“You do know that you have to commit to one lodge now?”
I was discussing going to Jurassic Lake with Echo Fly Fishing’s Tim Rajeff. Tim and his partner Kath Hunt have travelled far and wide to fly fish and they have travelled more than most in South America. We were at IFTD in Denver and with this trip to Jurassic Lake Lodge pending for me, Tim was telling me about what to expect.
He and Kath have historically gone to “the other lodge” ELV or Estancia Laguna Verde. Jurassic Lake Lodge where I was going to has the mouth of the Barrancoso river (the jewel in the crown), plus a few kilometres of the lower river. There’s a big pool with a fence at the edge of their water where ELV’s land begins. The stretch of the Barrancoso river above that pool is for ELV clients until further upstream, where it becomes open season as to who can fish where.
As you do at Jurassic, Ryan Janssens and I made pigs of ourselves for the first few days, catching massive rainbow trout hand over fist, smashing any previous records we ever bothered to keep and experiencing the full range of fly fishing highs (you can watch a film of the trip here and check out issue 20 for the full story here).
Double-ups with Ryan!
Triple-ups with Ryan and Abbie Schuster!
Throwing giant streamers, girdle bugs, scuds and buggers!
Mousing for monstrous fish using a 4-weight Thomas & Thomas Lotic fiberglass rod!
You name it we tried it and we usually came right.
While I was there, I (regrettably) was trying to finish off some work, so after each boozy lunch, when the others were still feasting or smashing a short siesta before the afternoon session, I’d sneak off to try get a little bit of graft done to meet deadlines an ocean and a continent away. Out of my window I could see the far raised bank of the river with the occasional herd of guanacos coming into view. Tim and Kath were at ELV at the same time so we hatched a plan to try meet in that post-lunch lull at the junction pool between the two lodges. The idea was to smash some Argentine Malbec and toast life. They’d stayed with me when they visited South Africa and we got on extremely well.
I don’t know if anything has changed, but at the time the mood was that the two lodges do not vibe together. Coke & Pepsi. Adidas & Puma. Etc etc.
That was why Tim said if you choose one, you are then affiliated with that lodge. However my guide at Jurassic Lake Lodge and their guide at ELV happened to know each other, so between these two emissaries we made the plan and after lunch one day I grabbed the 4-weight Lotic and walked up river to the junction pool with a bottle of malbec and some glasses in my bag. I got there on time and waited a bit, unsure (depending on how the cold war was going) whether I could fish the whole pool, half the pool or none of the pool.
After waiting 10-15 minutes, wondering if I got the day or time wrong and watching the water, I started fishing using a smallish foam hopper, the kind of fly I’d’ throw on the rainbow trout streams of my home in the Western Cape. I was limited to fishing from one side of the river, pretty much in one 10-15 metre zone as I could not go upstream past the fence.
The Barancoso border pool was actually more like four conjoined pools in a sort of quadcopter layout, each about the size of a squash court with a faster section in the middle and various runs, eddies and boulders dotted around the place to make it interesting. Casting that hopper was a refreshing change from the morning’s fishing as I’d been lobbing a large deerhair mouse around and this felt like going barefoot after living in your wading boots for a week.
In no time, fish started coming to hand. Now these were small fish by Barrancoso standards, anything from 15-30 cm. On my home waters in the Western Cape of South Africa, a 30cm river rainbow is decent, but at Jurassic these are midgets. Weirdly enough, I was loving it, the smallness of the fish and the fly on a light responsive rod. In a way, I also liked the fact that I’d been stood up, so I had the whole thing to enjoy by myself. Ryan the photographer was either fishing downstream or sleeping off lunch and there had obviously been some confusion with Tim and Kath as they were nowhere to be seen. There was no need to shout about big fish or try get a photo beyond what I could snap with my phone. I could just zone out and focus on fishing every inch of that pool.
For days, I had only had eyes for big fish, because that’s what Jurassic is all about. You literally walk through fish when you cross the river and they school up in their hundreds in the mouth. That means you get greedy and almost wasteful about the water you fish. You don’t take time to fish each bit of water properly. At least… I had not.
Now, with my ego full sated after days of indulgence, at this pool I could slow everything and limit myself. Instead of only casting at big fish, I cast at every segment of the pool. I fished every micro-run, glide, sub-pool, back-eddy and tail out again and again.
The poor hopper got absolutely annihilated. It wasn’t quite cast for cast, but all in all I caught somewhere north of 30 fish in that pool in the space of about an hour. And, in amongst the ‘tiddlers’ were some fantastic river fish, way bigger than anything I catch back home. One in particular, had been rising right up at the head of the pool, just under a mini waterfall. From the rock I was casting on, right on the fenced borderline between the two lodges, I could just reach it at the full extent of my cast. It took about 15 casts, with several small fish caught in between, but eventually two beautiful fish came out of that hole. Dark and sleek, they were easily recognizable as river fish vs the chrome-looking steelhead-type fish you find in the lake and closer to the mouth.
The next day, Tim, Kath and I tried to meet up again. This time we did manage to connect for a drink on the border fence of the Barrancoso, alongside a pool full of fish that I will never forget.
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