fishing on the Rio Malleo at Estancia San Huberto near Junin de los Andes. The next 3 days will find us fishing on the Rio Collon Cura and it will be quite different from the Malleo which is a beautiful spring creek. If you’re old enough, you might remember that Ernest Schweibert called it the queen of all spring creeks in one of his books.
It was a good week of fishing on the Malleo and everyone is leaving with mixed feelings. We love San Huberto and the Olson family. Most of us have been coming on this trip for many years so it feels like an annual visit home. We’ve had a spell of beautiful fall weather and a good week of fishing, so we are all leaving with special memories of fish caught, good Malbec, and friends visited. But now our sights are set on our next stop which we affectionately call “QQ.”
As I think back over the last week of fishing, I find myself thinking about how a little change in fishing tactics can make such a difference in the results we get. There are many things that come to mind to prove this theory but the first one is tippet size and material. The fish on the Malleo are like fish on spring creeks just about everywhere. They can be super selective, often see their share of fishermen and a multitude of fly patterns. On the first day I started out fishing a large beetle on 4X and moved a few fish in the riffles and faster moving water. Sometimes I would let the fly float undisturbed and other times I would twitch it across the surface. Some casts I would let the fly land pretty hard so it would plop into the water. I like this kind of fishing because you don’t have to be accurate or precise. Just hit the likely looking places and often the cast will produce a fish.
Every day we fished a different beat and conditions can change dramatically from beat to beat. The second day of fishing started out with the beetle and 4X from the day before but now we were on more technical slower, placid water. This beat is called Henry’s Fork. If you’ve fished the “Fork” in Idaho, you understand why. I’ve had good luck at times fishing the beetle in this kind of water looking for a fish who might want a bigger meal. After about an hour of not moving a single fish, I took the guide’s earlier advice and we changed to a small size 16 parachute Adams on 5X with a 6X dropper with a size 20 pheasant tail nymph. In just a few minutes I had my first fish of the day.
The moral of the story is if a fly isn’t working and you know you’re casting over fish, change it – or change something. On another day simply changing from a size 16 comparadun to a size 18 did the trick. Sometimes the dropper needs to be longer. If it is still not getting down to the fish try a heavier nymph (or two) with a strike indicator that can be positioned on the leader according to the depth of the water. If the fish are not rising, or is very cold or off-color from a storm, consider a streamer and change the retrieves until you find one the fish like.
Don’t be lazy or get stuck in a rut where it’s easier to stay with the set-up that you’ve got rather than change it. By experimenting and changing flies, leaders, and technique you could very likely change your luck as well.